New York Giants 2016 NFL Draft Preview: Cornerbacks
by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56
*These rankings and grades are based somewhat on NYG schemes and perspective.
WHERE THEY STAND
There is a lot of veteran, established talent on top of the depth chart with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the newly signed Janoris Jenkins. Both are locked in to long term deals although there have been whispers that DRC won’t be in the picture beyond 2016 because of his high cap number. No matter what happens there, he’s been a very solid CB since signing with the team. Jenkins fits the Spagnuolo mold, showing ability to be left on an island against quality WRs. The depth behind them could be worse when looking at what’s out there on other teams, but there is a definite need for more talent there. Trevin Wade showed flashes when he was forced in to action last season and the team has a thing for Leon McFadden. Bennett Jackson can likely play a hybrid S/CB role but he hasn’t shown much anyway so far in his young, injury-prone career. NYG is an injury to one of their top guys away from being left searching the street for a replacement.
TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS
1 – VERNON HARGREAVES – 5’10/204 – FLORIDA: 85
Junior entry. Consensus All American and three year starter. It’s hard to find holes in Hargreaves’ game. His ability to move, make plays on the football, and anticipate the action are all top notch. He has elite body control and agility. The combination of skills and talent make him a top tier cover corner prospect. His lack of physical presence shows up on tape often, however. He doesn’t carry his pads very well and will need to prove he can jam bigger receivers at the point of attack and also handle the contact in jump ball situations. Hargreaves has elite potential and may be the safest among the top defenders in this class.
*The grade of 85 is a high one, just not the elite level that some people have him in. I think in this era of the NFL, Hargreaves can find a role as an almost-every-down slot corner because of how often three receivers are split out wide. He is made to cover the Antonio Browns and Julian Edelmans of the world. He is so quick and sure footed with elite body control and reactions. He is strong enough to support the run and hold up against more physical WRs. My main fear with him is a lack of top end speed that shows up on tape and in workouts. He gives such a big cushion when he’s left alone on the outside and that can be exploited. I also question his ability to man up WRs like Julio Jones, AJ Green, Dez Bryant…etc. Hargreaves is a guy that I can see dropping on draft day because when all is said and done, his triangle numbers are below average. I still like him enough to warrant a selection at #10 overall and I think he is exactly what the NYG CB group needs. But this guy isn’t ever going to be a Revis type.
Upside Pro Comparison: Joe Haden/CLE
2 – ELI APPLE – 6’1/199 – OHIO STATE: 84
Third year sophomore entry. Former top tier high school recruit started 27 of 28 games for the Buckeyes. Apple has the tools and has shown enough performance to make coaches believe he can be a top tier cover corner in the NFL. The height and length in combination with his loose hips and quick feet make him a threat against any kind of wide receiver. He showed the ability to make plays on the ball and has the aggression to consistently get involved in the action. Apple needs to clean up certain man coverage technique issues in addition to more understanding of pre-snap reads. Teams will take a gamble on his upside but all signs point towards him being a very productive corner in time.
*Apple is an under the radar guy when it comes to who NYG will be taking at #10 overall. I think Reese and company will like him a lot, enough to warrant that pick. Apple has more upside than any of the CBs in this class and I don’t consider him far off from Hargreaves at all. He has more size and speed with very easy lower body movement. Apple is more physical than you would think initially, too. This guy can get up at the point of attack and really alter guys with the confidence that he can catch up if initially beat. He needs technique work, however. He gets flagged a lot and got away with even more in the games I scouted. His hands are all over the receiver and I’m not sure he trusts his technique enough to rely on his lower half completely. Again, really high upside here but may not be an early contributor.
Upside Pro Comparison: Vontae Davis/IND
3 – MACKENZIE ALEXANDER – 5’10/190: 80
Third year sophomore entry. Had to redshirt in 2013 because of a groin injury. Two years of starting experience including a Freshman All American campaign in 2014. Despite paying 27 games, Alexander never intercepted a pass at Clemson. He screams talent and upside. He can move with anyone, he plays aggressive, and there are flashes of being mechanically sound. However he seems to lack the pre-snap, pre-movement reads that can put him in proper positions. He still seems a bit raw. Alexander is a top tier talent but he is a gamble considering the lack of experience and production he is coming in to the league with. He still has a lot to learn.
*There was a point during the season where I was almost sure Alexander was going to be my top CB in the class. If you catch him on the right week, he is a guy that looks like he has all the goods. Speed, quickness, strength. What stands out the most here is the confidence and aggression he plays with every play. Alexander is a high energy kid that has the look of someone that wants to be the best. There is a little diva in him, however. He doesn’t pay attention to the details and fine parts of the technique aspects to the position. But man, this kid can cover. I still think he is a potential top 10 pick because he is an easy guy to fall in love with. Again, possibly more upside than Hargreaves here.
