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Ballard’s Potential Big Board: 5 Top NFL Draft CB Prospects for Colts

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Penn State vs Washington Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft kicks off Thursday night, which means the Indianapolis Colts will soon be on the clock, and the league’s version of “Christmas Morning” is nearly upon us.

Armed with the 26th, 34th, 59th, and 89th overall selections, general manager Chris Ballard is well equipped to make significant noise early on in Days 1 and 2.

The Colts have a trio of talented cornerbacks featuring re-signed veteran Pierre Desir, emerging third-year pro Kenny Moore, and the ever-improving Quincy Wilson.

However, it’s never a bad thing to have additional cornerback depth, especially in a passing league and at a position where defensive backs tend to get regularly dinged up.

So, without further ado, here are 5 potential cornerback prospects on ‘Ballard’s Big Board’ (keeping in mind scheme and fit):

Presbyterian v Central Michigan Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

5. Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple

The 6’0”, 190 pound senior cornerback had 47 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 12 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions in 12 games for the Temple Owls—earning First-Team All-AAC honors.

Not to mention, he has an epic football name.

Ya-Sin ran a 4.51 forty time at the NFL Combine to go along with an impressive 39.5 inch vertical.

He’s still a bit raw at the position, but he has the sculpted size, athleticism, and length (32” arms) to eventually become an impact starting press cornerback. It also helps that he plays with nice physicality in coverage and is a willing defender in run support—demonstrating his competitiveness at cornerback.

That being said, his technique and footwork could use some refinement, and he doesn’t have great long speed—making him potentially scheme dependent.

Having already selected another Owls’ cornerback, Nate Hairston, could Ballard go back to the nest one more time—only this time for a defensive back with more upside?

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Alabama vs Georgia Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

4. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia

At 5’11, 193 pounds, the senior cornerback recorded 40 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, 9 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions in 12 games for the Bulldogs.

Baker earned AP First-Team All-American and 1st-Team All-SEC honors, and he also was the recipient of the Jim Thorpe Award—which is awarded annually to the top defensive back in college football.

He ran a 4.52 forty time at the NFL Combine.

Baker is highly regarded for his press coverage, as well as his competitiveness, toughness, and consistency. He shows impressive ball skills and good anticipation on routes.

However, given his lack of size and 2nd gear of speed, he might be best suited as a zone cornerback at the next level—which might be music to Matt Eberflus’ ears.

He’ll have to get stronger at the pro ranks, but having someone like Malik Hooker backing him up could help his long-term success too.

Wake Forest v Notre Dame Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

3. Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame

The 5’11”, 193 pound junior cornerback for the Fighting Irish had 63 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, 3 fumble recoveries (1 for a touchdown), 16 passes defensed, and an interception in 13 games—earning AP First-Team All-American honors.

He ran a 4.54 forty time at the NFL combine with a vertical jump of 36.0 inches.

Love is exceptional as a coverage corner, possessing excellent instincts, ball skills, and a high football I.Q. He is technically sound in coverage and has great anticipation on routes, as indicated by his 16 passes defensed in 2018.

That being said, like Baker, he lacks great deep speed and might be best suited as a zone cornerback with safety help over the top. He also will need to get stronger and improve his overall physicality at the next level.

Ballard ‘struck gold’ with Love’s former teammate Quenton Nelson in last year’s draft, for an ideal zone cornerback fit in Matt Eberflus’ scheme, could he do it again?

NCAA Football: Alabama at Louisiana State John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

2. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

At 6’2”, 185 pounds, Williams has the prototypical size that general managers covet at cornerback, as well as the production with 33 tackles, 9 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions in 11 games. Because of his exceptional play, he earned AP 2nd-Team All-American and 1st-Team All-SEC honors as a sophomore.

Williams ran a blistering fast 4.37 forty time at the NFL Combine.

The former Tigers cornerback uses excellent length to both slow down wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and disrupt receptions at the point of attack.

In addition to his excellent speed, he looks fluid covering routes and shows impressive agility in his change-of-direction ability.

However, where he can get into problems, is that bigger, more physical wide receivers can beat his jam quickly, and he can struggle in coverage when playing from behind on routes.

His help in run support and overall toughness could improve as well.

Like the Colts very own Pierre Desir, Williams has the length and athleticism that have proven to work well in Eberflus’ system. It’s just a matter of whether he can play tough enough in run support for a defensive scheme that requires its cornerbacks to tackle.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Penn State vs Washington Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

1. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

At 5’11”, 190 pounds, the Huskies sophomore standout recorded 58 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, 13 passes defensed, and four interceptions (1 for a touchdown) in 14 games—earning AP 2nd-Team All-American and 1st-Team All-Pac 12 honors respectively.

During the NFL Combine, Murphy ran a 4.55 forty time and had a vertical jump of 36.5 inches.

Murphy is a very instinctive cornerback with a high football IQ, who has excellent ball skills. He’s willing to mix it up in run support and close down hard on a receiver in space—showing excellent toughness and fight.

While he’s not a great athlete and lacks deep speed, he makes up for it with the other exceptional areas of his overall game.

He seems like an ideal fit in Matt Eberflus’ ‘Cover 2’ defensive scheme with his instinctive and ball-hawking play (yet a need to have some safety help behind him).

However, like Williams before him, it’s a fair question of whether cornerback is that great of a need in Round 1, where he’ll likely be selected.