With only two season worth of film for scouts to analyze, Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple was one of the first non-senior players to declare for the NFL Draft. Apple started 14 of 15 games as a redshirt freshman in 2014, and helped seal the Buckeyes' National Championship with a late-game interception against Oregon.
Apple's first season, he recorded 53 tackles, 10 passes defended, three interceptions and was named a freshman All-American by Athlon and Scout.com. His stats lowered a little in 2015, but were still impressive, with 33 tackles, eight passes defended and one interception. His ability to cover opposing receivers and limit big plays earned him second-team all-conference, voted on by Big Ten coaches. He was also named the Defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame and earned honorable mention all-conference honors from the Big Ten media.
NFL scouts could find issue with Apple getting handsy when he felt receivers getting past him, drawing four holding and seven pass interference flags in his two seasons with the Buckeyes. On the flip side, these penalties show Apple's aggressiveness, which also resulted in the 22 total defended passes in his time at Ohio State.
Arms: 31 3/8"
Hands: 9 3/8"
Apple has proven to be an aggressive defensive back, but with only two years of college game experience, some wonder how ready he is for the next level. When asked what specifically about his game translates to the NFL, Apple noted was quick to defend his ability.
"Just my press man cover skills. That's something in the NFL that's really important, to be a physical guy at the line of scrimmage and be able to take receivers off their path. And that's something I do better than anybody, in my opinion. My press technique is to me better than everybody out there. That's the main thing I do. I'm a physical guy and I get up on receivers and impact that."
He was sure to give his coaches credit for getting him ready for success as a pro, noting, "Guys like coach (Kerry) Coombs and coach (Chris) Ash, they definitely helped prepare me for the next level. That's why I came out early, because I felt like everything they helped me with was preparing me for the next level as far as techniques, as far as going against the best every day, guys like Michael Thomas, Braxton (Miller), great athletes like that."
Coach Coomb's son Brayden is an assistant special teams coach with the Bengals, and Apple was asked how he might fit in with the kin of one of his favorite coaches.
"Oh, man, coach Coombs is one of my favorite coaches, so I can only imagine how his son is. A younger guy, probably has a little bit more energy. That would be fun as well, getting coached by somebody like that."
Bench press: 13 reps
40-yard dash: Official time: 4.40
That's pretty fast!
There were no results available for the vertical jump, broad jump or 20-yard shuttle run for Apple.
Apple's work ethic has been lauded by scouts, and has lead to a thorough understanding of his position responsibilities. Several mock drafts have originally had Apple going in the first round of the draft, as one of the better secondary options available in this year's class. After his combine performance, he shouldn't go any later than mid to late second round, with a chance of going in the top 31.