NFL Draft

2016 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Oklahoma CB Zack Sanchez

As you should know by now, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have interest in.

#15 – Zack Sanchez/CB Oklahoma: 5-11, 185

The Good

– Small-man mentality, scrappy
– Can be slow to click, but fast to close
– Knows when he has help, plays exactly to call
– Plays up and into the box against run
– Aggressive downhill
– Excellent route recognition skills, breaks on ball before receiver
– 15 INTs in college, including 13 over last two seasons

The Bad

– Doesn’t play in open field well, fails to recognize angle and shoulder game
– Too quick to bail to responsibilities without waiting for routes to develop, needs to be more patient
– Lacks play strength, stiff-armed out of plays
– Easily boxed-out by larger receivers who know how to use their frame, although dominates awkwardly large receivers
– Tends to gamble too much in coverage, boom/bust cornerback

Bio

– Deceptively weight room strong despite small frame, with 19 bench press reps
– Three-year starter, started 37 of possible 39 (missed two games with leg injury)
– Second-team All-American (2015), Second-Team All-Big 12 (2015), First-Team All-Big 12 (2014)
– 28 PD in 3 years
– Consistent tackler, 46, 43 and 45 respectively
– Led Big 12 in 2013 in PD as RFr with 13 (tied with current Charger Jason Verrett and Packer Demetri Goodson)
– Was ranked as the #172 player in Texas coming out of high school per ESPN

Tape Breakdown

Let’s get it out of the way right now: Zack Sanchez is undersized. Although his height is closer to ideal, he’s played undersized all his college career (listed at 179 on his roster page). No matter how you slice the player or his abilities, at the CB position, size will limit him on the field.

Even though Sanchez is undermanned here, he still plays downhill aggressively. As soon as he sees the #2 receiver stemming outside, he closes. However, he attacks the inside shoulder of his receiver, which is a no-no.

As the contain player, his responsibility is to force the sideline half of the receiver and leverage the ballcarrier back inside. He doesn’t do that here, which could have been extremely dangerous if Baylor’s KD Cannon had been able to turn the corner and cut upfield. That edge is his to secure, and his gap play here is incomplete.

Against Cover 3, this is a very effective stop route unless that strongside alley defender can get under the #1 receiver in time to prevent it. Spoiler alert: he doesn’t.

Sanchez gets bailed out by a dreadful throw from Bryce Petty, who puts it so far behind the receiver that he has to come back almost a full two yards to make the reception. However, Sanchez comes downhill, breaks down and fights through for the tackle.

Sanchez gets a called run blitz from the edge. He has the burst to close and the athleticism to sink his hips while running. Note his explosion into the running back. This is what you want to see from an undersized cornerback against the run with a designed blitz.

Textbook play here from Sanchez for a game-winning interception. Read the receivers’ releases, then see the outside-breaking stem. Disrupt at the top of the route, check the QB’s eyes and play the ball aggressively. This is a “my-ball” mentality at its finest for a little guy who plays big.

TCU WR Emanuel Porter is 6-4 and 210 pounds. By any measure, he should dominate a physical matchup with Sanchez. Not so here.

Prior to the snap, Sanchez slides inside as the Sooners shift coverage over the top. He plays down and distance and recognizes the route run to the sticks. He breaks downhill quickly and just gets to the ball faster and more aggressively than Porter for the interception, his first of two in the game.

Summary:

He may be undersized, but Sanchez does not play like it. He is scrappy and aggressive, with a nose for the ball. However, that does come back to bite him, as his aggressiveness can cause him to think a play is going underneath and then gets beat deep over the top. He doesn’t have the top-end speed to really hang with speedy guys, and double-moves have consistently shown to be his weakness on tape.

That said, he tackles surprisingly well for a corner in space. His problem is that he doesn’t have the true dog strength to drive through the larger guys – he will simply bounce off them despite good technique. So although he is a wiling tackler in space, he may not be able to make the play.

Although he was used from time to time in press coverage, he usually played Cover 3 or 2 zone 6-7 yards off the line of scrimmage. This allowed him the cushion to have some patience to read the field, although he was often late in making decisions and then slow to carry them out, a dangerous combination. Sanchez’s best fit in the NFL is going to be a team that puts him in the slot, where he can have help behind him.

His tackling abilities and fiery mentality will earn him a slot position for an NFL team, and his ballhawk mentality is what coaches will crave. He translates extremely well to an interior secondary position, and that is where he will have success in the NFL. On the outside, he will have too much time to be too patient, but putting him in the slot forces him to be more aggressive in his decision-making.

Projection: Third-Fourth Round

Games Watched: Baylor (2014), at Tennessee, TCU

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