The Panthers have made it clear that one of the main priorities for this offseason is finding a long-term answer at cornerback to play alongside Donte Jackson in 2021. Given that their only acquisition at the position in free agency has been signing Rashaan Melvin, a 32-year-old journeyman, to a one year deal, it seems highly likely that the Panthers will be targeting cornerback at some point fairly early in the upcoming draft.
With that in mind, it seems worthwhile to take a look at the 2021 cornerback class, so that’s exactly what we’ve done.
What Do We Look For In Cornerbacks?
Possibly more so than with any other position, evaluating cornerbacks starts with athleticism. Players have to have the speed to run vertically with receivers whether in man or zone, and the quickness to close gaps following breaks in routes laterally and back to the ball. For teams that want players to play a lot of press, length is also valuable while a certain level of strength is required to match up with bigger receivers down the field.
However, the most important thing, especially for man coverage, teams is going to be fluidity of movement. Players who are able to flip their hips and open up vertically without sacrificing balance or speed are going to be much more able to drive out of their breaks or react to changes in direction through routes. Players can help this with tight footwork which limits waisted motion and avoids flat footedness both in press and off coverage.
As well as the ability to follow receivers through routes in man coverage, the ability to impact the game at the catch point is also important. Players who can locate the ball to force incompletions or even generate interceptions are always going to add value, especially for teams that play a lot of zone. For zone teams, route recognition with the ability to anticipate where the ball is going is highly valuable, though for many cornerbacks a certain level of projection is required in this regard.
Finally, while teams shouldn’t draft cornerbacks for their run defense, it is still important, and players who aren’t good technical tackler with a solid base who wrap effectively are going to find it harder to see the field, while players who show an ability to work off of blocks against the run are going to add value.
Importantly, we also have a fairly good idea of what the Panthers look for in cornerbacks under Matt Rhule from what he said last offseason and from what the Panthers did defensively last season. What they look for are long (6’0 or taller) corners with good vertical speed (sub-4.5 at least), good ball skills and an ability to play both man and zone.
So, with that in mind, what does the 2021 cornerback class look like?
|Name||College||Height||Weight||Athletic Traits||Press and Transition||Man Coverage||Zone Coverage||Run Defense||Biggest Questionmark||Grade||Ranking|
|Patrick Surtain II||Alabama||6'2||202||Good deep speed with really good length and pretty good movement skills and pretty good upper body strength||Isn't super active with his hands and can get his weight a little backwards off the line but moves feet well to force leverage whilst maintaining lateral control||Does a nice job of opening hips and transitioning and drives on the ball well on underneath routes with really good ball location and hand usage at the end of plays, but can get a little narrow in backpedal in off coverage||Has good transition and backpedal in cover 3 and shows great ball skills with an ability to compete at the catch point but ability to read-and-react underneath is hard to judge due to scheme||Shows pretty good arm extension to keep blockers at pay with decent hand usage to work off blocks and shows pretty good tackling technique though could stand to wrap more consistently and certainly doesn't seek-out contact||How will he fare against smaller, quicker receivers in man coverage?||Mid 1st Round||1|
|Jaycee Horn||South Carolina||6'1||205||Good quickness, movement skills, length and deep speed but strength is nothing special||Footwork at the line is really quite clunky with a lot of wasted movement but transitions well and uses hands really effectively to redirect||Does a really good job of following receivers through breaks either in off or trail coverage and contests really well, but footwork in off coverage could stand to improve quite a lot with quite a lot of wasted motion||Flashes some really encouraging instincts but ball skills are still a work-in-progress and footwork in off coverage is quite clunky and at times a little flat-footed||Works off blocks reasonably well and is a pretty good tackler with nice wrap though he could stand to set a slightly more balanced base||Can he improve his footwork as this could get exposed against smaller, shiftier receivers?||High 2nd Round||2|
