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NFL Draft Notebook: Cornerback

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The 2021 NFL Draft is coming, and the Buffalo Bills will be looking to add pieces that can push them over the top in the 2021 season. Each week, I will break down a different defensive position group, with some players that the Bills should target in the draft, and why they would be a potential fit. Today, let’s examine the cornerback position.

Tre’Davious White has one corner spot locked down for the foreseeable future. Levi Wallace has been an adequate starter at the other spot, but it’s possible the Bills could be looking for an upgrade. In today’s NFL, you can never have too many quality cover men. Dane Jackson is a young guy who has some promise. It seems unlikely that the Bills would make a hard push to re-sign Josh Norman, who’s coming off a very average season.

Cornerback is a position I see the Bills targeting at some point in this draft, though I would be surprised if they choose a corner in the first round. Here are some corner prospects that I like in this year’s draft.

Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse (6’2” 212 lbs)

I love big cornerbacks. Melifonwu brings safety size to the corner position, but he’s still athletic, fast, and rangy. More importantly, he’s fluid in his hips and explodes to the ball in coverage. Melifonwu is capable of playing man coverage, but his biggest strength might be his ability to make plays in zone coverage. His length and closing ability are an intriguing skill set and would fit nicely opposite Tre White. It is possible that Melifonwu outgrows the corner position if he gets much bigger. I can think of worse things than a fast, ball-hawking safety with cornerback coverage ability. 

Melifonwu is a corner with first-round upside that will likely go on Day 2. If the Bills are able to trade down from #30, he could be a target with one of their second-round picks. If the Bills stand pat at #30, I could still see Melifonwu being the selection. It might be a bit of a reach, but a high upside one. 

Tyson Campbell, Georgia (6’2” 185 lbs)

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. I love big cornerbacks. Campbell possesses many of the same attributes I find intriguing in Melifonwu. He’s another long, rangy prospect with good speed and athleticism. Campbell can play man or zone coverage effectively. His 6’2″ frame allows him to erase bigger-bodied receivers. 

Campbell was a big star coming out of high school and was ranked as one of the two best corners in his class (Surtain Jr. being the other). Campbell started for Kirby Smart as a freshman and acquitted himself quite well. Being able to hold your own in the SEC as a true freshman speaks to Campbell’s natural ability. He did struggle with some injuries at times but was able to play a healthy 2020 season. Campbell is a guy that could potentially rise in pre draft workouts and could be off the board when the Bills are on the clock. More likely, he’s a late first/early second player that could be one of many players under consideration at #30. 

Greg Newsome II, Northwestern (6’1” 190 lbs)

Newsome is the opposite of Melifonwu and Campbell. While those two are athletic, fast guys who will need to continue to refine their technique, Newsome II is a technician who gets the most out of his average athleticism. Newsome II might be the most technically sound corner in this draft. He has good feet, fluid hips, and superior instincts. Newsome II has a nose for the ball and is a willing tackler that plays with toughness. 

Newsome’s pre-draft workouts will go a long way toward determining exactly where he gets drafted. If he runs a 4.4, he might sneak into the first round because of his advanced corner skills. If he runs a 4.55, he might slip to the third because teams will be a little concerned about his ability to stay with the better receivers in the league. The Bills don’t need a #1 corner. Newsome II could combine with White to give the Bills one of the best young CB tandems in the league. Newsome’s toughness and blue-collar work ethic would endear him to the fans of Buffalo. 

Hidden Gem: Ambry Thomas, Michigan (6’0” 183 lbs)

Thomas sat out the 2020 season and has seen his stock slip because of it. He came to Michigan as a highly ranked recruit who ended up only starting one season for the maize and blue. Thomas’s main asset is his speed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run in the 4.3s in his workouts. This speed allows him to stay in the hip pockets of receivers. Thomas displays strong coverage skills, but he does have a couple of flaws. He’s a little too grabby at times, and that can get you in some trouble at the NFL level. He’s also thin at just over 180 lbs. He has a slender frame and it’s unlikely he’s able to add much more weight to his frame. Despite his build, he’s a sure tackler in the open field and doesn’t shy away from contact. 

Thomas also brings ability as a return man. He could be a potential replacement for Andre Roberts if the Bills would prefer to use Roberts’ roster spot for an actual wide receiver. Thomas will likely end up as a Day 3 pick, but I think there’s a strong chance he significantly outperforms his draft slot. A guy with great speed, good coverage skills, and explosive kick return ability is worth rolling the dice on in the 5th round. 

What do you think, #BillsMafia? What corners would like to see in a Bills uniform?

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