Who are some of the ten best devy cornerbacks for this upcoming season? Could any of them become the next top-three pick in the NFL Draft? Who’s going to be considered a lock-down corner?
Oh, cornerbacks. If you are in a league in which you must start them, they are usually the last position selected. A lot of people, myself included in some cases, will stream cornerbacks and go off match-ups. Even top-notch cornerbacks like Patrick Peterson won’t be started or even drafted. In my league, I like to give better corners a chance by providing bonuses on pass deflections/interceptions. This gives all cornerbacks a chance to be serviceable in their aspect of the fantasy game. Anyway, let’s dig into the top devy cornerbacks and see which ones could make some noise at the next level.
Derek Stingley Jr. – LSU
College Stats: 38 tackles, 6 interceptions, 15 pass deflections – 17 ret, 163 yards
Derek Stingley Jr. made a name for himself in his true freshman year and helped LSU beat Clemson in the National Title game. He was the #3 ranked overall player (#1 cornerback) in the class of 2019. Stingley started all 14 games at cornerback for the Tigers and had one of the best seasons ever for an LSU cornerback. He was a first-team and consensus All-American. Stingley was #1 in the SEC (#4 in the country) with 15 passes defended and #1 in the SEC (#5 in the country) with six interceptions. He was also in the top five in both punt returns and return yards in the SEC. The interceptions could take a dip this upcoming year due to him becoming an elite player at cornerback, and the opposing team won’t throw his direction as much. He won’t be draft-eligible this year, but he’s still a guy I will target later in devy drafts if still available. When Stingley comes out, he should be a sure-fire first-round pick and possibly one of the top cornerbacks taken in the NFL draft.
Stingley is one of the best cover cornerbacks in the game today. He received a 91.7 cover grade from Pro Football Focus, topping all cornerbacks. Being a true freshman, he was targeted a lot, yet, continued to make play after play. Stingley has excellent height for the position and is also a valuable return man which can be a bump in fantasy leagues (if teams use him that way.) As good as he is, Stingley could work on his tackling and as a run defender. If he can fine-tune those skills, there is no doubt he will be a valuable pick.
Paulson Adebo – Stanford
College Stats: 97 tackles, 8 interceptions, 27 pass deflections
Paulson Adebo was the #14 ranked cornerback in the class of 2017, #110th overall. He only played in nine games in 2019 due to a season-ending neck injury, but still managed to have a decent overall year. After his sophomore season, Adebo looked like a lock as a first or second-round pick. However, the 2019 season wasn’t his best. Adebo still had four interceptions (leading the Pac-12) which were the same as 2018, but his tackle and pass deflection numbers went down, even with the limited amount of games. He has been a two-year starter for the Cardinals, which is a good thing for his NFL outlook. Adebo is on all the major watch lists (Bednarik, Nagurski, Thorpe, and Lott) for the upcoming 2020 season.
When the NFL comes calling, Adebo will mostly be an outside corner, staying away from the slot. He is a good tackler that will help in the run game when needed and won’t shy away from getting to the ball carrier. Adebo doesn’t have the best speed, but his long arms and the right size will help keep him in the play and prevent receivers from making the catch at the catch point. He has the right size for a cornerback at 6’1, 190 lbs. and should be able to stay at the position in the future. I don’t think he will be a lockdown cornerback, but he should still be a good option for you in fantasy.
Tiawan Mullen – Indiana
College Stats: 28 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, 13 pass deflections
Here’s another young cornerback making a name for himself as a true freshman. Tiawan Mullen was a 3-star prospect and the 55th overall cornerback in the 2019 class. Mullen started in eight games and appeared in all 13 for the Hoosiers. He did most of his damage in two games, breaking up four passes in each game. His best game came against Purdue toward the end of the season where he had those pass deflections, but also added in eight tackles and a forced fumble/recovery. Mullen didn’t have any interceptions, but teams were leery of him during the back half of the season. He is on the 2020 watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award. Mullen is on the smaller side for cornerbacks, standing at 5’10” 190 lbs. If he can add a bit more muscle, he should be more physical with the bigger wideouts.
