NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
Well, you knew it was only a matter of time before I went back to scouting a Cornerback. The funny story is, I was actually scouting another guy when Xavien Howard caught my attention. I decided to switch gears and check out a few more games of a relatively unknown guy in the draft.
I will be first to admit, I sort of forgot about Xavien Howard. He was not on my preseason watch list and my only real exposure to him this year was when Baylor played Iowa State. I was actually watching Texas Tech’s La’Raven Clark when Howard kept showing up. Anytime I see a Corner who is willing to come up and make a tackle, it catches my attention. I finished the game and decided to see what I had on the DVR for Baylor and luckily I had the TCU, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State games. Instead of continuing with Clark (I will finish him up soon, I promise) I stayed up much later than I will admit and watched Howard, and for the most part, really liked what I saw. Here is the full report.
Name: Xavien Howard (#4)
School: Baylor (Jr.)
Weight: 200 Lbs.
Howard has great size for the position, not only in height but in bulk. He lined up primarily in man coverage in college and was asked to cover the opponents best receiver week in and week out. Howard is fluid in his movements. He flips his hips well and has good acceleration to stay with receivers. He has long arms and uses them well at the line of scrimmage to knock receivers out of rhythm. Howard does a nice job of riding the hip of receivers and shows nice hands, with 10 interceptions in his career. Howard is very physical and will fight through blocks to come up and make tackles. He plays the position with confidence and is competitive on every down.
Howard is inconsistent when tracking the ball. He turns to look for the ball and seems to be in position, but then the receiver still comes down with it. It is somewhat surprising considering he had 10 interceptions in just two years as a starter. He is also very grabby in coverage and he could be in for a lot of holding/pass interference calls if he doesn’t clean up his hand use. Howard has good long speed, but not great and there were times when a receiver would get separation downfield.
There is a lot to like when you watch Xavien Howard. I really love his size and his physicality. I like that he will come up and make a tackle. He is very smooth in his movements, especially for someone his size. He has to learn to keep his hands off at the next level or he will be a penalty machine, but I think with some coaching that can be fixed, because all the physical and athletic tools are there. I am not sure what to think about the ball tracking. If you want to see an example, go to draftbreakdown.com (there is only 1 video for him and I cannot get just the short clip to show up here for some reason) and go to 3:55 and you will see what I am talking about. Great coverage until the very end. The same thing happened a couple other times in other games as well, but it is not a consistent thing, in fact, most of the time he tracks the ball well. I really think he has what it takes to be a very good corner in the NFL and he gets an early Day 2 grade from me. Depending on how the draft shakes out, if he is there when the Patriots come on the clock, I would be very tempted to take him.