Top 5 cornerbacks in college football for 2019

Bryce Hall
Bryce Hall

Having finished up the front seven defensively, we move on the defensive backfield, more specifically the cornerback position. Unlike last year, this group has some serious talent across the nation, with four of the Power Five conferences being represented among this top five.

While schemes vary and you can only evaluate the position depending on the defense these guys are in, I tried to judge these corners as individual players and here is how they stacked up against each other.

As I have said so many times before now, we evaluate college players at this point, but unlike most other positions, this list will probably look very similar once the 2020 draft rolls around.

#1 Bryce Hall, Virginia

Despite being only a two-star recruit according to most outlets, Hall just received the highest Pro Football Focus grade among all returning FBS corners. The 6’1”, 200 pound standout led the nation with 22 PBUs and had a couple of picks to go with it. On passes that traveled 10+ yards with Hall being targeted, opponents went 14 of 44, as he limited big plays all year.

The feisty competitor does an outstanding job staying on the hip pocket of receivers and using that inside arm as a bar to control their speed. Virginia ran a ton of single-high safety coverages and left Hall on an island, where he really impressed me with his advanced technique on back-shoulder fades.

Hall had an awesome battle with N.C. State’s Kelvin Harmon and made a crazy interception on a jump-ball, where he snatched it away from the receiver with one arm, and he almost got another one later in that game. The coverage specialist is not hesitant to come upfield and cut down running backs at their trunks or jump on top of a pile either.

Hall is easily my number one corner in college football and looking forward to the 2020 NFL Draft at this point. The one area that concerns me about his game is how he leaves his feet and ducks his head as a tackler.

#2 Kristian Fulton, LSU

Kristian Fulton, LSU
Kristian Fulton, LSU

If you recently watched tape on LSU’s Greedy Williams this is the guy who outplayed him and surprisingly returned for his senior campaign. The six foot, 200 pound corner was heavily utilized in man-coverage as part of LSU’s defensive scheme, where he displayed the ability to mirror and match off the line. He has the long arms to reach around receivers and make plays on the ball.

Fulton allowed only 41.5 percent of the passes his way to be caught and gave up a minimal 49 yards after the catch, while intercepting one pass and knocking down another nine. Unlike Greedy, this year’s clear CB1 for the Tigers has no problem defending in-cuts and he had a great interception on one of those versus Georgia.

Unfortunately what those two do have in common is that neither one of them is overly excited to act in run support. Unless he takes a big step back in 2019, I don’t really see Fulton falling out of the first round next year and he will have plenty of opportunities to go up against some of the nation’s best receivers – Texas’ Colin Johnson, Vanderbilt’s Kalija Lipscomb, all those Alabama receivers and plenty of others.

#3 Paulson Adebo, Stanford

Paulson Adebo (11)
Paulson Adebo (11)

After taking a scout-team redshirt in 2017, this kid had one of the most impressive debut seasons I have seen from a college player in a while now. Adebo allowed a passer rating of just 54.6 when targeted in 2018 and broke up an FBS-high 22 passes among returning DBs, including four picks. He displays an easy pedal and turn to defend the deep ball ball and at 6’1” he really climbs the ladder and attacks the ball at its highest point. That way he denied Dillon Mitchell and Oregon three straight times in goal-to-go situations in overtime.

Adebo won’t allow offenses to manipulate him with crossers or screen fakes to give up his deep-third or quarter responsibilities. Stanford also likes to blitz their corners on run-downs quite a bit, which earned their talented sophomore five tackles for loss.

At 190 pounds, I think the Stanford corner would benefit from adding some muscle to deal with bigger wideouts and what he has to do a little better job of is not giving that inside access in off-coverage that easily and getting back on top of dig and deep-in routes. Still, the sky’s the limit for this young man.

#4 C.J. Henderson, Florida

C.J. Henderson (left)
C.J. Henderson (left)

Florida has brought out several highly rated cornerbacks over the last decade or so and this is the next guy up. At 6’1”, just over 200 pounds this dude plays with the type of competitive swagger a true number one corner needs. After a tremendous freshman campaign, in which he intercepted four passes and took two back to the house, Henderson was even better as a full-time starter in year two.

He didn’t allow a touchdown while recording two interceptions in 2018, surrendering a passer rating of just 44.0 throughout the year and allowing opposing teams to only complete a pass against him on an SEC-low 19.1 snaps. All that while primarily playing boundary corner for the Gators, oftentimes against the best receiver on offense.

Henderson has pretty loose hips for a tall guy and the speed to stay attached in trail-technique with his man while being physical at the point of the catch and excelling at playing through the hands of the receiver. Last season the Gators blitzed him more, where he takes the inside path at times if a lane opens up.

That led to five tackles for loss and three sacks, plus a couple of forced fumbles. He rarely allows himself to stay blocked and looks to get involved against the run game. The areas that need the most work in Henderson’s game are his poor footwork and jabs in press alignment.

#5 Lavert Hill, Michigan

Lavert Hill
Lavert Hill

Despite not seeing the field a lot as a freshman due to a stacked roster, Hill already flashed his talent, making a play on the ball on 25.8 percent of the passes thrown his way. In 2018 he turned into the main contributor to one of the nation’s top defenses. Despite being an inch short of six feet and weighing in just 180 pounds, Hill won’t back down from anybody. He is a very competitive player, who displays tremendous foot quickness which enables him to be aggressive and still mirror receivers while using very accurate stabs off the line.

Last year he deflected 11 passes, picked off another three, with two of them going the distance and only allowed 0.64 yards per coverage snap. Hill was matched up against Notre Dame’s highly talented Miles Boykin quite a bit in last year’s season-opener and allowed him to get free for a catch just once all game long.

He was also moved in the slot quite a bit and has dealt with plenty of talented receivers there. While his size obviously limits his pro ceiling to some degree, his physicality and technique make him one of the top cover-guys in college.

Just outside: Trevon Diggs (Alabama), Jeff Gladney (TCU), Essang Bassey (Wake Forest), Kindle Vildor (Georgia Southern) and Jaylon Johnson (Utah)

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Edited by Raunak J