Creating the perfect SEC cornerback for 2019
The SEC is a loaded conference defensively. In the first 3 rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft, 5 SEC corners were chosen — Georgia’s Deandre Baker, Vanderbilt’s Joejuan Williams, LSU’s Greedy Williams, Kentucky’s Lonnie Johnson Jr. and Auburn’s Jamel Dean.
This year, some new guys will need to step up and fill those shoes. Fortunately, the talent pool remains deep.
With so much talent, it should be an adventure for quarterbacks who take on SEC defenses this fall.
But only the best of the best can be included in our perfect SEC cornerback for the 2019 season. Below, we make our picks in 6 different categories:
Speed: Javaris Davis, Auburn
Speed is so important for corners, but not necessarily just in the open field. Yes, Davis can run a 4.24-second 40-yard dash (timed during Auburn’s 2017 spring testing), but that elite speed isn’t the only reason he’s on this list.
Look at this play from last year’s game against Ole Miss. Davis’ man gets by him, but he’s able to quickly close the gap and make a play on the ball:
Great recovery for Javaris Davis here
Gets beat initially on release but doesn't flip hips to sidelines which is why he's able to get back over top so quickly & swat ball away pic.twitter.com/jdBXZM4rfD
— AUNerd (@AUSportsNerd) October 24, 2018
Having the speed to cover up some of your technique mistakes is important for corners, especially when there isn’t always safety help over the top. Davis has that more than any other corner in the SEC this year.
Size: Trevon Diggs, Alabama
Diggs, a converted wide receiver, forms a big corner tandem with fellow Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II. Both stand at 6-2 and weigh just over 200 pounds.
I’ll give the edge to Diggs, though, as he is listed just a notch heavier than Surtain (207 pounds to 203 pounds). Both are big guys who can move, and that should make throwing on the Alabama defense more difficult this fall.
Diggs has ball skills from his days as a receiver, and if he puts up good numbers this year, NFL scouts will fall in love with his frame heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.
Tackling: Shyheim Carter, Alabama
Carter tallied 44 tackles as a junior last year, playing primarily in the Star position for the Crimson Tide. His veteran leadership helped an Alabama secondary that had to rebuild in a hurry.
Additionally, 3.5 of Carter’s tackles went for a loss, showing he’s not afraid to stick his nose in the backfield from time to time. He might be overshadowed by guys like Diggs and Surtain (see above), but he’s a talented player in his own right.
Ideally, your corners won’t have too many tackles, since that’s more of the linebackers’ and safeties’ jobs, but Carter isn’t afraid to make a play when it is needed. That’s what Alabama’s defense needs heading into the 2019 season, which will once again feature new faces taking over for guys who are off to the NFL.
Coverage skills: C.J. Henderson, Florida
Henderson didn’t allow a single touchdown last season, which is obviously a very important statistic in football. He managed to help Florida overcome the loss of fellow CB Marco Wilson, who went down with a torn ACL in the Gators’ loss vs. Kentucky last season.
Henderson can do it all when it comes to covering receivers — he’s physical, he’s smart and he’s fast.
Here, you can see him making life tough for Mizzou QB Drew Lock last year, breaking up a pair of passes that could have gone for big plays otherwise (Lock had much more success when he looked to receivers that Henderson wasn’t blanketing):
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) June 24, 2019
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) June 24, 2019
In this play, he shows his ability to turn and run with receivers, going step-for-step and not losing his position:
Hard to find a more natural looking CB in man coverage than CJ Henderson. Has a real chance to be a top 15 prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/URkRfp7yhE
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) June 15, 2019
He could very well be the best coverage corner in the country this year, and he’ll only be helped out by Wilson returning to the other corner spot alongside him.
Versatility: Cam Dantzler, Mississippi State
Perhaps the most underrated cornerback in the country, Dantzler should be ready to become a household name this fall. Overshadowed by Johnathan Abram, Jeffery Simmons, Montez Sweat and the other stars on the Mississippi State defense in 2018, Dantzler will be one of the team’s leaders this year.
This will be a great chance for fans across the SEC to see Dantzler in action, because he can do everything you’d possibly want a cornerback to do. In 2018, he recorded 43 tackles (2.5 for a loss), 1 sack, 2 interceptions and 9 pass breakups.
Here he is making a beautiful diving play against an Alabama receiver on a throw from QB Tua Tagovailoa:
Really nice throw while staring down pressure. Only gets broken up cause Cam Dantzler is a beast. pic.twitter.com/tOLk1M2sUi
— Ryan McCrystal (@Ryan_McCrystal) May 16, 2019
Here’s his sack from last season, which came against Alabama and caused some controversy:
Alabama fans being upset about Dantzler hitting Tagovailoa in the knee aside, Dantzler has shown star potential and should be ready for the spotlight this fall.
Ballhawking: Bryce Thompson, Tennessee
With 3 interceptions in 2018, Thompson is one of the SEC’s leading returning corners. LSU safety Grant Delpit had 5 to lead the way among all returning players, but Thompson’s haul was impressive for a freshman.
He showed a nose for the ball, finding a way to be in the right spot on a number of occasions. Here are 2 of his picks, one off a tipped pass and one on a jumped route:
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) October 13, 2018
After a great game which included an INT, Bryce Thompson is the SEC Freshman of the Week! pic.twitter.com/6p1YbWpDzW
— Barstool Rocky Top (@BarstoolTenn) September 10, 2018
As a sophomore this fall, he’ll need to continue to develop. However, he’s shown he can absolutely make the jump to all-around star in 2019 and beyond.