Path to the draft: Cornerbacks

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The Texans believe they have their starters at cornerback in Dunta Robinson and Jacques Reeves. The two started six games together after Robinson returned from the season-ending injuries he suffered in 2007.

Robinson, who is entering his sixth NFL season, is considered pound-for-pound one of the biggest hitters in the league and could put together a Pro Bowl type of season from the right cornerback position.

Reeves took a lot of heat last season when teams threw at him to avoid Robinson, but he finished the year with a career-high four interceptions.

Fred Bennett, a long and rangy corner who led the team in interceptions (three) as a rookie in 2007, provides depth at the position. And the Texans will get to see what they have in Antwaun Molden, whose rookie season was cut short by a fractured leg.

{QUOTE}Still, the Texans have not shied away from the fact that they could use more help in the secondary, especially if they want their defensive line to be more aggressive in its pass rush.

"Whether we pressure more or not will have to do with how we are playing on the backend," coach Gary Kubiak said this offseason. "We'll wait to see what happens here through free agency and the draft, but obviously, we've got to get better on the defensive side of the ball."

In an exclusive for HoustonTexans.com, Michael Lombardi of The National Football Post offers his Top 5 cornerback prospects in the 2009 draft class. As the draft approaches, Lombardi, a 23-year veteran of NFL personnel departments, will list his Top 5 prospects at each position group.

Michael Lombardi's Top 5 Cornerbacks

  1. Malcolm Jenkins: Ohio State (6-0, 204)

Lombardi:Jenkins is an NFL-ready corner; however, because he lacks elite straight-line speed he may be limited in certain schemes. Still, Jenkins displays good fluidity, footwork and he changes directions very well for a guy his size. He exhibits great ball skills down the field he offers teams versatility to play both free safety and corner.

  1. Sean Smith: Utah (6-3, 214)

Lombardi:It's rare to find a defensive back with Smith's combination of size, ball skills and fluidity. Smith exhibits impressive body control and footwork as a corner and does a great job staying compact and balanced out of his breaks. He might need a year to polish up his technique, but he has a lot of upside as a bump corner in the NFL.

  1. Alphonso Smith: Wake Forest (5-9, 193)

Lombardi:Smith is considered one of the draft's most gifted man-to-man corners, as he possesses some of the quickest feet and cleanest change of direction skills in the class. He is a flexible and fluid corner who gets out of his breaks quickly, and receivers have trouble separating from him. Smith's only down fall is his height, which allows him to be boxed out a bit too easy down the field.

  1. D.J. Moore: Vanderbilt (5-10, 192)

Lombardi:Moore did not have the type of post-season workouts that many NFL executives expected him to have, running in the mid 4.5 range. However, on tape he might possess the best first step in the class and consistently makes plays on the ball. He does a nice job of staying low and balanced in his backpedal and closes quickly on the football.

  1. Vontae Davis: Illinois (5-11, 203)

Lombardi:Davis may have one of the most athletically impressive skill sets of any prospect in this year's draft. However, he is too inconsistent with his footwork and lacks polish in most aspects of his game. Davis isn't compact, displays a sloppy transition and looks like a boom or bust prospect.

Brooke Bentley's Top 5

  1. Malcolm Jenkins: Ohio State

Bentley: Jenkins' draft stock may have fallen because he posted a mediocre combine time in the 40 (4.54), but he is the most complete corner in the draft. He has a nose for the ball, excels in zone coverage and possesses great explosion off the ball. Click here to watch an interview with Jenkins.

  1. Vontae Davis: Illinois

Bentley: Davis is a project, but his raw athletic ability brings a lot of upside. At his pro day, he ran the 40 in 4.40 and had a 37.5-inch vertical. Remember, his brother is tight end Vernon Davis, who was the No. 6 overall selection by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2006 draft.

  1. Sean Smith: Utah

Bentley: Smith has been climbing the draft boards since his pro day where he ran a 40-yard time of 4.43. As a starter the past two seasons, Smith recorded nine interceptions and 15 passes defensed. His height and ballhawking skills will help him go against talented NFL receivers.

  1. Darius Butler Connecticut

Bentley: Butler has the dimensions of a pro corner: He's 5-10, 183 pounds and recorded a 43-inch vertical at the combine. Butler started 45 career games at Connecticut, but he didn't have an interception last season and broke up only four passes in 11 games.

  1. Alphonso Smith Wake Forest

Bentley: Smith may leave Wake Forest as the ACC's career leader in interceptions, but his height will hold him back in the NFL draft. And it didn't help that he recorded a 4.51 40 and 32-inch vertical at his pro day.

Michael Lombardi* spent 23 years as a high-level executive in NFL personnel departments, working with the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos. He has spent 26 years evaluating college and pro football talent. He currently serves as one of the main contributors of The National Football Post.*

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