Oregon Ducks star Christian Gonzalez is the best cornerback in the 2023 NFL Draft. With draft day approaching, the projected top-10 pick could be one of the most impactful rookies on the defensive side next season.
Gonzalez, who turns 21 in June, offers a lot of traits that suggest he can become a No. 1 cornerback in the NFL. While he never delivered outstanding production at Oregon, this past season proved he can be a shutdown defensive back against high-end wide receivers.
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Before diving into our scouting report and background on Gonzalez, here are all his measurables you need to know from the NFL Combine.
Christian Gonzalez measurables
- Christian Gonzalez height: 6-foot-1
- Christian Gonzalez weight: 197 pounds
- Christian Gonzalez 40 time: 4.38 seconds
Let’s dive into our Christian Gonzalez scouting report and NFL projection.
Christian Gonzalez stats and background
Gonzalez, a Texas native, has experienced a winding road on his way to the 2023 NFL Draft. Coming out of The Colony High School, 247 Sports rated him as a four-star recruit. He ranked as the 326th-best player in the 2020 recruiting class, not even making the top 40 players in Texas.
After first committing to Purdue, Gonzalez enrolled at Colorado. He delivered two relatively productive seasons for the Buffaloes but wanted to find a better opportunity. After the Ducks named Georgia Bulldogs defensive coordinator Dan Lanning as their new head coach, Gonzalez transferred to Oregon and his NFL outlook blossomed.
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|Christian Gonzalez stats
Gonzalez was one of the best cornerbacks in college football, earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors. He became an integral part of the Ducks’ defense, eventually recording his first career interception. While Gonzalez only finished with four interceptions in 12 games, tied for 22nd in the nation, it was a result of opponents throwing away from him.
After his breakout season with the Ducks, Gonzalez proved himself as a first-round talent in the 2023 NFL Draft. When he followed that up with a great showing at the NFL Combine, he solidified his status as one of the best players in the draft.
Christian Gonzalez scouting report
Gonzalez checks off every box for an NFL coach’s prototype at cornerback. Measured at 6-foot-1, he has the size and length (32-inch arms) to match up with just about any wide receiver he lines up against. Even more importantly for evaluators, Gonzalez is an elite athlete for his position.
- Christian Gonzalez RAS: 9.95 out of 10
When just looking at Gonzalez’s athleticism, he is in some rare company. Jalen Ramsey (9.9) is one of his closest athletic comparables, a promising sign for the young cornerback. While it’s not his direct NFL comparison, there are a lot of reasons to believe Gonzalez can be an All-Pro cornerback.
There are several enticing elements to Gonzalez’s game. He is more than just a great combination of athleticism and length, he moves around the field as if he’s on a joystick. It allows him to move stride-for-stride with the best route runners, hanging in their hip pocket before the ball is thrown. On the rare instance when a quarterback would gamble by throwing in his direction, you saw the instincts and burst come into play.
You can see Gonzalez impact the game in all areas of the field. NFL Draft analyst Matt Bowen highlighted an instance of the young quarterback attacking a throw underneath, making the perfect play on the ball with his combination of athleticism and football IQ making the difference.
The thing is, Gonzalez’s speed makes him just as great at covering the intermedia and deep areas of the field. Opponents rarely tried to test him vertically, because they often failed in the rare moments they tested him.
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Across the nine targets Gonzalez faced 20-plus yards downfield last season, he only allowed two receptions for 69 receiving yards and recorded three interceptions (Doug Farrar). Across the entire season, opponents averaged just a 74.7 NFL passer rating with a 60.9 percent reception rate on 64 targets thrown his way.
If you’re looking for weaknesses, there aren’t many. Gonzalez will benefit from adding more muscle to his 6-foot-1 frame, there is room for his instincts to improve and he isn’t a reliable run defender. There are NFL teams willing to accept those areas for improvement because Gonzalez can be a No. 1 cornerback who one day becomes one of the best defensive backs in football.
- Christian Gonzalez draft grade: 85/100
- Christian Gonzalez draft projection: Top 10 pick
NFL projection for Christian Gonzalez
There is typically a significant learning curve for rookie cornerbacks in the NFL. Beyond the move from playing 12 games to 17-plus contests, the competition is superior in every way. Gonzalez, along with every rookie cornerback, will be faced with stronger athletes who dedicate their lives to becoming technicians and playmakers in the NFL.
Keep in mind that New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner is the exception. The fourth pick in the 2022 NFL Draft earned first-team All-Pro honors during his rookie season with opponents averaging a 53.9 passer rating when targeting him in coverage.
Gonzalez almost certainly won’t be that good, it happens once or twice a position in a decade. With that said, he boasts the skills, size and athleticism to function comfortably as a No. 1 cornerback in his first year. For teams like the Las Vegas Raiders, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions, he is an excellent fit.
While there will be some learning moments for Gonzalez, it will all help shape his future. He could threaten for a Pro Bowl selection by his second season and might be in the All-Pro consideration in his third year.
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