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2016 CB Rankings

April 8, 2016

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  1. Vernon Hargreaves III Florida 5’10 ½ 204 Jr. Hargreaves Combine was exactly what you saw on film as he came in short, with short arms (30 ⅝), average speed (4.50 40) but elite quickness (3.98 shuttle) and explosiveness (‘39 vertical, 10’10 broad). This kid has pedigree, something that many people don’t value enough, as he’s been a star since he came to campus as a true freshman and has had a 1st round grade on my board since 2013. That’s rare and almost always it results in stardom in the NFL. The list has names like AJ Green, Julio Jones, Adrian Peterson and Andrew Luck on it with Hargreaves joining Myles Garrett and Josh Rosen on the current group of guys getting 1st round grades since their freshman year. It’s a select group and I expect Hargreaves to not disappoint in the NFL. He has a little Tyrann Mathieu to him whether you look at his deficiencies (short size and mediocre long speed) or his strengths (elite quickness, great instincts, ballhawk). He probably fits best as a slot corner but at 5’10 ½ he has the size to stay outside and at 204 lbs he’s surprisingly thick. The reality is you can nitpick against this kid but the same thing occurred with Mathieu (3rd rounder) and he became an All-Pro. Don’t overthink the 40 or the short arms and just draft the kid. He made plays all day long in college (10 INTs, 28 PBUs and 1 FF in 3 seasons) and he’s going to do the same in the pros. Top 15 as my #1 CB 4/6/16.
  2. Mackensie Alexander Clemson 5’10 ⅜ 190 Soph Redshirted 1 year. He’s an interesting guy as he only played two seasons and in those two seasons he had 0 INTs and only 11 pass breakups. That is a mediocre season let alone a career yet the reason is because he just was rarely challenged. He’s a smaller CB at under 5’11 and he doesn’t have great arm length at ‘31 ⅜ but the kid is feisty as he does a decent job battling in the run game and is mouthy in pass coverage. His 44 career tackles though shows that he wasn’t too terribly interested in the run game so it is a concern. The thing I like the most about him though is his quickness and his hips. He is effortless in his backpedal and sticks to receivers incredibly well. He shut down Notre Dame’s Will Fuller in 2015 (1 reception). He allowed only 2 TDs all year in 2015. For only a two year starter he’s surprisingly instinctive and seems adept at sniffing out bubble screens and RB screens. My issues with him are his shocking lack of interceptions, I can’t remember ever grading a CB with zero career INTs let alone a 1st round graded one, and his penchant for being too physical. Alexander also didn’t help himself by not working out at the Combine and his mid 4.4 40, 7.14 3 cone and 4.21 shuttle all were average to below average. He reminds me of Janoris Jenkins minus the ball skills. Considering Jenkins just got paid 5yr $62.5 mil it’s a nice comparison for Alexander. He’s an extremely intriguing prospect but his lack of INTs and his lack of elite physical skills keeps him out of the Top 10. I also question his heart and his toughness a bit as he seems rather selfish and could be a locker room cancer on a bad team or if he feels he’s underpaid or something. A potential shutdown CB with a lot of confidence, he will be an immediate starter. His red flags make me unsure whether he becomes a true #1 shut down type CB or if he settles in as an above average starter. Top 15 as my #2 CB 4/6/16.
  3. Kendall Fuller Virginia Tech 5’11 187 Jr. Only playing 3 games in 2015, I was surprised to find out he left early for the draft. He tore his miniscus in preseason camp and tried to gut it out but had to be shut down rather quickly. With 8 INTs and 26 PBUs in 2 seasons he was a ballhawk and was given the task of lining up across from the team’s best wideout each week. Occasionally he was torched by the competition, Michael Thomas, but he won most of his one on one battles and showed elite quickness, ball skills and instincts. I love Fuller as a slot CB but at 5’11 he clearly has enough size to stay outside if a team wishes. He was a Top 15 player going into this season and I’m not changing my grade just because of an unfortunate knee injury. Top 15 as my #3 CB 4/6/16.
