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NFL Draft Preview: Cornerbacks

Redskins.com previews the NFL Draft position-by-position, with a focus on some of the top rookie prospects available in the April 29-30 NFL Draft. Thursday: Cornerbacks.

The Redskins would appear to be set at the cornerback position, with starters Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers and nickel corner Kenny Wright, who signed with the team on April 3. The team also has a group of promising young players in Ade Jimoh, Christian Morton and Dimitri Patterson.

Head coach Joe Gibbs and team officials have the philosophy that you can never have enough cornerbacks. So it's a real possibility that the Redskins could select a cornerback at No. 53 in the second round. Given the depth of the draft, a quality cornerback could fall to No. 53.

The Redskins are also somewhat thin at safety, so it wouldn't be surprising if the team drafted a versatile defensive back who can play both positions.

Redskins Draft History: The Redskins have frequently used high draft picks on the cornerback position. In 1983, the team selected Darrell Green, a future Hall of Famer, in the first round. In the third round of the 1995 draft, the Redskins chose Darryl Pounds. From 1999-2002, the Redskins selected Champ Bailey (first round), Lloyd Harrison (third), Fred Smoot (second) and Rashad Bauman (third). Last year, Carlos Rogers was the top pick in the first round, ninth overall.

Top Prospects

Williams could play safety or cornerback in the pros. At 6-2 and 205 pounds, he has good size to compete against taller wide receivers and great speed. Last season for the Hokies, teams avoided throwing his way and he collected 44 tackles, a sack and an interception. Williams should be drafted in the early-to-mid first round. He could be the only cornerback taken in the first round.

Cromartie has vaulted up draft boards in recent weeks, as NFL teams have grown more confident that his knee ligament injury, suffered last year, is back at full strength. He has ideal size at 6-3, 197 pounds, but he played just two full seasons of college ball. If he goes in the first round, it will be based on his potential. High risk, but high reward.

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Second-Round Prospects

Hill began his college career as a running back, then shifted to cornerback as a sophomore and developed into one of the top cornerbacks in the game. He is slightly undersized at 5-9 and 183 pounds, however. Hill tallied 54 tackles, a sack and three interceptions last season.

A two-year starter for the Buckeyes, Youboty earned All-Conference honors last year after posting 56 tackles, a sack and an interception. He has all the skills to be an elite corner, but some scouts believe he will need to add to his 6-1, 188-pound frame to withstand the rigors of the NFL.

A sound cover corner, Jennings will need to add bulk in the pros: he is listed as 5-10 and 171 pounds. He ran a sub-4.4 at the combine in February and he has been rising on many draft boards.

A speedster, Joseph developed into one of the SEC's top cornerbacks, but he has limited experience. A broken foot ended his season in 2004, but last season he recorded 55 tackles and four interceptions.

Phillips is a 6-0, 192-pound cornerback who is regarded as an aggressive cornerback. He has great leaping ability and should be able to swat away deep passes. He may need to improve his man-to-man skills against talker NFL receivers.

Zemaitis joined Phillips to form an impressive cornerback tandem for the Nittany Lions. Zemaitis is 6-2 and 205 pounds. Scouts say he does not have elite speed and that he will need to improve on fundamentals, but he should develop into a starter at the pro level.

Late-Round Possibilities

If Marshall had played at a bigger school, he may be more well-known and higher on draft boards. The 5-11, 190-pounder will need to adjust to the NFL game, but he has the talent and big-play ability to make it. He had 78 tackles and three interceptions last year, while also returning kicks on special teams.

Griffin could play either cornerback or safety at the pro level. The 6-0, 192-pounder is regarded as a physical, aggressive defender who is equally strong in run support as he is at coverage. Last season, he had career-high in tackles with 86 and pass break-ups with 15.

Another speedster, Hester ran a 4.35 at the combine, impressing scouts. He lacks experience at the cornerback position, despite having logged five interceptions. He has played both offense and defense in college and could become more of a kick return specialist in the pros.

McPhearson attended the Redskins' local college workout on April 7 at Redskins Park. The 5-9, 192-pounder ran a 4.27 at the combine and he hopes to be drafted in the third round. Scouts are concerned how well he will perform against taller receivers at the NFL level.

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Other CBs to Watch

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