Cordrea Tankersley will ride out the NFL Draft with family and friends in a hotel suite in Augusta. The former Silver Bluff star and Clemson cornerback would prefer a short vigil.
“Hopefully won’t have to have another draft party past Thursday,” Tankersley said of the first round that will be conducted tonight before the second and third rounds on Friday night.
The 6-foot-1 Tankersley is part of a very deep cornerback class in this year’s draft, making predicting his destination difficult and the potential to slide deeper than he deserves more likely. He’s projected to be taken anywhere from the first through third round, but he’s confident his value is no lower than a second-round pick.
“I honestly think I’m the best corner in this draft, doing what I do, and experience helped me solidify that,” he said. “I know I don’t get the credit I deserve, but it is what it is. Just need an opportunity to display what I can do.”
Tankersley could have been sweating out the middle rounds of last year’s NFL Draft, but he chose to return for his senior season at Clemson.
His gambit certainly paid off, with the Tigers winning a second consecutive ACC title before beating Alabama to win the national championship a year after finishing runner-up.
Tankersleymade the most of his final postseason, collecting two interceptions in the ACC Championship victory against Virginia Tech and another in the CFP semifinal against Ohio State. He was named to the All-ACC first team for the first time.
“Definitely, I have no regrets coming back this year,” Tankersley said. “I got a national championship, I made my name bigger than it was last year and also had the opportunity to get my degree. It’s a win-win.”
He hasn’t had much chance to bask in the aftermath of the national title victory, as he spent the three months since finishing up his degree requirements and preparing for the draft.
“I’ve been grinding,” he said. “After the national championship, I spent a few days at home and then flew out to Phoenix and trained for two weeks. Then Indianapolis for the Combine and then pro days. So this has been my only down time I’ve had. I’ve been really, really busy but definitely enjoying it at the same time. Definitely more work than celebration.”
The extra year of experience certainly enhanced Tankersley’s draft stock, even if it put him in the middle of a crowded cornerback class.NFL scouts praise his speed and ability to jam receivers as a press corner, which he displayed in a shutdown performance against Virginia Tech’s highly regarded 6-6 tight end Bucky Hodges. He logged nine interceptions and 20 pass breakups his final two seasons as a starter at Clemson.
But his critics aren’t impressed with his zone coverage and cite his tendency to draw too many pass interference penalties downfield with his aggressive style. That’s a much costlier infraction as a spot foul in the NFL than it was in college.
Tankersley took visits to Cleveland, Miami, Washington and Dallas, working out again privately with the Browns and Cowboys. While in Dallas, he spent time with former Silver Bluff teammate Demarcus Lawrence, a Cowboys defensive end who was a second-round pick (34th overall) in the 2014 draft.
“You know he is talking me up,” Tankersley said of his old friend, believing the chance they could end up teammates again is “a strong possibility.”
The Cowboys, who earned home-field advantage in the NFC last year, have the 28th pick in the first round and have needs at both defensive line and secondary.
“They’re all saying good things about me going in the first round,” Tankersley said. “No later than the second round, but definitely a strong possibility that I sneak into the first round.”
The Browns, needing all the help they can get after a 1-15 year and ninth consecutive losing season, have five of the first 65 picks in the this year’s draft.
Tankersley isn’t concerned which end of the NFL spectrum he lands on, as long as he gets his chance to play at the next level.
“This is an opportunity and I’m enjoying myself and just enjoying the fact that the ultimate will be getting my name called,” he said of the draft.“I have absolutely no care in the world where I go. I don’t care if I’m in New York, California, Washington or Carolina, I just want to play ball and fulfill my dreams as a professional football player. I don’t care who drafts me, I just want to play and make that team better.”