Eli Apple, CB
School: Ohio State | Conference: Big Ten
College Experience: RS Sophomore | Age: 21
Height / Weight: 6-1 / 199 lbs
Projected Draft Status: Late First Round
NFL Comparison: Sam Shields
A rare combination of athleticism and smarts, Eli Apple has both a high floor and a high ceiling. He had a strong Combine performance, though he only took part in the 40, bench press and positional drills, and he offers plenty of impressive tape. He has very good instincts and typically is prepared to make the right play, even if he doesn't always execute. Apple brings to the table an NFL-ready body, national championship experience and two seasons of starting at the highest level of college football.
- He's both fast and quick, performing well in 40-yard dash and exhibiting agile feet in game action.
- He's very good in coverage and doesn't take a lot of risks. That leads to few turnovers, but even fewer game-changing mistakes.
- His instincts and reads are usually spot on, and even when he doesn't finish the play himself, he's typically nearby.
- Apple has strong ball skills and excels every step of the way in the reception process, from locating the ball to getting a hand on it to actually hauling it in.
- He needs to bulk up. His frame is fine, but he's got very little upper body strength, as shown by his 13 reps on the bench press at the Combine.
- Cornerbacks don't necessarily need to thrive in the bench press to be successful players — Ronald Darby put up just 12 reps at last year's Combine and he turned out OK — but additional strength in his hands and arms would help him in press coverage.
- His tackling needs a lot of work. He tends to fling himself in the general direction of ball carriers as opposed to wrapping them up, and he doesn't have the pop of a Kam Chancellor to make that an effective strategy.
- The downside to his safe play is it isn't conducive to big plays. With just four interceptions and one forced fumble over 28 games, there is some production to be desired there.
How He Would Fit on the Redskins
This is an easy one: The Redskins are in short supply of quality defensive backs, no matter the position, and they're especially thin when they all get hurt, like they did in 2015. It's unlikely Washington will endure such a catastrophic wave of injuries again, but it's a violent sport and not that unlikely. The Redskins need a true starter to pair with Bashaud Breeland, either to replace him as the No. 1 or to pair with him as the No. 2, and they need depth behind that pair. Quinton Dunbar was a great story last year and he could be a solid cornerback, but he and Will Blackmon are both nice pieces for depth, players who would look a whole lot better if they were one slot further down the depth chart.
In addition to the obvious need for more bodies, Washington also has a need for more big bodies. This is true for receivers as well as defensive backs, but to match up with all the big receivers in the NFL — and in the NFC East, Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham and Jordan Matthews — a defense needs big skills players of its own. Apple isn't huge, but he's built similar to Bashaud Breeland and has the length to at least disrupt the bigger pass-catchers.
His stock has climbed almost nonstop since the season ended, which is often a red flag, but in this case it's more of a quality prospect reaffirming his value. He is much more tempting a pick in the mid-20s than he is in the mid-teens, where several mock drafts have him slotted, but the Redskins could do a lot worse than him at No. 21.