Name: Anthony Averett
Averett possesses decent height and length, but he has a fairly slight frame. At only 185 pounds, he likely has to add a bit more weight if he wants to hold up long-term. He was an effective jammer in college, but that is not likely to translate if his strength does not improve.
A state champ in both sprinting and jumping categories, Averett should have all the athletic traits to succeed in the NFL. His combine performance does not necessarily show it, as he posted average scores in the vertical and broad jump as well as the agility drills. Only his 40-yard dash scored highly at 4.36, fifth among corners at the combine. But on the field, Averett looks in a class by himself, primarily in his change of direction ability.
Averett is a face-guarder who has some of the best man-on-man cover skills in this year’s class. He can mirror any receiver’s route, flips his hips with ease and change direction on a dime. Plus, Averett possesses exceptional recovery speed, allowing him to hang down the field, even if he is beaten off the jam. Receivers rarely find open ground when matched up with Averett, but on the rare occasions they do, he is right there to make the tackle. His zone coverage is decent, but his preference is clearly to win one-on-one battles to prevent quarterbacks from even looking his direction.
It is a testament to Averett’s cover skills that he is as touted as he is, because his ball skills are not particularly good. He is typically fixated on his man, so when the ball comes his way, he frequently is late to get his head around. At the next level, this could result in an excess of pass interference penalties. As stated before, Averett wins by beating his man, not by beating the quarterback. This is manifested by his sub-par college numbers of 16 deflections and just one interception over his three-year career. It is also why he may end up as only an average zone defender. His instincts playing his man are exceptional. The instincts reading the ball are average.
Though his size is somewhat limiting, Averett plays the run with adequate aggression. He has no problem lowering his shoulder to take on blocks at the point of attack and shows solid pursuit angles. He is capable of maintaining separation and discarding blocks, and his quick hips allow him not to be fooled by runner’s cuts. Averett has also blitzed a fair amount, though typically from the outside receiver. In the 2017 Championship Game alone he recorded a sack and a tackle for loss on blitzes. He will never play extended time in the box because of his frame, but he has the willingness to make a difference in the run game.
Averett has value as a potential top corner by some scouts. But his narrow frame and average ball-hawking ability point more towards being a good nickel. As other corners in the draft, namely Mike Hughes from UCF and Josh Jackson from Iowa, have shot up the board, Averett appears to have dipped into late second round status.
Which works for the Vikings, as they have built a solid corner foundation and are looking primarily for depth. Averett showed at Alabama how well he can perform individually when surrounded by great defensive back talent. Plus, with Mackensie Alexander developing in 2017, there is less pressure for Averett to be an aggressive run-stuffer. Until Averett’s play strength improves, Alexander can handle more of the blitzing duties. Averett is a coverage specialist, through and through. He has the ability of an NFL nickel with experience as an outside cover. He probably will not make the game-breaking interceptions, but he will almost never be a coverage liability.