Analyzing Miami’s First Round Options at Cornerback

Back in March, the Miami Dolphins traded back in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft with the Philadelphia Eagles for cornerback Byron Maxwell linebacker Kiko Alonso. In return, the Eagles received Miami’s 8th overall pick while sending them their 13th overall pick. While most consider this a rather odd move, being that Vernon Hargreaves would have most likely fallen to Miami at this spot, I don’t seem to think so. There no question that Miami has a lot of gaps in their roster to fill through the draft, however this move does not doom what Miami does in the first round by any means, and especially at corner.

Let’s begin by analyzing what most people think will happen: Vernon Hargreaves will be a top ten pick, and will eventually become at least solid NFL corner, possibly great. At Florida, Hargreaves had 81 tackles, 40 assist tackles, 10 interceptions, 27 passes defensed, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 forced fumbles. Not bad for playing in a conference that featured Amari Cooper, Sammy Watkins, Devante Parker, Jordan Matthews, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., Laquon Treadwell and Mike Evans during his career at Florida. Adding to his stats, Hargreaves was a first team All American in 2014, a Consensus All American in 2015, and was first team All-SEC in his 3 years at Florida.

By comparison, Darrelle Revis made 66 tackles, 14 assists, 8 interceptions, and 2 touchdowns during his career at LSU and became one of the NFLs best shutdown corners during his career. Known for his ball-hawking skills and his ability to high-point the football, Hargreaves posted more interceptions during his career than Patrick Peterson (7) and former Gator Joe Haden (8), both of whom went in the first round and have been at least extremely productive, if not All-Pro. There’s obviously no telling how Hargreaves will do until he hits the field in the fall, but all signs point to him being a great corner.

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That being said, Hargreaves is not the best secondary prospect in the draft this year. Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey is considered to be the better player, and rightfully so. Ramsey plays longer, standing at 6’1 to Hargreaves 5’11 and has a 1.5” vertical advantage over Hargreaves. He can also play safety as well as corner which is valuable in the NFL. At Florida State, Ramsey recorded 122 tackles, 5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 22 passes defensed, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries. On film, Ramsey was all over the place in comparison to Hargreaves although most don’t consider Ramsey to be the best pure cover corner, that consideration given to Hargreaves.

Miami will likely certainly not land Ramsey, and landing Hargreaves while not out of the question, is still a possibility. If he falls to 13, Miami must capitalize and draft him. If not, they still need a corner. Luckily, the draft is loaded with talent in the first round at corner. Miami’s next best option at corner is Eli Apple out of Ohio State.   Although young at 20 years old, and only a 2 year starter at Ohio State, he showed a lot of potential and was very productive in such a short period.

Apple recorded 56 tackles, 4 interceptions, 17 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries. He has a tendency to play well on the biggest of stages, intercepting Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota on his last college pass in the 2015 CFP Final, and then winning 2016 defensive MVP at the Fiesta Bowl. Apple is taller corner, standing 6’1 tall and weighing in at 200 pounds. He plays fast, and backed it up by running a 4.4 at the combine and was surprisingly strong, posting 13 bench presses. Eli Apple would be a generous consolation prize for missing out on Vernon Hargreaves and could be ready to start as Miami’s second corner come September.

Should Miami miss out on Eli Apple and Vernon Hargreaves, then they should probably look to add depth at linebacker, defensive line, or offensive line. However, if they are feeling lucky they could take a look at another 2 year starter, Mackensie Alexander out of Clemson. At Clemson, Alexander recorded 33 tackles, 0 interceptions, 11 passes defensed, and 1 fumble recovery.

The stats don’t back up the talk of number 1 pick, but Alexander is a great talent and is the most aggressive besides Jalen Ramsey of the other prospects. He is probably more of a project pick if they Dolphins do decide to draft him, although most experts have Alexander going later in the second round, possibly even early in the second round. Miami have had their fair share of problems drafting and keeping cornerbacks in recent years (Will Davis, Jamar Taylor, Vontae Davis, Sean Smith), so it is imperative that if they do go corner with this pick, they get it right. In my opinion, Hargreaves or Apple are their best bets at this position but only time will tell.

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