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Top 5 cornerback prospects
A Buckeye and a Gator lead early projections for 2014
Originally Published: May 15, 2013
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
AP Photo/Jay LaPrete
Bradley Roby is a strong cover corner for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
There was a time in the NFL when having two very good corners would have almost assured that a team was tough to throw on. But in the current landscape, with passing offenses more diversified and creative than ever, depth at the position is crucial if a team wants to compete. The elite cornerbacks today aren't simply receivers with bad hands. Even at the lower levels of football, we see a great emphasis on finding cornerbacks who don't just diagnose and react well but have great ball skills too.
The 2014 NFL draft class could put that on display. A number of the top cornerbacks not only would be capable on offense, but some might actually be used there.
At the top of the list are a pair of corners with something in common beyond talent. One is currently coached by Urban Meyer at Ohio State; the other was recruited by Meyer at Florida.
1. Bradley Roby, RS-Junior, Ohio State
This is a player comfortable with the idea of island living. Roby has good man cover skills and definitely fits in that class of college cornerback prospects who will need to keep focused because quarterbacks will be extremely cautious about challenging him, even as he lines up against the opposition's top wide receiver every week.
As a redshirt junior, Roby brings a lot of experience. After his redshirt season, he started every game as a first-year participant and tied for the team lead in interceptions. A physical corner, Roby is a willing tackler who will step up against the run and attack the backfield.
2. Loucheiz Purifoy, Junior, Florida
A gifted athlete, Purifoy could see two-way duty in 2013 for the Gators, who figure to be very good on defense but have lacked adequate weapons at wide receiver over the last couple of seasons. This spring, coach Will Muschamp had Purifoy mixed in with the wide receivers.
Purifoy has great quickness, but he also has the length to challenge bigger receivers in the air. He's a physical player who has been really good on special teams and will rip the ball free as a tackler.
3. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Junior, Oregon
Extremely good when the play is in front of him, Ekpre-Olomu is explosive out of his backpedal and will close quickly to deliver a big hit or jump a throw to take it the other way. He has good ball skills and led the conference in passes defensed last season.
Also a wide receiver and running back in high school, he's a physical corner who understands routes and will step up to make tackles or put his hat on the ball.
4. Aaron Colvin, Senior, Oklahoma
He brings a versatile skill set to the table. As a sophomore, he started the entire season at safety and was moved back to corner, where he played well, in 2012. Colvin isn't shy as a tackler; in 2011, he tied for the team lead with linebacker Travis Lewis. Last season, he again showed off his versatility, not only leading the team with 14 passes broken up but also as a blitzer by notching 2.0 sacks.
5. Jason Verrett, Senior, TCU
He is a ball hawk and was the only player in the country last season to be among the top 10 in both passes defensed and interceptions. Verrett had one of his better games in 2012 when the Horned Frogs went to West Virginia and, at least by the standards of the Mountaineers, slowed down that passing attack. He picked off Geno Smith in that game.
Verrett is not a big guy at 5-foot-10 and maybe 180 pounds, but he doesn't shy away from contact and will step up and make tackles.
Justin Gilbert, Senior, Oklahoma State
A physical corner, Gilbert shows off great speed and is one of the country's best kick returners.
Quandre Diggs, Junior, Texas
A big-time prospect coming out of high school, he enters his junior season having already started 24 games for the Longhorns.
Marcus Roberson, Junior, Florida
Found his way into a talented secondary in 2012 and was among the best corners in the SEC as a true sophomore. It's not going to be easy to throw on the Gators corners in 2013.
Andre Hal, Senior, Vanderbilt
More known as a return man before last season, Hal took a big step forward as a defender. He reacts well to the ball, gets his hands on throws and is an effective tackler in space.
Bennett Jackson, Senior, Notre Dame
Once Notre Dame's best special-teams player, Jackson became its best cornerback in 2012 and should be in line for a big season.