The "Triple Take" team, the Steelers Radio Network trio of Matt Williamson, Dale Lolley and Mike Prisuta, provides updates on their breakdown of the top cornerback prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft. If you want to hear the audio version of "The Triple Take" click here.
The opinions of these Steelers Radio Network personalities do not reflect the views of the Steelers organization.
Matt's Second Take on the CB position ...
Who's stock has risen and why?
Jaycee Horn, South Carolina (6-1, 205 lbs.) - Horn has one of the best athletic profiles in this entire draft class. His 4.39/40 grabs the headlines, but Horn's jumps were even more impressive with a 42" vertical and a 133" broad jump. Mind you, these numbers were posted by a cornerback that stands 6' 1", weighs 205 pounds with very long 33" arms. Horn is tough and physical on the football field and unlike some of the other top cornerback prospects, he often traveled with the opponent's best receiver. Horn was a great prospect before his Pro Day, improved his stock with his workout and also could benefit from the uncertainty surrounding Caleb Farley after his back surgery.
Who's emerged and why?
Marco Wilson, Florida (6-1, 191 lbs.) - Wilson has had his ups and downs at Florida, especially with his technique. But no one should have ever doubted his talent. He has a good frame for the position at 5' 11 ½" and 191 pounds. And at 191 pounds, Wilson was able to lift the 225 pounds bar 26 times in the bench press. His agility numbers were quite good, but Wilson's jumps were amazing with a broad jump score of 136" and a ridiculous 43.5" vertical. NFL defensive back coaches will be clamoring to work with Wilson.
Other Notes: Let's keep things close to home and discuss Pitt's Jason Pinnock. His explosion numbers are just staggering with a 39.5" vertical and 10' 8" broad jump at 204 pounds. Pinnock has ideal cornerback height at 6' 1/2" with a well-built frame and the ability to lift the bar 15 times at 225 pounds. Pinnock ran the 40-yard dash under 4.5 seconds, but his 1.46 10-yard split is even more impressive, as is Pinnock's 4.1 short shuttle time. His size and explosion are Pinnock's most impressive traits, but overall, few cornerbacks in this class can match him from an athletic standpoint. Pinnock had six interceptions at Pitt and kept improving during his college career. The best could be yet to come for Pinnock with the athletic traits he shows.
Matt's First Take on the CB position ...
#5 - Tyson Campbell, Georgia (6-1 1/2, 185 lbs.) - It is all about the traits and upside with Campbell. While he is a little lean, Campbell has a great body type for the position. Although he is long-limbed, Campbell transitions very smoothly. He is both quick and fast. He is both smooth and sudden. Campbell reportedly ran under a 4.4/40-yard dash at Georgia's recent pro day which isn't all that surprising after viewing his game film. You wish his ball production was better, but there is a ton to work with here with Campbell.
#4 - Greg Newsome, Northwestern (6-1, 190 lbs.) - Newsome is very long and a very smooth mover, but also has some suddenness in his movements and loose hips. He doesn't have a lot of interceptions but does consistently get his hands on the ball and shows an obvious ability to find the ball. He plays the game with confidence, swagger and intelligence. Newsome timed and tested very well at Northwestern's pro day, but he didn't look super-fast on tape, but only played in three games in 2020. He projects as an outside cornerback that can develop into a very solid man and zone coverage player at the next level.
#3 - Jaycee Horn, South Carolina (6-1, 205 lbs.) - Horn is long, athletic and physical. His competitive nature really shows up play after play and he brings toughness to the secondary. Horn will have to scale down how handsy he plays throughout the route at the next level, but that is a transition many cornerbacks have to make coming into the league. This guy takes the ball away and is excellent at the catch point. And he loves it.
#2 - Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech (6-2, 207 lbs.) - If Farley hadn't opted out this past year, he very well could be first on this list. He is remarkably talented. With his great length and strength, Farley's forte is playing press man coverage, but he also hasn't done a ton of it to date. He also has outstanding pure long speed and recovers very quickly. He attacks the ball in the air with a "My ball" mentality. Farley has the best traits in this cornerback class and the highest ceiling.
#1 - Patrick Surtain II, Alabama (6-1 1/2, 206 lbs.) - Surtain's father was an excellent NFL cornerback, and you can see that massive influence in the son. While he might not have elite pure speed, Surtain has everything else you want at this position and he really stands out in man-to-man coverage and has a lot of experience in press man. He has great size and is physical, but also consistently plays the game in balance, under control and with great patience. It is pretty apparent that not only is Surtain very talented and gifted, but he has been groomed to play this position exceptionally well.
