From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
Corn Elder/CB Miami (FL) – 5’10/1 179
– Versatile player with experience playing all over the field (field/boundary/slot) and types of coverage (man/zone/fire zone blitzes)
– High football IQ, quick to diagnose and explosive coming downhill, making up for lack of size
– Successful in off man and zone coverage, good feet, and little wasted motion transitioning and coming downhill
– Above average speed, should test well (low 4.4’s)
– Good feel for route concepts and where/when routes break
– Competent tackler when playing with proper technique
– Shows plus ball skills in zone coverage when he can diagnose and react
– Special teams value, played on coverage units even during senior year
– Minor return background
– Undersized, underweight, with below average length (30 7/8 inches)
– Needs to consistently aim higher as a tackler, drops eyes and causes him to miss
– Not as successful in man coverage as he is in zone, struggles to stay in-phase and has more difficulty playing catch points
– Has to be a little more fluid in turn in man coverage, pedal is a bit clunky
– Lacks significant starting experience
– Did not have much production, didn’t create many turnovers
– 21 career starts
– Career: 158 tackles, 3 INT, 1 FF
– 2016 First Team All-ACC
– 12 kick and 12 punt returns, 2 total return touchdowns (one of each)
– Star running back in high school, rushed for over 2600 yards and 39 touchdowns his senior year
– Played football and basketball in high school, planned to play basketball for Miami too before changing his mind
– Suffered a torn meniscus in knee at end of freshmen season of college
I’ll be upfront about it – I think Elder is the next William Gay. Not a big dude, but a good athlete (remember, Gay ran a 4.48 at his Pro Day) who plays bigger than his size and will excel in a zone scheme. And in two years, he could be the man to replace him.
It’s easy to scoff at him because he is undersized; 179 is light, lighter than even Senquez Golson was. But he’s gotten the most out of his size at the U and profiles as an excellent slot corner at the next level.
His versatility jumps off the page. A guy who did everything in college. Left corner, right corner, field/boundary, playing in the slot, blitzing from the slot and the outside, experience in man and zone. The list is exhaustive.
That alone speaks to a high football IQ that will shorten the NFL transition but you see it on the field, too. Watch him know this swing pass is coming, split the receivers, and make a big-time tackle in the backfield.
Immediately, you get the feel he will fit in the Steelers’ scheme.
But he has long speed too. His bio says he ran a 4.42 in high school. At the Combine, I don’t think he’ll run anything worse than 4.45. Understand he has the angle here but watch him chase down Dalvin Cook to save a touchdown.
Now to the bad. He has his own version of getting trucked by Adrian Peterson like Gay did. Watch this Pitt tight end run him over in 2015.
That’s what happens when you’re a small guy. And why he profiles in the slot at the next level. He’ll struggle against the big receivers of the AFC North (Pryor, Green).
He’s better in zone coverage at playing the ball when he can get vision on the QB and drive with explosion. Worse in man coverage. Didn’t look great there at the Senior Bowl nor here, trying to come downhill in man against this Florida State receiver. Makes an effort to break the ball up but doesn’t have the length or strength to do so.
Elder gives a lot of effort as a tackler and will support the run, a critical but underrated component of playing in the slot. But he needs to raise his tackling angle and shoot a little higher to miss less often. Here, he’s coming in too low on QB Mitch Trubisky and misses, letting him get the edge and pick up extra yards.
It’s not entirely clear how the Steelers will attack the cornerback position this year and I don’t see there as being a *wrong* answer. If they choose to wait and opt against drafting one within the top three rounds, Elder will present strong value in probably the 4th.
He’ll be a “hair on fire” player on special teams in Year One and groomed to take over for Gay in Year Two. That’s a plan for success.
Projection: Early Day Three
Games Watched: vs Virginia Tech (2015), at Pitt (2015), vs Florida State, vs North Carolina