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Minnesota Vikings 2014 draft preview: Cornerbacks

The Minnesota Vikings hope Xavier Rhodes will continue his development into a star cornerback.
The Minnesota Vikings hope Xavier Rhodes will continue his development into a star cornerback.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings likely had the worst position group in all of football last season at cornerback. Xavier Rhodes was emerging as the lone star of the group late in the season, but injuries slowed his development. The rest of the group was below average at best.

Chris Cook never intercepted a pass nor lived up to expectations and is no longer in the mix. The second round draft pick is replaced on the roster with former Carolina Panther seventh round draft pick Captain Munnerlyn.

Munnerlyn is a physical playmaker. He is not afraid to mix it up and get under the skin of wide receivers. Also, when he has a chance to make a play on the ball, he will.

Rhodes and Munnerlyn are expected to start. The top reserves will be third-year third round draft pick Josh Robinson, former San Diego Charger Derek Cox, third-year veteran Shaun Prater and fourth-year veteran Marcus Sherels. They all have shown the ability to be a solid NFL cornerback, but none have done it consistently.

Robinson and Cox are the two favorites for varying reasons. Robinson was a high draft pick and has shown some potential. Cox has had more success in the NFL than any of them.

Kip Edwards and Robert Steeples are first-year players that have no NFL experience and are trying to unseat one of the veterans.

The Vikings are likely to select a cornerback early in the draft. Here are the top five cornerbacks as well as an underrated, an overrated and a sleeper prospect.

No. 1 - Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
No. 1 - Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

No. 1 - Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

Dennard is a physical cornerback that can make plays. He was a key component to the nation’s most talented defense. He has the ball skills to intercept or deflect passes in pass coverage and good tackling skills in run support. He is the most complete cornerback in the draft.

The 5-foot-11-inch, 199-pound former Spartan finished his senior season with 62 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, four interceptions, 10 pass breakups, five quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.

No. 2 - Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
No. 2 - Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State Brett Deering/Getty Images

No. 2 - Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

Gilbert is a playmaker with some size. He is one of the faster corners in the draft and will make plays when the ball is near him. He can help force turnovers in the secondary and change field position as a kick returner. He is not a consistent tackler with a tendency to lunge at ball carriers.

The 6-foot, 202-pound former Cowboy finished his senior season with 42 total tackles, seven interceptions, seven pass breakups, one quarterback hurry and two touchdowns.

No. 3 - Jason Verrett, TCU
No. 3 - Jason Verrett, TCU Cooper Neill/Getty Images

No. 3 - Jason Verrett, TCU

Verrett is another elite athlete among the cornerbacks. He has jumped up draft boards at times, but has fallen back as well. He is a defensive playmaker with excellent ball skills. He does not possess an ideal frame and has durability injuries.

The 5-foot-10-inch, 189-pound former Horned Frog finished his senior season with 39 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, one sack, two interceptions, 14 pass breakups, 16 passes defensed, one quarterback hurry and one forced fumble.

No. 4 - Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
No. 4 - Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech Geoff Burke/Getty Images

No. 4 - Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

Fuller has been the biggest riser among cornerbacks and is seen by some as a first round lock. He has good size and speed with excellent ball skills. He can read and react to routes. His straight-line speed doesn’t always show up in games and has a tendency to be overaggressive in both pass coverage and run support.

The 6-foot, 190-pound former Hokie finished his senior season with 24 total tackles, two tackles for a loss, two interceptions, 10 pass breakups, 12 passes defensed, one quarterback hurry, one forced fumble and one blocked kick.

No. 5 - Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska
No. 5 - Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska Eric Francis/Getty Images

No. 5 - Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska

Jean-Baptiste is the biggest corner in the draft. Despite his size, he has the athleticism to be successful at corner in the NFL. He has wide receiver ball skills and fluidity in his hips. He does not play as physically as his size indicates he could be and could be caught in between playing corner or safety.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 218-pound former Cornhusker finished his senior season with 41 total tackles, four tackles for a loss, one sack, four interceptions, 12 pass breakups and one touchdown.

Underrated - Jaylen Watkins, Florida
Underrated - Jaylen Watkins, Florida Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Underrated - Jaylen Watkins, Florida

Watkins (No. 14 in the picture) has been overlooked among the Florida cornerbacks. He has the mentality and skill set to be a solid NFL corner. He is aggressive with a fearlessness and an always running motor. He can play cornerback, safety and special teams coverage units. He struggled with his consistency. He needs to improve his ball skills and add good bulk.

The 6-foot, 194-pound former Gator finished his senior season with 52 total tackles, two tackles for a loss and seven pass breakups.

Overrated - Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Overrated - Bradley Roby, Ohio State Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Overrated - Bradley Roby, Ohio State

Roby has the skills to be very good, but recent off-field issues along with several on-field issues will hurt him on draft weekend. He has the speed coaches look for and a physical mentality. However, he lacks the frame to be consistent with his physicality, needs to be more consistent with his ball skills and has a tendency to give up on underneath passes.

The 5-foot-11-inch, 194-pound former Buckeye finished his redshirt junior season with 69 total tackles, two tackles for a loss, three interceptions, 13 pass breakups, 16 passes defensed, two blocked kicks and two touchdowns.

Sleeper - Ross Cockrell, Duke
Sleeper - Ross Cockrell, Duke Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Sleeper - Ross Cockrell, Duke

Cockrell (No. 6 in the picture) was a big part of Duke’s turnaround. He has adequate size, athleticism and football skills to be a quality NFL player. He is physical at the line of scrimmage and finds ways to agitate wide receivers. He has good hands and locates the ball well, but none of his tangible skills jump out at you.

The 6-foot, 191-pound former Blue Devil finished his senior season with 46 total tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, three interceptions, 13 pass breakups, 16 passes defensed and one forced fumble.