Analysis: James Pierre can be a quality player in the NFL if drafted by the right team

The FAU defensive back attended the NFL Combine along with Harrison Bryant in early March.

FAU+DB+James+Pierre+was+a+huge+part+of+last+year%27s+successful+defense+that+led+the+nation+in+turnover+margin.+Photo+by+Alex+Liscio.+

FAU DB James Pierre was a huge part of last year's successful defense that led the nation in turnover margin. Photo by Alex Liscio.

Trey Avant, Contributing Writer

With the NFL Draft slated to start on April 23, the University Press will evaluate the FAU football players eligible for the upcoming event. Tuesday was the analysis of tight end Harrison Bryant; today it’s a look at cornerback James Pierre. 

A key piece in a defense that led the nation in turnover margin, Pierre had a solid junior season with the Owls, where he recorded 30 solo tackles out of 44 total tackles, one forced fumble, and three interceptions along with four passes defended. 

Pierre projects as a late round, developmental prospect with the potential to stick on a NFL roster through the practice squad but his flashes of ball skills and physicality could net him a spot on a main roster early.

Here are the strengths and weaknesses of Pierre and what he can bring to a NFL roster: 

Strengths

Pierre has the size and length to be an effective outside corner. He possesses a strong punch at the line and has good block shedding technique to go along with his strength. 

He’s an aggressive hitter who routinely steps up to take on ball-carriers as characterized by a career-high 4.5 tackles for a loss in 2019.

Pierre’s eyes are quick to recognize a quarterback’s intentions and with his 4.59 combine speed can quickly close out on receivers when the ball is in the air. He also displays above-average hands and ball skills when the ball is in his vicinity.

He also brings forth some special teams versatility as well. Back in 2018, he returned three kicks for 61 yards.

Pierre’s size and toughness in run support could work in his favor and a team that places a heavy emphasis on a Cover 2 zone defense could be pleasantly surprised by drafting him. 

Weaknesses

While Pierre has the physical measurements to stack up in the NFL, he lacks the fundamentals needed to compete in the NFL right now. Another season at FAU could have helped him shore up his coverage technique and boost his draft stock for the 2021 NFL Draft. 

His lower body is his main concern as his footwork and technique can be raw and sloppy. Pierre seems to be limited to covering the boundary due to his tight hips, so placing him inside to cover a slot receiver would not be the wisest choice. 

A shifty receiver, if given enough space, can throw Pierre off balance and leave him scrambling to recover, leading him to play the receiver instead of the ball.

Pierre is at his best in press coverage where he’s given the ability to put his hands on the receiver and get physical. When defending in space, his flaws are magnified and he shows that he’s much faster than he is quick, however not fast enough to cover the true burners of the NFL. 

Best fit

Despite his fundamental deficiencies, Pierre seems poised to be a late round pick. His physical gifts and ball skills are too enticing for teams to pass up on and he would be a quality depth piece in the right system.

When the Chicago Bears released Prince Amukamara, a glaring hole opened in the secondary and in response the Bears signed Artie Burns who played fewer than 400 snaps over the last two seasons combined with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

If Burns falters, the Bears will have an open corner spot beside Kyle Fuller which Pierre could fill.

The Las Vegas Raiders’ secondary has been a problem for years now. A problem they have tried to solve by bringing in numerous players through the draft and free agency in recent seasons. It hasn’t worked to this point and the secondary was still a major issue in 2019. 

Drafting Pierre would give the Raiders a developmental piece who can transition into a solid starter down the road.

The Giants will be rolling with DeAndre Baker and free agent acquisition James Bradberry at starting cornerback, but they still could use quality depth behind those two outside. 

Pierre has shown flashes of potential and that with time he can progress into a serviceable corner. A return for his senior season could’ve worked in his favor, but his size, toughness in run support and potential to improve makes him a developmental cornerback with the ability to catch on early on a team’s practice squad.

The University Press will continue its series of draft profiles tomorrow with offensive lineman Junior Diaz.

Trey Avant is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @TreyAvant3.