|Tyson Campbell||Georgia||6'2||185||Good length, deep speed and movement skills with pretty good quickness and decent strength||Smooth feet at the line with easy transition vertical while maintaining balance and uses arms reasonably well to redirect||Has the movement skills to trail and while he does stop his feet at times he shows the quickness, movement skills and balance to react smoothly out of brakes||Really nice fluid backpedal and breaks back to underneath balls well and shows a good understanding in zone but needs to show he can be anticipatory while ball skills are a concern||Good tackler with really good wrap and a good base to make tackles at an angles and while he does a decent job of using his hands to avoid blocks he needs to show he can work off in a consistent way||Does he have the zone coverage upside to be an impactful player in a cover 3 scheme?||Late 2nd Round||3|
|Kelvin Joseph||Kentucky||6'1||192||Good length with at least pretty good deep speed with decent-to-good quickness, strength and movement skills||Footwork at the line is a little clunky and gets caught flat-footed too often but uses hands well and transitions nicely vertically though can overcommit early||Transitions out of the head of routes well and shows a pretty good ability to trail down the field but can get a little flat footed and needs to show more active footwork in off coverage||Flashes of good ball skills and shows a nice understand of leverage and responsibility while breaking on the ball pretty well but feet can get a little stationary and flat at the head of routes||Not the best tackler in the world, leaves his feet too easily and doesn't engage his shoulder enough when he wraps but did a reasonable job of working off of blocks||Can he improve his footwork at the head of routes as this is his major limitation in coverage?||High 3rd Round||4|
|Asante Samuel Jr||Florida State||5'10||184||Good speed and movement skills with pretty good quickness but length and strength aren't anything special||Footwork at the line is a bit choppy but transition is good and uses upper body reasonably well to redirect||Really pretty impressive trailing receivers in man coverage and while footwork at the head of routes could stand to be a little tighter it is still good||Smooth working vertically in backpedal and breaks back to the ball quite well with pretty good ball skills though instincts are a little hit-and-miss||Needs to show that he can work off blocks consistent and needs to set a more consistent base as a tackler as he can struggle with late movement and needs to engage his shoulder more when he wraps||Can he be more anticipatory in zone coverage as he is more reactive at this point?||High 3rd Round||5|
|Caleb Farley||Virginia Tech||6'2||207||Good deep speed, quickness and length with decent-to-good strength and pretty good movement skills||Footwork at the line is quite clunky but transition is good and uses arms reasonably well to redirect at the line||Footwork in off coverage is a little frenetic and does tend to play with a slight forwards lean which can make it hard for him to recover and awareness/contest is inconsistent but shows good fluidity in trail coverage||Good ball skills and flashes good instincts but awareness seems to come and go and footwork in off coverage needs to be tighter with slightly more open hips||Isn't super enthusiastic as a run defender and while he wraps reasonably well he needs to set a better base as he can get quite flat-footed as well as the ability to work off blocks in a consistent way||Does he the upper tier instincts to make him a top-tier zone corner?||Mid 3rd Round||6|
|Ifeatu Melinfonwu||Syracuse||6'3||213||Pretty good vertical speed with decent quickness and decent-to-good movement skills while length and strength are both good||Uses hands reasonably well to redirect and transitions nicely but footwork at the line could stand to improve as he can over-commit early in plays||Shows an ability to tail effectively and contests well at the catch point but footwork in off coverage isn't ideal and might lack the quickness and movement skills to be hugely effective working at the head of routes||Backpedal is quite ponderous and footwork in off coverage in general is quite clunky but works well vertically but instincts and ball skills are unremarkable though not actively poor||Is fairly proactive at working off blocks and does a generally good job of disengaging but can struggle as a tackler as while he wraps reasonably effectively he gets too narrow and sets an inconsistent base making it hard for him to adjust||Does he have the upside to be more than a solid starter as a cover 3 corner?||Mid 3rd Round||7|