Upside Pro Comparison: Janoris Jenkins/NYG
4 – WILLIAM JACKSON III – 6’0/189 – HOUSTON: 80
Spent one year in junior college prior to joining Houston in 2013. Led the nation in passes defended in 2015 with 28. Jackson has been on the steep and steady incline for the past two years. His evolvement has shown flashes of being a shut down cornerback. The blend of size and downfield speed matched with his to tier ball skills is exactly what NFL teams are constantly searching for. Jackson still has strength work to do and he may not be the most fluid mover, but the upside is hard to ignore. His tools and skills have the upside of what every team is always wishing they had, a shut down cornerback that can own an island.
*Tall and fast with WR-caliber ball skills. Jackson is going to be a favorite of teams looking for the now-popular size/speed combination at CB. He had a huge year in 2015 and may have helped himself more than any senior in this class via his performance on the field. Throw in the fact that he ran a 4.37 at the combine and we are talking an almost-sure thing for round 1 grades across the board. Jackson is raw when it comes to defending passes underneath, but his ability to turn, run, and locate the ball are ideal traits for what NYG likes to do on defense. I don’t think he has a top 10 grade anywhere but if NYG ends up in the teens or 20s somehow, he could be a target.
Upside Pro Comparison: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie/NYG
5 – ERIC MURRAY – 5’11/199 – MINNESOTA: 78
Fourth year senior and three year starter. Team’s defensive player of the year. Physical corner well versed in man coverage both up at the point of attack and off the line. Really physical guy that explodes downhill and attacks the action with no hesitation. Really tough kid that you want on the outside of your defense. His main issues have more to do with dealing with speed receivers when left alone on an island. He had issues with those guys ina few occasions but if he can be protected over the top, he’s as good as any of these guys when defending the short and intermediate routes. You could see he is a little limited but he can be a star at what he does.
*Murray has some haters and lovers. Some say he can’t stick to a receiver all over the field, especially when he has to turn and run downfield. Others will tell you the physical brand and anticipation skills can make him a factor. I think Murray would worry be left alone against a big time WR. But if the defense can protect him over the top, he can be dominant. Murray has limited upside but he would fit in nice with that NYG needs at the moment.
Upside Pro Comparison: Brandon Flowers/SD
6 – KEIVARAE RUSSELL – 5’11/192 – NOTRE DAME: 76
Fourth year senior that was forced to sit out the 2014 season because of academic dishonesty, which caused him to leave Notre Dame for a year. He was initially a running back recruit for the Fighting Irish that made a move to cornerback in the summer of 2012, where he started every game and ended up making almost every Freshman All American team. Russell has a ton of experience under his belt and showed functional tools that can be hard to find. He has all the size and speed you can ask and a developed skill set in man coverage. He didn’t make a lot of plays in college but the kid can cover big receivers with speed. He is expected to be fully healed from a broken tibia that forced him to miss the end of the 2015 season.
*The injury doesn’t factor much in to the discussion here. It was a clean break and he should be ready for rookie mini camp. Russell may be the most physical corner on this list and some teams may view him as a safety because of it. Russell can be a really good player in the NFL. He isn’t one of those top tier movers but he can make up for it with a blend of instincts and presence as a press corner. He offers a lot of scheme versatility as well and I think he is going to go earlier than some people think.
Upside Pro Comparison: Charles Tillman/CAR
7 – DEIONDRE HALL – 6’2/195 – NORTHERN IOWA: 76
Three year starter and 2015 FCS All American. Has experience at both safety and cornerback and it’s more likely he will get a shot at CB first. He plays fast when he can turn and run. Very good at tracking the ball and has some of the most freakishly long arms you will ever find. May not be a good 40 time guy but his height and length can at least somewhat make up for it. Physical, go getter even though he doesn’t have the ideal body type for his attacking style. May need some time to develop but these are tools and mindsets that coaches want to work with.
*Hall can get you excited. He looked really good at the Senior Bowl. If he can develop his technique and ball skills just a bit more, he’ll be a guy that QBs don’t want to throw near. His reach radius is rare. Hall needs to be tested at CB first because of the ceiling but he may end up being a package defender that plays a pass defending safety role. He can be a guy that a defense wants to create a role for. It would be nice to have another versatile backup in the NYG defensive backfield because there are questions everywhere.
