Training Camp Rookie Rankings: Cornerbacks

Oct 17, 2020; Knoxville, TN, USA; Kentucky defensive back Kelvin Joseph (1) celebrates a touchdown, during the second quarter of a game between Tennessee and Kentucky at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. Mandatory Credit: Calvin Mattheis-USA TODAY NETWORK

As training camp gets under way, all eyes are on the incoming rookies. This is their first chance to show off their talents since being drafted. With their first season approaching, we will be ranking each position for our five favorites going into the 2021 season. These rankings will be based on overall talent as well as their likelihood to succeed based on the team around them.

1. Patrick Surtain II

Jul 29, 2021; Englewood, CO, United States; Denver Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II (2) during training camp at UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Going into April’s draft, many expected the Broncos to be in the market for a QB, assuming one fell to them. Two of the top five did fall, but Denver opted to strengthen the defensive side of the ball. To this point in camp, Patrick Surtain has been as advertised, including impressive performances in the first joint practice with the Minnesota Vikings.

Surtain thrived in Nick Saban’s defense at Alabama. As a physical CB primarily playing press coverage, he bullied receivers at the line of scrimmage. That physicality has continued, and it showed in his reps against fellow rookie and Vikings draft pick, Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Surtain should thrive for years at the cornerback position.

2. Jaycee Horn

Jul 29, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers cornerback Jaycee Horn (8) runs a drill during the Carolina Panthers Training Camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Jaycee Horn begins his NFL career as a CB in the same division where his father spent years playing receiver. Like his father, Joe, Horn is a long athlete at 6’1 and flashes explosive athleticism in coverage. The Carolina Panthers desperately needed some help in the secondary, and he will certainly provide that.

Horn still needs to continue developing, though. His man coverage skills are great, but he hesitates when thrown into zone schemes. There are also inconsistencies in his tackling. Horn is not a finished project yet, but he could develop into a starting-quality player in this league.

3. Greg Newsome II

Cleveland Browns cornerback Greg Newsome II (20) breaks up a pass intended for Cleveland Browns wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge (12) during NFL football practice, Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021, in Berea, Ohio. Brownscamp12 17

If you’ve paid attention to this series, you might be noticing a pattern at this point. This is now the third defensive player for the Browns to make a list. Cleveland certainly walked away from this draft as winners, and none may prove bigger than Greg Newsome.

Thus far, Newsome has looked like a star in camp. He has taken a ton of first team snaps, and it is hard to find any where he doesn’t look like he belongs. He is in the heat of a battle for the second starting spot opposite Denzel Ward.

4. Asante Samuel Jr.

May 14, 2021; Costa Mesa, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. (26) during rookie minicamp at Hoag Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Asante Samuel Jr. has been thrown into the fire right away in LA. He’s spent plenty of time covering some of the best receivers in the league, and he’s proven worthy. The 47th overall pick has shown some incredible competitive spirit in training camp, and that has earned him some respect in the organization.

Size is not in Samuel’s favor, but that has not stopped him to this point. He is a very physical player at 5’10 and goes into every snap with a bulldog mentality. Instincts go a long ways in the NFL, and Samuel’s are top tier. He needs to work on his tackling a bit, but everything else about his man coverage is up to NFL code.

5. Kelvin Joseph

Jul 22, 2021; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and cornerback Kelvin Joseph (24) during training camp practice at the Marriott Residence Inn. Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Kelvin Joseph is already on track to make a big impact for the Dallas Cowboys. The 44th overall pick is pushing to become CB2 opposite of Trevon Diggs. If he and Micah Parsons can develop into immediate impact players on this young defense, this Cowboys’ season could look much different than last.

Joseph was not a top prospect going into the draft process. He’s got good size and ball skills, but the speed is simply not there for the former Wildcat. The Cowboys certainly saw something in him though, and snagging him in the second round may prove to be a great investment.