NFL combine: CB class is talented without a clear No. 1 — which is good news for plenty of teams

INDIANAPOLIS — Every NFL Draft cycle there are positions that don’t seem to have a consensus top prospect, sparking debate on who has the talent to become transcendent players at their respective positions. This year’s cornerback class is extremely talented, but there isn’t a whole lot of agreement at the top in terms of who the clear-cut, cornerback No. 1 prospect is.

This week at the NFL combine will help teams and analysts start to differentiate between the players as the workouts take place and more data points are added for each prospect.

Anyone trying to make sense of the cornerbacks this year is in the same boat as many other people trying to sort through the same problem. A handful of guys are projected to go in the first round or the top 50 picks of the draft.

The good news? It’s a good year to need a cornerback. Yahoo Sports’ NFL offseason primers list 17 teams, over half the league, as having a pressing need at the position. They include the Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans.

Here’s a quick overview of who to pay attention for once the weekend kicks off.

Beyond the excellent nickname, McKinstry has the tools to be a starting caliber cornerback with his ability to play in press and play with physicality in the passing game. Some scouts have questions about his long speed, which he can answer with a strong workout in Indianapolis.

Terrion Arnold, Alabama

Terrion Arnold is one of two Alabama cornerbacks who could go high in this NFL Draft. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Terrion Arnold is one of two Alabama cornerbacks who could go high in this NFL Draft. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Terrion Arnold is the other cornerback for Alabama, an explosive, fast guy that isn’t afraid at all to get physical in the run game and against bigger wide receivers. He could end up as a fringe-top 10 prospect with a good workout this week.

Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo

Quinyon Mitchell didn’t play at a big Power 5 program, but he’s just as good as the other top players in this class. Mitchell has incredible ball skills, defending 36 passes over his past two years of college football — including six interceptions. He has a chance to really increase his profile and become a common name for more casual fans of the draft.

Iowa’s Cooper DeJean can play a little bit of everything in the secondary, but he’s got the skills to hang on the outside if that’s where his NFL future holds. He won’t be working out in Indianapolis as he continues to rehab a broken leg, but does plan to workout for teams at some point.

If Nate Wiggins is right about his own athleticism, then he should be one of the stars of the weekend. He claimed he’s been able to hit a 4.27 40-yard dash, which would instantly make him one of the fastest players in the NFL if that holds true.

Ennis Rakestraw Jr., Missouri

Ennis Rakestraw Jr. didn’t compile a whole bunch of interceptions during his career at Missouri, but he’s got the frame and athleticism to grow into a starting-caliber cornerback in the NFL. Being able to show off that skill would make a coveted prospect that teams can talk themselves into.

Lassiter is a silky smooth man coverage cornerback who was asked to carry some tough assignments for the Georgia Bulldogs over the past few years. He might not be as touted as the rest of the group, but he’s as battle-tested as they come.

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