Upside Pro Comparison: Dre Kirkpatrick/CIN
8 – KENDALL FULLER – 5’11/184 – VIRGINIA TECH: 75
Junior entry. One of four brothers that have all played and/or currently playing in the NFL. Fuller fought through a broken wrist in 2014, having surgery after his All American campaign. He then had his 2015 cut short after a meniscus injury. Injuries aside, Fuller put together a top tier two season career for the Hokies. He proved to be a dynamic playmaker with the confidence and aggressive style of play that can change a defense. While the upside is obvious, Fuller may struggle with the quick speed of the NFL and the complexity of passing schemes. He will need to learn how to use his reaction skills more than his ability to guess. Fuller has the size and movement ability to excel as a zone corner right away and the eventual upside to be more down the road.
*If it weren’t for the name, I think general concencus on Fuller would be 3rd/4th round. He lacks ideal speed and he isn’t exactly a big, physical corner. He takes so many chances and in early 2015 he was often wrong. He plays such a high risk, high reward style that is based on guessing, not instincts. So when he’s on, everyone sees superstar. But when he is off, and it happened too much in his limited 2015 tape, he looks like a liability. I think there is a skill set worth working with for a year or two, but he isn’t a 2nd rounder in my book. I have doubts about round 3.
Upside Pro Comparison: William Gay/PIT
9 – RASHARD ROBINSON – 6’1/171 – LSU: 75
Third year junior that was repeatedly suspended by the team because of academic issues. Played in 12 games in 2013 after missing most of preseason. Was a very solid piece to a very good defense. Played in 8 games in 2014 before being suspended again and was kept away from the team in 2015 for more of the same. On the field, Robinson has an exciting skill set that every team is looking for now. He is tall, very long, and very fast. He is more than an athlete but the lack of game experience puts a big “raw” label on him. Robinson can get drafted based purely on upside but he’ll have to do well in interviews.
*So I haven’t heard anything negative about Robinson from a character perspective. No drugs. No fights. No severe legal issues. The kid simply didn’t go to class and he had no desire to get an education. If anything, he needs to be downgraded for simply not being mature enough to think long term. On the field I like Robinson a lot. The tape is limited on him but I have notes on him from when I scouted Mike Evans in 2013. Robinson absolutely shut him down, as a freshman. There is upside here and I bet someone can get him late day 3. Sit him for a year and make sure he’s all in on football now that school is out of the picture and you might have the biggest steal of the draft.
Upside Pro Comparison: Jeremy Lane/SEA
10 – ARTIE BURNS – 6’0/193 – MIAMI: 75
Junior entry and two year starter. Also an All American track athlete for Miami. Upside-based prospect that may have the best blend of tools and talent in the group. Very tall and long with the kind of speed that doesn’t come around often. Has excellent turn and chase ability and can catch up to anyone downfield. Has highlight-reel ball skills and will out reach almost everyone in the 50/50 situations. Lacks a power presence when jamming receievers and tackling. Will shy from contact and make the occasional “business decision”. Lacks the feel for the game you want out of a position that needs feel and anticipation. Will be drafted high based on what he can be if he puts things together.
*I’m not as high as some are on Burns. Some label this guy a 1st rounder because of the top tier height, speed, and length. In addition to that Burns started to really break out in 2015, hauling in 6 interceptions. I get nervous about a guy like this, however. He has almost no feel for underneath coverage and he doesn’t seem to care throughout an entire game. He has talent and he knows it. But his technique is poor and he doesn’t know it. How coachable is he? I’m not entirely sure nor am I plugged in to the Miami program but there are maturity concerns with him. He is a polarizing prospect and I don’t blame those that have a 1st round grade on him.
Upside Pro Comparison: Antonio Cromartie/UFA
11 – JONATHAN JONES – 5’9/186 – AUBURN: 75
Fourth year senior that ended his career as a 1st Team All SEC player. Lacks the size you want but he’s as tough minded as you will find. Plays with a fighter’s mentality and put himself on the radar in 2014 when he finished with 6 INTs. Shows the competitor in him weekly. Elite mover in short space with a burst that is unmatched among most CBs in this class. Has the deep speed as well and will maintain his body control when tracking the ball. He’ll be limited with the roles he can play because of the height issue, but Jones can be a player.
*I like Jones as a slot corner. He can stick to a receiver all over the field and his ability to react to quick route runners is something a lot of defenses could use. Jones will get overlooked by a lot of people because he doesn’t meet the minimum size requirements but he will find a niche somewhere. Look for this guy to out-produce several CBs drafted ahead of him.
Upside Pro Comparison: Brent Grimes/TB
12 – DARYL WORLEY – 6’1/204 – WEST VIRGINIA: 75
Third year junior entry. Came out after a breakout year in 2015 where he finished 1st Team All Big 12. May be a candidate for a move to safety. Lacks the ideal straight line speed but he shows burst and acceleration. Put that with his elite-level length and this is a guy that can play CB with 4.6-ish speed. No matter where you view him, he can be a dangerous guy. Very good in the 50/50 situations and has legit WR-caliber ball skills. Worley is a strong, tough kid as well. He’ll come up and support the run without hesitation. I think he needs a shot at CB first, but wouldn’t be surprised to see him move to S.