|Shaun Wade||Ohio State||6'1||195||Good vertical speed with pretty good quickness and length but strength is unremarkable and movement skills are merely decent-to-good||Footwork is too flat-footed at the line and transition is a little stiff while he doesn't show a consistent ability to redirect with upper body||Pretty fluid in trail coverage but footwork at the head of routes can be a bit clunky and is quite reliant on athleticism to get him through which will be less possible at the next level||Pretty good ball skills with nice vertical pedal and can drive on underneath routes effectively but instincts don't appear amazing and will need to show he can be anticipatory||Doesn't do the best job of working off blocks but tackling technique is at least decent, though he is clearly not the biggest contact enthusiast||Does he have the instincts to make the most of his ball skills and athleticism in zone coverage?||Late 3rd Round||8|
|Aaron Robinson||UCF||6'1||193||Good deep speed with decent length and movement skills, pretty good strength and decent-to-good quickness||Can get a little flat-footed off the snap and needs to be more proactive at times but transitions well and uses hands well to redirect||Does a nice job of trailing receivers through routes in man coverage and transitions vertically well but in off coverage his footwork can get exposed but does do a good job of contesting at the catch point||Didn't play a ton of zone coverage and while he does flash decent ball skills his footwork in off coverage can be quite clunky and awareness in coverage isn't amazing||Wraps well as a tackler but needs to set his feet more consistently as he can struggle against chances in direction. Fairly unremarkable working off blocks and will need to improve in this regard at the NFL level||Can he work on his footwork to allow him to be effective in off coverage?||High 4th Round||9|
|Greg Newsome||Northwestern||6'1||190||Pretty good vertical speed with decent-to-good quickness and movement skills||Footwork at the line is pretty good though does tend to play a little off-balance in general and while transition isn't bad it can be a little clunky at times||Trails well down the field and does a good job of breaking on routes with nice positioning but in off coverage his footwork can let him down at times and does have a slightly worrying tendency to get quite grabby at the head of routes||Breaks on the ball quite well and backpedal is reasonably fluid but instincts and ball skills are both largely unremarkable and footwork in off coverage is in need of refinement||Solid tackler who wraps reasonably well and sets a nice base but lack of elite lateral agility can create issues for him at times, and while he does a nice job of engaging blocks he needs to be more proactive in working off blocks||Does he offer enough in man coverage to make up for lack of elite athleticism or ball skills?||High 4th Round||10|
|Eric Stokes||Georgia||6'1||185||Really good vertical speed with pretty good quickness and length but strength and movement skills are both fairly unremarkable||Really flat footed at the line and transition is really quite clunky without the consistent ability to redirect with his upper body||Has the speed and ability to trail be effective but footwork at the line and at the head of routes is really quite clunky which is going to make it hard for him to stick with receivers at the head of routes though has the speed to close||Has good ball skills but instincts aren't anything notable either way and backpedal is quite clunky and can be a step slow to react as a result||Needs to prove he can consistently work off blocks and tackling technique is really quite poor as he sets a poor base and doesn't engage his shoulder when he raps||Can he turn quite good core traits into production at the NFL level?||High 4th Round||11|
|Lorenzo Burns||Arizona||5'11||175||Shows pretty good quickness, movement skills and deep speed though length and strength aren't amazing||Gets a little too flat-footed at the line and doesn't use upper body effectively to redirect but transitions vertically well||Trails well and contests effectively at the catch point and shows nice active feet in off coverage though does tend to let his weight lean backwards and can struggle to break on balls underneath as a results||Does a good job of transitioning to run vertically and backpedal is very smooth even if weight does lean backwards but instincts are hard to judge though ball skills seem pretty good||Struggles to work off blocks at times but while he isn't a super enthusiastic run defender his technique is at least with decent||Does he have the ability to consistently impact the game in zone?||Mid 4th Round||12|
