PFF scouting report: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Here is the PFF draft profile for Ohio State’s Eli Apple, which incorporates PFF’s college grades and scouting intel from our team of analysts. To see all of PFF’s 2016 scouting reports, click here.
Outside corner in a man-coverage scheme.
Stat to know:
Allowed 44.6 percent of targets into his coverage to be caught in 2015.
What he does best:
• Sticks to receivers like glue: Apple is a smooth mover and can follow a receiver all over the field in man-coverage, effectively erasing even the best athletes from the game.
• He fits the size and speed profile that NFL teams are looking for. Apple is over 6-feet tall in a draft where many of the top corner prospects are not; this will likely see him drafted higher than he would have been otherwise.
• Apple will keep working to dislodge a ball after it arrives, and doesn’t just settle for catches because the pass hits his man in the hands—he isn’t finished until the play is whistled dead.
• Well-rounded player: Apple has earned strong, positive PFF grades in coverage and against the run.
• Apple has an almost pathological aversion to the football. He often doesn’t even attempt to look for the ball and make a play on it, instead choosing to stay focused on his man and play with his back to the quarterback. Last season, had just one pick and four pass breakups; there could have been many more INTs but for this flaw.
• Apple will whiff completely at times in the run game. He earned a solid grade in that area this season, so overall it’s a strength, but when he misses, he tends to miss badly for big plays.
• He’s out of his comfort zone (pun intended) playing in zone-coverage at the moment for Ohio State; prefers being able to lock onto a receiver.
• Apple can get too grabby in coverage; he likes to get hands on receivers and ride them through the route. He doesn’t need the contact to cover, so that should be fixable, but it will cost him flags early in the NFL.
Eli Apple may be the main beneficiary of a cornerback class lacking a lot of size at the top end. He displays the ability to play man coverage extremely well, and has the size and speed profile NFL teams are looking for, but he has never earned PFF grades that match the best cover corners in this class, and has enough flaws in his game that he is not a surefire top pick. He’ll likely be drafted higher than his play suggests he should be, but the potential to become an excellent corner at the next level is definitely there.