*The West Virginia secondary was loaded this year when everyone was healthy. Worley is a guy that kept popping up when scouting their safeties. He is all over the place and you don’t see that from a CB that often. I’ve been back and forth on his CB and S prognosis. Some will tell you he is too high and tight to stick with WRs underneath and without the necessary deep speed. If that ends up being the case, he has the legit potential to play safety tomorrow. He is worth an early day 3 look for sure.
Upside Pro Comparison: Keenan Lewis/NO
13 – LESHAUN SIMS – 6’0/203 – SOUTHERN UTAH: 74
Fifth year senior. A physical, big, nasty corner that some people think will make a move to safety at the next level. Attacks the action hard with good, violent tackling ability. Can jam guys at the point of attack with accurate punches and quick feet. Has more hip fluidity than you initially think. He can turn and run very well for a such a big and thick corner. Will need time to adjust to the jump in competition but has some unique upside. He is one of the more physical corners in the class.
*Sims intrigues me a lot. He won’t be an early contributor but I think you can create a role for this kid as a backup defensive back that comes in on certain packages. He can win most battles at the point of attack with his accurate, powerful jab but also shows the ability to turn and run. Another candidate to make a move to safety here.
Upside Pro Comparison: Perrish Cox/TEN
14 – KENNETH CRAWLEY – 6’0/187 – COLORADO: 73
Fourth year senior with a lot of production and experience. Very good mover with easy hips and light feet. Has plus height and will get his hands on a lot of balls. Can match up with WRs in several different roles. Has the body control and concentration to stick with the ball when moving at full speed downfield. May not have the physical presence you want at the point of attack but shows good tackling ability in space.
*Crawley doesn’t stand out in any area but you have to like a 6 foot corner that shows the easy movement and burst of Crawley. Very smooth guy that showed ball skills and the ability to minimize separation from quicker receivers. He has the tool set that coaches want to work with and could be a solid #3 or #4 CB down the road.
Upside Pro Comparison: Kyle Arrington/BAL
15 – XAVIEN HOWARD – 6’0/201 – BAYLOR: 73
Fourth year junior entry. All Big 12 defender that has the tools to fit in with the new demand for sizeable corners that can alter receivers at the line of scrimmage. Howard has ideal triangle numbers for teams that want more presence in the defensive backfield, particularly at cornerback. His rawness and inability to stick with receivers laterally will hold him back for at least a season, however. Howard is a developmental prospect with the upside that few day three corners have.
*Another upside guy here that some people have a top 45 grade on. I like his approach and his hustle. He is a pretty consistent, know what you are getting type cornerback. But I get nervous about him when I see him struggle to stay away from false steps. He is easily fooled and takes too long to change his weight and stick to a receivers pocket. He needs work and it may end up that he is a Cover 2 corner-only.
Upside Pro Comparison: Dontae Jonson/SF
THE REST (16-25)
16 – ANTHONY BROWN – 5’11/192: 72
17 – JALEN MILLS – 6’0/191 – LSU: 72
18 – ZACK SANCHEZ – 5’11/185 – OKLAHOMA: 72
19 – RYAN SMITH – 5’11/189 – NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL: 72
20 – DJ WHITE – 5’11/193 – GEORGIA TECH: 72
21 – BRIEAN BODDY-CALHOUN – 5’9/193 – MINNESOTA: 71
22 – KEVON SEYMOUR – 5’11/186 – USC: 71
23 – JUSTON BURRIS – 6’0/212 – NC STATE: 70
24 – CYRUS JONES – 5’10/197 – ALABAMA: 70
25 – TAVON YOUNG – 5’9/183 – TEMPLE: 70
I really like the guys at the top of this list. And even though CB may not be at the top of the priority list for NYG, it’s a spot that should be addressed at some point. I wouldn’t say the “need” to spend a pick on (let’s remember, they only have 6 selections), but I would be nervous about the depth in this group. There are so many teams that have gotten beat up against the pass because their #3, #4, #5 CBs can’t get the job done. It’s a spot that needs a constant infusion of talent because if one injury pops up, this could be a nightmare even if the pass rush improves. The thing about this group is there are a ton of slower than normal CBs that may need a transition to safety. NYG already has a guy like that in Bennett Jackson. I think NYG could use a pure CB somewhere in the draft, even as early as #10 overall, that can be relied on early. I’m not sure one of the high ceiling but developmental guys is the way to go this year.