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2022 NFL Draft: Falcons top targets at CB

The 2022 NFL Draft is nearly here, and we’re wrapping up our coverage with our final positional rankings. Today’s focus is CB, arguably the strongest position on the Falcons roster and one of the deepest groups in the draft.

SMU v Cincinnati Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Draft is almost here, and it’s finally time to wrap up all of our draft coverage with my final positional rankings. I’m proud to say I watched more than 100 players this offseason, far more than ever before. On the site, our team has compiled more than 20 full scouting reports on some of the top prospects in the class—with more to come over the next week! While you may not always agree with our rankings or analysis, we hope you’ve at least enjoyed the discussion and additional viewpoints.

For the positional rankings, these will be based on my personal rankings, not necessarily the rankings of our other writers. I watch players through the lens of the Atlanta Falcons: I prioritize and rank based on the perceived fit in Atlanta’s offense and defense. So keep that in mind, as these rankings may not line up with a generic big board.

I’d also like to note that while I watched a lot of players, I didn’t watch anywhere close to the nearly 300 who will be drafted. As a result, I’m only going to rank the players that I’ve seen at least 2-3 games of. There are tons of other prospects who I’ve seen limited tape of and discussed with other scouts, but I don’t feel comfortable ranking them without at least a few full games watched.

I hope you enjoy these rankings, and if you miss any position groups, you can find them all below:

DEFENSE: EDGE | DT | LB | CB

1: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati

RAS: N/A | Projection: Top-10

Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner is the best zone coverage corner in the draft class and pairs it with exceptional size and length at 6’2, 190. He looks like a very good athlete on tape, and though he didn’t complete his athletic testing, he did post an elite 4.41s 40-yard dash and 1.51s 10-yard split. Gardner can be inconsistent as a tackler—though it’s certainly not due to a lack of physicality—and he’s not quite as good in man coverage at this point. His biggest weakness is a tendency to grab, and he’s likely to get flagged more often for it in the NFL. With all that considered, Sauce still has the profile of a high-end CB1.

2: *Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson

RAS: N/A | Projection: 1st Round

Andrew Booth Jr. is one of my favorite corners in the class, but his recent surgery drops him just slightly to CB2. Booth is a legitimate blue-chip prospect—a former five-star recruit and Atlanta native—who put on a show this season at Clemson. He’s got solid size at 6’0, 200, high-end athletic traits, and experience in a variety of coverage schemes. Put simply, there’s nothing that Booth doesn’t do well. He’s an exceptional coverage player with a fiery attitude, physicality against the run, and a reputation as a film junkie and defensive leader.

3: Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

RAS: 8.98 | Projection: 1st Round

One of the most polarizing players in the class is LSU’s Derek Stingley. In his freshman year, Stingley put forth one of the most impressive seasons you’ll ever see. Over the past two seasons, Stingley has missed a ton of time—and when he did play, the on-field results were not as good. Stingley has prototypical size and special athletic traits, but he hasn’t put out good tape since 2019. That’s a big red flag for me, and while I agree that Stingley has the highest ceiling of any corner in this class and deserves to go in the first round, it gives me pause on him as a top-10 pick.

4: Trent McDuffie, Washington

RAS: 9.49 | Projection: 1st Round

Washington’s Trent McDuffie has terrific tape, but he lacks the prototypical size of the top-3 corners in this class. He’s got the build of a versatile corner who can handle outside or slot duties at 5’11, 195, and exceptional overall athleticism. McDuffie is scheme-versatile and very good in both man and zone coverage assignments. He’s is also a physical hitter who is reliable and forceful in run support. If you can get over the lack of ideal size, McDuffie offers a potential outside CB1 skillset and could also be an elite slot defender.

5: Kyler Gordon, Washington

RAS: 9.69 | Projection: 1st Round

Washington’s Kyler Gordon doesn’t have elite size, but he’s got a thick build with sufficient length for the outside (6’0, 200). His best trait is his overall athleticism, as he possesses good long speed and fluid movement skills. Gordon is scheme-versatile and is capable in both man and zone coverage, and is a physical tackler in run support.

6: Kaiir Elam, Florida

RAS: 8.63 | Projection: 1st-2nd Round

Florida’s Kaiir Elam is a very intriguing potential CB1 with some notable concerns on tape. He’s got exceptional size at 6’2, 190 and is capable of matching up with bigger, stronger receivers on the outside, but Elam has struggled against some of the quicker players he’s had to face. His tackling is also very inconsistent and needs work. Elam’s Combine testing proved he’s got the long speed for the outside (4.39s 40), while also highlighting the functional strength issues (just 10 reps on the bench press).

7: Roger McCreary, Auburn

RAS: 5.48 | Projection: 1st-2nd Round

The most impressive corner in Mobile, Auburn’s Roger McCreary measured in smaller than expected at 5’11, 190 and had the shortest arms of any CB at the Senior Bowl. But length really wasn’t a big issue for McCreary on tape, and he went up against some very tough competition during his college career. McCreary is scheme-versatile and technically advanced—he’s a smart player who is ready to start immediately in the NFL. He’s a strong, physical tackler and an asset in run support. While he tested out fairly average overall, I trust the tape and believe McCreary can be a very good CB2.

