San Diego Fleet Roster Breakdown: Cornerbacks

Credit: SD Fleet

(Kendall James) Credit: Maine Athletics

Kendall James had arguably the most impressive collegiate career of anyone on this roster. James played at Maine University, where he recorded 136 total tackles, nine interceptions, 25 pass deflections, and forced three fumbles. While at Maine, James earned CAA All-Conference honors twice and was selected to the 2013 FCS AP All-American second-team.

James was eventually drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings.

Although the Vikings did sign him to a rookie contract, they eventually released James only a few months later. He spent time with the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, and New York Jets’ practice squads, but has not yet appeared in an NFL game. James did spend some time with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League, where he appeared in two games and only record seven tackles.

His entire game basically revolves around his athleticism, and rightfully so, as James could easily be considered the best athlete on the team. He ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and also posted a 39″ vertical. James has both straight-line speed and lateral speed, which benefits him tremendously in both the run game and when covering receivers. James is average at best in coverage, but he does excel in the run game. For a player known for his speed, he is a fairly good tackler and does finish tackles well.

The biggest knock on James, from NFL scouts, was his size. While he does have good height at 5’11”, he has a relatively small wingspan and also has small hands. This becomes a problem when going up against big-bodied receivers that can simply overpower James and make plays over him despite his athleticism.

Kendall James is not going to be a boundary corner for the Fleet and will probably be used in certain packages or in the slot. While his athleticism is top-notch, James does not offer much in coverage and the Fleet just simply have better options. He may make the team as the third, or possibly the fourth cornerback, but there is a lot of improvement that needs to be made in his coverage abilities for him to transition to the outside and should remain in the slot.

Curtis Mikell is another extremely interesting player on this Fleet roster. Mikell attended Southern Mississippi, where he played wide receiver for his first two seasons and ultimately transitioned to a full-time cornerback role for his final two seasons with the team. In 44 games with the Golden Eagles, Mikell recorded 120 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, three interceptions, 18 pass deflections, and forced one fumble. He went undrafted in the 2017 NFL draft but did spend some time with the Los Angeles Rams. Stuck in an extremely competitive roster battle, Mikell received some preseason action with the team but did not make their final roster.

(Curtis Mikell) Credit: Houston Chronicle

Despite his lack of size, Mikell stands at around 5’8″, he plays a lot taller than he actually is. Mikell is an aggressive cornerback and does not let bigger targets take advantage of him easily. He, like Kendall James and Tyree Holder, is an excellent tackler. Mikell was often towards the top in tackles on his team and does wrap up well, rather than just shoulder tackling or diving at opponents. He is also very athletic, running a 4.35 40-yard dash and posting a seven-second three-cone drill. For someone of his size, it is important for Mikell to be a solid athlete in order to compensate for what he lacks in height.

The biggest negative with him is, and always will be, his size. Ideally, no team wants to play someone of his height as a boundary corner, so Mikell is essentially only limited to playing in the slot or coming in for certain packages. He has the speed to potentially play as a boundary cornerback, but with coaches traditionally leaning towards taller cornerbacks on the outside these days, that school of thought may be highly unlikely.

Curtis Mikell’s ceiling is essentially Mike Hilton: an undersized cornerback that operates well in the slot and gets to the quarterback at a decent rate. His floor, however, is strictly being utilized in certain packages and not operating as the main slot cornerback. While his speed may allow him to transition to the outside, he would be better suited to stay inside. Mikell, to me, has what it takes to be a starting slot cornerback for the Fleet and should be a nice addition to the team. As of right now, he has a decent shot of making the roster in that role.

The final cornerback on this list is Justin Williams. He started his college football career at Michigan State University but transferred to Hampton University in 2015 as a redshirt sophomore. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any collegiate statistics on Williams, but he did go undrafted in the 2018 NFL draft and has not garnered any interest from NFL teams.

Williams is an interesting player, to say the least. He saw time at both running back and cornerback in college, but his natural position has been said to be running back. On the film that I saw, he was an explosive runner out of the backfield, which shows that he is a solid athlete with good initial burst. His ball skills are actually pretty solid and Williams looks like he can be a decent cover cornerback. He opens his hips well when he is in coverage, showing some sort of hope that Williams can actually be something in pass coverage with a little more development.

Credit: San Diego Fleet

From the little film that there is on this guy, he does need to improve his tackling ability. He prefers to dive at people rather than actually wrapping up and bringing them down, which is a skill that is needed in the secondary. Despite having a decent technique, Williams needs to improve his ball skills and making a play on the ball when it is in the air.

Right now, Williams is an average cornerback that needs to refine the little parts of his game. If he can do so, there is real potential for him to actually be something. However, with the lack of film or any college statistics, there are a lot of unknowns surrounding him. It is tough to say whether or not Williams will make the roster at this point and only his performance in camp will tell.

Of all the positional groups we have recapped thus far, the cornerbacks are by far the weakest. The team lacks a true boundary corner that can line up with an opposing team’s top receiver and challenge them thoroughly. Right now, I expect the Fleet to carry eight total defensive backs: four cornerbacks and four safeties. This may change, however, as the safeties on this team are simply more talented than the cornerbacks and some of them have the ability to play both safety and cornerback.

With all of that taken into consideration, I have offered two different scenarios in terms of who will make the team from the cornerback position. Regardless of how many cornerbacks the team takes, Tyree Holder and Ron Brooks should be locked in with confidence. Holder is the team’s only true outside cornerback and Brooks has a ton of potential despite being fairly raw.

If the Fleet elects to carry four cornerbacks on their final roster, there will be a three-way battle for the final two spots. Mikell will have the upper hand of the three, with Kendall James and Jude Adjei-Barimah fighting it out for the final spot. My guess would be that the Fleet would choose Mikell and Adjei-Barimah.

This changes, however, if the Fleet elects to carry three cornerbacks and five safeties. The team may feel comfortable in doing this because Kameron Kelly, who we will break down in the safeties preview, has a lot of experience as both a cornerback and a safety. He can swing over to playing cornerback at any point in time if needed, which would give the Fleet freedom in choosing more players from a more talented safety group. Those three cornerbacks would likely be Holder, Brooks, and Mikell.

Regardless of who they take, the Fleet do have a pretty big hole at cornerback. It is likely that this team will struggle in stopping other teams through the air and could potentially be the Achilles heel in the long run.

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Diego Solares on Email
Diego Solares
Diego is one of our editors and is also the head of our San Diego Fleet department. On top of covering the Fleet, Diego also partakes in San Diego Padres coverage. He has been apart of EVT for almost three years and thoroughly enjoys being apart of this website. Diego is a freshman in college and is a right-handed pitcher at the collegiate level.

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