Rivals Rankings Week: Storylines To Follow With Top 2026 Defensive Backs

Rivals Rankings Week: Storylines To Follow With Top 2026 Defensive Backs

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In the last couple of recruiting cycles there have been a lot of 6-foot-1 and taller cornerbacks that have been among the highest-ranked prospects at the position. Zabien Brown and Kobe Black are two examples from the 2024 cycle, while Devin Sanchez and Na’eem Offord fit that mold in 2025..

Will we see more of that in the 2026 class? Brandon Lockhart, Aiden Hall and Samari Matthews are all 6-foot-1 and up. A wave of big corners seems to be hitting college football right now. Coaches covet the size and speed combo to keep up with a variety of wide receivers on the perimeter.

There were five defensive backs in the 2024 class that ended the cycle rated as five-stars. Currently there are three five-star defensive backs in the 2025 class. Who are the top candidates to be the first five-star cornerback or safety in the 2026 class?

California cornerback Brandon Lockhart is likely to make a strong case during the back half of his high school career. He’s a smooth corner that will continue to get bigger. Over at safety, Zelus Hicks certainly has the look to continue climbing. So does big-hitting Louisiana native Blaine Bradford.

One of the biggest questions for the entire class centers around Zelus Hicks’ decision. Will he stay in the 2026 class or move up a year to the current cycle? We have seen big-time players do this recently with Julian Lewis making a similar move recently.

If Hicks makes that move, what does it do for his recruitment? Ohio State is the favorite right now. But the Buckeyes’ defensive back group for 2025 is on pace to be one of the best ever. Would he want to join that or go somewhere else with a cleaner path to playing time? Auburn, Miami, Georgia and Clemson are also among the programs heavily involved.

The group of cornerbacks this cycle are deep with a lot of different play styles. That should make for some fun debate as we move through the cycle on who should rise up the rankings. Justice Fitzpatrick is already highly rated but could continue moving up. There is a lot to like about Ohio native Elbert Hill and he’s one to watch.

Keep an eye out for uber-athletic cornerback J’Vari Flowers from Miami Northwestern. He’s put up some great testing numbers this offseason and plays for a powerhouse program.

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