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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Around The Draft: Brandon Scherff

11 days to the draft, the grind has made it under 10 by the next time I go through a prospect.  That's progress -10% left.  I can deal with that.

This one's Brandon Scherff.  He's a solid left tackle who a lot of group-think has decided should be a guard  Which means he's dropping.  And yet he's the only sustained top lineman throughout the process.  

I believe this staff in Carolina believes in tape, and then direct interaction with a prospect, over everything else.  They might not be too hard on you if you don't do well on your 22nd of 32 interview to see if you're an axe murderer, provided you don't seem to be an axe murderer.   If you're just a little underprepared, they'll let you go and it's fine.  For what it's worth, that last bit has nothing to do with Branon Scherff.

What does, though?  Tape.  On tape he looks like a fine lineman, probably the best of your five.  And probably not a Hall of Famer unless somehow he makes it to 19, 20 years and then it's just name recognition.   Now, I remember 12 years ago, crapping on Jordan Gross as a not-elite prospect because people said things like "he'll be your left tackle for the next decade."   I didn't find value on that plane of existence.  Now I do.

It doesn't hurt that I'm talking 25, or a tradeup within range of 25, and not 9 (really, 8) like Gross.  ow I'd die for another 10 year player at OT.  It'd be great to have that longevity.   And while it could be a deep class, I can see a value in having the best in class, should that happen.   I see the best overall lineman, sagging a bit because he's a good LT but could be a great guard, like what happened to guys like Zack Martin and Joel Bitonio last year.  Of course, when people push that type BS, they forget to mention that both teams had two good OT with a history.  Hard to unseat.

So, if Scherff has an opportunity to succeed on a team without two great OT, I'm guessing he plays OT.  Carolina doesn't care if you're an elite athlete, just what you looked like when you pass blocked.   Did you get it done?  Sure, you pass.  You're better than what they have.   I know that.  You don't have to be Anthony Munoz, just better.  Scherff is better, and he's on a team with good guards, but crappy tackles.  Which makes him a tackle.  Yes, on the Cowboys he's a guard.  So what?  That desn't make him a universal guard.   I'm not saying guard isn't valuable, and Carolina's in that 25 range where Pittsburgh could pick up a guard and everyone fawn over it, but some teams believe the LT is an elite athlete and it goes in hierarchy from LT->RT-> guard.   I don't think personally that you neglect a position like LT because a player might athletically "fit" better at RT.

Carolina has swapped out Byron Bell for Jonathan Martin and Michael Oher, which might be an upgrade; it's at least more competition, to go with Nate Chandler and Mike Remmers.  It's be great to have someone to move everyone down a notch,  which can't hurt compared to 2014.

Now, I've blabbered on about his fit, and what I think about guys who get categorized as "just a RT" or "should move to guard" about guys who can play LT in some systems.  But, who is Brandon Scherff?

Sophomore QB in HS, who became a receiver, then blocker (you do have to assume he grew past TE somewhere in there).  Which makes him the ideal Kirk Ferentz OL, where he spent four years as an athletic lineman in a pro style scheme.  Good athleticism, some worry a bit about his feet, but in a run scheme like Carolina's, any worries about deficiency in the open field outside would be seen only occasionally.

I'd like him.   Probably doesn't fall to 25, but in January 2014, Kelvin Benjamin wasn't going to fall.  In January 2013, no way was Star Lotulelei going to fall.  Scherff is Panther Football, and as unlikely as it is that he falls, he'd just be the next in a line of Panther first rounders that Carolina chose to push in and create as a moving force n run and pass.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Around The Draft: Arik Armstead

Another day closer.  Now with it being Friday (!!), we're under two weeks to this guy.  Closer to the 25 pick, possibly providing the next star or at least something to talk about for a while.  Closer to the end of this freaking series of prospects.  Hopefully it pays off, and at the very least I can pull out 3-4 articles of players that are highly ranked that line up with new Panthers.  Last year, I hit on exactly one (Kelvin Benjamin), and yet given the current criteria the 2007 draft would've hit on 4 or 5.  Which is why I'm diversifying out to the 15-115+ range and doing more than just a few need spots.

This spot isn't about me, though - it's about Arik Armstead. 

Oregon defender, 6'7, 292.  An intriguing guy who I think fits in a few directions.  I'll get to that in a bit.

What I see on tape from 2014?  Great first step, good leverage despite his size, long arms and powerful hands to keep blockers off him.  Great bull rush, but needs to learn some other moves.   Needs to locate the ball and/or QB a bit better, in that he focuses more on the blocker and dominating him, so he's gotta learn a bit more on finishing.  He plays high when going around, to a point, compared to his head-up.

He improved greatly from '13, so long term there's a lot of potential that you don't know how it'll sustain or how high the ceiling is.   The learning curve is certainly steep from '13 to '14, I don't know how it iwll be over time.

