Don't sleep on these 3 cornerback prospects
PFF’s team of draft analysts has spent the past weeks and months putting together their overall draft board and positional prospect rankings, in preparation for the 2016 NFL draft.
In doing so, PFF has identified players at each position who qualify either as potential sleeper prospects, based on where these players are showing up on most evaluators’ draft boards.
Here are three sleeper prospects among this year’s cornerback class:
1. Kalan Reed, Southern Mississippi
Often sleepers are players that drop in the draft due to some flaw in their game, but they have the potential to overcome it and become better players down the road. Kalan Reed is a guy who seems to have no big black mark, and is simply rated lower than he should be by most people out there. He is PFF’s sixth-ranked corner — behind only the five players we think are likely to go in the first round — and ticks all of the size and speed boxes the NFL likes to see. This past season saw him post the third-highest coverage grade in the draft class and either intercept or break up a pass on over 20 percent of his targets.
In 2014 Amari Cooper averaged nine catches for 123 yards and a touchdown in his final season at Alabama. When he faced Reed, he was limited to three catches for 41 yards on five targets into Reed’s coverage. Reed broke up the two incompletions. Cooper had joy in that game, but little of it against Reed.
He is scheme-diverse, with the ability to play in man and zone coverage, and showed at his pro day that he has the speed and explosion to live with any receiver at the next level. Reed is a player we should be talking about after the top five corners in this class have been selected, not as a sleeper prospect for the mid-to-late rounds of the draft.
2. DeVante Harris, Texas A&M
2015 was the year DeVante Harris finally realized his potential in college. A former four-star recruit, Harris had been underwhelming for the Aggies until this season, in which his play was excellent. He allowed just one touchdown and displayed an excellent break on the ball and ability to make plays in coverage. He has some of the smoothest movement skills in the draft and the ability to change direction quickly and get to passes that most corners can’t. He stands 5-foot-11 but is only 176 pounds, meaning some teams will be put off by his lack of size, but his performance in college against larger receivers was no different to smaller ones and size shouldn’t be reason alone for his modest draft stock. Harris could be a steal for a team in the mid-rounds.
3. Nick VanHoose, Northwestern
For two seasons Nick VanHoose has posted impressive grades at PFF, and he actually had the highest coverage grade in the nation this past season. He allowed only 43.8 percent of passes sent his way to be caught and added 11 passes defensed to his three interceptions. On the field his play has been excellent for multiple seasons and he makes a lot of plays on the ball by quickly reading the play and breaking well on it.
He has a strange, awkward-looking way of moving that will likely put some teams off, and with no combine invite and a pro day missed due to personal reasons he has yet to post any workout numbers to allay those concerns. VanHoose may be best-suited to a zone scheme, as most of his bad beats came in man coverage, but his impressive coverage grades suggest that he is worth a lot more interest than he is currently getting.