  4. William Jackson III Houston 6’0 ⅜ 189 Sr. He made some money at the Combine with a 4.37 40, 4th best among DBs this year. Combine that with a legit 6’0 frame and he’s an elite size/speed combo. He isn’t just a workout warrior though as he arguably was the most productive CB in 2015 this year’s draft with 5 INT, 23 PBUs (led the nation) and 2 TDs. He has good hands, elite speed, elite height and okay hips and agility for a big CB. Against Florida State he showed this impressive combination by shutting down wide receivers all day and making a great leaping INT. He also had two HUGE hits on Dalvin Cook, one in run support and the other on a blindside hit on a reception. Jackson lacks great quickness and has surprisingly mediocre arm length which reduces some of the benefits of his elite height but he still wows as a physical specimen. Add in his solid hands, toughness and instincts and you have a very talented player. Late 1st round as my #4 CB 4/7/16.
  5. D.J White Georgia Tech 5’10 ⅞ 193 Sr. He’s one of the classiest kids in this draft so a team that values character will rate him very highly. With 7 INTs the past three seasons and a very nice break to the ball he’s a borderline ballhawk. He’s a little stiff though which at under 5’11 hurts his stock in my eyes but he isn’t too tight. He made probably the best hustle play of 2015 racing +50 yards to catch a RB at the goal line and poke the ball loose. He’s a big hitter for a CB, as seen by his 4 career FFs and numerous blowups in his highlight reels. He has good instincts and got a number of INTs by jumping routes or leaving his man to play the ball in the air. I love White and wish he was a little quicker so I could give him a 1st round grade. Alas his ceiling seems to be only as a future quality #2 CB but he will make a team very happy with his toughness, leadership, playmaking skills, strength as a run defender and high character. He’s a sleeper for sure. Early 2nd round as my #5 CB 4/6/16.
  6. Eric Murray Minnesota 5’10 ⅝ 199 Sr. He is a thick, hard hitting CB with limited ball skills (2 INTs in 3 full seasons). His 187 tackles the past three seasons is elite and appears to be the highest total of any CB I’ve graded this year. He’s the leader of their defense. He plays press coverage all game long on an island and is highly trusted by his coaches. He really dominates as a run defender and is probably the best CB at it in this draft. His aggressive nature sometimes hurts him in the passing game though as he’s very handsy and will draw his fair share of penalties at the next level. Overall he’s a quick, physical player that is elite against the run and solid against the pass. He won’t make many big plays for a team in the passing game but looks like a future dependable #2 CB. Mid 2nd round as my #6 CB 4/6/16.
  7. Cyrus Jones Alabama 5’9 ⅞ 197 Sr. He’s an elite special teams player as he’s a star punt returner (4 TDs in 2015) and plays on other special teams units. He’s a playmaker with 7 INTs, 20 PBUs and 4 FFs the past 3 seasons. Jones is a little tight in the hips, struggles to locate or play the ball when it isn’t in front of him and is undersized. His athleticism though is obvious and he always seems to be around the ball so I could see him being a #2 CB or at worst a nickel back who excels on special teams. He’s also very stout for a guy of his height and isn’t a weak link in run defense. Overall I think he has some major bust potential, especially considering the recent lack of success from Alabama DBs, but I suspect he will settle in as a #2 or #3 CB with the ability to impact a game in varied ways. Late 2nd round as my #7 CB 4/6/16.
  8. Zack Sanchez Oklahoma 5’10 ⅞ 185 Jr. Redshirted 1 season. He’s a rail thin kid which worries me in regards to durability and his ability to defend the run. He didn’t run at the Combine and clocked a mid to high 4.4 at his Pro Day which translates to a mid to high 4.5 Combine time which isn’t very fast. I’m not terribly surprised as he always seemed quicker than fast and seems to fit best as a slot corner, especially when considering how poor he is at times against the run. I like Sanchez as he’s a ballhawk in the Dre Bly, Asante Samuel mold but he isn’t for every scheme as he was beat deep often by teams. Some teams will be fine with that style, and if so, he’s your guy with 15 INTs and 28 PBUs over the past three seasons, but some will call him undisciplined and remove him from their draft board. It’s all a matter of preference and in this day and age where you can argue there are no true shutdown cornerbacks due to the rule changes you need cornerbacks that make a QB pay for their mistakes. Sanchez will do that and fits perfectly as a nickel corner early in his career while he learns players tendencies and hones his skills as a gambler. In the right scheme he could have a Pro Bowl year or two when his INT totals are high. He reminds me a little of Casey Hayward. Late 2nd round as my #8 CB 4/6/16.
