2016 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Cornerbacks

Khalil Smith

  1. Jalen Ramsey
    • School: Florida State
    • Class: Junior
    • Height/Weight: 6’1” / 209lbs
  • Strengths:
    • Ramsey is simply a flatout “football player”. He made his mark at Florida State as the first true freshman to start since Deion Sanders, a 3-year starter, and a 1st team All-American selection in 2015.
    • Ramsey separates himself from other DB prospects with his versatility, playing all over the field at cornerback, safety, and even nickelback. Ramsey plays with impressive instincts, anticipating passes well before the ball leaves the quarterback’s hands. With Ramsey, you don’t have to worry about his willingness to help in run support. He’s a defensive back with a linebacker’s’ mentality, a ferocious head-hunter who aggressively plays up at the line of scrimmage.
  • Weaknesses:
    • The most popular statistic amongst defensive backs is interceptions, and Ramsey didn’t have many during his career at Florida State. Many scouts have questioned his ball-skills, and more specifically, his hands. Ramsey frequently dropped interceptions, and didn’t record a single interception during his junior season. There will be a learning curve for Ramsey when he first enters the NFL. Scouts expect him to struggle in man-coverage early on, but don’t expect these struggle to last forever, as Ramsey has the all the physical and intangible skills to overcome his deficiencies in man-coverage.
  • Comparison:
    • Best-case Scenario: Ronnie Lott / Tyrann Mathieu
    • Worst-case Scenario: Brandon Browner
  • Draft Prediction:
    • A few weeks ago, Ramsey was in consideration for the #1 overall pick in the draft. Now, after a couple draft-day trades (Rams, Eagles), look for the San Diego Chargers to take Ramsey at the #3 spot. Although Ramsey could fall as low as #6 to the Baltimore, Ravens fans shouldn’t get too excited, as Ramsey is far too talented to slip that far down.

2. Vernon Hargreaves III

    • School: Florida
    • Class: Junior
    • Height/Weight: 5’10” / 204 lbs
  • Strengths:
    • Hargreaves was the top cornerback prospect entering the 2015 college football season. While Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey took over that title, Hargreaves still remains the top “cover-corner” in this draft, period. Hargreaves is known as a “quick-twitch” athlete. He explodes out his breaks and his footwork is already at an NFL-level. His elite ball skills are elite, his recovery speed is remarkable, and unlike Ramsey, Hargreaves has the statistics to prove it (10 career INT’s, 38 career passes defensed).
  • Weakness:
    • Height and size (which are not entirely his fault). The average NFL cornerback size has increased over recent years, and so have the receivers’, causing concern for Hargreaves who only stands 5’10”. Look, he’s not getting any taller, but he must improve upon his size to stand a chance against the Dez Bryant’s and A.J. Green’s of the NFL.
    • Although he’s known for his “quick-twitch” athleticism and instincts, Hargreaves had his eyes caught in the backfield often during his time at Florida. If he’s not careful, he’ll get lured into double-moves all day long.
  • Comparisons:
    • Best-case Scenario: Joe Haden
    • Worst-case Scenario: Dee Milliner
  • Draft Prediction:
    • Many scouts believe Hargreaves will land back in his hometown of Tampa, Florida with the Buccaneers at #9, who are in desperate need of secondary help. If Hargreaves was a couple inches taller, he would be considered a top-5 pick.

3. Eli Apple

    • School: Ohio State
    • Class: Sophomore (RS)
    • Height/Weight: 6’1” / 199 lbs
  • Strengths:
    • Eli Apple solidified himself as a boarder-line 1st round pick last season at Ohio State while earning Second Team All-Big Ten Honors. Apple has all all the physical tools NFL teams look for in a cornerback: size, length, speed, quickness, etc. He’s a fluid athlete who moves his feet and hips well, critical for tracking receivers downfield. Apple is extremely competitive in jump-ball situations, aggressively breaking up passes and fights for possession of the ball.
  • Weakness:
    • Although Apple possesses the physical traits to be a solid shutdown corner in the NFL, he needs to improve upon his discipline in pass defense. Too often was Apple caught up in being physical with receivers to where he picked up countless penalties. If his disincline fails to improve, Apple will begin to get exposed by offensive coordinators, and perhaps referees too.
  • Comparisons:
    • Best-case Scenario: Antonio Cromartie
    • Worst-care Scenario: Andre Woolfolk
  • Draft Prediction:
    • Apple is a borderline 1st round pick. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who’s secondary proved to be a liability, have their eye on Apple at #25. If he slips past the 1st round, he immediately becomes second-day steal for whoever lands the Ohio State product.

4. Artie Burns

    • School: Miami (FL)
    • Class: Junior
    • Height/Weight: 6’0” / 193 lbs
  • Strengths:
    • A two-sport star athlete at Miami (FL) in football and track, there is no questioning Artie Burns’ speed in this draft. He effectively uses his speed in man-coverage, especially when tracking down deep balls. He also possesses solid quickness, with the ability to turn his hips and explode out his break. Burns has a natural eye for the football, leading the ACC with six interceptions this past season with the Hurricanes.
  • Weakness:
    • Still a work in progress with his mechanics. Burns’ often relies heavily on his natural speed, which may work in college, but not at in the NFL. Often exposed to elite route-running wideouts. Needs to attack blockers rather than waiting for the ball-carrier to come, will get exposed in the running game early in his career.
  • Comparisons:
    • Best-case Scenario: Darius Slay
    • Worst-case Scenario: Alphonso Smith
  • Draft Prediction:
    • Burns can go as high as the second round and as low as the fourth round. He should be off the board by the middle of the third round at the latest.                                                             

5. William Jackson III

    • School: Houston
    • Class: Senior
    • Height / Weight: 6’0” / 189 lbs
  • Strengths:
    • William Jackson III enters the draft with good size at the cornerback position. He is at his best when the ball in the air. Jackson III has receiver-like ball-skills, anticipating the ball at its highest-point, and he’s not afraid to get physical with receivers when fighting for jump-balls.
  • Weakness:
    • Although Jackson III is a decent athlete with good size, some question his quickness when covering shorter routes. This may become a problem when he faces shorter, quicker receivers who run tight and crisp routes (ex. Antonio Brown)
    • Some scouts also question the competition Jackson III faced in college. He started at a junior college, then transferred to Houston, who plays in the mediocre AAC.
  • Draft Prediction:
    • Although Jackson III is projected as a second round pick, don’t be surprised if the Kansas City Chiefs, who needs a solid cornerback to play opposite of Marcus Peters, take Jackson III late in the first round at #28.