With the somewhat inevitable departure of veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson, the Arizona Cardinals found themselves in rare waters: they had no true No. 1 corner on the roster. After the recent signing of cornerback Malcom Butler, the Cardinals have their man … for now.
Even with the signing, the Cardinals will still need to lockup a fresh new corner in the upcoming draft if they are committed to long-term success, even with the “win now” mentality and moves this off-season. The secondary is a vital part in that success — a unit that was once heralded as the “No Fly Zone,” the Cardinals’ defense will stay grounded unless Steve Keim can make the right moves in the upcoming NFL Draft in April.
The good news is, there is a myriad of talent at the corner position in this year’s draft. The only question is whether or not they will elect to pick one up in the first round. And if so, will the top prospects still be on the board?
Let’s take a look at two of them.
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The son of a former NFL Pro Bowler, Surtain II is definitely making his old man proud so far. The 6-foot-two, 202-pounder put up some amazing numbers during his tenure with the Crimson Tide and surely will be one of the first cornerbacks coming off the board.
In 40 games, Surtain tallied 40 total tackles, 4 INTs (one returned for a TD), 4 FF and 6 TFL. Statistics that show a cover corner that can come down and make plays at the line of scrimmage; but would certainly flourish well staying on his “island” in man coverage.
Jacee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Another top prospect that should entice the Cardinals’ front office is stud corner, Jaycee Horn, out of South Carolina. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder would be a great fit for an attacking defense. In his 30 games for the Gamecocks, Horn recorded 101 total tackles, 2 picks, 2 FF and 3 sacks. Versatility is understatement when you read those stats for a corner.
He can stay home in man coverage and play the line if scrimmage and make the tackles so many corners and DBs miss on the next level.
The biggest question, however, is whether or not at least one of these prospects will be there for the Cardinals when they are slotted to select 16th overall. Do they let the board play out, or does Steve Keim make an aggressive move to lock up the future of the defense?
The latter, it seems, would be another job-saving move, as Keim has whiffed on the first round in recent years.