|Thomas Graham||Oregon||5'11||196||Pretty good quickness with decent movement skills and decent-to-good deep speed but strength and length are nothing special||Transition is sharp but footwork can be a bit jittery at the line and doesn't use hands notably well to redirect early in routes||Has the movement skills to be effective in trail coverage and while backpedal is reasonably smooth he tends to let weight get behind him which inhibits his ability to drive on routes||Pretty good ball skills and instincts are at least fairly good with reasonably smooth backpedal but can be a little slow to break back to the ball||Needs to show that he can work off blocks consistent and tackling technique isn't great with poor base inhibiting his ability to adjust to late movement, though wraps fairly effectively||Does he do anything well enough to be more than a useful rotation piece?||Late 4th Round||13|
|Robert Rochell||Central Arkansas||5'11||195||Pretty good vertical speed with decent strength and length while quickness and movement skills are both decent-to-good||Transition is reasonably good though sometimes with a little hitch and while he shows the ability to press effectively with his upper body he needs to be more disciplined in his footwork||Footwork at the head of routes needs to be more disciplined as he is off-balance too often but has the movement skills and speed to trail effectively and has the core traits to be at least decent in off coverage||Footwork needs to be more disciplined as there is too much wasted motion but drives on the ball well and while instincts are a little hit-and-miss he shows good ball skills||Needs to get better at work off blocks as arms are just not as active as they should be but is a pretty good tackler though could stand to set his feet more consistently||Can he tighten his footwork to deal with the better athletes he will face in the NFL?||Late 4th Round||14|
|Tre Brown||Oklahoma||5'10||186||Decent-to-good deep speed and strength and pretty good quickness but movement skills aren't amazing and length is nothing special||Does a reasonable job of keeping his feet moving at the line and hand usage to redirect is pretty good but struggles to transition effectively||Drives on the ball well in off coverage and does a decent job of keeping feet moving at the head of routes but struggles to trail effectively and issues with transition are likely to make it hard for him to cover deep from off coverage||Flashes pretty good ball skills and drives on the ball well with active feet in off coverage but struggles to work laterally and transition will hinder him in deep zone while instincts are nothing special||Does a reasonable job of working off blocks and doesn't lack enthusiasm but tackling technique is quite poor and tight hips can cause him problems in adjusting to late movement||Can he find a role which allows him to play underneath routes in off zone coverage?||High 5th Round||15|
|Camryn Bynum||California||6'0||200||Pretty good deep speed and movement skills with decent length and quickness but strength isn't anything special||Footwork is a little over-active and doesn't use upper body hugely well to redirect which can create issues when he looks to transition||Moves fairly fluidly and should be able to be fairly effective in trail coverage but in off coverage his footwork is quite frenetic which limits his ability to transition smoothly or break on passes||Some ball skills and shows a pretty good understanding of role in zone but can be a bit frenetic in his footwork which causes wasted motion and limits his ability to break on balls||Isn't the most enthusiastic run defender and can struggle to work off of blocks at times but is a good technical tackler with a nice wrap||Can he be more disciplined in his footwork to allow him to play man coverage at a high level?||High 5th Round||16|
|Shemar Jean-Charles||App State||5'11||190||Decent-to-good speed with good quickness and pretty good movement skills while length and strength are nothing remarkable||Does tend to get a little flat footed off the line but transition is really sharp though could stand to be more active in how he uses his hands to redirect||Can get quite flat-footed at the head of routes but trails quite well and does a good job of contesting at the catch point. Seems to struggle a little with in-breaking routes in trail coverage||Has some ball skills but doesn't show a ton of anticipation and does tend to get quite flat-footed in off coverage though does a good job of breaking on the ball||Technically not the best tackler as while he wraps reasonably well he doesn't set a good base or engage his legs much and will need to prove that he can work off blocks at the next level||Can he develop what are some quite promising physical tools into consistent performance?||Mid 5th Round||17|
