Eli Apple or William Jackson: Which cornerback should the Chiefs draft?

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Eli Apple

Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

I suspect that Apple is atop general manager John Dorsey’s draft board at cornerback. Aside from him having the height and length the Chiefs typically covet at that position, he also has scheme versatility (having played in both man and zone-coverage situations at Ohio State).

From a technical standpoint, he has everything you look for in a cornerback prospect: good speed, fluid footwork, the ability to flip-and-run, a smooth backpedal, keen instincts, and impressive ball skills. He also plays with the kind of physicality Kansas City needs on the back end.

Apple’s significantly younger than Jackson, but he’s still played in more than his share of high-stakes games. The Buckeyes won the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2015 so he’s been exposed to a winning culture under one of the most decorated coaches in the NCAA (Urban Meyer). He won’t turn 21 until the Chiefs are well into training camp, and he was only a two-year starter at OHU, but the quality of his collegiate career makes up for his inexperience.

In the film room, most of the scouting reports proved reliable. I watched every defensive snap of two Ohio State games in 2015 (Northern Illinois and Michigan State). Apple has a number of intangibles that stood out to me. He’s an aware cornerback who seems always to have his eyes trained on the quarterback. He’s not the most instinctive defensive back in the class, but staying on his toes helps him make an impact even when the play isn’t coming his way.

Apple isn’t a great tackler, but he’s willing to stick his nose into the action. He’ll occasionally fight through blocks to make a play, but can easily be washed out of a play when he gets locked up with an offensive lineman. Apple needs more functional strength at the next level.

He can sometimes be neutralized by a bigger receiver he can’t easily jam. It also shows up when he’s trying to bring a thicker ballcarrier to the ground. Secondary coaches will have their hands full ridding Apple of bad habits. If he gets beaten, he has a tendency to grab, and subsequently be flagged for defensive holding or pass interference.

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