It is almost a certainty the Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking to target a cornerback in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft, but which player will be available, and a good fit for the black and gold? ESPN's Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest positional rankings, and today we will focus on his Top 10 cornerbacks entering the draft.
Mel Kiper Jr.'s Top 10 Cornerbacks:
1. *Jalen Ramsey, Florida St.
2. *Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
3. **Eli Apple, Ohio St.
4. William Jackson III, Houston
5. **Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
6. **Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
7. *Artie Burns, Miami (Fla.)
8. KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame
9. *Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
10. Eric Murray, Minnesota
The debate will rage regarding whether Ramsey will end up at safety, but while he'll have growing pains at cornerback, he's such a gifted athlete and competitor that I have no worries that he'll be a great player in time. Hargreaves is going to be viewed as the likeliest bet to be a solid rookie. Top riser: easily Jackson.
Looking at the list, there aren't many surprises in the Top 2. Ramsey and Hargreaves have long been considered the cream of the crop in this upcoming group of defensive backs. However, although Kiper points out William Jackson III rising the most in his rankings, it shouldn't be overlooked he has Eli Apple as the third best cornerback prospect.
Apple is considered to be brimming with potential, but his lack of experience has had him being a potential first, or second, round pick when the draft rolls around. Apple certainly helped his case at the NFL Scouting Combine with some tremendous work in the drills he participated in.
It also should be noted where he has Kendall Fuller ranked -- behind Jackson III. This could be largely due to his knee injury which sidelined him for nearly the entire 2015 season, but also with Jackson lighting up the Scouting Combine just last week. With Pro Days still ahead, it seems the trio of Apple, Jackson III and Fuller will be jockeying for position behind Ramsey and Hargreaves.
For fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, don't be shocked if none of the names on Kiper's Top 5 are selections for the black and gold. The Steelers rarely draft a cornerback in the first round, and with other pressing needs on the defensive side of the ball, there is a chance the team will look at cornerback in the second round, like they did in 2015 drafting Senquez Golson.
If that were the case, which of the bottom 5 prospects would best fit the Steelers and their scheme heading into 2016? Mackensie Alexander has exceptional footwork and athleticism, but lacks some of the size NFL teams are looking for in an outside cornerback. Similar deficiencies could be said for the other prospects at the bottom of Kiper's list, but all could be considered players who the Steelers could target in the early rounds of the draft.
Will the Steelers be able to draft a cornerback who is ready to start immediately if they wait until Day 2 to do so? Probably not, but that doesn't mean the team won't be able to find a player who can contribute in some way, shape or form as a rookie in 2016 to help the Steelers porous 30th ranked pass defense.