  9. Xavien Howard Baylor 6’0 ⅛ 201 Jr. Redshirted one season. He’s a ballhawk with 9 INTs and 23 PBUs the past two seasons, he redshirted 2012 and barely played in 2013. He has great height and weight but has only average quickness and poor long speed with his 4.58 40 at the Combine verifiable from his game film. I really like how he adjust to a wideout’s route as he seems to understand the position. He has a little Marcus Peters to his build which is a huge compliment but lacks Peters elite quickness. I barely noticed Howard the past few years despite watching a number of Baylor games yet I like what I see from his film. He’s 1/10th of a second faster in his 40 from being in the late 1st round conversation but it’s obvious he does lack that second gear that star cornerbacks almost always have. Due to his limited playing experience I’ll be curious to see how he does as the case can be made that he is just coming into his own and could be a steal down the road. Early 3rd round as my #9 CB who is a bit of a roll of the dice as he has a very high ceiling but high bust potential too 4/6/16.
  10. Jonathan Jones Auburn 5’9 ⅛ 186 Sr. He’s an undersized speed demon at 5’9 with 4.33 40 speed. Surprisingly he had poor times in the shuttle and 3 cone which makes me think he’s a fast but not quick guy, which is kind of rare. Only played consistently his final two seasons at Auburn but put up good stats with 105 tackles, 7 INTs, 21 PBUs and 2 FFs in that span. His size, speed and limited playing career reminds me of Josh Robinson of UCF a few years ago, drafted in the 2nd round. He’s a tough one to grade as on one hand he’s a very small, weak cornerback with poor quickness. That evaluation makes him seem undraftable. On the other hand he’s a legit 4.3 speed guy with great stats the past two seasons in the best conference in America. I’ll be curious where he goes but at 5’9 he is pretty small to be outside and without quickness he will struggle in the slot so he’s kind of a tweener type. Nonetheless his film is solid, his speed is elite and he made a lot of plays from 2014-2015 so I like him but have my reservations about him as well. Early 3rd round as my #10 CB 4/6/16.
  11. Eli Apple Ohio State 6’0 ⅝ 199 Soph Redshirted 1 season. A tall, fast CB (4.40 40) with a frame that makes scouts drool. He started 2 seasons in the Big 10 and had a good year in 2015 which is pretty impressive because he won’t turn 21 until training camp. He’s extremely weak for a “big” cornerback and is a liability in the run game. Overall I see a kid with elite size/speed that doesn’t translate to the field. I also question this kid’s heart and motor as he made a business decision too often in the run game and left school as a sophomore. He is stiff in his backpedal, weak in his upper body and slow to diagnose plays. He has obvious NFL talent but looks like he’ll settle for being an average #2 CB at best and I see bust potential in him as he just doesn’t make many plays. 3rd round as my #11 CB 4/6/16.
  12. Artie Burns Miami 5’11 ⅞ 193 Jr. He has very long arms at ‘33 ¼ which improve his already good height at basically 6’0. Unfortunately he’s tight and not very agile with his movements coming across more like a S than a CB. He had 6 INTs in 2015 which is probably the reason he left early yet this kid isn’t a ballhawk as he had 1 INT the previous two seasons and doesn’t break well on the ball. He must be in a press scheme as his size and strength are clearly his best attributes. While he isn’t a ballhawk, he does have solid hands, and doesn’t drop catchable balls. He’s 6’0, ran a 4.46 40 and has long arms so he’s a size/speed guy but overall I’m not a huge fan of his due to his lack of quickness, poor agility and safety like movement. He seems like a future bust at CB, unless in a perfect scheme that lets him press and gives him safety help over the top, and possibly will be tried at FS by some teams. There’s some starter level talent here size/speed wise but I’d stay away. 4th round as my #12 CB 4/6/16.
  13. Will Redmond Mississippi St. 5’10 ¾ 182 Sr. He’s both one of the shortest and one of the lightest CBs in this year’s draft. On film he was regularly thrown to the ground by WRs and TEs so his size will be a problem his entire career. He does get involved though and shows some toughness to him. He is quick and smooth in his backpedal though and regularly shadowed his man. I like him as a mid round nickel corner but his lack of size will prevent him from ever being a full time starter. Late 4th round as my #13 CB 4/7/16.
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