He reminds me physically and stylistically of Chris Canty, the Virginia alum who was with the Cowboys, Giants, and Ravens in different capacities.  That's not a magnitude comparison, they're just both tall, versatile players with a lot of talent.  I find Armstead to be much more able, more talented. 

He seems a best fit for a one-gap 3-4, able to be a two gapper.   Of course, Carolina plays a 4-3 one gap, so where am I headed with that?

What I see for him is a movable role.  4-3 end, really setting the edge (consider that the Ravens, Chargers, and Seahawks had good defenses by using a DT on the edge, in both 4-3 end and 3-4 OLB, with a DT with far less athletic ability, in Red Bryant and Jarrett Johnson) in the run, and providing rare length and athleticism in the passing game as a DT. 

Carolina doesn't currently have needs there as a starter, but Armstead could be an elite level backup who has the ability to grow into himself by the time Carolina needs to make decisions with the three different DL that have contract situations coming up.   He could partially replace any of the three.   I don't know if I'm confident he'll blow it up in the NFL, but this is a place that could ensure more success than if he went somewhere without any defensive success that expects him to be the one to make them great.

Plus, while other prospects' success has nothing to do with Armstead, I've seen a lot of DTs - especially 2012's group - out-work and out-perform similar DEs, despite having great reservations about a Dontari Poe versus a Quinton Coples or Melvin Ingram.   But, it's up to Armstead a tremendously raw piece of athleticism, to put it all together for himself.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Around The Draft: TJ Yeldon

TJ Yeldon, a junior from Alabama, a tremendous 6’1, 226 lb power back from a pro style scheme.  Big back but because of his height, he’s still somewhat lean and looks like he’s a smaller back.  He, of course, plays like a big back – and he’s a strong 22x225 on the bench.    

Good interior runner who does very well around off-tackle situations.   Good one-cut zone guy and he’s played well in power.   Quick to the hole but can cut back, quick in short space and, in the SEC, showed some breakaway speed (4.61 at combine, 4.52 pro day) despite his measurables.   Because he can cut quickly, he shows somewhat elusive in the open field, essentially by ruining the pursuit angle.  Doesn't seem to hit harder than average, not a lot of moves in the open field. 

He does run high for a big back, where he could expose the ball a bit, and he’s fumbled more than you want.  He’s shown capacity to pass block but he’s had some issues with consistency.   He had a rough 2014 in some spots with injury overall, but he’s been productive with 1000 yard seasons in each of his three seasons.   

Yeldon has definitely gained something from having a good OL, and the predecessors in the same system have had mixed results.   I don't have a feel for him.  He could be excellent - where he reminds me of Eddie George - or he could be a fumbly, too-tall guy who wears down a bit. 

Definitely a good one in a rotation, Yeldon fits because he's pro style, and does most things well.  He could run well behind power.  But, there are chinks in the armor, and you might be buying something you're not expecting.

Around The Draft:Eric Kendricks

Here's the thing.  I'm doing 100 prospects in 100 days and I can't do that, but not do a few LB.

Eric Kendricks - who prompted a detour through some Eddie Kendricks' R&B work - is just such a LB.  Senior, UCLA, 6', 232.   An unlikely BPA pick at 25 or 57, but who knows?   That's the thing about Dave Gettleman.  Did anyone see the 2nd DT pick in 2013?  But it made things happen.

Kendricks is a tweener.  Not an elite athlete for that WLB role that so many teams use like it's a Tampa 2, and maybe not quite big enough for a 4-3 MLB where you have to keep up with your gap.

But, in general, you see a good athlete (4.6 is solid. 39" vertical), strong (22x225) football player that can help you at any of three spots.  Probably not an edge rusher, doesn't have much to give there.  But he could play 3-4 ILB, 4-3 MLB or 4-3 OLB.  He'd certainly be a good special teamer if you don't need him immediately.

At UCLA, he played in a pro scheme (I guess, to a point, 'scheme' isn't a pro v/s college thing as much, but it's a complex zone scheme by Jim Mora Jr (that ratface bastard) that makes Kendricks a valuable part of coverage.   On the back end, he did get some help up front, so he didn't have to beat many blocks.  At the pro level, he probably will have to, so he'll have to show he can beat blocks;  if he can't, at that size, he's only a WLB in a scheme that really, really protects a tackler.

That frame isn't perfect, but it's compact and packs a punch.  He's light on his feet, and sifts through traffic well.  He has good instincts, which obviously gets him to the ball, but he can overpursue.

What I see here is a guy who could be Jon Beason, who was a light MLB who excelled, or Bobby Wagner, who continues to be same; as a WLB he'll really have to be shielded like a MLB, but you can see with a Luke Kuechly that not everybody who has natural sideline to sideline ability can just deal with one gap, or flow to just one side.