Dale's Second Take on the CB position ...
Who's stock has risen and why?
Jaycee Horn, South Carolina (6-1, 205 lbs.) - Horn has pushed his way into the conversation to be perhaps the second cornerback taken in this draft with an outstanding pro day that affirms his talent. He ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and knocked his vertical and broad jumps out of the park going 42 inches and 11-3, respectively. Horn has plenty of upside and his tape matches his athletic traits. He was considered a possible first-round pick before. Now, it's nearly assured.
Who's emerged and why?
Greg Newsome, Northwestern (6-1, 190 lbs.) - In a crowded cornerback group, Newsome was in that second tier behind the top two or three players at the position. Then, at Northwestern's pro day, he tested far better than anyone thought he would, running a 4.37-second 40-yard dash and posting 40-inch vertical and 10-3 in the broad jump. He's a good-sized cornerback who has the smarts and ability to fit into a lot of defenses and could jump into the first round.
Other Notes: Florida's Marco Wilson ran a 4.37-second 40, had a 43.5-inch vertical and did 27 reps on the bench. He tested very well athletically at just a shade under 6-0 and 191 lbs. … In a class loaded with corners over 6-foot tall, South Carolina's Israel Mukuamu and Minnesota's Benjamin St. Juste stand head and shoulders above the crowd, literally. Mukuama measured in at 6-4, 212 lbs., while St. Juste was 6-3, 202 lbs. Those are BIG corners. … LSU has put out a lot of good defensive backs in recent years. The best this year is Kary Vincent. At 5-10, 185 lbs., Vincent is likely a slot corner at the NFL level, but he has 4.38 speed. Vincent opted out in 2020, but people shouldn't forget that he had four interceptions during LSU's national championship run in 2019.
Dale's First Take on the CB position ...
#5 - Eric Stokes, Georgia (6-1, 185 lbs.) - A nice-sized corner who could put on a little weight, Stokes had four interceptions in 2020 and 13 pass breakups in the past two seasons. He ran a sub-4.3 40 at Georgia pro day, so he has speed to match up with anyone. He still needs to get better with some of his technique, but that speed will play well on Sundays.
#4 - Aaron Robinson, Central Florida (6-0, 189 lbs.) - Robinson initially began his career at Alabama before transferring to Central Florida. Robinson played a lot of slot cornerback at UCF, but he can play outside, as well. He has quick feel and plays with good physicality in the run game, as well.
#3 - Jaycee Horn, South Carolina (6-1, 205 lbs.) - The son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn, Jaycee Horn started out at slot corner early in his career before moving outside the past two seasons. He wasn't tested all that much in 2020, but did record a pair of interceptions. Horn's size shows up on tape as he imposes his will on receivers.
#2 - Patrick Surtain II, Alabama (6-1 1/2, 206 lbs.) - The son of longtime NFL corner of the same name, Surtain was a three-year starter at Alabama despite entering the draft as a junior. He does everything well and has been battle tested by the best players in college football. Should be a solid player at the NFL level.
#1 - Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech (6-2, 207 lbs.) - A high school quarterback who converted first to wide receiver and then to cornerback following the 2017 season, Farley has a good head for the game. He opted out in 2020, but had 16 pass defenses and 4 interception in 2019. He's an ascending player who is already pretty good and might just be scratching the surface.
Mike's Second Take on the CB position ...
Who's stock has risen and why?
Paulson Adebo, Stanford (6-1, 198 lbs.) - Adebo put up numbers at Stanford's Pro Day that generate attention for a cornerback of his size and stature. They included a 4.42 40-yard dash, a vertical leap of 361/2" and a 10'1" broad jump.
Adebo didn't play in 2020 but he tied for the FBS lead with 17 passes defensed in 2018 and finished in the top five in the nation and led the Pac-12 in that department with 10 in 2019. He also had four interceptions in each of those seasons. The testing numbers were in agreement with the ball skills that are apparent on Adebo's tape, "phenomenal ball skills," according to NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah.
"Cornerbacks bust because they can't find the ball," Jeremiah said. "This guy can play it and finish it."
