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2020 NFL Draft Preview: Cornerback sleepers and Broncos fits

(Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The cornerbacks in the 2020 draft class represent a smorgasbord of talent. Teams with different needs or wants at the position should be able to find a fit. There are all sorts of different cornerbacks available in this draft class that should fill most any team’s need.

The Broncos made a lot of moves this offseason to upgrade the roster, but they are not done yet and they didn’t add a veteran corner in addition to trading for A.J. Bouye like most expected. The moves in the defensive backfield are incomplete for the Broncos, as they just can’t rely on guys like Isaac Yiadom or De’Vante Bausby. It’s clear this team needs to add another cornerback to the roster for competition and depth.

In this article, I will look at the market for the position. I’ll also write about sleepers at the cornerback position and some players who could fit what the Broncos need in the 2020 NFL draft.

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Market Watch

The third-best player overall in this entire draft class is cornerback Jeffrey Okudah from Ohio State. There is a drop off between him and the other cornerbacks who I have graded in the first round. Trevon Diggs (Alabama), Kristian Fulton (LSU) and C.J. Henderson (Florida) all should hear their names called on the first day of the draft, but their skill sets aren’t as polished or complete as Okudah’s game.

Okudah is nearly a perfect cornerback. He’s got size, strength, speed and ball skills that could make him a Pro Bowl-caliber player as a rookie. When watching film of Okudah, it’s incredibly difficult to find any negatives to his game. He’s always around the football, and don’t worry about the three interceptions in his career (all in 2019), as most quarterbacks just stayed away from his side of the field. Okudah is physical and perhaps extends that a bit too far down the field, but he is certainly a shutdown corner who can hang with any type of receiver he goes up against.

Diggs is a player to get excited about. He’s not for every team, but if you play a lot of press coverage then Diggs would be a perfect addition in the first round. At 6-foot-2, Diggs has the size and strength to give larger wide receiver a lot of trouble throughout the route tree and in the red zone. He does a good job of timing his jump to knock away passes, and there isn’t a player who will ‘”out physical” him on the football field. I’m concerned about his hip swivel and makeup speed if a receiver gets by him, but in the right system Diggs should be a star.

I like Fulton’s game except for the fact that he seems hesitant to get his hands dirty as a tackler. His hip swivel is among the best in this draft class. He can turn and run with the best of them out there and has good closing burst to the ball. Opposing quarterbacks mostly stayed away from his side of the field as evidenced by only 69 passes were thrown his way on 537 coverage snaps in 2019. Not only does he need to do a better job as a tackler, Fulton needs to play with a mean streak so larger receivers don’t just brush him off on contested catches. Some think Fulton will fall to the mid rounds, but there has been plenty of first-round buzz about him leading up to the draft.

Like Fulton, Henderson doesn’t “mix it up” as much as you perhaps would want him to. He needs to break down and finish better when coming up to support the run. Henderson does have great athletic traits and can work well in man or zone coverages. He gets “grabby” at times but that doesn’t mean he’s a physical player. In fact, larger receivers should have no problem making plays “above the rim” against Henderson. His 2018 tape is better than what he put on film in 2019, but Henderson does have plenty of good tape to go off of.

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Sleepers

The players who weren’t invited to the Scouting Combine earlier this year are going to have a difficult time getting drafted, but one player I hope gets a shot in the league is Parnell Motley from Oklahoma. I watched him during the week of practice for the East-West Shrine Bowl earlier this year and I liked what I saw.

He’s a smaller corner, set to only be a slot corner at the pros, but Motley plays with a big chip on his shoulder. Motley does not back down from a challenge in coverage or even in run support. I like his attitude and was shocked he didn’t get a Combine invite. This offseason is going to hurt Motley because he won’t be able to travel and perform for teams. Some team could get a potential gem, likely as an undrafted free agent after the draft.

A.J. Green from Oklahoma State is a day-three pick with the upside to be a quality pro. Entering the 2019 season, Green was seen as a third-round pick by some in the scouting community. His play last season wasn’t enough to cement that draft stock. Instead, Green was inconsistent with his effort and now is looking more like someone who should go off the board between the fourth or sixth round. Green has good size and uses his hands to disrupt a receiver’s route off the line of scrimmage. He did a good job against top-tier receivers like CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma) and Denzel Mims (Baylor), but Green’s game falls apart at times. His recovery speed just lacks an extra gear, so he might be only a reserve player of backup in the NFL but his athletic traits, size and aggressiveness are worth taking a chance on.

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Broncos Fits

The opinions in the scouting community vary on Mississippi State cornerback Cameron Dantzler. I feel like his length and burst to the ball are reminiscent of former Broncos corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. His game is all about defending the pass and Dantzler has a knack for swiping the ball away. He led the Bulldogs in batted passes (21) each of the last two years even though he missed three games last season. A converted high school quarterback, Dantzler has only been playing the position for three years, so the upside for him to be much better is there.

Bryce Hall from Virginia should be a target for the Broncos, perhaps in the second round of the draft. Some have him as a third-round player, but I think Hall’s instincts for the position should be coveted higher by teams who understand what it takes to thrive at the position. Hall has 32-inch arms and can bat passes away with ease. In fact, Hall used to play wide receiver and almost turns into a receiver at times when he goes after a pass.