Needs to be protected against elite speed receivers
Sometimes can grab too much and be too physical
Has some off-the-field character concerns
Summary: In the passing-driven NFL, there is always a demand for cover corners who are capable of neutralizing receiving weapons. Every elite defense has a No. 1 cornerback capable of matching up with the other team's No. 1 wide receiver and keeping them from dominating the game. Baker has No. 1 corner potential for the NFL, and that was given clear proof over his performance the past two seasons at Georgia.
Baker started out his freshman season as a backup before getting onto the field during his sophomore campaign. As a sophomore in 2016, he notched two picks, five breakups and 31 tackles. The next year during Georgia's run to the National Championship game, Baker was the Bulldogs' No. 1 cornerback. He was superb down the stretch to help Georgia's stingy defense limit opposing receivers and passing games. Baker totaled 44 tackles with nine passes broken up and three interceptions for the season. The junior could have entered the 2018 NFL Draft, and he would have been an early-round pick, but he decided to return for his senior year.
As a senior, Baker totaled 40 tackles with nine breakups, two interceptions and one forced fumble. One of his interceptions should have been a 57-yard pick-sixwas dropped, but he dropped the ball in front of the end zone in premature celebration. That is a bad habit of Baker's, as he did the same thing in the spring game. Otherwise, he played well for the Bulldogs before deciding to skip their meaningless bowl game to prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Baker has a lot of skills that should translate to the NFL and could turn him into a starter early in his career. Perhaps his best trait is the quality of his instincts. He recognizes routes well, reads receivers' hands and eyes well, and times breakups well. While Baker is not the fastest of corners, he has speed and athleticism to run the route and prevent separation. Baker breaks on routes well and has good ball skills. He shows a nice ability to slap passes away or catch them. Baker is a very smooth receiver who is adept to stay in his backpedal when other corners are unable to maintain it.
Along with instincts and ball skills, Baker is a physical defender who will battle receivers. He doesn't back down and plays with an aggressive attitude. Baker also has an impressive ability to come up with some big plays in the clutch.
There are a few things Baker can improve upon as a pro. He can be too physical with his hands while running with receivers downfield. That contact could lead to pass interference and holding penalties in the NFL. Baker looks quicker than fast, so showing the ability to match up with elite speed receivers will be looked at. During the fall, team sources told me that Baker lacks elite speed and is more of a 4.55 guy in the 40-yard dash. That belief was given proof at the combine, where he ran the 40 in 4.52 seconds. Thus, Baker could have problems carrying verticals in the NFL, and it would be best if he is not matched up in man coverage on speedsters like Antonio Brown, DeSean Jackson and Will Fuller.
In speaking to team sources, they feel that Baker's tape and talent level should have him going in the No. 10-15 range of the first round, but they believe he will slide some because he has off-the-field issues and has not interviewed well with teams during the leadup to the 2019 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Tre'Davious White. In speaking to team sources, they say that Baker is similar to White, although slower. White was a star SEC cornerback before going as a first-round pick of the Bills in the 2017 NFL Draft. Since the start of his rookie year, White has been a good cover corner for Buffalo, and those scouts think Baker could be a similar caliber corner in the NFL.
NFL Matches: New York Giants, Denver, Washington, Carolina, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Houston, Oakland, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Arizona, Tampa Bay
There are a few teams picking in the 10-20 range that could consider a cornerback, but Baker's off-the-field issues will probably have him slide past these teams.
If the Broncos don't take a quarterback like Drew Mock, they could be in the market for Baker because they need more cornerback talent. Denver signed Kareem Jackson but still needs a true No. 1 cornerback to replace Aqib Talib. The Redskins could cut Josh Norman in the not too distant future, so they could consider Baker. Carolina has two quality cornerbacks in Donte Jackson and James Bradberry, but if Baker is the best player available, he could be a good fit for the Panthers, who need a third corer.
The Giants could consider Baker with their second first-round pick at No. 17. That is a real need for the defense after trading away Eli Apple, plus Janoris Jenkins could be a cap cut before long.
Even though Tennessee signed Malcolm Butler, the Titans could use an upgrade to go with Adoree' Jackson. Pittsburgh could use more corner talent, and Baker could be the Steelers' future replacement for Joe Haden.
The Texans badly need cornerback help because their veteran corners were a liability last year and Aaron Colvin was a bust of a free agent signing. Oakland need more corner talent to go with Gareon Conley, so Baker could interest the Raiders in the 20s.
Philadelphia needs young cornerback talent, and Ronald Darby may just be a 1-year rental. The Colts could use more young cornerback talent as well. The Rams could use some long-term help at corner because both Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters are nearing the end of their contracts.
In the second round, the Cardinals would get a great value if Baker is there for them at No. 33. They've needed a corner upgrade across from Patrick Peterson. The Colts, Raiders and Giants also could consider Baker again early in Round 2. The Bucs need a No. 1 corner as Vernon Hargreaves has disappointed and Brent Grimes is gone. However, Tampa Bay took a few corners early on in the 2018 NFL Draft after selecting Vernon Hargreaves with the 11th-overall pick in 2016, so the team may not want to draft a corner in the first few rounds.