Apr 162018
 
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Isaiah Oliver, Colorado Buffaloes (October 14, 2017)

Isaiah Oliver – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2018 NFL Draft Preview: Cornerbacks

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

1 – Isaiah Oliver – Colorado – 6’0/201

Grade: 86

Strong Points:

-Ideal physical make up with elite length
-Shows a feel for deep coverage, stays under control and locates the ball
-Very aware of body positioning, avoids penalties

Weak Points:

-Doesn’t have a ton of experience, still looks raw at times
-Needs to be more assertive as a downhill run defender
-Struggles to stick with quickness and agility underneath

Summary:

Junior entry. Was behind current starting NFL corners Ahkello Witherspoon and Chidobe Awuzie for a couple years, but he has a lot of quality tape from the 2016 and 2017. Oliver has the ideal size for the position and more than enough speed to work with. What makes him close-to-special is the ability to locate and track the football once it is in the air. His control and balance is top tier and I think he is only scratching the surface in terms of his potential. 2017 was his only year of consistent play to play snaps and he got better and better as the year went. 2016, a growing year for him, he still had 13 PDs. Oliver was an All Pac 12 decathlete for 2 years as well. You are getting a potentially special athlete with a top tier skill set. He screams upside.

NFL Comparison: Darius Slay / DET

2 – Denzel Ward – Ohio State – 5’11/183

Grade: 86

Strong Points:

-Elite change of direction and burst
-Proper blend of physical and avoiding penalties in coverage
-Excels when it comes to reaction and instincts in both man and zone coverages

Weak Points:

-Size can limit him, he can be outmuscled and pushed around
-Too much ankle diving as a tackler
-Doesn’t make enough plays on the ball, needs to locate better

Summary:

Junior entry. Widely considered the top CB in the draft. I think it comes down to what a specific team is looking for. Ward is the best athlete among the top guys. He has elite burst and change of direction, capable of breaking on passes at a level that none of the others can. He is a starting corner, but could thrive against the slot in nickel situations as well. The issue I have with him, as I do with most CBs out of Ohio State, is their transition out of their scheme. They are trained to play the man, not the ball, there. That will need to change in the NFL. Ward will be an immediate impact player in the NFL, I expect him to go top 10.

3 – Josh Jackson – Iowa – 6’0/196

Grade: 86

Strong Points:

-Has wide receiver-caliber ball skills
-Has the quick twitch reaction and downfield speed
-Anticipates passes and routes, good forecaster

Weak Points:

-Balance and body control are inconsistent against the deep ball
-Plays high at times, needs to burst out of his backpedal
-Not a big impact hitter or tackler

Summary:

Fourth year junior entry. Came to Iowa as a WR, quickly made the move to CB. Had to wait until 2017 to get a starting gig, but he flourished. Led the nation with 8 INTs and 26 PDs, 1st Team All American. Some are worried that Jackson was a one year wonder and there simply isn’t enough tape. I am on the other side of it. I think Jackson is just approaching the point of who he can be and should be a stud in the NFL. I haven’t seen a CB with his kind of ball skills in a long time, he is so natural at getting to it and showing the coordination to get on the ball. His INTs were not by luck. Jackson has some rawness still, but I think with NFL coaching and more physical development, he can be a shut down corner.

NFL Comparison: Casey Hayward / LAC

4 – Mike Hughes – Central Florida – 5’10/189

Grade: 85

Strong Points:

-Aggressive downhill defender that shows no hesitation attacking the ball carrier
-Locates and pounces on the ball, very coordinated and well-timed
-Top tier physical nature as a press corner, makes a difference at the point of attack

Weak Points:

-Undersized, lacks the desired height, weight, and length of a number one
-Can be over aggressive at times and may not have the body to handle it
-Lacks discipline with reads and technique

Summary:

Junior entry. Began his career at North Carolina but after an incident off the field that left him suspended, transferred to junior college prior to joining the UCF team in 2017. He wasn’t on anyone’s radar for the first half of the season but as the fall progressed, the name kept popping up in emails. I watched all of their regular season games prior to their bowl game against Auburn and thought he had a chance to be the top CB in this class. I still think that way. Hughes has elite upside if he can progress his decision making and techniques. There is a level of aggression, confidence, and reaction here that the others do not have. If he somehow makes it to the NYG second pick, the value may be too much to pass on.

