The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have to upgrade their defense this offseason, both in free agency and the draft. But most mock drafts have the Bucs failing to land one of the top two or even three defensive backs in the draft in Vernon Hargreaves, Jalen Ramsey and Mackensie Alexander, while true pass-rushing defensive ends are few and far between.
Not so Daniel Jeremiah, who has the Bucs going an interesting direction with their pick. With Hargreaves and Alexander both still on the board, he gives them Ohio State's Eli Apple, a cornerback who "has a nice mix of size, athleticism and toughness."
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com is impressed with him as well.
Highly recruited twoyear starter who is entering the draft as a draft eligible redshirt sophomore. Apple's size and strength allows him to compete against physical receivers, but he also has the talent to mirror and match as a man defender. Covering for longer could be challenging early on after playing with talented defensive fronts who ravaged quarterbacks. Apple will have to learn to trust his feet rather than grabbing so often or he'll find that quarterbacks and refs will find him often.
Defensive backs may be the most difficult prospects to evaluate, especially for those outside the NFL. Not only is the college game completely different from the NFL game in terms of pass defense, but there's also far less consistent footage of these players out there. Mostly, we're going off footwork, physicality and displayed athleticism. Apple seems to tick most of those boxes -- he's definitely fast enough, he certainly isn't afraid to get physical with receivers or in the running game, and his footwork mostly looks good -- tough there are some moments where he seems to lose control.
Apple's also interesting because of his size and youth. He's played just two years of college football, and at around 6'1" 200 lbs, he has great size for a cornerback of his athleticism. He finished his career with 7.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions and ten passes broken up in just two seasons. He's also just 20 years old, which means he's likely got plenty of room to grow in the NFL as well.