|Paulson Adebo||Stanford||6'1||192||Pretty good quickness and length with decent-to-good quickness and strength but movement skills aren't amazing||Gets quite flat-footed at the line and transition is quite clunky but does use upper body reasonably well to redirect at the line||Isn't likely going to excel in man coverage as movement skills and clunky transition make it hard for him to react at the head of routes and lacks the quickness to recover effectively on a consistent basis||Good ball skills with good instincts and breaks on the ball well underneath but backpedal is quite clunky and is going to struggle to counter better route runners||Does a good job of attacking gaps as a run defender and works off blocks reasonably well and is and enthusiastic tackler but does tend to leave feet a little too much and wraps could be better||Is he athletic enough to make use of his ball skills and instincts as a cover 3 corner?||Mid 5th Round||18|
|Darren Hall||San Diego State||6'0||190||Decent-to-good deep speed with pretty good strength and decent movement skills and quickness but length is nothing special||Does tend to get quite flat-footed at the line and doesn't use hands particularly well to redirect while transition can be quite clunky||Needs to keep his feet moving in off coverage and while he does a reasonably good job of trailing vertically he is going to get exposed against better route runners if he isn't more disciplined in his footwork in off coverage||Shows pretty good ball skills and flashes the instincts to make an impact but needs to improve his footwork in off coverage||Technically good tackler with nice wrap and does a good job of keeping his frame free against blocks but needs to show that he can then work off on a consistent basis||Is he going to get exposed by better athletes at the NFL level?||Late 5th Round||19|
|Antonio Phillips||Ball State||6'0||191||Pretty good vertical speed with decent-to-good quickness and solid strength and length but movement skills aren't amazing||Footwork at the line is a little frenetic with quite a lot of wasted motion and doesn't demonstrate much ability to consistently redirect but transition is pretty good on the whole||Didn't play a ton of man coverage and in off coverage needs to be more active in his footwork as he does get a little flat-footed at times but is probably going to struggle for movement skills against better route runner but can run vertically||Fluid in his backpedal to deep zone especially and breaks on the ball well with good ball skills and flashes of plus instincts but needs to be more consistent in his footwork||Isn't the best at work off blocks though he is quite proactive in trying to do so, but is a technically good tackler who wraps really well and does a good job of staying on hit feet when possible||Can he tighten up his footwork in order to give him a little flexibility besides playing cover 3?||Late 5th Round||20|
|Israel Mukuamu||South Carolina||6'4||205||Pretty good straight line speed with really good length and pretty good strength but quickness is mediocre and movement skills aren't amazing||Gets really quite flat-footed at the line and while he flashes the ability to use arms to redirect he transition isn't great||Is going to struggle to be effective in trail coverage and likely won't be that much better in off coverage as he struggles to transition to footwork is quite clunky||Has really good ball skills but instincts are hard to judge but appear to be pretty good if not spectacular but footwork is going to limit him if he is unable to make improvements||Works off blocks reasonably well, but is not a very good tackler who doesn't set a great base and is not particularly keen on contact||Can he improve his footwork to make use of his length and ball skills as a cover 3 corner?||High 6th Round||21|
|Keith Taylor||Washington||6'3||195||Really good length with pretty good vertical speed and quickness but strength is a concern and movement skills aren't anything special||Transition is really quite good but can get a little flat-footed off the snap and doesn't use his arms as effectively as he should to redirect||Is likely going to depend a lot on matchups as he has the speed and fluidity to follow vertically but is going to struggle against shiftier route runners. Wasn't asked to play a lot in off but will need to show tighter footwork to do so at a high level||Fairly smooth working vertically in deeper zones and breaks on the ball reasonably well but instincts aren't anything special and lack of proven ball skills is a concern||Solid technical tackler with nice wrap and sets his feet reasonably well but can struggle to work off blocks and will need to improve in this regard||Does he offer enough upside as a player who is likely going to be a cover 3 specialist?||High 6th Round||22|