NFL Comparison: Marcus Peters / LAR

5 – Jaire Alexander – Louisville – 5’10/196

Grade: 82

Strong Points:

-Excellent, maybe even elite plant and go explosion
-Hard nosed and aggressive, plays a mean game
-Excels in the slot, can stick to a guys pocket and react fast

Weak Points:

-Gets too caught up in the backfield, will be fooled easily
-Needs to tone it down a notch, could be a penalty machine
-Instincts aren’t there in zone coverage, he is a wild-guess type

Summary:

Junior entry. Many assumed he would go back to school in 2018 because his 2017 was slowed down by a couple of injuries. Sure enough, however, the mighty mouse speedster with an attitude came out and I know of two scouts that say he is the second ranked CB in the class. I think there is a lot of guessing with him, not enough mental capacity yet. But you have to love the aggression and ability to move. If he figures this game out a bit and is a coachable player, watch out.

NFL Comparison: Brent Grimes / TB

6 – Duke Dawson – Florida – 5’11/197

Grade: 78

Strong Points:

-Easy speed and change of direction
-Can mirror all kinds of receivers, has a versatile skill set
-Has the right blend of physical force and graceful footwork

Weak Points:

-Can be tight hipped against underneath routes
-Slow to get his head around downfield
-Late to reach to deep routes, plays too much catch up

Summary:

Senior that had to wait his turn, played behind current NFL cornerbacks Tabor and Wilson for a couple years. Dawson did make an impact at safety and nickel prior to 2017, however. He doesn’t jump off the screen athletically or when it comes to production, but if you really zero in on him for long stretches, he doesn’t get beat often. He understands coverage and how to blend patience and aggression together. Safe player that can fit in to any role.

NFL Comparison: Kendall Fuller / DEN

7 – Nick Nelson – Wisconsin – 5’11/200

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Competitive and fiery with the ball in the air
-Good feel and instincts whether he is in zone or man coverage
-Won’t be fooled by double routes and pump fakes, very disciplined

Weak Points:

-Lacks the desired size across the board
-Doesn’t always get his head around fast enough
-Tight hips, struggles to effectively turn and run with real speed

Summary:

Fourth year junior entry. Spent his first two seasons at Hawaii before sitting out 2016 to transfer to Wisconsin. In his one year with the Badgers, Nelson earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors, finishing 3rd in the nation with 21 PDs. Nelson lacks some of the desired physical tools but he can make up for it somewhat with really heady play and a competitive spirit. Nelson is one tough dude that understands how to cover, plain and simple. He might have a limited upside, but he is a safe bet to produce.

NFL Comparison: Chris Harris / DEN

8 – Donte Jackson – LSU – 5’10/178

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Elite, blazing speed that shows up on tape every week
-Can afford to be over aggressive off the snap, has all the makeup speed
-Easy agility and body control when changing direction underneath

Weak Points:

-Lacks the needed bulk and strength to play with a physical style
-Didn’t make a lot of plays on the ball over his career
-Lacks the instincts and natural flow towards the ball in zone coverage

Summary:

Junior entry. 2 year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2017. One of the fastest players in the entire class, has spent time on the LSU track squad. Jackson gets you excited because of how easily he moves at such a high speed. The movement skills are elite, there is no doubting that. Sometimes that movement is nullified by a lack of physical presence at the point of attack and slow decision making process. Jackson is a physical reaction type corner, not someone that has the feel or natural flow. You can still work with guys like this, especially from the slot, but they are limited to certain roles.

