Starters (D): Losing Sam Shields to a concussion in week 1 devastated this position. Youngsters Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, and LeDarius Gunter simply weren’t ready for the move up the depth chart. How shaky are things heading into the draft? So shaky that Davon House, who was cut by Jacksonville, is all but guaranteed a starting job. Randall will be given every opportunity to join him, but it remains to be seen whether his poor season was just a bump on the road to stardom or the beginning of a journey to Bustville.
Depth (D+): Gunter, a former undrafted free agent who runs over 4.6, was the team’s best corner in 2016, but he’s best-suited to be a role player. His size makes him valuable in the red zone; his lack of speed and quickness makes him vulnerable between the 20s. Rollins looked very promising as a rookie, but injuries and a loss of confidence ruined his sophomore season. If his head is OK, he should be able to contribute in the nickel and dime packages. Josh Hawkins is extremely raw, but has great speed and could surprise. Converted wide receiver Herb Waters impressed the coaches while a member of the practice squad. Veteran special teams standout Demetri Goodson (knee surgery) will most likely begin the season on the PUP list.
Player to watch: Hawkins might’ve been the most impressive of all the young corners last summer, but the NFL proved to be too big for the rookie once the regular season began. The odds are certainly against the former undrafted free agent. For every Shields, there are dozens of Robertson Daniels. Still, it’s hard not to be intrigued with a corner who runs 4.35, moves fluidly and has good ball skills.
*Level of need: If Randall and Rollins play like high draft picks and if House proves last season was a fluke, things will be OK at this very important position. But that’s an awful lot of ifs – too many for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. That’s why it’s a foregone conclusion that general manager Ted Thompson will draft at least one corner early.