Pro Football Focus is an NFL fan favorite who lets the uninitiated know just how well each NFL player does during the season with in-depth, play-by-play statistical analysis. With the NFL season dormant, they've turned their attention to the college ranks, having already broken down the college play of many of the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft top prospects.
Recently, they published their "Buyer Beware" list of top rated cornerback prospects who come with question marks and insist that teams can "still find players 10-15 spots deep that aren't too far away from the guys at the top." With four players total listed, two of them are potential targets for the Steelers at pick 22.
With regards to Michigan State's Trae Waynes, thought of by many to be the cream of the cornerback crop in the 2015 draft class, they had this to say:
Waynes is regarded by many as the top cornerback in this class and at times it’s easy to see why. He has speed to burn and shows confidence, never looking worried about being beaten deep. He also holds the point well against a block and performs well against the run. Despite all that, though, there are some question marks that make him a risk to be selected as high as many are predicting.
His awareness at times is questionable, and there are times when he lost the ball in the air by focusing too much on the wide receiver in front of him. Those lapses leave him flapping after noticing the ball in the air, leading to contact which could lead to more flags in the NFL. His tackling can also be a bit suspect as he has a tendency to throw himself at tackles in space, a little bit like Asante Samuel, rather than wrapping up. That’s something that will cost him a few big plays when he misses, and something he must clean up in the NFL.
PFF also lists an interesting stat about Waynes:
Signature stat: Missed a tackle once every 8.3 attempts.
They were even less optimistic about the future prospects of Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson who may be the most realistic prospect to be chosen by the Steelers at pick 22, and someone who seems to have a very favorable following within the Steelers fan community.
Johnson is also regarded as a first-round draft pick by many, but in a similar way to Justin Hardy at wide receiver he’s someone that neither myself nor Sam see the hype with. He does have great balance which stops him from being beaten immediately off the line where so much damage can be done, but there are too many question marks in the rest of his game.
He doesn’t possess great top-level speed on the field. This will lead to him losing plenty of one-on-one battles with NFL receivers and at times it looked like he was deliberately playing off to protect his speed. The need to jump up from there and attack under routes led to him being beaten on double moves on more than one occasion. Like Waynes, he too can be a bit of a sloppy tackler at times, tilting his head down and trying to tackle blind far too often which led to 10 misses last season.
And if you thought Trae Waynes missed tackles statistic was disconcerting...
Signature Stat: Missed a tackle once every 5.1 attempted, tied for the ninth-worst of all draft-eligible cornerbacks in this class.
Not all hope is lost though for those of us hoping to see the Steelers hit on a cornerback prospect, PFF also published their list of "Cornerback Sleepers" and there was at least one familiar name on it. Marshall cornerback Darryl Roberts, whom the Steelers recently brought in for a pre-draft visit made the list.
If you listened to our Podcast breaking down the cornerback class, you’ll know that this is a guy that Sam Monson really likes. It’s easy to see why too, with Roberts showing an ability to handle anything the coaches asked of him. On top of that he showed great balance and reactions, reading moves by wide receivers very quickly.
If there is a concern here, it would be that I would like to see him attack the ball more on deep passes, instead of waiting for the receiver come down with the ball before trying to rip it free. He’ll see plenty of physical wide receivers on Sundays in the NFL, so he’ll need to be ready to adapt his game to handle that.
His signature stat is certainly more impressive than of those previously listed.
Signature Stat: Allowed 0.88 Yards Per Coverage Snap.
If the Steeelers take PFF's opinion into account, it might be prudent to wait until after the first round to address the needs at the cornerback position. Doing so will allow the team to focus their attention on an outside linebacker, or a position of lesser need, in the first round, and still get a cornerback of comparable quality later on.