Eli Apple, Cornerback
The Ohio State University
6’1″ 200 lbs.
- Good height and length
- Uses long arms well to jam at the line of scrimmage
- Smooth hips and backpedal to mirror receivers
- Attacks the ball in the air
- Sheds blocks well when runs come his direction
- Disciplined in sealing the edge against the run
- Not afraid to take on bigger blockers and backs
- Hard worker
- Does he match his listed weight?
- Gets too aggressive with his hands in routes
- Tackling technique needs work
- May have come out a year too soon
- Not much experience playing in zone coverage
Apple is a 3rd year sophomore but has started 2 seasons, so has some experience despite still only being 20 years old. The word is that Apple is a very hard-working player and it shows in his improvement in 2015 over the previous season technique wise. He also shows a ton of effort on the field, being an aggressive player defending both against the run and passing game. That aggressiveness does get him in some trouble in getting too grabby down the field. Against the run, he shows nice instincts in sealing off the edge and does a good job at stacking and shedding receivers trying to block him. Too often though he sheds the blocker and fails to bring down the ball carrier because he tries to tackle them too high, or doesn’t wrap up well.
With his steady improvement thus far in his career, I wonder if one more year in school would have put him in the conversation of one of the best cornerbacks in the draft in 2017; though, he’s likely to still go in the first round in 2016. He does fit the mold that Colbert typically likes: Underclassman from a Power-5 Conference school and is from the Steelers’ favorite place to draft from.
If his listed measurements are correct, he has great size for an NFL cornerback. I love his height and arm length, but he just doesn’t look 200 pounds to me. I think he could bulk up a little and be even better at handling big receivers than he already is.
How he Fits (or doesn’t) with the Steelers
No doubt the Steelers staff will love Apple’s willingness to come downhill against the run… However, his lack of zone coverage experience will make him a bit of a project for the Steelers’ defense. I do think that the Steelers really need to find a #1 cornerback with the size to match up with bigger receivers in the AFC North like A.J. Green, Breshad Perriman, and Josh Gordon and Apple would be great in that role.
Though I haven’t seen a ton of it on tape, I think he could be a talented blitzer off the edge, which Keith Butler is a big fan of.
With this talk of a Steelers’ “window” I wonder if they would want a guy that contribute more quickly, and address the secondary through free agency with a veteran. If Apple is on the board at 25 though, his upside makes him worth the pick. My hope is that the team would allow Apple to shadow another team’s top passing option and play more man than they do now, like Ike Taylor once did for them.
Draft Range Prediction
Mid-1st to Early-2nd Round