Vernon Hargreaves was commonly associated as a possible first round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the early 2016 NFL Draft speculation. Does he still warrant some consideration?
It wasn’t that long ago (really, it’s only been a month or two) that Florida defensive back Vernon Hargreaves was being tagged as a possible first round selection by the Jacksonville Jaguars. From subtle hints in articles like this one from the Florida Times-Union to this Heavy first round mock draft, Hargreaves seemed like the cornerback that Jags desperately needed.
Then came cornerback/safety Jalen Ramsey out of Florida State and Hargreaves was quickly cast aside. Ramsey is an excellent defensive back and could solidify either of two positions for the Jaguars making him invaluable to a franchise as bereft of talent as the Jags. He also has the right size that head coach Gus Bradley looks for, standing an inch over six feet.
Is it fair to move on so quickly from Hargreaves to the latest flavor of the month in Ramsey? More importantly, is it wise? Ramsey is undoubtedly an excellent defensive back and would be a superb pick at fifth overall, but could Vernon Hargreaves once again be worthy of consideration as a top-five pick?
At just two inches shorter than Ramsey, Hargreaves has had to face questions about his stature when matching up with some of the bigger wide receivers in the NFL. He’s quoted by the Charlotte Observer as offering that “When you go against a guy like Kelvin Benjamin, there’s not much technique you can use. You’ve got to compete.” While he’s certainly aware that technique matters, Hargreaves has also backed up his play against tall receivers in the past.
With 10 interceptions and 27 pass breakups over his three years at Florida, it’s tough to debate the results that Hargreaves has delivered through competing. He has a knack for making plays and he’s willing to be aggressive. This is reflected by his preference for press coverage and disrupting the timing of receivers in the passing game. That willingness to get physical as a cornerback has a certain appeal to Bradley, who is looking for aggressive players who want to compete and make plays for his defense.
Ian Wharton at Bleacher Report notes that Hargreaves will have to impress on Monday at the NFL Scouting Combine if he hopes to go early to a team like the Jaguars. Specifically, he’ll have to score well on standard benchmarks like height, weight, 40-yard dash, bench press, and other drills. Wharton argues that if Hargreaves turns in a poor performance like Brent Grimes’ 2006 performance (someone Hargreaves has looked to in modeling his game somewhat), he’ll have a much tougher time convincing teams to take a chance on him early.
It’ll be tough for Hargreaves to distinguish himself from his peers if he can’t show the athleticism at the combine that hints toward his adaptability as a professional player with professional coaching. His recovery speed is especially important as Hargreaves has been prone to selling out to stop big plays or jumping routes, which receivers and quarterbacks have taken advantage of.
Those aren’t necessarily impossible faults to overcome and anybody who picks Hargreaves is going to have the added benefit of getting a player who is going to compete on each and every route to win. He isn’t going to let someone out-compete him, but he may need some help over the top or a consistent pass rush in order to compensate for his aggressive style of play that could leave his team out to dry otherwise.
Is the aggressive nature and play making ability enough to keep the Jaguars interested in Vernon Hargreaves when they get on the clock at number five overall? Or will there be better options to pick up instead?
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No professional prospect is perfect coming out of college and general managers and coaches need to find the players they think can grow into competitive players that help their team win football games. Hargreaves seems like he could be that guy for the Jags, but he has some fierce competition to prove that he’s worth their pick.