2018 NFL Draft Pre-Combine Rankings: Cornerbacks & Safeties

2018 NFL Draft Pre-Combine Rankings: Cornerbacks & Safeties

The 2018 NFL Draft is less than 2 months away and this year's class is filled with top-level talent. There is not a consensus #1 player yet, but that does not mean this is a weak draft. RPO's very own, Matt Nicrone, has put together his pre-combine rankings for each position.  In part 1, we ranked the Quarterbacks and Running Backs. In Part 2, Matt covered Wide Receivers & Tight Ends. Part 3 broke down the big guys on the offensive line.

Now it's time for the defensive rankings for Cornerbacks and Safeties. 


1 - Denzel Ward

  • College: Ohio State
  • Size: 5’10” 191 lbs.  

Titans cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs told reporters last spring that Ward was a "gifted player" and truly a "third starter" at cornerback, joining 2017 first-round picks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley. Ward has elite athletic ability. Expected to be impressive Combine tester. Patient from press showing no panic or hurry in initial movements. Can pedal and mirror for a long time without opening hips. Tremendously gifted footwork. Mirrors and matches with good balance throughout the route.

2 - Josh Jackson

  • College: Iowa
  • Size: 6’1” 192 lbs.

Jackson has an amazing season with 27 passes defended including eight interceptions. He’s tall with long arms. Instincts are top-notch. Plays the ball and not the man. Flashed supreme ball skills. High-point winner with the ability to pull down the one-hand grab. Put our huge performances in big games.

3 - Carlton Davis

  • College: Auburn
  • Size: 6’1” 203 lbs.

Davis' combination of height, weight, length and ball skills make him a problem for opposing receivers.  Slow releasing receivers will get owned. Plays high or low side of the route and attacks the throw with relentless timing and aggression.

4 - Jaire Alexander

  • College: Louisville
  • Size: 5’11” 192 lbs.

Alexander is an instinctive cornerback with the ability to anticipate routes and the quickness to close on throws and make plays on the ball.

5 - Isaiah Oliver

  • College: Colorado
  • Size: 6’1” 190 lbs.

Elite size and speed with arms that go on and on for days. Looks the way teams want corners to look. Competitive decathlete. Plus deep speed and an explosive leaper. Disrupts route release with long jabs into receiver's frame from press. Easy to open and sprint against vertical threats.

6 - Tarvarus McFadden

  • College: Florida State
  • Size: 6’2” 198 lbs.

Press corner with long arms and disruptive qualities but lacking in foot quickness and makeup speed. He has starting level talent as a bump-and-run corner but may need help over the top.

7 - Anthony Averett

College: Alabama

Size: 6’0” 185 lbs.

Plays with excellent reactive athleticism. Twitchy and sticky in man coverage with loose hips and easy feet. Smooth opening and sprinting. Has the ability to stay in phase from snap to whistle. In position for quick tackles when he gives up a completion. Able to cover kicks and play jammer on a punt return.

8 - Duke Dawson

College: Florida

Size: 5’10” 208 lbs.

Compact, strong slot corner who can beat up finesse receivers and disrupt the route release. Dawson can match and blanket underneath, but hip tightness shows up when he's forced to turn and run from a backpedal. Dawson can handle himself in man or zone coverage and is ready to work when run support calls. He has some length and speed limitations, but he has the instincts and cover talent to become a starting nickel cornerback.

9 - Mike Hughes

College: Central Florida

Size: 5’11” 191 lbs.

A little short but stout and tough. Very physical from press. Gives opponents a rough ride out of their release. Won't just jam, looks to completely halt the route with his initial punch and aggression. Tracks and catches the football like a receiver. Ball skills include plus timing, soft hands and an ability to adjust body to make the catch.

10 - Holton Hill

  • College: Texas
  • Size: 6’3” 200 lbs.

Has size and length teams look for from an early round cornerback. Can hit a switch and play with more aggression in-game. Play strength is a plus. Punches and separates against blockers. Gives what he's got as a hitter and tackler. Accelerates into contact with ball carriers and pass-catchers. Shows ability to smother finesse receivers off the snap from press. Intelligent person and player.


