This series asks more detailed questions about the newest Redskins. This year I had the pleasure of asking the writers at Black Shoe Diaries about a Redskins draft pick. Marty Leap gave us some great information regarding new Redskin S Troy Apke.
Cadillactica: I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said most Redskins fans viewed the selection of Apke as a surprise. His name was still relatively fresh due to his breakout combine performance but I think fans had a few other options they were thinking of in the 4th round. As someone who has seen the young man play do you think he was worth a 4th rounder? Will Redskins fans ultimately be happy with the selection?
Marty Leap: As much as I loved what Troy Apke did as a senior in 2017, had my Vikings drafted him in the 4th round I would not have been pleased. This is obviously no slight against Apke, but he simply did not show enough in college in garner a 4th round draft pick being spent on him.
This does not mean Redskin fans will not be happy with the selection. He can be a weapon on special teams right away, and, with time, can become a contributor in the secondary. Especially if he continues to improve the way he did as a senior in State College.
Cadillactica: We know about Apke as an athlete but how is he as a safety? Considering both traditional roles (FS/SS) where does he fit best? Can you tell us his strengths and weaknesses (if you can could you provide technical details) how is he as a coverage defender? Ball skills? How are his instincts? Could he stop Saquon Barkley on 3rd and 3?
Marty Leap: Apke’s coverage skills definitely need work. Despite having a strong senior season this past fall, he was burnt in coverage on more than one occasion. And, in limited reps prior to his senior campaign, this happened plenty and was a major factor behind him not playing much as an underclassman. He has good instincts in the back end, but his ball skills definitely need work. Failing to find the ball when it was thrown at him led to a lot of Apke’s coverage issues in college.
While Apke is built more like a FS, he would probably be best suited to play SS in the NFL. It would help to mask his cover issues, plus, he is never one to shy away from contact or sticking his nose in on a play.
Could he stop Saquon on 3rd and 3? No. But I’m not sure any mortal can.
Cadillactica: It doesn’t look like he had a lot of production at Penn State is that his fault? Did his teammates make more plays that he could? Something with the Penn State defensive scheme or other factors?
Marty Leap: The biggest reason for lack of production from Apke in college was playing time. Prior to his senior season, Apke rarely played on defense. This was due to him having current NFL safeties such as Adrian Amos and Malik Golden in front of him, as well as Apke having plenty of struggles his first three years on campus.
Apke sort of came out of nowhere to win a starting job his senior year. To be honest, many Penn State fans, myself included, expected one of the younger safeties on the roster to win the started job that was vacated by Golden following the 2016 season. But, to his credit, Apke won the job and put a death grip on it.
Cadillactica: The selection of Apke was described as a ‘gamble’ by at least one draftnik who did post-draft grades on NFL.com. Would you agree? What do you think is his ceiling and floor in the NFL?
Marty Leap: I’d call it gamble simply due to when he was drafted. Drafting Apke in the 6th or 7th round would not have been a gamble. In the 4th round, though, different story.
Troy’s ceiling benefits greatly from the NFL being a very pass-happy league. While he may never be a regular starter in the NFL, he can certainly contribute as a sub-package defensive back.
He is a very athletic player and not afraid of contact, however, his coverage and ball skills are far from polished and need work. So, ultimately, his ceiling depends on how much he can improve his coverage and ball skills. He’ll never be an All-Pro player, but if his coverage and ball skills improve he can be a consistent contributor in the secondary and on special teams. But do not be surprised when he gets burnt in coverage a few times each season.
As for his floor? Well, I’ll once again look at special teams and say his floor is that of a good special teams player.
Cadillactica: An area Apke is expected to contribute to immediately is special teams. Can he return kicks or is he more of a gunner/kick coverage guy? If Apke had to come in and play some on defense do you think he would be ready or do you think he needs a bit of time to develop?
Marty Leap: Apke could be a weapon on special teams both as a return and coverage man. Apke’s speed and athleticism fly under the radar, but he was one of the fastest players on Penn State’s roster each of the past four seasons. Additionally, he was a 4-star WR recruit in high school so he knows a thing or two about making plays with the ball in his hand. He is also not afraid of contact, though, which would make him a good coverage guy.
As for defense, I would say he needs a year or so to develop. Could he play right away at safety? Absolutely. Would he do it well enough to garner significant reps? I’d guess that would come in 2019.
Cadillactica: If you had to describe him with one word or a short phrase what would it be?
Marty Leap: I’ll take a page out of Deion Sanders book here - fast, fast.
I want to thank Marty again for his time here and his honesty. We know why Apke was drafted: athleticism. Whether that cuts the mustard remains to be seen. It will be interesting to see Apke develop physically and technically during his time here. Hopefully, as Marty said, he can continue to improve his coverage skills where he is very raw and actually get on the field beyond special teams.