|Avery Williams||Boise State||5'9||195||Pretty good vertical speed with decent strength and decent-to-good movement skills and quickness though length isn't great||Shows good active feet at the line with nice transition though there are occasional missed steps and hand usage is decent but nothing more||Reasonably effective in trail and transitions well vertically in off coverage but can get flat footed at times and is fairly unspectacular in terms of transition laterally at the head of routes||Does get a little flat footed at times at the head of routes but backpedal is really quite good though ball skills are a real concern and instincts don't appear to be anything notable||Doesn't show that he can work off blocks effectively and needs to be a better job of staying on his feet in general but wraps well as a tackler||Can he add value in zone or is he going to need to make his money in man coverage?||High 6th Round||23|
|Deommodore Lenoir||Oregon||5'11||195||Decent-to-good deep speed, strength and movement skills with decent quickness and pretty good length||Footwork at the line is quite clunky and transition is decent but not amazing though he does a good job or redirecting at the line with his upper body||Trails fairly effectively but footwork in off coverage is quite clunky and struggles with transition can make it hard for him to react at the head of routes||Footwork is quite clunky with tendency to drag his weight his back leg and while ball skills and instincts are both decent, neither are massive plus traits||Can struggle to work off blocks and while he wraps pretty well as a tackler he isn't the most enthusiastic or physical run defender||Can he be more then a lower rotation or depth piece in an NFL defense?||Mid 6th Round||24|
|Shakur Brown||Michigan State||5'11||190||Decent-to-good deep speed with pretty good strength and decent quickness but movement skills and length are nothing special||Tends to get a little flat-footed at the line and hand usage to redirect is unremarkable and transition is quite clunky||Footwork is too stationary at the head of routes and movement skills and tight hips limit his ability to react either in off coverage or as a trail defender and will likely be limited in his match-ups in man coverage||Shows good ball skills but his ability to break on the ball is limited by footwork and athleticism at times while instincts are nothing special||Reasonably good at working off blocks and certainly doesn't lack physicality but while wrap is quite good as a tackler he could stand to engage legs more||Does he have enough upside as a zone defender to make up for his limitations in man coverage?||Late 6th Round||25|
|Isaiah Dunn||Oregon State||6'0||193||Decent deep speed and length with decent-to-good movement skills, strength and quickness||Gets really quite flat-footed at the line but transition is decent though he doesn't show a consistent ability to use his hands to redirect||Is a little flat-footed at the head of routes and is going to struggle to stick with better athletes down the field but does a decent job of recovering after the head of routes and can be effective in trail coverage||Lack of proven ball skills is a concern and is more reactive than anticipatory but drives on the ball quite well and while footwork is a little clunky it is still decent||Isn't the most enthusiastic run defender and can struggle to work off blocks at times but shows reasonable technique as a tackler||Does he offer enough upside to be more than a depth or lower rotation piece?||Late 6th Round||26|
|Bryce Thompson||Tennessee||5'11||190||Decent-to-good quickness and deep speed with decent movement skills and length but strength is nothing special||Gets really quite flat-footed at the line and didn't show he can use hands to redirect while transition is really quite poor||Footwork is pretty clunky at the head of routes with quite a lot of wasted motion and is going to struggle to run with receivers until he can tidy up his footwork as his movement skills are fine but nothing more||Shows good ball skills but footwork is really quite clunky with a real tendency to get flat-footed at the head of routes and there are flashes of both good and bad in terms of instincts||Tackling is really quite poor as he doesn't set a base at all and needs to engage his shoulder more when he wraps. Wasn't asked to work off blocks a ton and will need to show he can do this at the next level||Can he improve his footwork to raise his coverage floor as his ball skills will only get him so far?||Mid 7th Round||27|
