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2022 Combine preview: Cornerback

This is a strong class at cornerback with a couple potential Top 10 picks among the group. Overall, the class is one of the deeper position groups in this draft. There are impact players who could be Day 1 starters deep into the second day of the draft.

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah named seven cornerbacks in his initial list of the Top 50 prospects in this draft.

Top 5 cornerbacks to watch at the Combine:

1. Derek Stingley Jr., LSU, 6-1, 195

Stingley has a rare blend of size and speed with a ton of upside. He played in just 10 games over the last two seasons, so there's a little bit of projection work here, but he was an elite prospect already as a freshman with six interceptions in his first season at LSU. He's got fluid hips with elite ball skills. Most analysts think he can be a Pro Bowl caliber corner early in his NFL career.

2. Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, Cincinnati, 6-3, 200

Gardner has elite size and speed, and uses his length to re-route receivers at the line of scrimmage. He allowed just 6.6 yards per reception this past season, helping lead Cincinnati to the College Football Playoff. He recorded three interceptions in each of his three seasons with the Bearcats, returning two of those for touchdowns.

View photos of the defensive back prospects who were invited to the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine.

3. Trent McDuffie, Washington, 5-11, 195

McDuffie doesn't have the size of Stingley or Gardner, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in quickness and awareness. He's got very good technique and plays well in both man and off coverage. He's also a good run defender and sure tackler. He could be a star on special teams early in his career.

4. Kyler Gordon, Washington, 6-0, 200

Gordon is a dynamic athlete who is expected to test through the roof in the Combine process. He's got a ton of upside because his game doesn't quite match his athleticism from a technical standpoint. He's got strength and speed, and can play press man or off coverage. He'll rise in the pre-draft process because of his athletic traits.

5. Andrew Booth, Clemson, 6-0, 200

Booth is still a little bit of a work in progress, but he's got good speed and quickness and is a willing tackler in the run game. He's got better ball skills than his production would indicate, and he'll be one of the better testers among the cornerback class in the pre-draft process.

Combine sleeper to watch: Roger McCreary, Auburn, 5-11, 190

McCreary had a nice week at the Senior Bowl. He's a press-man corner, who likes to use his strength and physicality to his advantage. He plays with an aggressive style. His best game this season was against Alabama, which showed how disruptive he can really be when he gets his hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage.

Lions need at the position: Moderate

On paper, I really like where the Lions are at with Amani Oruwariye, Jeff Okudah, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Jerry Jacobs and AJ Parker all under contract for next season. However, Okudah is coming back from a major Achilles injury, and Jacobs tore his ACL in December. Will Okudah lose a step? When will Jacobs be cleared to return to the field? Those are two big questions at the cornerback position for the Lions.

Oruwariye is poised to become a No. 1 cornerback in this league after finishing third with six interceptions last year, and allowing just one touchdown in his coverage area. Teams can always use players who can cover, but there are probably bigger needs at wide receiver, edge rusher and safety for the Lions. Still, it wouldn't be surprising to see Detroit add to the group.

Key stat: Oruwariye was one of three NFL players to log at least 50 tackles, 10 passes defended and six interceptions in 2021. He is only the ninth player in franchise history to produce such a season, and only the fifth cornerback (Darius Slay, Dre Bly, Corey Raymond and Ray Crockett).

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