One of the expected top cornerbacks in this April's draft, the Ravens have been linked to Vernon Hargreaves by both fans and early mock drafts. Recently announced to be a unanimous All-American, and the first at the University of Florida since cornerback Joe Haden in 2009, Hargreaves is a tremendous talent that factors into the top half of the first round at a position that the Ravens need. That makes him immediately attractive as the Ravens selection.
Let's take a look at what makes him a player that is expected to be selected so high.
Vernon Hargreaves III
5' 11" / 198 pounds
Athletic - Holy hell is this kid fast and quick. Since I'm writing this before the combine, we don't know his numbers yet, but I have no doubt that he'll wow some people that haven't watched his film when we get to that point. Hargreaves factors in on defense, as a return specialist, and even on offense for the Gators because of his athleticism.
Plays physical - Hargreaves is not afraid to come up and make a tackle and he does well with it in the open field too. He'll fight with receivers down the field and has no problem getting in on scraps. That does leave him to be too aggressive at times (see cons), but it has it's merits as well.
Disciplined in zone - Too often you see cornerbacks get pulled out of their zone by a player streaking past them, which opens up the field for a big play. VH3 does a great job of sticking in his spot and waiting for things to come to him and then making a play.
Ball skills - He will make you pay if a ball hangs in the air a little too long. Once he has it, he'll make you pay with a great return to go with it. He also does a good job of occasionally baiting quarterbacks into making a throw that he can make a play on, utilizing his speed to cover ground quickly and jump the route.
Man coverage - His athleticism allows him to stick in the hip pocket of just about every receiver. He backpedals nicely and transitions into a full sprint well to keep with his man, allowing him to play man coverage, something needed if expected to be a shut down corner.
Too aggressive - Hargreaves is an incredibly athletic player and one that lets it get too out of control. Always trying to make the big play, he bites on moves from receivers and over pursues on tackles. He has to learn to relax and let things come to him a little more.
Gives too much cushion - This is a part of biting on moves from the receiver and being too aggressive at times. College offenses didn't abuse him much on this aspect usually because they were playing so far behind, but he could use to settle down and use his athleticism to his advantage.
Undersized - While he doesn't really play like it when in routes or in jump ball situations, he can be easily blocked off the ball. He tends to hand fight as well, which doesn't help him in these situations and it can take him out of the game on run plays. Against bigger receivers, he will have trouble jamming at the line of scrimmage as well, pushing him to off-man coverage instead.
Quits on runs away from him - For a guy that seems to want to be all over the field, he takes the occasional play off when the ball isn't going his way. To be honest, this isn't just him as almost every cornerback in the world does the same thing.
VH3 is about as athletic as they come. So much so that he adds value as a lethal punt returner or however you can get the ball into his hands. The Gators were even known to put him on offense and run wide receiver screens to him because of his ability to turn his hips and get upfield quickly. That athleticism is what makes Hargreaves such an intriguing prospect.
While not having the ideal size you'd like to see in a typical shutdown corner, the speed and jump ability makes that a wash for me. What does concern me is how aggressive he is. Much like Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith in his early years with the team, Hargreaves can and will bite on moves, leaving the wide receiver open. You can even see that he does it in college to the point where he gives receivers a little too much cushion at times, opening up the underside. Against better quarterbacks and wide receivers, he'll be a bit of a liability until he gets that corrected. It is something that can be taught and he can be turned into a true ball hawk, but he'll see some trouble early in his career until he learns to settle down.
In the end though, he has Pro Bowl caliber talent. He has the makings of a shut down cornerback for any team that drafts him and can coach him a little bit. For the Ravens, he can step in immediately and with a little help from a safety, should do wonders for the secondary.