I won’t go into too much detail with Mullen since my co-host, Darrell (@HollywoodTitan), on the Devy IDP Grind podcast did a great article on him a few days ago, which you can read here.
Israel Mukuamu Jr. – South Carolina
College Stats: 76 tackles, 5 interceptions, 10 pass deflections
Coming out of high school in 2018, Israel Mukuamu Jr. was listed as a three-star safety. However, when he got to school, he started to play cornerback. Mukuamu is pretty big for a cornerback, listed at 6’4″ 205 lbs. His sophomore year is when he took his first big step. In week six, when the Gamecocks traveled to Athens to play the Bulldogs, Mukuamu was in for a day. It was his best game by far, as they upset the Dawgs on their field. He finished with three interceptions and 11 total tackles. That game got his name on the map. Mukuamu was modest through the rest of the season, breaking up 8 passes across the final six games.
Being listed at 6’4″ has some challenges, like being fast. Fortunately, he has some speed, but not groundbreaking speed. He can keep up with the wide receivers and can make plays with his height. Mukuamu is a physical corner and will do what he can to disrupt the receivers coming off the line. He is an excellent tackler and will excel in run support. Mukuamu did play safety in high school and that may be where he will fit in the NFL. However, he could have eligibility at both positions, which would give him an advantage over other fellow cornerbacks. He is a better zone corner than man-to-man.
Asante Samuel Jr. – Florida St.
College Stats: 67 tackles, 1 interception, 23 pass deflections
Yes, Asante Samuel Jr. is the son of former NFL cornerback Asante Samuel. Samuel was the 9th ranked cornerback and 60th ranked overall player coming out of high school in 2018. As a freshman for the Seminoles, he appeared in all 12 games, starting three of the final four games, getting half of his freshman tackles in those three games. While the ‘Noles had a lousy year in 2019, Samuel was still able to rack up 49 tackles and 14 pass deflections. The 14 pass deflections were ranked #1 in the ACC.
Samuel is similar to other smaller cornerbacks and can struggle with taller wide receivers. He needs to put on some weight and get more physical with the receivers at the line to help counter his smaller stature. However, despite his lack of size, he is an excellent outside cornerback. Samuel is fluid in the hips and can change direction quickly and follow a speedy receiver’s moves. He is even better in the slot, where his lack of size isn’t as significant. Samuel has good ball recognition and can anticipate routes and get his hand in there and break up the pass. He isn’t one to shy away from tackling bigger running backs and will go for it. He could end up going day two in the NFL Draft, maybe even day one, if a team needs a slot corner.
Shaun Jolly – Appalachian St.
College Stats: 46 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 5 interceptions, 2 touchdowns, 8 pass deflections
Oh, Jolly! Yes, a small school cornerback! We all love a good story. Shaun Jolly, a two-star recruit, was ranked as the 256th cornerback (2,725th overall) in the class of 2017 per 24/7 Sports. He redshirted his freshman year but was always with the team as one of the possible replacement cornerbacks. However, in 2019, he took a massive step in his game. Jolly was selected to the second-team All-American from PFF College and first-team All-Sun Belt. That’s not the best part. Jolly tied with Derek Stingley Jr., with the highest grade from PFF College (both players had a grade of 91.7).
Jolly is another one of the small cornerbacks, listed at 5’9″ 170 lbs. With his short stature, he has good speed and can hang with those speedier wide receivers when playing outside. He has good ball skills as shown with his eight pass deflections and five interceptions, taking two of them back for touchdowns. Jolly is a big help in the run game and isn’t afraid to get to the ball and take the ball carrier down. He is also outstanding in coverage, where his fluid hips can help him move with the shiftiest of wide receivers and can stay side by side and make the play. Jolly could be picked on in the NFL due to his size, but don’t get me wrong, this kid can play.
Elijah Molden – Washington
College Stats: 127 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 4 interceptions, 18 pass deflections
The four-star 23rd ranked cornerback, 179th overall, didn’t waste any time getting on the field. Elijah Molden appeared in all 13 games as a true freshman, racking up 19 tackles. In his sophomore year, Molden again appeared in all 14 games for the Huskies. He gathered up 29 tackles and five pass deflections. Molden took a big step in his junior year. He started all 13 games, was named to the PFF All-American second team and the All-Pac-12 first team. Molden had 79 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 12 pass deflections in 2019. It gave him a bump in the 2021 NFL Draft process. He is also listed on all the major defensive awards for 2020. Molden had the third-highest grade (90.8) from PFF College in 2019.