8: Tariq Woolen, UTSA

RAS: 9.70 | Projection: 2nd Round

In a year of impressive Combine testing, UTSA’s Tariq Woolen may have been the biggest winner of all. Coming in at 6’4, 205, Woolen spent the first three years of his college career at wide receiver and it shows. Just a two-year starter at CB, Woolen has grown quickly and has enormous upside. Woolen possesses a truly rare athletic profile, with the size and speed to potentially become an elite CB1 on the outside. Obviously, he’s very raw technically and might not see the field much—outside of special teams—in his rookie season. Whether he ever becomes an impact NFL starter is an open question, but I’m willing to bet on the traits in the second round.

9: Alontae Taylor, Tennessee

RAS: 9.06 | Projection: 2nd Round

A wide receiver convert, Alontae Taylor has just four seasons under his belt at the position. He’s gotten better and more comfortable with experience, and had his best season in 2021 with 60 total tackles (41 solo), 1.0 TFL, 2 INT, and 6 PD. Taylor measured in with solid size for the outside at 6’0, 199, and showed off elite athletic traits with a 4.36 40-yard dash and 10’8” broad jump at the Combine. He’s comfortable in zone coverage, but still needs development and technique work in man. Taylor is physical and reliable in run support, and his athletic profile gives him a CB2 ceiling in the NFL.

10: Cam Taylor-Britt, Nebraska

RAS: 8.33 | Projection: 2nd-3rd Round

One of the last cornerbacks I watched in this class after getting some positive reviews from other scouts, Nebraska’s Cam Taylor-Britt impressed me a lot as a prospect: he’s got plenty of potential. While he lacks prototypical size for the outside (5’10.5, 196), Taylor-Britt isn’t lacking for length and generally matched up well with bigger receivers in college. Taylor-Britt has elite long speed as evidenced by his 4.38s 40 at the Combine, and pairs it with exceptional physicality, ball skills, and man/zone versatility. This is a potential high-end CB2 prospect with particular appeal for a defense that likes to play a variety of coverages, like Atlanta’s.

11: Marcus Jones, Houston

RAS: N/A | Projection: 3rd-4th Round

A player that immediately reminded me of Avery Williams, Houston’s Marcus Jones has a very similar build at 5’8, 175 and offers a versatile skillset as a slot specialist and a punt and kick returner. The biggest difference is that Jones is a much better cornerback overall. Jones has elite ball skills (5 INT, 13 PD in 2021), high-end athleticism, and tremendous physicality as a tackler and run support player. If he was two inches taller, Jones might be in the early-Day 2 conversation. As it stands, Jones is a slot-only player at the NFL level, but he’s an instant starter there and offers a lot of value on special teams.

12: Coby Bryant, Cincinnati

RAS: 5.59 | Projection: 3rd-4th Round

While all the attention in Cincinnati’s secondary went to Sauce Gardner—and rightly so—the corner across from him was getting tested constantly. Coby Bryant had an admirable season in 2021, and he’s got the length that NFL teams are looking for on the outside (6’1, 193). He’s scheme-versatile and a ballhawk, with 6 INTs and 18 PBUs over the past two seasons. The athleticism is fairly average for Bryant, limiting him to an outside-only role, but I think he can be a good matchup CB2 against the big-bodied receivers of the NFL.

13: Mario Goodrich, Clemson

RAS: 5.03 | Projection: 3rd-4th Round

A late bloomer, Clemson’s Mario Goodrich played a rotational role for much of his college career before seizing a starting spot in 2021. Across from an elite talent in Andrew Booth, Goodrich was targeted a lot—and he came through with a strong final season. Goodrich has solid size at 6’0, 176, offering both slot and outside versatility. He played particularly well in zone coverage, where his instincts and closing speed helped him generate 9 PBUs and 2 INTs this year. As a run defender and tackler, Goodrich stands out. He’s physical, aggressive, and takes good angles to the ball. As just a one-year starter, there’s a lot of potential for Goodrich to continue to grow—particularly in man coverage. His athletic ceiling is just average, but I think Goodrich has the upside of a CB2 with a little more development.

14: Joshua Williams, Fayetteville State

RAS: 9.44 | Projection: 4th Round

A player I had never heard of going into the Senior Bowl, Fayetteville State’s Joshua Williams showed he belonged by matching up well against a very talented group of receivers. With a terrific build at nearly 6’3, 195 and with over 32 inch arms, Williams has the frame of a prototypical outside corner. Williams also tested out with elite short-area quickness and impressive long speed for his size. He’s obviously still raw coming out of a D2 program and will need time to adjust to the NFL game, but I love his long-term potential and was encouraged by how he performed in Mobile.

15: Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston State

RAS: 10.0 | Projection: 4th Round

If you’re looking for a Day 3 swing on upside, Sam Houston State’s Zyon McCollum is the prospect to watch. McCollum held his own at the Senior Bowl while facing a significantly higher level of competition, then went on to post truly special Combine numbers. He doesn’t have the one-of-a-kind size/speed profile of Tariq Woolen, but still measured out at a prototypical 6’2, 200 with a 4.33s 40. Obviously, the transition to the NFL will be difficult, but McCollum showed off high-end ball skills and ability in zone coverage. He would be a multi-year development project, but McCollum has enormous potential and should be able to contribute on special teams early on.