My preview of the top 2020 college American football prospects continues today with a strong group of talents at the cornerback position.
Shaun Wade – red-shirt junior, Ohio State – 6’1’’, 195 pounds
He opted to return to Ohio State as a fourth-year junior rather than declare for the NFL draft last season, where he almost certainly would have been the second cornerback taken behind Buckeyes teammate Jeff Okudah. Wade made the most of his playing time as a red-shirt freshman in 2018, appearing in all 14 games and leading the team with three interceptions. He played the slot cornerback position in 2019 where he tallied an interception, eight passes defended and two forced fumbles. He will play outside in 2020 and will be expected to lead a young Ohio State secondary. He is a sticky cornerback talent with adequate size, speed and ball skills (four career interceptions and 19 passes defended) to play any position within the secondary. He is a top defensive back prospect and a near certain top-ten pick in 2021.
Patrick Surtain II – junior, Alabama – 6’2’’, 203 pounds
He is a rare defensive back under coach Nick Saban who worked his way into the starting line-up as a true freshman in 2018. He totalled one interception, seven passes defended, 1.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble in an impressive 12 starts from 15 games, earning a spot in the nation’s All Freshman team. He added two interceptions, eight passes defended, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 2019. Surtain has NFL bloodlines. His father Patrick Surtain played for Miami. He has the physical intangibles with size, speed and great anticipation for making plays on the football. He was picked on early by quarterbacks in 2019, but often made quarterbacks and offensive coordinators pay for doing so. Like Wade, Surtain also has the makings of a top-ten draft pick.
Paulson Adebo – senior, Stanford – 6’1’’, 192 pounds
He was one of the top defensive back prospects to watch heading into the 2019 season after collecting the most passes defended in college football with 24 to go along with four interceptions. He led the Pac 12 conference last season in both passes defended and interceptions per game, tallying 33 and four respectively despite having his season ended prematurely after nine games. He surprisingly decided to return to Stanford after being named All Pac 12 first team in both the previous two seasons. Adebo is a wide receiver turned cornerback, which is evident in both his insane nose for the ball and overall unrefined cornerback play. He struggled a little bit in coverage down the stretch last season before getting injured, but Adebo is a bona fide star cornerback in the making with more experience and coaching.
Caleb Farley – red-shirt junior, Virginia Tech – 6’2’’, 207 pounds
He led the ACC in passes defended with 16 last season and was tied for second in the conference with four interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown) despite missing the final two games. Has a total of 25 passes defended and six interceptions in 24 appearances for the Hokies and was named first-team All ACC in 2019. Farley was impressive both in man coverage and in zone, allowing opponents just 19 receptions for 265 yards and one touchdown. Pro Football Focus gave Farley the second best passer rating of all cornerbacks who saw at least 25 passes thrown their way last season with 29.2. While Farley lacks the polish of the names above, he is a playmaker in the cornerback position. Those players get drafted early.
Eric Stokes – junior, Georgia – 6’1’’, 185 pounds
He has played in 27 of a possible 28 games in two seasons at Georgia. He had 38 tackles and a team-high nine passes defended last season to go along with a sack and forced fumble. He is a rangy and twitchy cornerback talent who has stuffed the stats sheet with passes broken up but not necessarily interceptions (currently zero to his name). He is a track athlete by classification and his speed is evident in that receivers never get away from him downfield. He needs some work in the gym as bigger receivers in the SEC have had his number in contested catch situations. He will form part of the best defensive back group in the country this season alongside fellow corner Tyson Campbell and safety Richard LeCounte.
Other players to watch are Georgia’s Tyson Campbell, South Carolina’s Israel Mukuamu and Jaycee Horn, Washington’s Elijah Molden, Alabama’s Josh Jobe and Florida’s Trey Dean.
The best non-draft-eligible player to watch is LSU’s Derek Stingley.