2018 Draft Position Reviews: Cornerbacks

This year’s cornerback class is a very deep and talented group. From top to bottom, this draft class there are many talented players, and fantasy owners shouldn’t overlook them. The cornerback position is more valuable in IDP leagues with specific positions and highly coveted by fantasy owners. Now let’s look at this year’s class and see who landed where and what that means with my 2018 Draft Position Reviews: Cornerbacks.

1st Round, 4th Overall

Denzel Ward, (Ohio St) Cleveland Browns: There are many mixed reviews of this pick. The obvious criticism being: Why would you pass on the opportunity to draft one of the top 5 overall players in the draft, Bradley Chubb, to select a corner? Even if your most significant need is a cornerback, the jury is out if Ward is even the best corner in this draft class. I have him ranked as the #4 corner in my positional rankings. There is no doubt he’s a talented player, but not worthy of a top 5 pick. Don’t get me wrong; there is a lot to like about Ward, as he has blazing speed (4.32) and amazing explosion numbers. He’s going to start immediately for the Browns, and they believe he is worthy of the early pick. If that’s the case, then he will not be someone fantasy owners will covet, as opposing teams will avoid his side of the field, which limits his chances to make plays. While I don’t think he’s that type of a star, shut-down corner, he’s not garbage either. For me, that puts him somewhere close to the middle of the top tier of this class. That means he will get plenty of playmaking chances and is good enough to make a splash. Fantasy Potential CB1, DB3

1st Round, 18th Overall

Jaire Alexander, (Louisville) Green Bay Packers: One of several incredible picks for the Packers, as they had an outstanding draft. Their secondary-especially at the corner position- struggled last year. The Packers addressed that with both quantity and quality. Their first option is Alexander, who like Ward, has impressive speed (4.38) and agility skills. The concern with him is which version of himself will we see in the pros? The 2016 version that made plays all over the field, even shutting down his side of the field at times, or the 2017 version who struggled to be effective for stretches and stay healthy? I think the 2016 version is what we will get from the rookie corner. He should step in as a day one starter, and like all rookie corners, he will be tested early and often- which is precisely what you want for fantasy purposes. He does have some issues in run support, but that’s not why the Packers or fantasy owners want him on their team. A must own in position specific leagues. Fantasy Potential CB1, DB3

1st Round, 30th Overall

Mike Hughes, (UCF) Minnesota Vikings: In my opinion, this was a little too early for Hughes to be selected. While I thought there were better options at the position still available to them with the 30th overall pick in the draft, they did address a significant need. He’ll probably cut his teeth in the pros as a 3rd/slot corner. He will get a lot of playing time and should take advantage of it. He’s at his best in press coverage, but he can improve and develop in other areas. Don’t be fooled by his small size, as he is feisty and gets after receivers. If he can improve his overall game, his future is bright. In the fantasy world, he may have considerable value in return yardage leagues. Fantasy Potential CB2, DB4

2nd Round, 45th Overall

Joshua Jackson, (Iowa) Green Bay Packers: I told you the Packers were aware of the terrible corner play they had last season, and with two straight picks they addressed the position. Jackson may be a better pick than Alexander both in terms of value and skill. I had the All-American Jackson rated as my #1 corner in my positional rankings and stand behind that. This kid is a flat out ballhawk and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty in the run game. He had eight interceptions and twenty-six pass break-ups last season at Iowa, to lead the nation in both categories. While not as fast (4.54) as some of the corners in this draft, his talent and manipulation abilities more than make up for any deficiencies he has in the speed department. Just like his fellow rookie teammate Alexander, he will get plenty of opportunities to make plays. Fantasy owners should be chomping at the bit, to get a player with his impact potential. There aren’t many corners who can be equally valuable in both general and specific position IDP leagues, but Jackson can be. Fantasy Potential CB1, DB2

2nd Round, 53rd Overall

MJ Stewart, (North Carolina) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: One of the Tar Heels heaviest hitters during his time at Chapel Hill, Stewart played more like a safety than a corner. He doesn’t have a true cornerback body type, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him switched to safety at next level. If Stewart stays at corner, I see him being a slot defender, with the additional ability to be physical like most safeties. He’s not a speedster (4.54) and will struggle against those that are. An aggressive player who plays well against the run and has plus ability to read receivers. I don’t think he’s going to start right away but could make a decent impact as a rookie. Again he likely moves to safety, especially since the Bucs drafted another corner ten picks later. In fantasy, I don’t think he’ll have a significant impact in general leagues, as he will have more value in deep roster dynasty leagues. Fantasy Potential CB3, DB5