NFL Comparison: Nickell Robey-Coleman / LAR

9 – Carlton Davis – Auburn – 6’1/206

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Mauls receivers at the line, very physical and aggressive with size and strength
-Can turn and run with speed, solid long strider
-Wrap up tackler that will make an impact in space

Weak Points:

-A little too hands-on with receivers, could be a penalty machine if he doesn’t change
-Lack of body control in small areas, high hipped and struggles with change of direction
-Doesn’t always take in assignment football

Summary:

Junior entry. Three year starter. One of the more physically imposing corners in the class. His aggressive style jumps out at you the second the tape starts rolling, and he doesn’t stop. Very relentless approach. Davis, at a stretch during the season, was lined up to be my top CB in this class actually. Everything about him screamed what the NFL is looking for these days. However the more time I spent scouting and not just watching, I found a lot of holes in his game. He needs to be better at playing the game with his feet or else he will get burned or flagged in the NFL consistently. There are tools to work with and there will be things he excels at week 1, he just needs to clean things up. High risk, high reward and a candidate to move to safety in some schemes.

NFL Comparison: Trumaine Johnson / NYJ

10 – Holton Hill – Texas – 6’2/196

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Physically impressive all around when it comes to height, length, and speed
-Good ball skills, times his leaps and lunges for the ball well
-Understands angles and boundaries, knows where to be and when to be there

Weak Points:

-Inconsistent performer, very up and down
-Doesn’t always show the balance and body control when changing direction
-Maturity issues are a concern

Summary:

Junior entry. 2017 ended early for him, as he was suspended for the final few games. A very up and down career for Hill, one of the more physically intriguing CB prospects in the class. He has still has some growing to do in to that tall and long frame, but the tools are there. Hill has flashed a very high level of play. He can run with anyone, explode downhill, and make plays on the ball. It appears he still has a ways to go when it comes to fully understanding schemes and roles, but there is a natural sense to his game. Hill can be a starting CB, and a very good one, within a year or two if he stays clean off the field.

NFL Comparison: Artie Burns / PIT

11 – Anthony Averett – Alabama – 5’11/183

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-Plus-athlete with top end speed and burst, recovers downfield well
-Can stop and adjust this path while moving at top gear
-Aggressive and physical

Weak Points:

-Lack of size and strength show up on tape
-Instincts aren’t there, he doesn’t anticipate routes or passes well
-Spends too much time in recovery mode, gets initially beat often

Summary:

Fifth year senior, two year starter. Somewhat reminiscent of last year’s CB prospect from Alabama, Marlan Humphrey. However I think Averett is a notch below him. Averett lacks the size and strength to be a physically imposing guy. Some say he is destined for the slot at the next level. The issue I have with that, however, is that he doesn’t have a very good feel post snap for the action. He is often a step behind reaction wise and the quickness step to step is average. Averett is a good straight line athlete. I see him as a backup that will be in the league for awhile, but nothing I would get overly excited about.

NFL Comparison: Quinton Dunbar / WAS

12 – Brandon Facyson – Virginia Tech – 6’1/203

Grade: 74

Strong Points:

-Well developed frame, tall, long and strong
-Brings the physical approach to the game week in, week out
-Will make receivers work to both get off the line and catch the ball

Weak Points:

-Tight hips, won’t fluidly change direction
-Doesn’t forecast short and intermediate routes, plays too much catch up
-5 interceptions in 2013, zero since

Summary:

Fifth year senior. Has had some pretty serious durability issues throughout his career and it did impact his final grade. On tape, I like Facyson and his combination of tools and size. He is best suited in a role where he has help over the top and he can jam guys up at the line. He is very good at that and he does impact the receiver that way. He just can’t seem to hang with speed and quickness. His issues can be exploited at the next level but he is the kind of player that could make a successful move to safety if he couldn’t hang at CB.

NFL Comparison: James Bradberry / CAR

13 – Kevin Toliver – LSU – 6’2/192

Grade: 73

Strong Points:

-Smooth and easy mover, has natural flow and reaction
-Quick to diagnose routes and throws
-Physical and savvy when it comes to defending balls in the air

Weak Points:

-Has battled major durability and work ethic issues entire career
-Lacks discipline with techniques related to hand-work and backpedal routine
-Deep speed isn’t there, struggles to recover against fast receivers

Summary:

Junior entry. Had a hot start to his career but then the injuries started to mount up. He had multiple shoulder injures in addition to a knee injury early in his career. Toliver also fell out of favor with the coaches on a few occasions as he battled to get back in to the lineup. LSU is a CB factory and Toliver thought he was entitled to more playing time. Not a bad kid, doesn’t get in to trouble, just had to mature a little. He has starter-traits. If he stays healthy and keeps his head down and focused, the ceiling is high.

