KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City's pass defense gave up the second most passing yards per game in the NFL last season, a little over 273 yards per game.
Don't expect that to happen again under new Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. He likes cornerbacks who are physical, willing to tackle, understand how to pattern match in coverage, and are versatile enough to thrive in both zone and man coverage.
Spagnuolo's defense requires corners who understand route combinations and can quickly decipher how to handle and cover what opposing offense throw at them.
General manager Brett Veach needs to add more competition at the position, if not an impact corner who could contribute immediately.
Coverage will be even more important in 2019 to give the pass rush the time it needs to get to the quarterback.
ADDITIONAL NFL DRAFT COVERAGE
[April 10 — Nick Jacobs: Best running back fits]
[April 11 — Nick Jacobs: Best wide receiver fits]
[April 12 — Nick Jacobs: Best tight end fits]
[April 15 — Nick Jacobs: Best interior offensive line fits]
[April 16 — Nick Jacobs: Best offensive tackle fits]
[April 17 — Nick Jacobs: Best edge rusher fits]
[April 18 — Nick Jacobs: Seven-round Chiefs mock draft, v 1.0]
[April 18 — Nick Jacobs: best defensive tackle fits]
[April 19 — Nick Jacobs: First-round mock draft]
[April 19 — Nick Jacobs: Best linebacker fits]
[Today — Nick Jacobs: Best cornerback fits]
BEST CORNERBACK FITS FOR CHIEFS
1. Byron Murphy, Washington
Height: 5-10 — Weight: 190 — Vertical jump: 36 1/2" — 40-yard dash: 4.55
Murphy is very athletic and a smooth athlete. He flips his hips quickly without wasted motion, shows a clean back pedal and a smooth quarter turn. He defended at the right corner back position in the game I watched.
The former Husky reads receivers well and keeps good position on routes. He is physical, willing to aggressively tackle and shows a desire to lay the receiver out. His ball-tracking skills are second to none, and Murphy is capable of playing man and zone coverage.
2. Amani Oruwariye, Penn State
Height: 6-1 — Weight: 205 — Vertical jump: 36 1/2" — 40-yard dash: 4.47
Oruwariye has great length and reach. He played a lot of off and zone coverage in college, but he trusts his technique, is disciplined and doesn’t panic. He also has good speed and attitude to go with it.
The former Nittany Lion willingly takes on blocks and sometimes blows up the play in the backfield. He typically finds himself in good position.
3. Deandre Baker, Georgia
Height: 5-11 — Weight: 193 — Vertical jump: n/a — 40-yard dash: 4.52
Baker is a physical corner, who likes to physically reroute receivers with his hands and body positioning. Unfortunately, when a receiver breaks, he still has his hand on the jersey which potentially will lead to more pass inference or holding calls at the next level.
Still, Baker has solid quarter turns, though he lacks elite speed and smoothness in his those turns. He likes to get a running start downhill when attempting to tackle.
The former Bulldog lined up at both outside spots and appeared comfortable in zone and man coverage, though his physical nature aligns more with press man coverage.
4. Justin Layne, Michigan State
Height: 6-1 — Weight: 192 — Vertical jump: 37 1/2" — 40-yard dash: 4.50
Layne is a long, lanky corner who will need time to develop into a more physical corner. His strengths right now are dropping into zone, reading routes and driving on the football.
Layne is willing to sacrifice his body to make tackles, which is always a risk at his size.
5. Rock Ya-Sin, Temple
Height: 5-11 — Weight: 192 — Vertical jump: 39 1/2" — 40-yard dash: 4.51
Ya-Sin looked comfortable in press man coverage, but he struggles to get off receiver's blocks so he can tackle the ball carrier. He does a decent job staying in good position but occasionally gets beat on a quick slant or crossing route.
6. Greedy Williams, LSU
Height: 6-1 — Weight: 185 — Vertical jump: n/a — 40-yard dash: 4.37
Williams is at his best when he is allowed to drop into zone and read the route to drive on the football.
The former Tigers Long arms are one of his biggest assets, giving him an opportunity to deflect the football without getting called for pass inference. He has elite top-end speed on vertical routes and does a good job of pushing receivers toward the boundary, but doesn’t always turn his head in time to locate the ball.
Not the most physical tackler, Williams is willing to help in run support. His quarter turns aren’t the smoothest and his pad level is high on his back pedal, which will need to be fixed at the next level.
7. Joejuan Williams, Vanderbilt
Height: 6-3 — Weight: 211 — Vertical jump: n/a — 40-yard dash: 4.64
Williams has great size and length for a corner with really good athletic ability and enough acceleration to stay in the hip pocket of most receivers. He's a physical corner who wants to lay out blockers and destroy the ball carrier in run support.
On tape, Williams appear to be comfortable in press man coverage and is smoother in his quarter turns. He will need to work on getting his head turned around rather than waiting on the receiver to give clues and trying to rip the ball out.
8. Lonnie Johnson, Kentucky
Height: 6-1 — Weight: 213 — Vertical jump: 38" — 40-yard dash: 4.52
Johnson has a good build overall with the ideal long arms needed for the scheme. The former Wildcat keeps his pad level low, which is tough given his size, and tracks the ball well, adjusting accordingly to make plays.
Johnson needs to improve his jam at the line of scrimmage and likely will need to become more physical in run support and give up less separation in coverage at the next level.
Other corners who fit the Chiefs: Trayvon Mullen (Clemson), Jamel Dean (Auburn), Sean Bunting (Central Michigan), Isaiah Johnson (Houston), Kris Boyd (Texas), Saivion Smith (Alabama), Mark Fields (Clemson), Corey Ballentine (Washburn), Jimmy Moreland (James Madison), Derrick Baity Jr. (Kentucky), Stephen Denmark (Valdosta State), Rashad Fenton (South Carolina), Blace Brown (Troy) and Xavier Crawford (Central Michigan)
The draft may have as many as six or seven impact cornerbacks, but by the fourth round there are flaws in each player that will take time and patience to develop.
The players on my list have athletic ability, but each one needs small improvements in their technique to contribute in the Chiefs' defense.