2nd Round, 55th Overall

Donte Jackson, (LSU) Carolina Panthers: Another speedster (4.32) who was a sprinter on LSU’s track team as well as being on the football squad. He’ll have every opportunity to be a starter for the Panthers from day one. He can play both outside or in the slot, with plus marks in man coverage. He needs to improve his tackling consistency and become more effective against the run. In fantasy, his best value will be in deep dynasty leagues. Fantasy Potential CB3, DB5

2nd Round, 56th Overall

Duke Dawson, (Florida) New England Patriots: With the proper coaching, Dawson has the skills to become a dominant slot corner, luckily he should get that coaching in New England. He has excellent ball skills, as he had six career interceptions, returning three of them for touchdowns. Dawson has great speed (4.46) and can carve out a nice role as the slot corner, covering quick, shifty receivers. He still needs to develop his overall game, if he wants to be more than a sub-package player. A good taxi squad candidate in dynasty leagues. Fantasy Potential CB2, DB4

2nd Round, 58th Overall

Isaiah Oliver, (Colorado) Atlanta Falcons: I like this pick for the Falcons, who play in the high powered NFC South. I had Oliver ranked as my #3 corner in my positional ranking and was surprised he slid this far. Oliver doesn’t have the top speed (4.50) that you would like a corner to have but still gets the job done. He has plus marks in man coverage, with good size (6’0”/201) and a very desirable playmaking ability (32 pass breakups at Colorado). He may need a little time to fine-tune his game but should develop into a high quality starting corner in the near future. Fantasy leagues that are position specific give him his best value. Fantasy Potential CB1/2, DB3

2nd Round, 63rd Overall

Carlton Davis, (Auburn) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Davis is who I thought the Bucs would’ve taken when they took Stewart, but they still were able to get him here at a better value. He has very good size, length and excels in press coverage. He doesn’t have the track speed (4.53) like some on this list, but he gets physical and beats up receivers. He’s very disruptive and has a lot of experience as a starter. If Vernon Hargreaves continues to struggle, Davis could easily take his place as a starter. I like this kid in fantasy, as I think playing in that offensively loaded NFC South he will get plenty of chances to make plays. Fantasy Potential CB1/2, DB3

3rd Round, 85th Overall

Rashaan Gaulden, (Tennessee) Carolina Panthers: Just like Tampa Bay, the Panthers are loading up on defensive backs as well. Gaulden is a bit of a tweener type player. He can play both corner and safety, as he did at Tennessee. Gaulden didn’t test very well clocking a 4.61 40-yards dash time and putting up only eight reps in the bench press, but his game film tells a different story. He had above average marks in man coverage and experience covering the slot, but he plays more like a safety, which he may switch to in the NFL. Gaulden is going to need some time to find his position and then develop his game. Gaulden is not going to have a lot of fantasy value immediately but could develop into a fantasy-worthy player in the future. Fantasy Potential CB2/3, DB4

3rd Round, 99th Overall

Isaac Yiadom, (Boston College) Denver Broncos: The Broncos are looking to upgrade their cornerback depth chart, especially after losing Aqib Talib in free agency. Yiadom was a versatile three-year starter at BC. He played both as their starting corner and was their best gunner on special teams. I can see him having that same role in Denver, so that flexibility should pay off for him. He wasn’t a highly graded corner, but he did have a good showing at the Senior Bowl and Combine. He plays with a physical style and posted a decent forty time, clocking in at 4.52. Yiadom gets high marks in press coverage and as a tackler and also tested well in man-to-man coverage at the Combine. A good developmental player, who will start out on special teams. In the fantasy world, he’s not going to have immediate value and is only worth taking if you play in deep leagues, as a taxi stash. Fantasy Potential CB3, DB5

4th Round, 110th Overall

Nick Nelson, (Wisconsin) Oakland Raiders: The Raiders are in a complete rebuild on defense. Still, this is too early for a player that will miss his rookie year due to injury. He tore his meniscus in a private workout for the Lions before the draft. Outside of that, there are several positive things to like about Nelson. He led the nation with 21 pass breakups and had 36 in his two years as a starter. The issue is he couldn’t convert any of those into interceptions. He sat out a year as a transfer from Hawaii to Wisconsin in 2016 but was a starter for Badgers and their leading punt returner. Nelson has decent speed (4.52) and size (5’11”/ 200) and could develop into a good sub-package corner and special teamer. For fantasy purposes, he will only have value as a returner in leagues that score return stats. Fantasy Potential CB3, DB5

4th Round, 118th Overall

Anthony Averett, (Alabama) Baltimore Ravens: As always, Ravens’ GM Ozzie Newsome drafts an Alabama player. Averett is a bit of a project, but Averett could develop into a solid NFL corner. He has excellent speed (4.36) and quickness and earned plus marks in man coverage. Averett played in the SEC and faced off against some of the best talent in the country. He was a two-year starter for the Tide, but he will need to add weight and become more physical to be effective at next level. There will be opportunities for him over the next couple of seasons to make his mark. In fantasy, he’s not worth owning at this point. If you’re in a big league with deep rosters, he can be stashed on your taxi squad as he needs some time to develop. Fantasy Potential CB3, DB5