Like a few guys on this list, he is on the smaller side. Standing at 5’10” 191 lbs. Molden will tend to get bullied by bigger running backs when helping in run support. However, he will make up for that with what he does in the passing game. He is much better on the perimeter and is usually the nickel cornerback, which he has been mostly playing at the University of Washington. Molden, even with the lack of size, is always getting his hands on the ball and disrupting opposing wide receivers. Molden is one of those guys that can, and probably will play both in the slot and on the outside to give him a bit more versatility in the fantasy game.
Patrick Surtain II – Alabama
College Stats: 79 tackles, 3 interceptions, 15 pass deflections
We go from a small school guy to a former NFL player’s son and big-name cornerback. Patrick Surtain II was the #1 ranked cornerback (6th overall) in the class of 2018. He stepped in right away as a true freshman and made an impact. The last freshman defensive back to start for Alabama was Minkah Fitzpatrick. Surtain finished the 2018 season with 37 tackles, 1 interception, and 7 pass deflections for the Tide. He played alongside players such as Xavier McKinney, Trevon Diggs, and Deionte Thompson. His sophomore year was better in fewer games, finishing with 42 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 8 pass deflections.
Ideal size for a cornerback, Surtain can hang with the best of the wide receivers. However, he needs to put in 110% effort in every play. He will sometimes take reps off and not get in on tackles. When he does give 110%, he is a beast. Surtain will keep his eyes on the receiver until its time for the ball. He will push the receiver out of bounds and take them out of action to lose the quarterbacks read. Surtain has excellent ball skills and will get his hands on the ball any way he can, whether a pass deflection or interception. His versatility has him able to play outside or in the slot.
Shaun Wade – Ohio St.
College Stats: 57 tackles, 4 interceptions, 14 pass deflections
Another one of the top cornerbacks coming from Ohio State? Yes, Shaun Wade can be a day one pick in next year’s NFL draft. Wade is a former five-star recruit, #2 overall cornerback (#17th overall) in the class of 2017. He has played in the shadows of both 2020 first-round picks in Jeffrey Okudah (#3/Lions) and Damon Arnette (#19/Raiders). Wade was hoping to get the spotlight mainly to himself this year, but the Big-10 canceling their season killed those chances. His freshman and sophomore years were pretty close stat-wise.
A big part of Wade’s game is his versatility. He can play outside and inside and could even dabble in at safety in the NFL. He is physical at the line and will throw off the receiver at the line. Wade will get on tackles and not shy away from them. He has good long speed and can keep up with the receivers that want to test him. He could have easily gone in this past draft but felt Okudah overshadowed him. Wade is a more vital asset in man coverage than zone but has the experience playing zone with the Buckeyes. He probably won’t be one of the shutdown cornerbacks, but that could help him when it comes to fantasy-wise and where he could fit on your team.
Caleb Farley – Virginia Tech
College Stats: 56 tackles, 6 interceptions, 19 pass deflections
Caleb Farley was one of the first big-name players to opt-out of the 2020 college football season due to COVID. Farley will be one of the top cornerbacks taken in the 2021 NFL Draft and rightfully so. His tackle numbers were down in 2019 compared to 2018, but his interceptions and pass deflections rose. Farley’s 4 interceptions and 12 pass deflections were good for second in the ACC. Farley started his football career as a quarterback in high school and then moved to the wide receiver position once he got to Virginia Tech.
Farley has excellent size and is a guy that can play anywhere on the field. He very good in both man and zone coverage and will stay glued on the hip to his man. Farley likes to redirect wide receivers and ruin the routes and throw the offense off course. He stays square with the opposition and won’t get turned around and lose his man. The biggest knock against him is his injury history. Farley suffered an ACL tear in 2017 and miss the last few games in 2019 due to back spasms. If the injuries can stay in check, Farley has a chance to be one of the top cornerbacks taken this upcoming year.