2014 NFL Draft Player Scouting Report – Duke CB Ross Cockrell

By Alex Kozora

Our focus has shifted to the offseason and for the next few months, I’ll be providing scouting reports on several draft prospects. Some of these players the Pittsburgh Steelers may look at and others will be top players that will be off the board before they select. All to make you as prepared as possible for the 2014 NFL Draft.

Breakdown of Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell.

Ross Cockrell/CB Duke: 6’0 191

The Good

– Slightly above average size but frame isn’t that noteworthy

– Some explosion and ability to close

– Plays the ball in the air well

– Speed not great but good enough

– Showed some toughness to play through injury

– Times where he shows aggressiveness as a tackler, playing through the hands to force fumbles

– As much experience as you could hope for

– Productive, decorated career

– Seemingly high character

The Bad

– Very short arms (29 7/8) and small hands (9 inches) given his frame

– Devoid of functional strength

– Put on skates when stalk blocked

– Shy and hesitates to get his nose dirty against the run

– Soft tackler

– No special traits athletically

– May play too tall in his pedal

– Minor medical issues


– 49 career starts

– 2013: 46 tackles, 3 INTs

– Career: 233 tackles, 12 INTs

– Two-time All-ACC First Team (2012, 2013)

– Four-time Academic All-ACC

– Missed one game and half of another due to ankle injury in 2013

– Missed one game in 2011 with a leg injury

– Father played football at Columbia

– Helped high school team go undefeated and win state title as a junior

Tape Breakdown

Cockrell is a decent athlete who has some explosiveness and click and close. Does a nice job with the ball in the air. Competitive and aggressive on the ball.

Pass is thrown behind Mike Evans but Cockrell capitalizes by playing the pocket and knocking the pass away. Came on 3rd and 10, too. Get off down for the defense.

Another big play this time against Miami. 4th and 3. Cockrell, bottom of the screen in the following clip, reads the quarterback in zone, and closes to the ball quickly. Contests the throw and the pass falls incomplete effectively eliminating any hope the Hurricanes had at a comeback.

Am of course a fan of the starting experience. As much as you can want in a player. After redshirting as a true freshman, he grabbed hold of the starting reigns and never looked back. Just reading the tea leaves but a two-time captain and four time all-academic bodes well for his character.

Even after watching four games, I struggled to find many positives in his game. As weak as the 5th grader picked last in dodgeball (side note: that was me). Huge liability in the run game. Can’t shed and worse, gets washed repeatedly. Saw it in every game. Cockrell sporting #6 for Duke.

Evans gets some revenge, driving Cockrell back a good eight yards into the end zone.

Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas trucks him. Thomas is a big dude but still ugly from Cockrell.

Tackling Kelvin Benjamin in the open field is no small task, but a feeble attempt to bring him down. Benjamin scores easily.

Could be playing too high in his pedal, shown in the picture below, causing him to be a tad stiff in his hips.


As I will always do, have to view Cockrell through the scope of what the Steelers want. The Steelers’ value three things from their cornerbacks.

1. Must be willing to support the run

2. Must be physical

3. Must be a reliable tackler

Cockrell doesn’t fit any of those requirements. What else he brings to the table is irrelevant….though that isn’t special either.

He doesn’t fit the bill of a Steelers’ cornerback but the player I look at next just might. Any guesses?

Projection: Late 4th-Early 5th

Games Watched: at Virginia Tech (Half – Injury), vs Miami, vs Florida St (ACC Championship), vs Texas A&M (Bowl)

Previous Scouting Reports:
Buffalo LB Khalil Mack
Illinois State T/G Josh Aladenoye
Penn State WR Allen Robinson
Stanford ILB Shayne Skov/a>
Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin
North Carolina TE Eric Ebron
Auburn T Greg Robinson
Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman
Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III
Auburn LB Dee Ford
Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro
North Dakota State T Billy Turner
Boston College RB Andre Williams
South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
BYU OLB Kyle Van Noy
Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald
Tennessee NT Daniel McCullers
Colorado State DE/OLB Shaquil Barrett
Alabama T Cyrus Kouandjio
Tennessee T Antonio Richardson
Central Florida RB Storm Johnson
Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller
Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
West Virginia DE Will Clarke
Louisville S Calvin Pryor
Wisconsin ILB Chris Borland
Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews
Virginia T Morgan Moses
Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt
Mississippi WR Donte Moncrief
Central Florida QB Blake Bortles
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
North Carolina DE Kareem Martin
UCLA OLB Anthony Barr
South Carolina CB Victor Hampton
Clemson WR Martavis Bryant
Fresno State WR Davante Adams
Texas DE/OLB Jackson Jeffcoat
Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard
TCU CB Jason Verrett
Louisiana Tech NT Justin Ellis
Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk
Rice CB Phillip Gaines
Coastal Carolina RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Cincinnati TE Blake Annen
Alabama LB C.J. Mosley
Auburn RB Tre Mason

About the Author

Alex Kozora
Full-time blogger from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • steeltown

    I read he ran a sub 4.4 and had a 39inch vertical at his pro day. He certainly needs to improve his tackling, but that can be taught. C.Allen had almost the same issues coming out, good size and zone awareness, but he did not excel in run support and had “stiff hips”

  • Paddy

    6th round. All the teams have his tapes. If you refuse to tackle you cant play.

