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2016 PFF Draft Guide: College Cornerbacks and Saints Needs

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Pro Football Focus has insights on this years crop of prospects. Let's have a peek at some of the top corners looking to have their names called in a couple weeks.

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Update! We are now a mere 12 days, 1 hour, 6 minutes, and 20 seconds away from the big day!

I'm back with part 2 of 3 of our College PFF Draft scout series. Go here in case you missed part 1, in which we looked at Pro Football Focus insights for defensive tackles, defensive ends, and linebackers. Today we'll have a look at cornerbacks, and soon thereafter finish with a final post for guards and wide receivers - All positions of need for the New Orleans Saints.

As a reminder, players are presented by order of their ranking - starting with best player available to the Saints and moving down. Of note, I didn't provide insights Jalen Ramsey as, pending trade up, he almost certainly won't be available at #12. Summaries have been written and summarized by me, with analysis derived from the 2016 PFF Draft Guide.  Let's start.

Cornerbacks

William Jackson III,  Houston (6'0 189)

Outside corner who is best suited in man coverage. Can play zone, but is not as polished.

  • Strengths: Rated "best in ball skills" (5 interceptions and 13 passes defended in 2015), WJ3 is PFF's second-ranked corner and has been deemed the best 'pure cornerback' in his class, though he may be more accurately described as the best exclusive CB in his class as Jalen Ramsey, a very good CB in his own right, also projects to safety. Jackson is a smooth athlete capable of staying on his man (4.37 40 at the combine) and allowing only 47% completion and 2 TDs (on 97 targets) for a passer rating of 55.6. Has great recovery speed and  is ultra competitive - will fight for the ball.
  • Weaknesses: Had some mental lapses at Houston within their defensive scheme and may have issues, if only initially, understanding schemes and his role therein.
  • Projected round: Top-10

Vernon Hargreaves III,  Florida (5'10 204)

While not as experienced from the slot, can play outside or inside.

  • Strengths: VH3 is fluid in his movement and can play multiple coverages - press man, off, and any zone concept. When in press, Hargreaves mirrors his man effectively, and PFF rates him the best CB in zone in his class. Has a mind for the game and position is always reading and waiting to exploit miscues from QBs. Has a good downhill game and is effective against the run. Allowed 56.5% completions on 62 targets and only 2 TDs in as many seasons.
  • Weaknesses: Given his size, sometimes he gets exploited downfield by bigger receivers at the catch point - could be an issue against NFL WRs. Was caught at times being too concerned with what the QB might be doing and let his man slip past him. Can be a liability on slant passes and needs to improve at reacting to and defending double moves.
  • Projected round: 1

Mackensie Alexander,  Clemson (5'10 190)

Despite his size, best suited as a man-cover corner

  • Strengths: PFF's best in man coverage, Alexander did not allow more than four catches in a single game in 2015, nor did he allow any TDs. He held opposing QBs to a 48.7 passer rating and receivers to merely 1/3 of attempts on 57 targets. He's not a six footer, but plays like one at times. Tackles well in the run game, is disruptive in the passing game, and is usually the first man at the point of catch.
  • Weaknesses: Despite his play, some teams may have no interest in a player of his size (5'10 but also 15 pounds lighter than VH3). Not great in zone coverage and needs to do a better job mirroring his receivers.
  • Projected round: 1

Eli Apple,  Ohio State (6'1 199)

Outside CB in man coverage

  • Strengths: Very effective in man coverage, often fluidly shadowing his man all over the field regardless of their skill level. Good height and speed for outside corner (6'1; ran a 4.4 40). Scrappy and determined to strip the ball if it's been caught. Strong against the run and demonstrated success in coverage, allowing 44% receptions on 65 targets and holding opposing QBs to a 67.9 passer rating.
  • Weaknesses: Makes little to no effort to make a play on the ball while it is in the air, sometimes too focused on his man and making a play after the ball has already been caught. While usually very solid against the run, there were times when he had big missed tackles (9 in 2015) which led to big gains. Will need to work on not grabbing his WR too often or else he'll rack up a lot of flags in the NFL.
  • Projected round: Late first

Kalan Reed,  Southern Mississippi (5'11 192)

Outside CB in any scheme

  • Strengths: Reed had 14 passes defended and 4 interceptions with a deflection on 20% of his targets in 2015. Comfortable defender in both man and zone schemes, and has an outstanding profile for an outside corner (5'11, 4.38 40 yard dash as his pro day, and a 41.5" vertical). Hard hitting who punishes his receiver, sometimes by forcing fumbles at the point of catch. Moves smoothly and seamlessly to stick to his man. Despite 89 targets, allowed 48% catches and forced an opposing passer rating of 58 when targeted.
  • Weaknesses: Reed sometimes has lapses in his game, including losing track of the ball in the air, and will need to imrpove his reaction to double moves. He has good speed, but it doesn't always avail in game situations.
  • Projected round: Mid-second

De'Vante Harris,  Texas A&M (5'11 176)

Outside CB in cover-2 or man coverage

  • Strengths: Harris is near the top of his class when it comes to breaking on the ball - he can sit on routes and then attack with good reaction timing. Fluid hips allow him to react to cuts and double moves seamlessly. Has a good feel for and understanding of routes and can anticipate where the ball will be placed. Allowed only 1 TD and a passer rating of 59 when targeted in 2015.
  • Weaknesses: Lacking in the requisite mass many NFL teams covet (176 pounds). Is slower than the other top end corners in his class, running a 4.56 - this will almost certainly limit his scheme versatility at the next level. Sometimes goes all in on plays where either he's breaking up a pass, or overcompensating and allowing a big gain.
  • Projected round: 3

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That's it for now, CSCers. Are there any other corners for which you would like to see a PFF synopsis? If so, please sound off below! I'll be following with guards and wide receivers shortly.