|Rodarius Williams||Oklahoma State||6'0||187||Decent-to-good vertical speed with decent length and strength but movement skills and quickness aren't great||Is really quite flat-footed at the line and at the head of routes with quite clunky transition though he uses hands reasonably well||Footwork is really quite sloppy with a lot of wasted motion and struggles to transition or mirror effectively and is likely going to struggle to play a high level of man coverage without a lot of development||Footwork is really quite poor and struggles to break on the ball effective with poor weight distribution. Instincts don't appear to be anything special and ball skills are a real concern.||Reasonable wrap as a tackler but needs to set his feet more effectively and needs to show that he can work off blocks effectively and some concern over his general passivity as a run defender?||Does he have enough athleticism to make him worth what is likely a significant amount of development?||Late 7th Round||28|
|Mike Hampton||USF||6'1||190||Decent deep speed but quickness, movement skills and strength are all fairly limiting and length is decent but nothing special||Really flat footed at the line a lot of the time and struggles to transition fluidly while hand usage is unremarkable at best||Is really going to struggle to play man coverage at the next level with often very flat feet and really quite tight hips.||Footwork is again not ideal, with quite a lot of wasted motion and while instincts seems reasonable good and he breaks on the ball quite well he lacks notable ball skills||Struggles to work off blocks and plays generally too upright while tackling is decent in terms of attempted wraps but struggles to set his feet effectively||Could he maybe have more success as a deep coverage safety?||Undrafted||29|
For the Panthers, this cornerback class gives them a lot of options to consider. In the first round, Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn are both serious options, with Surtain in particular being a very good fit for what the Panthers look for as well as being the player with the fewest question marks. While Horn doesn’t have quite the same ball skills and consistent anticipation in zone, he has the higher ceiling in man coverage and could be an option if the Panthers look to move towards more of a man coverage defense.
While those are the only two prospects who would be good fits in the top half of the first round, there are a number of players to consider on day two. The best of them is arguably Tyson Campbell, who is a very fluid athlete with the movement skills and footwork to play moth man and zone, though his ball skills are likely going to limit his absolute upside.
The other top option is Kelvin Joseph, who needs some refinement but shows the talent to be one of the very best corners in the NFL, though there are also some off-field concerns that could hurt his stock. While he’s not necessarily a good fit for what the Panthers are looking for as a smaller corner, Asante Samuel Jr. is another player who could be an #1 cornerback early in his career, with good athletic traits and ball skills though his instincts in zone are a little less consistent than would be ideal.
Caleb Farley has got a lot of first-round love but is probably more developmental than his draft stock would suggest, and the Panthers could probably find better value by going in other direction. Similarly, Eric Stokes and Shaun Wade both have a lot of potential, but both probably aren’t ready to see the field right away without struggling at times, and given the Panthers’ needs probably aren’t the best fits.
If the Panthers are looking more for a #2 corner to pair with Donte Jackson than somebody to challenge him for the #1 corner role then Ifeatu Melifonwu would be a good option, especially in the third round or later, as while he is still a little raw and ultimately isn’t quite the same athlete that some of the other top prospects are, he would be a good fit for what the Panthers are looking for and is likely developed enough to start right away.
Greg Newsome is a fairly similar prospect to Melifonwu in terms of ceiling and pro-readiness, but he is less of a good fit in Carolina as he is much more of a pure man coverage corner.
Similarly, there are a number of interesting developmental corners such as Aaron Robinson, Lorenzo Burns and Robert Rochell, but as the Panthers spent two day-three picks on cornerbacks last year, it seems unlikely that they will take the same approach again this year unless they have spare picks late in the draft.
This is really a very good cornerback class for the Panthers, as not only are there are number of good, starting-caliber cornerbacks available but the majority of them are good fits for what the Panthers are looking for in the position. While the likes of Surtain and Horn are serious options for the Panthers in the top-half of the first round, if the Panthers do go elsewhere initially then there should be a range of options in the second and possible even third rounds.
(Top photo via Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports)