1 of 5 | Penn State star Joey Porter Jr. and other cornerback prospects will work out for NFL teams Friday at the 2023 NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Photo by Alex Butler/UPI
INDIANPOLIS, March 3 (UPI) -- Top 2023 draft prospects Joey Porter Jr., Emmanuel Forbes, Christian Gonzalez and Kelee Ringo vary in size, speed and strength, but they all say they possess the most vital trait for NFL cornerback success: unshakable confidence.
Forbes is the lightest and among the shortest in the group of elite defensive backs. The former Mississippi State cornerback said his fluidity, speed, athleticism, physicality and ability to create turnovers will make him an asset for any NFL team.
"A lot of people like to go at me for my size," Forbes said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
"I showed them that my size doesn't matter. I go out there with an edge and chip on my shoulder, and that comes from my confidence."
Forbes says he likes to mimic cornerback Darius Slay, who is nearly the same size, adding that DeVonta Smith was his toughest matchup in college.
Forbes was one of the highest-rated cornerbacks in college football last season, according to Pro Football Focus. He totaled 14 interceptions, six touchdowns and a forced fumble in 35 games at Mississippi State.
His six interceptions in man coverage led the nation in 2022. He also scored three times last season.
"My ball production and the stuff I've done over the last three years, nobody else put those numbers up," Forbes said.
Forbes, who expects to run a 4.3-second 40-yard dash Friday at the combine, is projected as a fringe first- or second-round pick.
Forbes, listed at 6 feet, said he played at 173 pounds last season. Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo is 2 inches taller and played at more than 200 pounds. Ringo's height and weight combination could be more attractive to NFL decision makers wary of the durability and physically a smaller cornerback might not possess.
Ringo, a projected first-round pick, compares himself to Patrick Peterson and Patrick Surtain II. He also said he injects tactics from Darrelle Revis and Jalen Ramsey into his game.
Ringo pointed to his ability to stay patient and move on to the next play if he makes a mistake as some of his best attributes. The former track star at Arizona's Saguaro High School led Georgia with seven passes defensed and logged 42 tackles and two interceptions in 15 starts last season.
"I feel like I was able to overcome the things that happened in [some of] those games and I'm able to make plays in those situations that bring the best out of me," Ringo said. "No matter where I go, I will have a winner mindset and I'm going to be able to do my job."
Ringo said his explosiveness, technique and determination also should attract NFL teams.
Devon Witherspoon of Illinois and Christian Gonzalez of Oregon are the highest-rated cornerbacks of the class, according to many mock drafts. They both are projected as early first-round picks.
Witherspoon received the best coverage grade among cornerbacks last season, according to Pro Football Focus. The 6-foot, 180-pound defender totaled 14 passes defensed, three interceptions and 41 tackles last season.
"It's been fun knowing I'm one of the top guys in the NFL Draft," Witherspoon said. "I'm confident. I'm physical. I love the game of football. I'm smart. I love to study and to just try to get the edge on my opponents."
Joey Porter Jr., the son of former All-Pro linebacker Joey Porter, is about 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds. His height and weight is typical among cornerbacks and matches up well with many NFL wide receivers.
Porter, who noted he has spoken to the Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Commanders and Dallas Cowboys, among others, said his competitive nature is what separates him from the other cornerbacks in the class.
"I like to compete in anything I do," Porter said. "I kind of get that from my dad on the field. I'm feeling like I'm like my mom off the field. So I think that's a good mix.
"I'll say I'm a physical, press corner, [who is] gonna get in your face and do my job doing well."
The former Penn State star is a first-round selection in many mock drafts. He has drawn comparisons to Marlon Humphrey and Dre Kirkpatrick, among other cornerbacks who are a similar size and play with physicality.
He said Garrett Wilson and Jahan Dotson were the toughest wide receivers he faced at the collegiate level, but can't wait to guard the NFL's elite. He also said his immediate goal is the be the first cornerback selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.
"It's very important for me to be cornerback No. 1," Porter said. "I feel like I'm the best corner here. So I'm just here to really show my talents and prove why."
Porter said he patterns his game after Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson. He also enjoys watching New York Jets star Sauce Gardner, who was an All-Pro as a rookie in 2022.
"People say our game is similar," Porter said of Gardner, who is 6-foot-3 and about 200 pounds. "Just to see him be able to do what he did, with the impact he had as a rookie, I feel like I could do the same and I'm really excited to go out there and just show my talent."
Porter, who faced some of college football's best wide receivers while at Penn State, logged just one interception in 34 games with the Nittany Lions. He logged a career-high 11 passes defensed during his senior year.
Gonzalez, who is 6-foot-2 and about 200 pounds, said he leans on film study to shut down opposing wide receivers. The former Oregon star is a high first-round pick in some mock drafts.
From Gonzalez's college tape, observers will immediately notice his playmaking ability and vision. He totaled four interceptions in 2022 and logged at least 50 tackles in each of the last two seasons. He also totaled 17 passes defensed in 30 games with the Ducks.
"I use the smallest things [in film study] to find out how I can get an advantage, rather than just going out there," Gonzalez said. "I just go out there with confidence, trust my technique and do what I do. A lot goes into it it, but it all starts with film study."
Gonzalez said versatility is akey to his success, noting his toughest college matchup was Drake London.
"I'm somebody who can line up on the outside and guard a 6-foot-5 receiver or line up inside guard a 5-foot-10 speedy, type receiver," Gonzalez said. "I'm a smart player, learn very quickly and be a versatile corner."
Gonzalez also said his ability to adapt mid-game is another of his strengths, but overall confidence is an essential component for his coverage.
"It's all confidence playing this position," Gonzalez said. "You're out there on an island by yourself and that's what I live for -- big matchups.
"Any time I get to go up against a great receiver ... that's my favorite thing to do."
Gonzalez drew comparisons to Byron Jones, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Aqib Talib and Patrick Surtain II throughout the early pre-draft process.
South Carolina's Cam Smith, Miami's Tyrique Stevenson, Maryland's Deonte Banks, Alabama's Eli Ricks, Syracuse's Garrett Williams and TCU's Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson are among the other top cornerbacks in the class.
Hodges-Tomlinson won last season's Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best defensive back in college football.
Cornerbacks, kickers and special teams players will conduct workouts, including the 40-yard dash, Friday at the NFL scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The 2023 NFL Draft will be held April 27 to 29 in Kansas City, Mo.