New York Jets Draft Targets: Cornerbacks

by Daniel Siegel

Photo credit: Kyle Pulek/Florida State athletics

Practically every New York Jets fan would agree on bringing in Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, given they likely get the first overall pick.

However, with so many needs, it is difficult to decide where else to look for later selections.

In his second draft, general manager Joe Douglas will have an additional first-, third-, and seventh-round pick from the Seattle Seahawks. He will also have a fifth from the New York Giants but will be without the Jets’ own sixth or seventh-round pick.

In the first part of this series, we look at various targets from one of the Jets’ primary needs: cornerbacks. It is unknown who the Jets’ defensive coordinator will be next year and therefore, what scheme they will use. Nonetheless, this class features several talented defensive backs that align with Douglas’ philosophy.

Shaun Wade, Ohio State (6’1″, 195 lbs.)

Projection: Late First Round

Shaun Wade decided to return to college last year with plenty of draft stock as a slot corner. This season, he is learning to play on the outside. Wade lacks some of the necessary physicality and has thus struggled early on in this transition. Against Indiana, he was tasked with covering the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Ty Fryfogle. Several times, Wade was in good position but was simply out-muscled.

Nonetheless, Wade should fit NFL schemes perfectly. Whether he plays on the outside or in the slot, he molds well with the zone coverage patterns that are used by most teams. Wade is also a big playmaker and great open field tackler. He should not be penalized for returning to school because the tools are clearly still there.

Derion Kendrick, Clemson (6’0″, 195 lbs.)

Projection: Late First Round

Derion Kendrick was the starting outside corner alongside A.J. Terrell during the 2019 season, where he truly broke out. In 2020, he has missed multiple weeks due to injury and COVID-related issues but has still been impactful.

Kendrick played lockdown coverage in the first half of the year. In portions of four games, he was targeted seven times and allowed no receptions. In Week 9, Kendrick mildly struggled against the Boston College’s Zay Flowers, a speedy receiver who creates separation.

Overall though, Kendrick has shown first-round talent during the time he has played this year. He has tremendous ball skills and is very physical.

Asante Samuel Jr, Florida State (5’10”, 180 lbs.)

Projection: Second Round

Asante Samuel Jr. burst onto the scene in 2018, where he made multiple starts for Florida State as a freshman. He had his ups and downs early on but steadily improved over his next two years into one of the better defensive backs in the country.

In each of seven games this year, Samuel never allowed more than three catches or 50 receiving yards. He especially stood out against Georgia Tech where he had two interceptions and an additional two pass breakups.

Florida State will often play Samuel on an island. He is disciplined but able to make up ground by driving downhill to make a play on the football. Scouts are concerned about Samuel’s lack of zone coverage ability but he certainly has the tools to make an impact down the road on any NFL roster.

Eric Stokes, Georgia (6’1″, 185 lbs.)

Projection: Second to Third Round

Eric Stokes is a redshirt junior but is expected to declare for the draft early. Over the last two years, his stock has improved steadily.

Stokes has always been a lockdown cover corner but in 2020, he has finally been rewarded with three interceptions. Against Auburn, Stokes particularly stood out where he gave up just 18 yards on three targets against a plethora of highly-touted receivers.

Stokes has plenty of speed and length to play on the outside and is also great in tight space. Perhaps, his only flaw is that he is sometimes susceptible to giving up catches underneath on curls or comebacks.

T.J. Carter, Memphis (5’11”, 190 lbs.)

Projection: Third to Fourth Round

T.J. Carter is a four-year starter who is approaching 3,000 snaps in his Memphis career. Carter made an immediate impact as a freshman. His 84.1 Pro Football Focus coverage ranked him top five in the conference. Throughout his collegiate career, Carter has become a dominant press coverage corner.

Because of his vast responsibilities and aggressive style, Carter will occasionally give up a big play. Most significantly, he was burned by the explosive SMU wideout Reggie Roberson.

For the most part though, Carter has plenty of speed to keep up with receivers downfield as long as he remains loose with his hips.

Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina (6’4″, 205 lbs.)

Projection: Third to Fourth Round

Israel Mukuamu has shined playing alongside Jaycee Horn, who is a projected top-round pick. After 2019, his draft stock was at an all-time high. Mukuamu intercepted former Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm three times in South Carolina’s 2019 upset which exposed him to the eyes to NFL scouts.

Mukuamu has struggled in 2020 though, which may be a reason he likely will not be selected as high as his counterpart. He particularly had trouble defending LSU’s Terrace Marshall — a large receiver who is renowned for his route running ability.

However, he is great at playing the 50-50 ball and his combination of size and speed gives him a ton of upside.

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