CB2: Christian Gonzalez (Oregon)
What can I say about Christian Gonzalez that hasn’t already been said? He set the standard for cornerbacks at the NFL Combine, putting together the best overall performance of any defensive back in attendance. His 4.3 speed and agility results at that size are almost unheard of.
Gonzalez boasts the perfect length for a CB1 in the NFL. He uses these physical traits efficiently, allowing him to put his fingerprints all over the game. Gonzo owns the best instincts at the position of anyone in the class, coupling his high IQ with absurd athleticism.
Do you want production too? Gonzalez has plenty of that. In his only season with the Ducks, Gonzalez intercepted four passes and proved a sure tackler in run support. At least once a game, the uber-talented defender makes a play that seems physically impossible.
The one area I would like to see Gonzalez grow is his confidence in coverage. He has all the traits in spades, but when he grows more comfortable, that is when Gonzalez will become a top cornerback in the NFL. He could sharpen up the footwork a bit as well, but that is an easy fix for NFL coaching.
He is nearly perfect as a prospect, clearing the way for an early first-round grade on my Big Board. Any other year, Gonzalez would be a shoo-in for the best cornerback in my rankings, but there is one more guy that ranks ever-so-slightly ahead.
NFL Draft Grade: Early Day 1
CB1: Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State)
Joey Porter Jr. was my CB1 in June 2021, he was my CB1 in June 2022, he was my CB1 in November 2022, and guess what? He is my CB1 in March 2023 too. Porter mixes superb tape with ideal measurables and the same ferocity his pops showcased during his long NFL career.
Porter chose the Nittany Lions out of high school and took over a starting role in 2020. As the top cornerback on the roster, Porter faced an onslaught of targets in years one and two as a starter. He answered the bell, grading out above average in coverage and showing the ability to come up and make a tackle.
His 2022 tape was his worst as a tackler, posting an abysmal 17.6 percent missed tackle rate. A lack of interceptions calls into question his ball skills, but I believe this is something that will substantially improve in the league. These present the only red flags for me when it comes to Porter.
His 34-inch arms allow him to disrupt passing lanes and jam assignments off the line. Porter stands 6-foot-2 1/2 and weighs 193 pounds, offering the optimal size profile for a boundary cornerback. Additionally, Porter ran a 4.46 40-yard dash, posted a 35-inch vertical, put up 17 reps in the bench press, and recorded a nearly 11-foot broad jump.
Aside from passing the physical thresholds with flying colors, Porter aced the interview portion at the NFL Combine. He is composed, well-spoken, and extremely confident, backing up everything I see from him on the gridiron. Porter is a brilliant mind, capable of diagnosing plays before the snap and predicting where the receivers are headed.
Porter moves fluidly downfield, effortlessly flipping his hips to change direction. He cut down on penalties, eliminating most of his grabby tendencies. This improvement was vital, as Porter was far too physical in his younger years. Now, with a more level-headed approach, these issues are a thing of the past.
Porter is a layup of an evaluation. He looks the part, sounds the part, and plays the part. The Penn State star is the most polished in the group and can play at an All-Pro level regardless of scheme. Deploy Porter as the CB1 on your roster and allow him to dominate in zone and man coverage while giving him the freedom to come downhill in run support. Early day one grade, lock it in.
NFL Draft Grade: Early Day 1
•Starling Thomas V (UAB)
•Anthony Johnson (Virginia)
•Alex Austin (Oregon State)
•Darrell Luter Jr. (South Alabama)
•Mekhi Garner (LSU)
•Cameron Mitchell (Northwestern)
•Terell Smith (Minnesota)
•Myles Brooks (Louisiana Tech)
•Cory Trice (Purdue)
•Nic Jones (Ball State)
•Tyler Richardson (Tiffin)
•Michael Irons (Cornell)