College: Ohio State
Hometown: Voorhees, NJ
Weight: 200 lbs.
Eli Apple is coming off a tremendous season at Ohio State in which he earned defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl. Though his stats do not blow you away, Apple is a very physical and aggressive shutdown corner with a tremendous wing span given his height. At 6’1″, he offers a bit of a size advantage over Vernon Hargreaves which could come in handy in a division with the likes of Carolina Panthers towering number 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Statistically, his lack of production in 2015 compared to the previous season could be attributed to the respect he earned among Big 10 coaches. It became necessary to game-plan for Apple and avoid throwing his way as much as possible. Often times, that will limit a players production statistically but speaks volume about the type of player that they are.
At the combine, Apple received an overall grade of 6.0, meaning scouts think he has a good chance of becoming an NFL starter. He ran a 4.4 40 yard dash and completed 13 reps on the bench. With the ninth overall pick in the draft, it is likely that Apple will be available. Given the likelihood that Jalen Ramsey is off the board within the first 3-4 picks, the Bucs could be facing a decision between Apple and Vernon Hargreaves. Though edge rusher also remains a crucial need for this team, it is important to remember there are more impact defensive lineman available in this draft than defensive backs. It is quite possible to land an immediate impact edge rusher in the second round.
Whether it’s Apple or Hargreaves, the Bucs MUST address defensive back with the 9th overall pick. That means selecting the best overall remaining DB on the board. The importance of a pass rush goes without saying and I can understand why so many fans want this team to go that route first and select a defensive lineman. However, the opportunity exists to land a game-changing, perennial pro bowler defensive back that can completely disrupt a passing game. 6 games a year against Brees, Newton, and Ryan tell me that’s important.