I have never been a scout or a NFL general manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can. To read more about the 2016 NFL Draft Project, click here.
Today, we break down our 40th draft prospect. Hopefully, you have noticed by now that there is no predetermined ranking to figure out what order this is done in, but if not, allow me to verify right here at the top that this young corner from Florida is not at risk of falling out of Round 1. In fact, he might not drop out of the top half of Round 1, so he certainly is not the 40th-best prospect. He is much better than that.
Hargreaves was a top-rated recruit who has basically started from the beginning of his freshman year and has done a wonderful job of grabbing the attention of draft people for years. He has all the attributes of the coveted NFL "ball hawk" who not only can play an ultra-competitive style and defend one of your better threats, but can also get the ball and turn the game with a takeaway, all while crashing forward and showing a willingness to tackle in run support. This is a rather rare set of skills that pushes a player high in the draft.
He has a few things to overcome -- most notably that at 5-10, there are many questions about his ability to deal with the 6-5 monsters he is often enlisted to cover. His performance at the combine let everyone know that in terms of measurables, he won't have any issues with running, jumping, fluid hips, or explosive athleticism. The question is can he play the game on Sundays in a way that takes the best things he showed in college and leaves the poor things behind. Five of his games were used from 2015 to walk through this case -- Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and Michigan. That Michigan game is what sits poorly with many.
What I liked:He is a very competitive and aggressive corner who does not lack confidence because of his ability to handle most any situation. He plays tight man coverage and this chases away most of the activity in his direction in a lot of games because there isn't much to throw at. He charges forward with a burst of speed to cut off any runs in his direction and can tackle in space. He certainly plays a tight coverage but is always looking to bait a QB or even watch the QB with his peripheral vision and see a play coming his way. He can smother and recover very well if he loses leverage on an inside route. He competes hard on jump balls and on fades near the goal line where they are trying to attack his stature. He is able to pick off plays at him and instantly turn into a threat for a pick-six. He is good and he knows it. He will stir things up and control the intensity level of his defense at times. I think he is a press-man cover guy who can do the job with a physical approach right from the snap. If you drop him off the line, I think his effectiveness drops.
What I did not like: His love for watching the QB can cause him to look rather silly if he guesses wrong. He will not be the first "guessing" corner in the NFL, but that doesn't mean it won't raise major concern about why a man is wide open 20 yards behind him with no safety help when he was fooled into jumping a pass that never happened. He plays in the trail position a lot and this gives up a surprising number of inside throws. It appeared that Florida's coverages were not always being run well with safety support, but he ended up being victimized on more than one occasion. On deep passes, he does look like an undersized corner, as he will lose on high throws and sometimes look off balance or have difficulty finding the ball. On plays with multiple deep routes, it was interesting to see that he did not scare QBs off throwing at him deep. They seemed to want to attack him downfield if they could get the opportunity.
Summary and potential fit with the Cowboys: There is little doubt that this player is a top prospect. He has known he was the most talented player on the field for a few years and has battled some of the best, and therefore will fall into some bad habits that are not uncommon for this profile at the college game. In the NFL, there are very few weeks when you are not trying to defend an equally talented player, so he will have to clean up his technique a bit and also show the ability to respond to losing battles.
That said, there is no reason he cannot be someone's lead corner and despite a few issues with being 5-10, he has the disposition you are looking for with a player who will have to compensate with an ultra-high compete level. That doesn't look like it will be an issue.
For the Cowboys, there is no question they will be shopping for a corner, but I don't have the feeling they will spend this type of capital to get in on the top corner prospect on just about everyone's board. Furthermore, with as much zone the Cowboys like to play, I am not sure that is his best fit. This is likely a top 10-15 player and the second defensive back off the board. From there, the sky can be the limit if he is utilized properly. Put him in press-man and allow him to compete in the face of a top receiver for years to come.