As I wrote about in August, it's difficult for rookie cornerbacks to make the transition from college to the pros. The NFL has become a passing- and quarterback-driven league, and many offenses are lining up with three wide receivers in their base sets, or flexing out a tight end. Not to mention that receivers are getting taller and faster every year. Offenses will challenge rookie corners early and often, and teams now need at least three good cornerbacks on their rosters to match up effectively.
For a rookie cornerback, there are several traits you must have to succeed in the NFL. The first is mental toughness. I played the position and coached it, and I say it all the time to this day: Rookie corners are going to get beat and get beat often. What will define a rookie CB's success is how he responds from those failures and competes. The second trait is that you must have the ability to close on routes. You're always in a recovery position as a CB because the receiver knows where he's going -- you don't. And finally, you must have good change-of-direction skills and ball awareness. The former you can teach and the latter is more instinctive, but both are vital to success.
This year's class of cornerbacks reflects the changing trends in the NFL, as most of the top corners have excellent size and speed. With the NFL draft approaching in late April, here are my top five cornerbacks in the 2013 draft class: