Columnist and 95.7 The Game personality John Lund continues a position-by-position look at the top players available in the 2014 NFL Draft with the cornerbacks.
The Raiders spent their first round pick last season, 12th overall, on cornerback DJ Hayden so he should man one side of the backfield for the foreseeable future. Despite an up and down rookie season which ended early due to injury, the Raiders are high on him. On the other side and in the slot, starters Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter are both free agents. In the AFC West where Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers and Alex Smith reside, it would be wise to stock up on cornerbacks. Oakland will likely address this area in the draft and free agency, though after spending their first pick on Hayden in 2013, the team may wait until after the first round for the need. There does not seem to be an elite top five corner in this draft, but it is seen as a solid group overall.
Justin Gilbert - Oklahoma State - 6' – 202 pounds: The most athletic cornerback in the 2014 draft, Gilbert wowed at the combine with a defensive back best 4.37 40-yard dash and was second in the bench among the group with 20 reps. Had seven interceptions and returned two for touchdowns in 2013. In addition to his skills on defense, Gilbert returned six kickoffs for touchdowns in his career. Scouts say he has the perfect build for a corner with explosiveness, size, speed, loose hips to turn and run, quick feet and great ball skills.
Where he'll likely go: Top 20. He impressed NFL personnel at the Combine and is now seen as the likely top corner in the Draft. Despite taking Hayden last year in the first round, you can never have enough corners in this division. He could be a target if the Raiders trade back from number five in the first round.
Darqueze Dennard - Michigan State - 5'11" – 199 pounds: Jim Thorpe Award winner as college football's best defensive back in 2013. Ran a 4.51 40 at the Combine with 15 reps on the bench. 62 tackles as a senior in 2013 with four interceptions. Not as fast or fluid of an athlete as Gilbert, but tough, plays with an attitude and a mean streak. Press corner who likes to get physical with receivers. Will come up to hit and support the run.
Where he'll likely go: First round. With many teams needing corners in the pass happy NFL, those with skills and experience will go early. Dennard started three years in college. He is not flashy but he's physical with an attitude.
Bradley Roby - Ohio State - 5'11" – 194 pounds: Ran a 4.39 40 at the Combine. Had 69 tackles, 13 pass break ups and 3 interceptions, returning one for a touchdown in 2013. Explosive athlete who isn't afraid to mix it up, makes plays all over the field. A scout told me he has upside, but did have some issues off the field that needed to be looked into.
Where he'll likely go: Could sneak into the back of the first round, but more likely a second or third round prospect. His athletic ability and Combine work opened some eyes.
Jason Verrett - TCU - 5'9" – 189 pounds: Great Combine workout with a 4.39 40 and a 39-inch vertical leap. Big-12 co-defensive player of the year in 2013 despite fighting through injuries. An NFL source told me despite the fact he looks small on film, he makes up for his size with quickness, recovery speed and ball skills. Always seems to make a play on the ball. Could work in the slot and help on special teams.
Where he'll likely go: End of first round to second round. May not be big enough to play outside, but slot corners are more important than ever in today's three and four wide receiver sets. He has the quickness and speed to man that area.
Kyle Fuller - Virginia Tech - 6' – 190 pounds: Ran a 4.49 40 at the Combine. Played linebacker, safety and corner at Virginia Tech, made 42 career starts. More of a zone corner, who is not an elite athlete but is tough, smart and instinctive. Great core special teams player.
Where he'll likely go: Second to third round. Some team is likely to go for a faster or more athletic corner, but he's solid in the right scheme and can play special teams while he learns.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste - Nebraska - 6'3" – 218 pounds - and Keith McGill - Utah - 6'3" – 211 pounds: I group these guys together because they both can thank the Seattle Seahawks for the newest NFL trend after shutting down Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl --big NFL corners. Both have size, but both are athletic as well. Jean-Baptiste had the number one vertical leap among defensive backs at 41.5 inches. Like Richard Sherman in college, he converted from wide receiver and in the last two seasons had 21 pass break ups and 6 interceptions. I'm told he's not as physical as his size would indicate. McGill ran a solid 4.51 at the combine with a 39 inch vertical leap. Had 37 tackles, 12 pass break ups and an interception in 2013. Is a good athlete with long arms. Only one season at corner, could also play safety. Gunner on special teams.
Where they'll likely go: Third or fourth round. Because of the Seahawks success with big corners, these inexperienced but oversized and athletic cover men will get picked up earlier than they would have before Sherman was stolen in the fifth round in 2011. The Raiders could use size on the back end having to deal with Demaryius Thomas and other AFC West big receivers each year.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed in John Lund's Wheel Route column represent those of John Lund, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Oakland Raiders organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. The author's views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Raiders officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.