C.J. Henderson

2020 NFL Draft player rankings: Top 10 cornerbacks available

2020 NFL Draft player rankings: Top 10 cornerbacks available

Cornerback is routinely one of the most popular positions to target in the NFL draft. In two of the past three drafts, cornerback has been the most selected position by NFL teams. And it's easy to understand why.

In the modern NFL, teams need to have as many athletic cover men as possible to keep pace with the league's best passing attacks. Often, it's recommended to have at least four strong corner options while also holding onto a young player to see special teams action or play at the position.

In 2020, cornerback figures to be a popular position once again. There are plenty of talented players at the position and as many as five could be selected in the first round. But if the number is lower than that, Day 2 will surely see a lot of potential starting corners come off the board.

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Cornerback is one of the New England Patriots' strengths. On the outside, they have arguably the league's best cornerback in Stephon Gilmore as well as quality veteran Jason McCourty and solid third-year player J.C. Jackson. In the slot, Jonathan Jones has been very good for the team and plays a key role on special teams for the squad.

But you can never have too many cornerbacks. And with McCourty turning 33 in August, the Patriots may want to add some depth at the position with one of their many mid-round picks.

And perhaps if the Patriots are lucky, one of the top 10 cornerbacks available will fall into their lap at some point during the 2020 NFL Draft.

1. Jeffrey Okudah

College: Ohio State
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 34 tackles, three interceptions, nine pass defenses

Okudah is the best cornerback in this draft class. He's a natural in coverage, has solid athletic ability (he ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at the combine and logged a 135-inch broad jump), and has good size and length on his 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame. Even playing on a team with Chase Young, arguably the best overall prospect in this draft, Okudah showed that he can be a stud at the next level and his ball skills were a big part of Ohio State's run to the College Football Playoff. He should be a No. 1 corner in the NFL for a long time and may be the second defensive player off the board in the draft.

Projected Round: First (Top 10 picks)

2. C.J. Henderson

College: Florida
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 26 tackles, zero interceptions, 11 pass defenses, one sack

Henderson is a player who has been on the rise of late. The Florida product could work his way into the top 10 and is similarly sized to Okudah (6-foot-1, 204 pounds). Henderson is an excellent athlete and was a standout at the combine, blazing a 4.39 in the 40 with a 37.5-inch vertical jump. He plays as fast as his numbers suggest and he should be able to cover speed receivers as well as bigger-bodied guys. And for those worried that he had no interceptions last year, he had six in the previous two combined. So, with better luck, he'll likely grab some as a rookie.

Projected Round: First (Top 20 picks)

3. Trevon Diggs

College: Alabama
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 37 tackles, three interceptions, eight pass defenses

Diggs started his career as a wide receiver at Alabama, the same position as his brother, Stefon. But he moved over to the defensive side of the ball given Alabama's talent at receiver and that has worked out well. Diggs had a very good senior season after recovering from a foot injury that sidelined him at the end of his junior campaign. He set career highs in all major defensive categories and should track the ball well in the NFL thanks to his skills as a receiver. And at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, he nearly identically matches Okudah and Henderson's size and had the longest arms among cornerbacks measured at the combine (32 3/4 inches).

Projected Round: Late First/Early Second

4. Kristian Fulton

College: LSU
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 38 tackles, one interception, 14 pass defenses

Joe Burrow wasn't the only reason the LSU Tigers won the National Championship last season. The defense had to hold up against some tough offenses and that included Clemson. Fulton was the top corner, across from freshman standout Derek Stingley, and had a very good season. The 6-foot senior held up well in coverage and contested catches consistently. His 4.46 40-yard dash and sub-7-second time in the 3-cone drill helped him as well. He could be a late first-round pick as a result of those numbers.

Projected Round: Late First/Early Second

5. A.J. Terrell

College: Clemson
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 34 tackles, two interceptions, three pass defenses, 0.5 sacks

Terrell is a former five-star recruit and while he had a lot of trouble against LSU in the National Championship Game, he has done a bit to rehabilitate his stock in recent weeks. Terrell performed well in the combine drills and showed off his good athletic ability by clocking a 4.42 40. He may need some time to continue to develop in the NFL, but the raw athletic potential is there and some team may view him as a starter on the outside who will only get better with time.

Projected Round: Late First/Early Second

6. Jaylon Johnson

College: Utah
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 36 tackles, two interceptions, 11 pass defenses

Johnson was a big-time playmaker for Utah defense the past three seasons. The sturdily-built 6-foot, 193-pound corner was a great ball-tracker for Utah in his final season and likely played himself into the second round. He wasn't flashy at the combine -- a 4.5-second 40, 15 bench press reps, 7.01-second 3-cone drill -- but he showed well in the athletic tests and did well in the on-field drills. He looks like a rock-solid starter at the next level.

Projected Round: Second

7. Cameron Dantzler

College: Mississippi State
Class: Redshirt junior
2019 stats: 40 tackles, two interceptions, eight pass defenses, 0.5 sacks

Dantzler is one of the bigger corners in this class at 6-2. He was once considered to be a potential first-round pick, but a slow 40 at the combine (4.64 seconds) will likely drop him to the second round. That said, he plays faster than that speed and he knows how to use his height to his advantage. If he can bulk up a bit (188 pounds) while maintaining his play speed, he should be a fine starter.

Projected Round: Second

8. Jeff Gladney

College: TCU
Class: Redshirt senior
2019 stats: 31 tackles, one interception, 14 pass defenses, 0.5 sacks

Gladney has been a stalwart on the TCU defense for the better part of four seasons. He's highly productive and has a knack for knocking down passes with his 31 7/8-inch arms.  At 5-10, 191, he doesn't have great size. Still, he's a solid athlete who showed well at the combine and simply knows how to impact plays. Due to Gladney's slighter frame, he may be forced into slot detail in the NFL, which keeps him lower on these rankings than some have him. Either way, he should find an NFL home and hold up well on the outside or inside.

Projected Round: Second or Third

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9. Noah Igbinoghene

College: Auburn
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 42 tackles, zero interceptions, seven pass defenses

Igbinoghene converted to defensive back after his freshman year at Auburn. And while he is raw, he has the makings of a really good NFL corner. Igbinoghene has a thick build. He's just 5-foot-10, but he tips the scales at 198 pounds and has 31 3/4-inch arms. He should hold up well against strong receivers and has enough athletic ability and explosiveness (4.48 40) to stay with quicker guys. Because of his lack of experience, he may need more time to hone his technique before he can be a starter. But his upside is sky-high.

Projected Round: Second or Third

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10. Damon Arnette

College: Ohio State
Class: Redshirt senior
2019 stats: 35 tackles, one interception, eight pass defenses

Arnette was overshadowed a bit by Okudah, but he was still a strong corner for the Buckeyes last season. He is versatile with the ability to play outside or in the slot and plays faster than his 4.56 time in the 40 would indicate. Arnette isn't perfect and he'll need to improve his discipline in the NFL. Still, he has all the tools needed to make that happen.

Projected Round: Second or Third