NFL Comparison: Aquib Talib / LAR

14 – Davontae Harris – Illinois State – 5’11/203

Grade: 73

Strong Points:

-Has the quick acceleration and long speed to stick with speed
-Aggressive plays on the ball without crossing the line of being too physical
-Top notch tackler when it comes to technique and power

Weak Points:

-Gets sloppy with his footwork in press coverage, too much attention on contact
-Doesn’t close on underneath routes with enough burst
-Has a hard time flipping his hips

Summary:

Fifth year senior. Had a near-death injury as a senior in high school with internal organ repercussions. Some schools backed off their recruitment because of it. Harris had the talent to play at a bigger school but Illinois State was the one school that stuck with him. He ended his career with an FCS All American season. Harris was a tough scout because teams didn’t throw his way much. He was, talent wise, head and shoulders above his opponents. He still plays raw and tight, but there is potential here for backup duty.

NFL Comparison: Jamar Taylor / CLE

15 – Quenton Meeks – Stanford – 6’1/209

Grade: 72

Strong Points:

-Advanced techniques and overall level of discipline
-Easy movement out of his backpedal, can pounce in reaction to throws in front of him
-Accurate and physical hands as a press corner

Weak Points:

-Struggles to stick with speed and quickness, too much separation
-High hipped, will get stuck when having to reach to unplanned movement
-Lacks consistent balance and control

Summary:

Junior entry. Son to former NFL defensive coach Ron Meeks. Started 2+ years for the Cardinal and as you would expect, Weeks stood out with pro caliber technique and approach. He may not be the best athlete, but there is value in his ability to understand schemes on both sides of the ball. To add, he is a physical player that shows an aggressive style. Maybe not the starting type, but he can fill the depth chart with some upside.

NFL Comparison: PJ Williams / NO

16 – Levi Wallace – Alabama – 6’0/182 – GRADE: 72
17 – Greg Stroman – Virginia Tech – 5’11/182 – GRADE: 72
18 – Tarvarus McFadden – Florida State – 6’2/204 – GRADE: 72
19 – Isaac Yiadom – Boston College – 6’1/190 – GRADE: 71
20 – Chris Jones – Nebraska – 6’0/200 – GRADE: 71
21 – DJ Reed – Kansas State – 5’9/188 – GRADE: 70
22 – Parry Nickerson – Tulane – 5’10/182 – GRADE: 70
23 – Darius Phillips – Western Michigan – 5’10/193 – GRADE: 68
24 – Avonte Maddox – Pittsburgh – 5’9/184 – GRADE: 68
25 – Jordan Thomas – Oklahoma – 6’0/187 – GRADE: 68

NYG APPROACH

With all this talk about the offensive line woes, lack of pass rush, and a lack of long term stability at the quarterback position, there is a hole at CB that is glaring. This is a potential issue that could really haunt NYG in 2018. While some veterans have been signed in FA, they are really banking on Eli Apple turning things around. This CB class as a whole is really strong with a few guys that are potential shut down guys. If one slips to the top of the 2nd round, it may have to be a serious conversation between him and the OL talent. I expect Gettleman to use one of the first 4 picks on this position. CBs can be tricky to scout because a lot depends on the scheme, but I’m not sure I would want to go in to day 3 without a new corner.

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David Syvertsen

David Syvertsen, aka Sy'56, has worked for Ourlads Scouting LLC since 2013, starting off as a college depth chart manager and now a lead scout for one the most-sold NFL draft guides year-in, year-out. He has been scouting for over 10 years and will compile anywhere from 400-600 scouting reports per season, with that number increasing year by year. He watches and studies game films 20-25 hours per week throughout the entire year with his main focus being NFL Draft prospects.

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