Chris Simms’ 2022 NFL Draft Cornerback and Safety Rankings: Why Sauce Gardner, Kyle Hamilton stand out from the pack

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There is no shortage of elite corner back and safety prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft, so making the cut in Chris Simms’ rankings is no small feat.

Chris Simms unveiled his 2022 NFL Draft cornerback and safety rankings earlier this week on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast and went into detail why Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton are the two top prospects at their respective positions. Simms has already released his QB rankings and wide receiver rankings, with more to come up until the start of the draft on April 28th

Along with Gardner with the cornerbacks, Simms has Washington’s Trent McDuffle at No. 2, Alabama’s Jalyn Armour-Davis at No. 3, Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. at No. 2, and Houston’s Marcus Jones at No. 5. Below Hamilton in the safety class is Georgia’s Lewis Cine at No. 2, Michigan’s Daxton Hill at No. 3, Cincinnati’s Bryan Cook at No. 4, and Louisiana’s Percy Butler at No. 5

The 2022 NFL Draft will begin on Thursday, April 28, and end on Saturday, April 30. The first round will take place on Thursday with rounds two and three airing on Friday. Here’s a breakdown of the full first-round draft order.

Simms 2022 NFL Draft Rankings – Cornerbacks and Safeties

 

CB

S

#1 Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner (Cincinnati) Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame)
#2 Trent McDuffie (Washington) Lewis Cine (Georgia)
#3 Jalyn Armour-Davis (Alabama) Daxton Hill (Michigan)
#4 Andrew Booth Jr. (Clemson) Bryan Cook (Cincinnati)
#5 Marcus Jones (Houston) Percy Butler (Louisiana)

The following are highlights from Simms’ CB and safety NFL draft rankings. For Simms’ in-depth analysis, read below for a breakdown on each prospect and be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

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2022 NFL Draft Ranking – Cornerbacks

No. 5: Marcus Jones, Houston

What Simms Said: “He reminds me of Jason Verrett, right? Remember Jason Verrett? The first-round pick who’s been injured? You could say Bryce Callahan, one of the top nickelbacks who plays for the Denver Broncos, he’s one of those type of guys. Except I would go, he’s more explosive than a Bryce Callahan … You talk about the ability to accelerate, put the foot in the ground, break on the ball, It’s as good as anybody in the draft. The quicks are off the charts. He’s made to cover these small, jitterbug-type receivers who’re going to be working the slot, right? Marcus Jones is going to be all over that stuff … I don’t know if he’ll be a first-round pick, I don’t think that’s gonna happen. But I think he goes somewhere in the second. It’s a big question, the size thing. It is. We’re talking about Marcus Jones, 5-foot-8, 174 pounds … the size is the issue.”

No. 4: Andrew Booth, Clemson

What Simms Said: “I love Andrew Booth. I love him. I want him on my team, any day of the week. Here’s the first thing I would say. Size is really good, the acceleration, the straight-ahead speed, when you turn that on it absolutely blows you away. He’s a prototype-looking defensive back … (Booth) can really tackle, comes downhill and is a real force on the edge. Whether it’s wide receiver screens, runs, whatever, there’s a passion and a toughness that he plays with … The big-time acceleration, the read and react skills are off the charts. His ability to accelerate, make that tackle, that’s as good as anybody there is. The feet are good, not great. The hips are not great, this is where he loses a little bit.”

No. 3: Jalyn Armour-Davis, Alabama

What Simms Said: “His tape is extremely clean. Alabama guy, really only a one-year starter. One of the things I wrote down at the end of this is he reminds me of (Trevon) Diggs, lesser ball skills but a better pure cover guy. He’s a better pure cover-corner guy than Trevon Diggs was coming out and I think that’s the biggest thing, too … He’s got incredible feet, patience, doesn’t lose his technique and panic or bite on things that way, and then, of course, has the speed and everything there. But I think the most impressive thing is at 6-foot-1, 197 pounds, the things we talked about Booth that he wasn’t good at, flipping the hips, putting his foot in the ground, no wasted steps, right? This kid is textbook … There’s not a lot I just said, ‘wow, oh my gosh!’ But there is also not one question mark. I look at him as a total first-round corner, for sure.”

No. 2: Trent McDuffie, Washington

What Simms Said: “I love Trent McDuffie. What’s there not to like? He’s different from Marcus Jones, this guy can literally do both. I have no questions that this guy can play outside corner to really, probably the best, all-around move in the draft. (McDuffle) has the acceleration like Booth and Jones where I went ‘Whoa!’ … He’s got so much versatility as far as whether you want to work him inside or outside. He’s got plenty of strength to play outside. He’s a missile. He’s a missile as far as tackling. The floor is very high, it really is. The ceiling is high, too. But I don’t see any bust potential here … He can press, he’s not great at jamming, that’s not what he is. He kind of just wants to stay with you and stay in your hip pocket.”

No.1: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati

What Simms Said: “I was not expecting to see somebody quite that twitchy and explosive in short areas (who’s) that tall. I wish there was a hair better straight-away acceleration, but that’s the only negative thing I can really look at … To me, it’s kind of a no-brainer at this point this year. He’s going to be incredible in zone coverage as well. He’s got a good feel for the game. You’re really looking at the guy who is going to be able to match up with all the big, freaky receivers in football, the Mike Evans, AJ Green and DeAndre Hopkins. He’s made to stop those guys … The acceleration was the only thing I looked at, OK that’s not perfect. Other than that, everything else was pretty perfect for the guy at that length. You don’t have a lot of guys come along like this very often.

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2022 NFL Draft Ranking – Safeties

No. 5: Percy Butler, Louisiana 

What Simms Said: “He’s not versatile, he’s a free safety all the way. You want him as a coverage safety, and almost as nothing else. He will tackle, he’s not afraid to tackle, he’s phenomenal on special teams … When you talk about ball skills, playing the ball in the air, the ability to run with top-tier receivers, burst, it’s wowing. He’s made for the pass (game), he’s an NFL free safety. I could see this being a guy that’s late-second, maybe a third-rounder.”

No. 4: Brian Cook, Cincinnati

What Simms Said: “This is a guy where he’s a little more in the box, strong safety-type but certainly can play the back end and be a free safety as well. (His) coverage is real, really good hips, he’s very smooth, he’s got great body control that way … His ability to break down and be twitchy and change direction and make tackles that way, I thought were really, really good. He likes to hit, he’s a traditional strong safety that way. To me, he reminds me of Harrison Smith a little bit, and that’s high praise.”

No. 3: Daxton Hill, Michigan

What Simms Said: “This is not your traditional safety type of guy. You see traditional safety stuff, you do, but I think where he thrives or at least pops to me is when he was playing nickel. Coverage skills, hips, feet in and out of breaks, transition and all that, it’s really up there with the top corners in the draft … He’s got a thinner frame, but man, he doesn’t play like a thinner frame at all! This is Jesse Bates, who came out of Wake Forest. Jesse Bates played more of a traditional free safety spot in college but if he was on Michigan, he’d be playing this Daxton Hill combination. And to me, that’s where they’re great.”

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No. 2: Louis Cine, Georgia

What Simms Said: “This is another one of my favorite watches in the draft, any position so far and I’m only halfway through all the positions. I’m just a sucker for guys who can fly and have no regard for their bodies. He’s got three rockets up his ass and he runs through brick walls? Sign me up! I want him. I love this kid. He’s tall, he’s long, he’s a little bit narrow, it’s a little bit of a different build that way. But he can really run, a 4.37 in the combine, it’s 4.37 on the field … His ability to put his foot in the ground and go and drive at the ball, off the charts good. He’s got great acceleration, he’s not the most fluid with hips. You’re not going to want him necessarily guard some shifty tight end that can run a double move, that’s not what he is. But he makes up for it with his acceleration that we talked about.”

No. 1: Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

What Simms Said: “The speed, yeah I’m a little disappointed in it. I hear everybody. But I have just seen too much on film to be really worried about him. How many times do you got to see him run down a running back or receiver or play centerfield? … Out of all the safeties, other than Daxton Hill, he’s probably got the best coverage skills. He could almost play nickel corner, I mean really! He can play second-level linebacker, strong safety, nickel, free safety, he can kind of do everything there.”