4th Round, 121st Overall

Taron Johnson, (Weber St) Buffalo Bills: A player whose stock was rising before the draft, he performed very well at the Combine, backing up his college numbers. He was the 2017 Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year and finished career with 42 pass breakups. Johnson has decent speed (4.50) and showed good change of direction skills with an ability to stay with receivers. He should compete for sub-package spots to open the season. Johnson will still need to develop his game to be a starter and is only worth owning if you play in deep roster leagues. Fantasy Potential CB3, DB5

4th Round, 125th Overall

Avonte Maddox, (Pittsburgh) Philadelphia Eagles: An excellent pick by the Eagles and a good at 125th overall. Maddox started 3+ years at Pittsburgh, recording 42 pass breakups and eight interceptions, returning two for touchdowns. He’s going to have to work his way up a talented depth chart, so he should start out on special teams. A skilled player worth stashing in fantasy if you have the room and can wait a year or more. Fantasy Potential CB2/3, DB4

5th Round, 142nd Overall

DJ Reed, (Kansas St) San Francisco 49ers: Interesting pick here for the Niners, as Reed will project to be a sub-package defensive back and have a significant impact in the return game. During his senior year, he led the team’s return game and returned both a kick-off and a punt for touchdowns. Despite not having blazing speed (4.51), Reed still managed 32.2 yards on kick returns and 14.9 yards on punt returns. He’s a little smaller than you would like but can be a nice upgrade to the depth of a team. In fantasy, his value will be dependent on his usage as a returner. Fantasy Potential CB4, DB5

5th Round, 151st Overall

Davontae Harris, (Illinois St) Cincinnati Bengals: A three-year starter for the Redbirds, Harris has good size (5’11”/205) and speed (4.43). The Bengals are set at both starting corner spots, but they are aging, and there isn’t a lot of depth behind them. So there is an opportunity for Harris to establish himself and prep for a chance to start in the future. At the least, he should compete for sub-package reps early on. Harris won’t have much fantasy value early in his career, but I think he is worth stashing on bench or taxi squad if you have room on your roster. Fantasy Potential CB2/3, DB4

5th Round, 154th Overall

Siran Neal, (Jacksonville St) Buffalo Bills: Neal is listed as a corner and only has one year of experience at the position, but did play safety before and may do so in the pros as well. The Bills have a need in both roles, so he his versatility will be a plus. His skill set is a bit of a mix of what is required at both positions, as Neal plays physical like a safety, but has movements of a corner. He will need to work on improving his reads and anticipation, but Neal plays with aggressiveness and is an excellent tackler. Don’t be surprised if he moves to safety, but he is currently only worth owning in deep fantasy leagues but keep an eye on him. Fantasy Potential CB3, DB4

5th Round, 170th Overall

Darius Phillips, (Western Michigan) Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals continue to address their depth in the secondary. They drafted Davontae Harris 19 picks earlier and also drafted S Jessie Bates in the 2nd round. Phillips converted from wide receiver to cornerback and did very well in his three years as a starter. He had 12 career interceptions and tied an FBS record for most career picks returned for a touchdown with 5. An outstanding corner and a capable returner, he has six career touchdowns on kick returns (five kickoffs & one punt). He will give the Bengals a considerable boost in return game and should compete right away for sub package and slot corner duties. In fantasy, I am targeting him in deep leagues where I have room to stash him while he develops. A definite must own in return yardage leagues. Fantasy Potential CB2/3, DB4

6th Round, 179th Overall

Parry Nickerson, (Tulane) New York Jets: The Jets addressed their Safety position last year with Adams and Mays and can now focus on the corners. Parry is an incredibly talented four-year starter from Tulane and excelled at the corner spot. He was a playmaker for the Green Wave as he recorded 188 tackles, 16 picks, three forced fumbles and four fumbles recovered. Nickerson is the type of player that has a nose for the ball and making the big play. He’s a tad on the small side (5’10”/182) which would suggest slot duties, but HC Todd Bowles is on record saying they will give him a shot at outside responsibilities as well. I have this kid as one of my sleepers for this season and think he has an excellent chance to see significant playing time, despite the depth ahead of him. I recommend stashing him on taxi squad or your bench. Fantasy Potential CB2, DB3

6th Round, 182nd Overall

Christian Campbell, (Penn St) Arizona Cardinals: Campbell has decent size and long arm length. He only had one year of experience as a starter but played well and recorded 19 career pass breakups. A definite project pick, but his size and length should give the Arizona coaching staff enough to work with. He has had issues in tight, close spaces and was flagged for several pass interference calls on deep balls. He will take time to develop into anything serviceable and not worth owning in fantasy. Fantasy Potential No Value

6th Round, 189th Overall

Kamrin Moore, (Boston College) New Orleans Saints: Moore was a three-year starter for the Eagles and played decently for them. However, he didn’t make a lot of plays or make a significant impact in games. He also played on special teams for BC, and that is likely his role in the pros as well. I wouldn’t expect much from him and not worth owning in fantasy circles. Fantasy Potential No Value

6th Round, 196th Overall

Tremon Smith, (Central Arkansas) Kansas City Chiefs: An intriguing pick here for the Chiefs who need a playmaker at corner. Smith, an All-American three-year starter in college, has a lot to like about his game. His pro day measurables show Smith to have good size (5’11”/186) and excellent speed (4.32). His college stats also highlight his abilities, as he posted fifteen interceptions and a punt return for a touchdown. That kind of versatility is a big plus for him and increases his odds of making the team. Buried on the depth chart but talented enough to climb the ranks, Smith is a taxi squad stash, but worth owning in deep fantasy leagues. Fantasy Potential CB3, DB5

6th Round, 209th Overall

Cornell Armstrong, (Southern Miss) Miami Dolphins: I haven’t seen a lot of Armstrong’s film, but from what I have seen, he has decent speed (4.45) speed, but only an average skill set. He will be a longshot to make the team but does have an outside chance, as the Fins need talent in their secondary. Unfortunately for him, they drafted a couple of more talented players earlier in the draft. Not worth owning in fantasy. Fantasy Potential No Value

7th Round, 222nd Overall

Jermaine Kelly, (San Jose St) Houston Texans: Kelly has ideal size (6’0”/197) and decent speed (4.57), but doesn’t offer a whole lot else. Only a one-year starter, with only one notable play in his college career- a pick-six he returned for 68 yards. A developmental player at best and should not be owned in fantasy. Fantasy Potential No Value

7th Round, 241st Overall

Greg Stroman, (Virginia Tech) Washington Redskins: A decent late round flyer pick, with some possible value. Stroman is a little on the small side at 5’11” and 182-pounds but is a versatile player. He made 29 starts at corner in college and was a weapon in the return game, as he had four career punt returns for touchdowns. That will likely be his best chance to make the team and allow him to develop his game on the defensive side of the ball. Not worth owning in fantasy. Fantasy Potential No Value

7th Round, 243rd Overall

Keion Crossen, (Western Carolina) New England Patriots: Normally one wouldn’t think much of player from a smaller school taken this late in the draft, but this is where New England excels. They select obscure players and polish them into diamonds more often than any other team. I’m not saying this will be the case here, but it’s a situation worth monitoring. While he is a bit small (5’10”/173), he does have blazing speed, clocking a 4.40 forty time. He played both inside as a slot corner and on the outside in college. Crossen also has experience as a return man. Special teams will be his projected path, but anything can happen with good coaching. Not worth a roster spot in fantasy but keep an eye on his progress. Fantasy Potential No Value

Undrafted Free Agents

Tavarus McFadden, (Florida St) San Francisco 49ers: I’m completely shocked that this kid went undrafted. Like every other player, he has flaws but was way too talented to go undrafted. He has excellent size (6’2”/204), but his speed times were concerning and may be why he went undrafted. McFadden clocked a 4.67 at Combine and an improved to a 4.58 at his Pro Day. He is a bit inconsistent, illustrated by his eight career picks- all of which came in one season. While he wasn’t a dominant corner, he was in the top third in this class at the very least. Maybe a pro coaching staff can get him back on track. I would recommend him as a deep sleeper stash worthy of a spot on taxi squads. Fantasy Potential CB2/3, DB4

Tony Brown, (Alabama) Los Angeles Chargers: Brown is an All-American track star with 4.35 speed. He’s an excellent tackler and will likely project into a slot corner role or special teams gunner. Has some possible long-term value if his game develops. Fantasy Potential CB3, DB5

Holton Hill, (Texas) Minnesota Vikings: Thought to be a rising player before the draft, but off-the-field issues and a poor showing at the Combine may have hurt his value and caused him to go undrafted. Hill has good size (6’2”/196) and speed (4.49) with production to match. In twenty career starts, he recorded 14 pass breakups and three interceptions, returning all three for touchdowns. He has an NFL caliber skill set but needs to clean up everything else. Could be a steal for the Vikings here. Fantasy Potential CB3, DB5

Also be to sure to check out our IDP Rookie Roundup special. Get your copy here.


Vol Nation & Titanup! Consumed with all things football! An avid fantasy football enthusiast and have over 15+ years experience in all formats. You can follow me at @DFF_DWIN.

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