  • Caesar

    I hope the allusion to the next one up is Walt Aiken…very intrigued by him. Or Antone Exum. Or Nevin Lawson.

  • SteelersDepot

    I’m higher than most on Ross. There is no doubt that he needs to fill out that frame of his a little more if possibly. He also needs to get stronger. While on the money, I think Alex focused too much on his warts without highlighting some other positives of his game. That being said, my initial thought was round four, but perhaps Ross is more of a fifth-round guy.

  • 20Stoney

    I watched some of him on youtube yesterday and went away fairly unimpressed.
    I’d also note that Justin Gilbert doesn’t meet the 3 criteria stated of what the Steelers look for in a corner. I’m really hoping they find a trade partner and can move down.

  • shawn

    5th round is fair !

  • RedCarpetDefense

    I think it odd the Steelers’ criteria for the CB position makes no mention of, well, defending the pass. I know Captain Obvious here but with all the talk of supporting the run, tackling, etc. sound like the criteria for an OLB or S. Certain positions will be more adept at certain fundamentals than others but does this team need a tweener LB/CB? If a CB needs to consistently make plays supporting the run that should speak to the failure of the DL and LB crews respectively. It’s about as absurd a concept as a MLB defending the deep middle third of the field.

  • Matt Manzo

    Next?: Desir? SJB?

  • Matt Manzo

    Or Watkins?

  • Alex Kozora

    And I’ll be the first to admit I have a tough time getting a good read on cornerbacks. Especially with the broadcast tape instead of All-22. So who knows, I’ll be the first to admit that. I just couldn’t see much I liked on tape.

    Having said that aside, I completely agree with Dave that Cockrell is a guy that Steelers’ really like. Good chance they draft him.

  • Alex Kozora

    Next one won’t be of any of those three. But a guy I like and fits the mold better than Cockrell IMO. Will be posted in next day or two. Still have to finish watching him and of course, type up my report.

  • Matt Manzo

    Rashad Reynolds? Or Breeland? Someone already guessed Aikens?
    I’m guessing all mid rnd guys.
    I’m goin crazy over all the good CBs, can’t wait to see who it is?

  • Matt Manzo

    It sounds like he’s similar to JGilbert? I’d be fine with him in the 4th, 5th would be even better!

  • Matt Manzo

    I’m a huge fan of Exum! I’d rather have him in the 4th than Pryor in the 1st!

  • lefnor

    My guess is Terrance Mitchell or Breeland. Mitchell is a tackling machine.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    Alex, I find your (all authors to this sight as well) insights and opinions in your articles to be very informative as I am mostly in agreement with what is being said. It is my (humble as it is) opinion that the cornerback position is the 2nd most polarizing position in all of football with kicker being THE most, I jest, certainly it’s QB. Anyhow, my point is simply that all owners, all GM’s, all coaches and of course us fans cherish anyone who plays the CB position being as hard and stout against the run as a LB while tossing aside blockers like a DE in addition to locking down the opposition’s best WR and generally being a
    “nuisance” to any QB bold enough to throw in said CB’s side o’ the field. Seeing as this draft is void of such a player boasting the level of talent I described I will lament for the day of the 2nd coming of one Mel Blount or Rod Woodson.

    I don’t claim to know the intricate details of LeBeau’s defensive schemes in particular that which is pertinent to the ideal makings of a Steeler CB but there are potentially some CBs in this draft

  • RedCarpetDefense

    …that would appear to have other favorable traits pertinent and conducive to creating turnovers, scoring, special teams return ability while generally falling a smidge shy of the 3 criteria mentioned as favorable traits of a Steeler CB. Would this organization be willing to… compromise…the Steeler way in regards to rolling the proverbial dice to select a player that would go against the grain of others typically selected to play the same position? It seems to have been done at other positions on defense like DE, LB. Thanks for taking the time to read my first posting and offering a reply. BTW, I wouldn’t necessarily draft Cockrell as to the reasons you mention.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    ? Dontae Johnson ?
    …I’ll just wait patiently for your next article

  • LatrWildcat

    Is the player you are alluding to Kyle Fuller?

  • Alex Kozora

    Nah, it’s a mid-round guy.