1 - Minkah Fitzpatrick

  • College: Alabama
  • Size: 6’1” 201 lbs.

Fitzpatrick has experience as a slot cornerback, but will likely be targeted as a "do-everything" safety who can be deployed as a sub-package linebacker, a blitzer or in the slot against big receivers and move tight ends. Fitzpatrick has consistently shined since his freshman season on Alabama defenses that have been loaded with NFL talent.

2 - Derwin James

  • College: Florida State
  • Size: 6’3” 215 lbs.

Absolute alpha in the locker room. Possesses the physical traits and mental makeup of an All-Pro safety. Although James is extremely athletic and talented, he still has room for improvement as a run defender and in coverage. James is at his best when attacking in a robber role or near the line of scrimmage where he can support the run, blitz and handle physical coverage responsibilities.

3 - Ronnie Harrison

  • College: Alabama
  • Size: 6’3” 214 lbs.

Combination safety with all the size and athletic traits you could hope for in a safety. Harrison is a fluid athlete with few athletic limitations and has the ability to fit into a variety of defensive schemes. His poor habit of flying in shoulder first will need to get cleaned or risk giving up missed tackles and big plays.

4 - Armani Watts

  • College: Texas A&M
  • Size: 5’11” 205 lbs.

Watts is a feast or famine player whose biggest faults are often self-inflicted and not due to a lack of talent or athletic ability. He's smooth and athletic and plays with the instincts and ball skills to flip the field on the next level. Watts' success as a professional will likely depend on work ethic and consistency as a tackler.

5 - Kyzir White

  • College: West Virginia
  • Size: 6’2” 216 lbs.

White has become a highly-respected team leader who leads by example with his fearless, physical play. Teams are looking to transition him into a hybrid role with the ability to cover tight ends like a safety and support the run like a linebacker. While he's nothing special as an athlete, his competitiveness and play-demeanor should earn him a spot as a starter.

6 - Marcus Allen

  • College: Penn State
  • Size: 6’2” 202 lbs.

Already plays the game with NFL-level aggression. Meets blockers with jarring hands to keep himself from getting locked up. Forceful striker willing to give his body up for the cause. Triggers downhill with full commitment once he diagnoses run. Team captain and locker room favorite. Generally operates under control and with good mirror when working as downhill tackler against inside runs.

7 - Jesse Bates

  • College: Wake Forest
  • Size: 6’2” 195 lbs.

Versatile safety option with the athletic ability to handle man coverage responsibilities in space and the instincts and ball skills to post ball production in zone coverage. Bates is more than willing as a hitter, but can get himself in trouble as an open-field tackler due to inconsistent pursuit angles and technique. He was also an excellent punt returner for the Demon Deacons.

8 - Terrell Edmunds

  • College: Virginia Tech
  • Size: 6’2” 220 lbs.

While younger brother Trumaine may get the headlines in this year's draft, Terrell is a quality prospect in his own right. Edmunds has size and burst which are coveted traits at the position. He has man cover talent against big targets and should step right into a role on the coverage units for special teams. Edmunds is at his best near the line of scrimmage and has eventual starter potential.

9 - Justin Reid

  • College: Stanford
  • Size: 6’1” 204 lbs.

A versatile defender who can make plays in the box or downfield, Reid racked up nearly 100 tackles as a junior, including 6.5 for loss, adding five interceptions and six pass breakups. His combination of range, instincts, ball skills and physicality should make him an early day 2 selection.

10 - DeShon Elliott

  • College: Texas
  • Size: 6’2” 205 lbs.

Elliott has good size and is a physical defender who will need to play near the line of scrimmage to take advantage of his aggressiveness and minimize his athletic limitations. His draft stock will be tied heavily to his Combine workout.

2018 NFL Draft Pre-Combine Rankings: Defensive Lineman & Linebackers

2018 NFL Draft Pre-Combine Rankings: Defensive Lineman & Linebackers

2018 NFL Draft Pre-Combine Rankings: Offensive Line

2018 NFL Draft Pre-Combine Rankings: Offensive Line