CB10: Darius Rush (South Carolina)
Darius Rush is a popular sleeper pick at cornerback, but having him in my top 10 takes him out of that category for me. While others may be sleeping, I am wide awake. Rush owns some of the longest arms in the class and uses this to affect passing lanes.
On top of his ideal frame, Rush is incredibly physical and has production that few of his peers can match (three interceptions, and 14 pass breakups in two years as a starter). He ran a 4.36 40-yard dash, backing up the explosiveness he exhibits on tape.
Rush could improve in a couple of key areas. First and foremost, as a zone coverage connoisseur, he must improve his efficiency as a tackler. The South Carolina alum regularly finds himself in a position to make a tackle, but too often he fails to bring the ball carrier down.
Additionally, Rush doesn’t get much run in man coverage, but his traits say he is capable of doing it. Until he proves this, his lack of versatility will continue to be a knock on his grade. Rush should go on day two; if he makes it to the third day, he will be the Tariq Woolen of this draft class.
NFL Draft Grade: Mid-to-Late Day 2
CB9: Clark Phillips III (Utah)
Clark Phillips gets knocked for his size, and rightfully so. He is 5-foot-9 and weighs less than 185 pounds. Unfortunately, Phillips’ NFL Combine performance only raised more flags. The Utah veteran showed decent speed, but his agility drills and vertical jump ranked well below average.
So, why in the world is he No. 9 in my cornerback rankings? Simply put, some players are not great testers. Phillips boasts arguably the best tape of any cornerback in this class, and one bad day of testing should not tank his stock to day three.
Phillips picked off an astonishing six passes in 2022 alone, bringing his career total to nine. Going deeper, the star defender was graded as elite in coverage and improved his run defense exponentially. He took snaps inside and outside, proving he plays much bigger than the height/weight indicates.
Phillips will be a starter in the slot for the next decade. He needs to clean up the tackling — and size will always be a factor against bigger/faster opponents — but his competitive nature and technical prowess in coverage will allow Phillips to smooth out the rough edges. An easy day-two pick, don’t overthink it.
NFL Draft Grade: Mid-to-Late Day 2
CB8: Julius Brents (Kansas State)
Speaking of Tariq Woolen, the closest comparison to him in this class is Kansas State’s, Julius Brents. The long, rangy cornerback may not have the 4.2 speed of Woolen, but he graded out similarly in agility and explosion drills.
Digging deeper, Brents’ tape is even more promising. He uses formidable length to jam receivers off the line and shows a feel in zone coverage you can’t coach. Brents flexes elite closing speed and dishes out hits that make him look like a linebacker.
Brents was beaten in man coverage more than a handful of times for the Wildcats, but NFL coaching can clean this up. If Brents positioned himself better with the sideline and reacted a tick faster, most of the big gains he surrendered would have never happened.
You bet on a guy with the traits of Brents. He can mirror receivers when given the chance and possesses the confidence necessary to be a lockdown cornerback in the NFL. Brents will be an even better pro than he was as a college player… the question is *how* much better?
NFL Draft Grade: Mid-Day 2