Many fans, including myself, are expecting Howie Roseman and the Eagles to select one of the top cornerback prospects at No. 12 overall in the upcoming NFL Draft. Sitting at 12, the team is in a more logical position to snag a corner — unless someone like DeVonta Smith falls to 12. And that isn’t out of the question, as many scouts have rated Smith’s teammate, Jaylen Waddle, just a bit higher than the Heisman Trophy winner.
So, let’s say Smith falls into our laps and we take him. The next order of business will be addressing the cornerback position, which I’d argue is the biggest need facing this team heading into draft night. Luckily for Roseman and Co., this year’s cornerback class is as deep as it’s ever been. While there are only about three or four corners that will likely go in the first round (that’s still a lot), there are several who could be selected in the second round.
Let’s take a look at three cornerback prospects who would make sense for the Birds at No. 37 overall in this upcoming NFL Draft.
Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State
Easily the most recognizable name on this list, Asante Samuel Jr. may not even be available by the time the Eagles are on the clock at pick 37. But if he is, he’ll likely be one of the highest rated players left on the board.
Like his father, who was the last Eagles corner to reach a Pro Bowl, Jr. has great ball skills and and displays outstanding awareness in pass coverage. He’s a smooth athlete who can turn his hips on a dime and flow to the ball with ease.
Some will point to his size and claim he’s primarily a slot corner at the next level. I just don’t agree with that. During his collegiate career, he played 1,454 snaps on the outside to just 196 in the slot. While yes, he is only 5’10”, we’ve seen corners with similar build succeed on the outside in the NFL. His dad was the same exact height and weight and was an All-Pro player.
Size isn’t everything, and Samuel makes up for his lack of size with his aggressive, feisty play. During his final year at FSU, Samuel allowed 179 yards, one touchdown, a completion percentage of 59.4%, and a passer rating of 46.2 when targeted. Not to mention he also recorded three interceptions.
If you have any doubts about how his size will translate to the NFL, just watch this play of Samuel literally throwing another full grown man.
He may not fit exactly into what Jonathan Gannon covets in his corners , but you can’t deny Samuel is one of the better corners in this draft and worthy of second round selection.
Tay Gowan, UCF
In my latest mock, I was able to snag Tay Gowan at pick 123 in the fourth round. That would be a dream scenario, but chances are, if the Eagles want to add this UCF product to their defensive backfield they’ll have to snag him at No. 37.
Standing at 6’2”, 185 pounds, Gowan is a long, lengthy corner who gives every receiver he faces fits. He uses his size to attack balls in the air, recording seven pass breakups and two interceptions on 50 targets in 2019. Gowan is also a pretty impressive athlete for his size, you won’t find many corners with his build look as smooth as he does on tape.
At UCF, Gowan ran a lot of NFL concepts in pass coverage. He’s played a mix of press-man at the line of scrimmage along with playing the deep third in cover 3 shell looks.
While Gowan is NFL-ready, his limited experience will lower his draft stock a bit. He only played one year of FBS ball — he was a JUCO transfer prior to joining UCF. Regardless, he has the build and the physicality to be successful at the next level. He’d surely be a day one starter for the Eagles if they were to draft him at No. 37.
Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
Some will probably say taking Ifeatu Melifonwu at 37th overall is a reach, but one look at his tape and I see a starting outside corner in the NFL. Standing at 6’3”, 213 pounds, Melfonwu possesses explosive burst and displays smooth transitions in pass coverage.
His physical ability is on full display when breaking on dig or curl routes. He does a great job of reading the receiver and reacting to the route that’s being run.
For as big as he is, you’d like to see him be a little more physical at the line of scrimmage, but his physicality when attacking the ball or making tackles is evident on tape. He wasn’t asked to play a whole lot of press-man during his time at Syracuse, so I won’t use his lack of experience there as an indictment on his play.
It’s plays like these that really showcase how mean Melifonwu is on the football field.
Aside from his pure physical talent, Melifonwu is also one of the smartest corner entering this year’s draft. He plays with great eye discipline and he diagnoses route concepts effectively. He knows when to break on the ball and his size gives him a great chance at either intercepting it or breaking it up.
Melifonwu should be considered as a top-5 corner in this draft, but not many outlets have him rated that high. If the Eagles do their homework and Melifonwu is there for the taking at No. 37, they’d be getting a great starter for years to come.