The Miami Dolphins selected Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, moving up four positions to grab the coverage player they wanted. Looking back, the team may have been able to stay with their 42nd overall pick and still land Howard, but they feared a cornerback run starting ahead of their selection, and they aggressively jumped up to get the player they wanted. It was a pick that surprised many fans, as Howard was not a name many had heard discussed prior to the Draft, but he fits the mold that defensive coordinator Vance Joseph seems to want for his cornerbacks, and Miami got the player they wanted.
But who is he? What did Miami get in Howard? We get a look at SB Nation's Baylor blog, Our Daily Bears.
Since assuming a starting spot last year as a redshirt sophomore, Howard has been a revelation of sorts in Baylor's secondary as clearly our best cover corner. His development culminated this year in an All-Big 12 nod, and excitement was high for his return to the secondary next season. Alas, that is not to be, and Howard will finish his Baylor career with 10 interceptions in 26 career starts (all in the past two years)...he has great size at 6-2 that the NFL will absolutely love, and his play this year was quite good, he still has tremendous room for growth in his technique.
That seems to align with what some of the Draft profiles for Howard, specifically that he will have to continue to develop at the NFL level and refine his technique as a cover corner. NFL.com's profile of Howard states, "Howard has the size and short area quickness to operate from press coverage, but might need safety help his way while he is weaned from his grabby, collegiate style of coverage. Howard has starter's potential, but must improve his technique and step up his run support to be successful in the league."
CBS Sports' Rob Rang wrote in his profile of Howard, "After redshirting his first season and seeing limited action in 2013, he emerged as a standout in 2014 and hasn't looked back since, developing into one of the Big 12's best all-around corners. With patience, he should develop into a starter at the next level, as well, projecting best in a press-heavy scheme."
Joseph, in his first year as Miami's defensive coordinator, is coming to the team after serving as the Cincinnati Bengals' defensive backs coach, so he should have the ability and patience to develop Howard.
Jumping back to Our Daily Bears, they add in another post about Howard:
Howard, who left Baylor after his junior year, was one of the biggest bright spots on Phil Bennett's defense this past season. He's a relatively tall corner with excellent coverage skills that actually had the lowest passer rating against among all P5 corners, and had 9 combined INTS and 17 passes broken up the last two years. He'll have to get better at tackling with the physicality of the NFL game, but there's no doubt that he has the coverage skills to contribute and quickly.
The Dolphins are going to be expecting a quick contribution from Howard, even as they show patience with his development. He is likely going to see playing time early this season, and, while the team will expect rookie mistakes from him, they need his coverage skills to bolster a cornerback position group that is looking to be completely overhauled this offseason.