clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Mock Draft: What if the Steelers have to choose between Kendall Fuller and Eli Apple?

New, comments

The Pittsburgh Steelers could have their choice at cornerbacks in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft. One recent mock draft talks about the decision Pittsburgh could face with the 25th selection.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

If you are honest with yourself, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking to add to their defensive roster in the 2016 NFL Draft, but the position will be highly debated. Could the Steelers look for an offensive player? In theory, yes, but a lot would have to transpire with athletes going off the board prior to the 25th pick even being made. Therefore, the debate then begins whether the Steelers go with another linebacker, or if they choose to add talent in the secondary.

The Steelers always take a Best Player Available (BPA) approach in the early rounds of the draft, and if there isn't an edge rusher who has dropped to them -- like Bud Dupree did in 2015 -- the team could be looking at the BPA at the cornerback position.

With the top tier talent likely off the board before the 25th pick, the Steelers could have a serious decision to make with two players who are considered to be first round talent, but not necessarily at the top of the list at their position. The two players? Kendall Fuller of Virginia Tech and Eli Apple of Ohio State.

There have been mock drafts who have both of these players as potential first round picks for the black and gold, but which player would better suit the secondary deprived Steelers? In SB Nation's latest mock draft, they have the Steelers looking at Apple, but not without thinking about Fuller.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
If cornerback ends up being the pick for Pittsburgh at No. 25, there's going to be a long debate between Apple and Kendall Fuller of Virginia Tech. Apple has superior size, athleticism and long-term potential.

This mock clearly thinks Apple is the choice, but let's take a look at the tale of the tape to give you a better glimpse at these two prospects who could help re-shape the team's secondary in 2016.

Eli Apple

Height: 6-feet 1-inch
Weight: 200-pounds
Strengths: Good height, weight and arm length combination. Clean footwork in transition with natural ability to mirror and match from press coverage. Won't open hips early and rarely turned around off line of scrimmage. Has foot quickness in short spaces to maintain feel for his man. Extremely competitive when ball is in the air. Has play strength to redirect receivers from their routes. Aggressive hands in coverage and fights hard to disrupt the catch by any means necessary. Finished with 22 passes defensed over last two years. Scouts praise him for work ethic and technical improvement over last two years. Will come downhill against run and is diligent with contain responsibilities.
Weaknesses: Can be slow to diagnose and anticipate quarterback's plans. Average reactive athleticism. Doesn't feature the balance or twitch to rocket forward and challenge throws if he's not shadowing his man. Won't always play to his size as a tackler. Dragged 18 yards after a catch against Penn State. Shows some stiffness as an open field tackler and allowed four broken tackles this season. Slow to turn head and find ball on deep throws. Becomes Mr. Grabs if he senses receiver is getting over the top of him or when he's trying to crowd the top of routes. Had four holding and seven pass interference penalties from 2014­-2015.

Scouting report via NFL.com.

Kendall Fuller

Height: 6-feet 1-inch
Weight: 196-pounds
Strengths: Supremely confident and believes he should make the biggest plays on the field. Looks to feast on unsuspecting quarterbacks. Has the feet and twitch to trigger and go when he reads the quarterback's intentions. Takes a direct path to the ball. Ball hawk in the short and intermediate passing game. Logged 34 passes defensed and eight interceptions in 2013 and 2014 combined. Savvy and trusts his instincts. Good coordination from press coverage and can track releases both inside and out. Understands the body game and gets into the chest of receivers while running downfield. Willing tackler who steps downhill and doesn't miss his mark very often.
Weaknesses: Lacking desired size and length for the outside spot. Doesn't have the recovery speed to be able to take as many chances on the pro level. Lacks field discipline. Gambler who will get his knot chopped by double moves and pump fakes. Allowed 16.7 yards per completion when he was fully healthy in 2014. Needs to get better at finding the ball when he's beaten over the top. His play style could lead to early penalty issues. Tried to play through a torn meniscus and ended up shutting it down after the first three games of the season.

Scouting report via NFL.com.

The latest mock draft clearly likes Apple over Fuller, but which prospect stands out to you? Would you go with the upside of Apple, or the pedigree of Fuller, despite the knee injury which had him sit out all but three games in 2015? If the Steelers have their choice, it will be a tough choice, but a good problem to have for a team in desperate need of young talent at the cornerback position.