Stanford head coach David Shaw anticipates Adebo making an impact in the NFL "possibly" as a Day One starter for whatever team ends up drafting him.
Jeremiah envisions Adebo's name being called on the draft's second day, how quickly remains to be seen.
Adebo was initially recruited as a wide receiver. The NFL will be getting a size-speed combination at cornerback.
Other Notes: Patrick Surtain II (6-2, 208 lbs.) has been considered a top prospect at the position all along, but he also might be one who proves to be more effective as a ball hawk in the NFL than he was in college. Surtain intercepted four passes in three seasons at Alabama (one in 13 games in 2020) but analysts discussing Alabama's first Pro Day on the NFL Network attributed the relatively small number of interceptions in part to Alabama's don't-get-beat-deep-above-all-else philosophy on defense. A more aggressive NFL coverage scheme, it was suggested, might well afford Surtain more opportunities to attack the football. That would contradict an old scouting adage cited by Jeremiah about defensive backs: "If you can't find the ball in college, you won't start finding it in the NFL." … Minnesota's Benjamin St. Juste (6-31/4, 202 lbs.) is another big corner who tested well (4.51 40, 34.5" vertical) … Florida's Marco Wilson (5-115/8, 191 lbs.) emerged as the "Workout Warrior" of the Gators' Pro Day, according to the NFL Network's Kim Jones. Wilson's day included a 4.37 40, a 44" vertical (99th percentile according to Pro Football Focus for cornerbacks) and 26 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press (100th percentile). The latter two numbers "got the biggest roars from his fellow Gators," reported Jones, who added a scout told her Wilson "gives you something to work with." Wilson's brother Quincey was a second-round pick out of Florida by the Colts in 2017 and currently plays cornerback for the New York Football Giants.
Mike's First Take on the CB position ...
#5 - Aaron Robinson, Central Florida (6-0, 189 lbs.) - Another Slot Machine. ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum had this to say about the Alabama transfer during Senior Bowl week: "He has really good man-to-man skills, really built well. He uses his hands at the line of scrimmage in a really effective way." ESPN analyst Todd McShea cited Robinson's ability to also play safety as another plus. "That versatility, some people call him Minkah Fitzpatrick, that kind of versatility brings a lot to his game," McShea said. Robinson attended Deerfield Beach High School in Florida, which previously launched Jerry Jeudy and Jason Pierre-Paul on their way to the NFL.
#4 - Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State (5-10, 184 lbs.) - Samuel plays a physical game despite his relatively slight frame and fights for the football upon arrival. He also has NFL bloodlines. His father, Asante Samuel, was a cornerback for 11 NFL seasons and was a two-time Super Bowl champion and a former first-team Associated Press All-Pro. And while such lineage is no guarantee in and of itself, it often provides a significant edge for those following in the footsteps of someone who's already cleared a path.
#3 - Jaycee Horn, South Carolina (6-1, 205 lbs.) - More bloodlines in play (father Joe Horn was a wide receiver for 10 NFL seasons with the Chiefs, Saints and Falcons). Horn's resume tape includes coming up to take Alabama running back Najee Harris to the ground, knocking a pass from the grasp of Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith and sticking with Jeudy into the end zone during Jeudy's days at Alabama. Horn has length and physicality, enough to redirect wide receivers on routes, punish quarterbacks when he blitzes and win 50-50 balls down the field.
#2 - Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech (6-2, 207 lbs.) - The only question is a scheduled back surgery that would reportedly force Farley to miss Virginia Tech's Pro Day (it was anticipated he'd be ready for training camp pre-procedure). Farley's tape is a tribute to his well-rounded game. He can collect interceptions through positioning while running with a receiver, by breaking on the ball with authority or by tracking it as necessary, even when a diving catch is what's ultimately required. And when he comes up to hit receivers after a catch, they go backwards.
#1 - Patrick Surtain II, Alabama (6-1 1/2, 206 lbs.) - Not to belabor the point, but Surtain's father, Patrick Surtain, played 11 NFL seasons for the Dolphins and Chiefs and is a former first-team Associated Press All-Pro. Like father, like son is a bet worth making in this instance. Surtain II is also another high-performance model rolling off the assembly line from the Alabama Factory. After Alabama's pro day, Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy tweeted Surtain "couldn't have had a better day." Jeremiah liked Ramsey's testing to that of Jalen Ramsey. Sometimes you don't have to overthink it.