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2018 NFL Combine Watch List: Cornerbacks who may interest the Packers

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Josh Jackson is one name that keeps coming up for the Packers in round one, but we identify a few late-round cornerback prospects to watch next week in Indy.

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Auburn vs Central Florida Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Scouting Combine officially begins on Tuesday, but workouts and full televised coverage start up seven days from now, on Friday. With that in mind, we’re looking at a few players at a few different positions of need for the Green Bay Packers who may be on the team’s radar — or who will be with a good workout performance.

Today’s examination looks at the cornerback position.

As with the wide receiver position, which we broke down on Thursday, the Packers have tended to have pretty steady thresholds for cornerbacks under GM Ted Thompson. Although new GM Brian Gutekunst may not stick tightly to these requirements, it’s still a good place to start. Justis Mosqueda’s breakdown from last spring shows those rough cutoffs for defensive backs as being on or around the following:

  • Height 5’ 10-5/8” or above
  • 40-yard dash time: 4.57 seconds or less
  • 3-cone time: 6.87 seconds or less

Here are a few big names we’ll be watching in Indy next week as well as some less highly-regarded prospects who could impress and force the Packers’ front office to give them a closer look.

Early Picks

Joshua Jackson, Iowa

Jackson is the cornerback most frequently connected to the Packers in round one, and his ball skills make it easy to see why. He has very good size at 6’1”, and his speed should be plenty good enough for an NFL corner. And although he has just one season of starting experience, he was a star, picking off eight passes. That included five in a two-game span against Big Ten division champs Ohio State and Wisconsin, and he returned both of his picks against the Badgers for touchdowns.

The junior added 18 pass breakups and a blocked kick, and a big workout should put him squarely in the top half of round one. Iowa does play a lot of zone coverage, but Jackson held up well in man as well.

Mike Hughes, UCF

Perhaps the biggest question about Hughes is his height; he’s listed at 5’11” but will probably need to measure in above 5’10-1/2” to stay on the Packers’ board. Expect him to run well, however, and his 3-cone time will be worth a close look.

Like Jackson, Hughes had a big season as a playmaker. He intercepted four passes and knocked down eleven more in his only season at UCF (he transferred after one year at North Carolina). As an added bonus, Hughes had a huge year as a returner, averaging over 30 yards per return on kickoffs (with a pair of touchdowns) and more than 16 yards per return on punts with one score.

Isaiah Oliver, Colorado

During his freshman and sophomore years, Oliver played under the shadow of a pair of day-two draft picks in Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon. However, he still contributed meaningfully in those two seasons before becoming a starter in 2017. Oliver also ran track at Colorado, an indication that speed should not be a concern.

As with Hughes, we’ll be closely watching Oliver’s cone time as well as his physical measurements. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein says his arms “go on and on for days,” and a big number on his wingspan could give him an extra boost in the eyes of the scouts.

Mid- to Late-Round Selections

Quenton Meeks, Stanford

If just one Quinten isn’t enough for the Packers (Rollins, of course), Meeks could fit the bill as a big, physical corner. He’s not expected to be a speedster, so a time in the low 4.5s would be solid. He’s also not a big ballhawk, never recording more than nine combined pass defenses in a single year. However, he did record a solid 61 tackles as a junior in 2017, and should be in the day three conversation.

Kameron Kelly, San Diego State

Another taller defensive back, standing 6’1”, Kelly moved from safety to corner as a senior. His skill set would seem to be ideal for a press-man scheme and he had a solid if unspectacular week at the Senior Bowl. The critical point to his workouts for the Packers will be meeting the athletic thresholds they look for, since his willingness to tackle is not in question.

Michael Joseph, Dubuque

Another player who attended the Senior Bowl, Joseph was the only player from a Division III school at the event this season. He started for three years at Dubuque, capping off a solid career with an eight-interception season as a senior.

Joseph could be the kind of Combine surprise who blows up in workouts; he was ignored in recruiting circles because he didn’t go through a big growth spurt until after he enrolled in college, but Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes that at least one scout thinks he will run the 40 in the 4.4s.

Beyond his on-field performance, Joseph will be fun to track through the draft process if for no other reason than to see how he fares after playing D-III ball. He could be valuable as late pick or UDFA if a team has a coach who can mold raw players with great athletic ability (Joe Whitt, anyone?).

Davontae Harris, Illinois State

Like Joseph, Harris comes from a smaller school, though Illinois State is an FCS program. In fact, the Packers are no stranger to the college in Springfield — former Packers Mike Prior and Nate Palmer both played there.

Harris is listed at 6 feet and 205 pounds, and has shut opposing receivers down in the Missouri Valley Conference for the past few years. He is a two-time first-team all-conference player and also was named an FCS first-team All-American as a senior. Another late-round prospect, a good workout could go a long way to solidifying him on day three of the draft.