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Rivals Rankings Week: Storylines to follow with top 2026 defensive backs

Brandon Lockhart
Brandon Lockhart (Nick Lucero/

The first Rivals250 for the 2026 class has been released and now it’s time to break down each position. We continue with the defensive backs by looking at four big storylines moving forward.

NEW 2026 POSITION RANKINGS: Pro-Style QB | Dual-Threat QB | Running Back | All-Purpose Back | Wide Receiver | Tight End | Offensive Tackle | Offensive Guard | Center | Defensive Tackle | Strongside Defensive End | Weakside Defensive End | Inside linebacker | Outside linebacker | Cornerback | Safety | Athlete




Sunday: Who could unseat Jahkeem Stewart in the 2026 class?

Monday: Five-Star Countdown | Meet the new five-stars

Tuesday: Rivals250 released | Ten highest debuts | Position-by-position

Wednesday: Offensive position rankings released | Quarterback rankings breakdown | Running back breakdown | Wide receiver & tight end breakdown | Offensive line breakdown

Thursday: Defensive position rankings released | Rivals Rankings Podcast | Defensive line breakdown | Linebacker breakdown | Defensive back breakdown | Athlete breakdown

Friday: State rankings released | Who's No. 1 in each state?

Saturday: Roundtable on the 2026 rankings


FINAL 2023 TEAM RANKINGS: Comprehensive (overall) ranking | High school/JUCO ranking | Transfer portal ranking

CLASS OF 2024 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State

CLASS OF 2025 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State

TRANSFER PORTAL: Latest news | Transfer portal player ranking | Transfer portal team ranking | Transfer Tracker | Message board



Samari Matthews
Samari Matthews (

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.



Zelus Hicks
Zelus Hicks (

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.



J’Vari Flowers
J’Vari Flowers (Justin Garcia/

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.