Ranking the 10 best cornerbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft

Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1).
Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Ahmad Gardner (1). /

As the 2022 NFL Draft quickly approaches, it’s time to put the finishing touches on our positional rankings, draft boards, and get those last-minute hot takes on the table.

Today, I’m counting down my top 10 cornerbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft. These rankings are based on my personal evaluations of each player using a combination of film breakdowns, college production, and combine scores.

Let’s get started.

10) Damarri Mathis, Pittsburgh

Mathis is a tough and physical corner who thrives in press coverage. He loves to get his hands on receivers early to keep them from uncovering, which at times leads to over-aggression. This is his clear weakness, as his aggressive nature can often get him into trouble facing double moves or pump fakes.

Nevertheless, he’s outstanding in run defense and can serve as a Day 1 dime corner with the potential to develop into a solid starter.

9) Jalyn Armour-Davis, Alabama

Armour-Davis is a balanced, but raw corner who played just one year under Nick Saban at Alabama. He shows promise and upside with his physical traits but simply lacks the reps and experience to develop consistency in those traits.

He has no glaring weaknesses, and with development should make for a solid prospect for a team to land in the 3rd or 4th round of the NFL Draft.

8) Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston St.

McCollum is an exceptional athlete and was a standout at Sam Houston State. He has incredible ball skills, and the numbers back it up. In 56 games in college, he grabbed 13 interceptions and 54 pass breakups. His length and speed contribute to his playmaking ability and displayed a nice floor of technique in man coverage.

While he definitely still has room to grow in his coverage skills, he’s a smart, team leader who will continue to grow behind NFL coaching. He’ll need time to develop before encompassing a starting role, but he’s worth gambling on with a Day 2 pick.

7) Roger McCreary, Auburn

McCreary is a sticky, man-oriented corner that is about as technically sound as they come. His lack of physical traits might not give him the upside of others above him on this list, but he provides a nice floor as a plug-and-play corner for any NFL team that runs a man-heavy system and should serve well as a Day 2 pick in this year’s NFL Draft.

6) Kyler Gordon, Washington

In the NFL, Gordon has the athleticism and explosiveness to be a starting outside corner. He plays with a fire lit under him and is extremely physical, especially in the run game. While his aggressiveness might cause him to get burnt in some instances, he trusts his athleticism and balance to keep receivers at bay. With a nice balance of press and man technique, Gordon displays the versatility to fit in just about any scheme.

5) Kaiir Elam, Florida

Son of seven-year NFL veteran, Abram Elam, Kaiir Elam was a highly regarded recruit and three-sport athlete in high school. Since arriving at Florida, he immediately lived up to the hype, starting as a true freshman and providing valuable play in the secondary as a tall, fast, and physical corner.

His best fit will be in a zone scheme, as he excels in using his ball skills and discipline in route recognition. A few aspects of his game need polishing but should serve as a quality low-end starter in year one.

4) Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson

Andrew Booth came onto the college football scene as a 5-star prospect and an academic standout. He’s a smart, fast, and physical corner who plays with a true alpha mentality. While Clemson ran primarily zone coverage, Booth was able to demonstrate his toughness and ball skills while maintaining good awareness on the field.

In year one in the NFL, he has the ability to compete for a starting role while possessing the traits to develop into a scheme-independent, high-impact starter by year two or three.

3) Trent McDuffie, Washington

McDuffie is a very good athlete who can play in just about any scheme. His good speed and quickness combined with his intelligence on defense make him a versatile, high-floor player. While lacking true high-end speed, he is rarely out of position and possesses good instincts to make him a plug-and-play corner for just about any team.

2) Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati

Coming out of high school, Ahmad Gardner was overlooked by the top Big Ten schools as a thin, 160-pound corner but later developed into one of the best in the country at Cincinnati. Since starting as a freshman, he’s filled out his frame and established himself in a corner that can function in a variety of coverage schemes.

His length and nasty play style allow him to excel in press-man coverage primarily, along with a nice balance of quickness and speed. With sustained college production, Gardner projects nicely as a Day 1 starter and an exceptional option for a defensive scheme that mixes in a lot of press coverage.

1) Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

A former 5-star recruit, Stingley took the college football world by storm in 2019 as a member of the National Champion LSU Tigers. Starting as a freshman, he played a huge role in their historic run and was undoubtedly a top corner in the country. Since then, Stingley’s 2020 and 2021 seasons have been plagued with injuries, starting just 10 games in that span, and allowing just 2 catches on 4 targets in 2021.

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Barring injury, his floor is incredibly nice, and he has the traits and technique to return to elite-corner status. Stingley should provide a team with a quality second corner at worst, but even that would be considered a disappointment based on his upside.