Kendricks would make this team better, but there's still traffic at LB.  He'd have to fall to 57 at least to be interesting, but I don't think he's really interesting until the 3rd, where he's quite obviously a better deal.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Around The Draft: Tevin Coleman

The draft is riddled with cautionary tales of guys who look the part,
have been productive, and seem to have few weaknesses, but end up not
working out, and of guys who have deficiencies but who rise to the top.
That's somewhat the essence of the draft, really. And of Tevin Coleman.

The Indiana junior (5'11, 206) doesn't have an exceptionally large
frame, or exceptional speed. He doesn't have that growth potential you
might look for with a taller back and he doesn't run that low. He's a
productive Big10 back and somehow that even tends to be a negative.

For me, the only real negative for Coleman is that he's rated a
legitimate 2nd, 3rd round back. Because he'll play in the NFL, and play
well. Is 55-70 overall, obviously rated right there with Carolina's 2nd
pick at 57, a place to get a RB? Sure. Absolutely. Would you want more
explosion, or more size, in a player there? I think so, ideally.
That's not Coleman's fault, of course.

What I see in him as a player is a glue player. He's going to bring a
lot together. He can do a little of everything - some kick returns,
he's a good receiver and can be split out to a point, he's a pretty
solid pass blocker. He did all that plus ran for 2036 yards as well,
one of 18 in history to do that at the FBS level.

I'm reading he was in the Wing-T in high school, so I have no concerns
about whether he can play in power (lead blockers). He does well
running to daylight (or, as some are taught, to color), he can shuffle
for the hole and hit top speed quickly. He is aggressive and never
quits. That reminds me a bit of Deangelo Williams, who seemed to always
try to hit the homerun, just as did Coleman (who did, by the way - his
average TD distance was 40.3 yards, and led the country with 8 60+ yard

He doesn't have a lot of shake and bake to him, and he can deliver a hit
but he breaks tackles somewhat more because he avoids them with speed,
something that will be less possible in the NFL. He runs a little too
high which gets tacklers into his body.

As a side story, he's a fighter. 10 weeks premature birth, 3.5 lb baby
who was given essentially no chance to make it. A loyal and religious
leader. Tough and durable.

I think of him as a player that can excel with a good OL. If he's with
a poor line, he'll get stuffed a lot. If he's expected to create a lot,
he might not have that. If he's expected to be the only back, he might
not have enough variety and ability to his moves to pull the whole thing

I believe in Coleman to be a productive player. He might be the third
to fifth best RB in the draft, which this year oddly enough may be a
2nd-3rd round thing instead of what's increasingly become a 4th-5th
round deal.

I see his ability, maturity being a big thing in Carolina. He pass
blocks, and RBs have to pass block here with skill, not just effort. I
see Coleman as a tremendous fit. I don't know if he's necessarily the
57 pick. I'd love him at the end of 3 but don't think he'll make it.
But would he excel as a 2nd back, and possibly a 2017 starter with a big
back behind him? Yes. I am confident he could carry a lot here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Around The Draft: Phillip Dorsett

Yet another WR on this installment of Around The Draft in 100 Days.

This one?  Miami's Phillip Dorsett.

A light 5'10, 185, the Hurricanes' Senior is a lightning bolt. 4.33 40, and a tremendous 6.7 second 3 cone as well.   Pro day saw him hit a 4.29 40.

As you might expect with that speed in college, especially in a somewhat defensively deficient ACC, Dorsett turned a heavy portion of his touches into touchdowns.  One in 3.6 catches in 2014 went for TD (10 TD).    Overall a roleplayer who caught 36 balls, does the most them with them as he averages 25 yards per catch since his Sophomore year.

Very good body control to adjust, and he can work in the slot or outside (but he's not a rounded receiver like a slot sometimes suggests).  Not just a 'go' receiver, but his routes require work, and while his 3 cone suggests tremendous short and stop/start athleticism, he will have to become a better route runner to see the field.   He might otherwise become a player who you might drop on a team 5 or 6 snaps to just run go routes to scare defenders .

Dorsett has good hands and contests catches if needed;

The #1, #2 WR positions are blurred now in the NFL.  Carolina's 1x3 and 2x2 bunch sets, along with the more traditional spread (1x3 or 2x2 but not bunched), have helped keep it from being a need for the true "#1 WR" role, along with the need for a near-dominant #2 versus two or three good roleplayers.   Personnel usage, formations, sheer reps really make a difference now.    That's started to limit the draft busts at WR, but it's because it's easier to contribute early there now.   Carolina has that one guy in Kelvin Benjamin that's pretty tremendous, but if not, I might argue selling the farm to get a similar player.

In this case, Dorsett follows more of what Carolina has in Corey Brown and Ted Ginn.   There may possibly be room for both, and Dorsett,   Carolina has big guys (KB, Jerricho Cotchery, Jarrett Boykin, Brenton Bersin), speed type guys (Brown, Ginn), and that elusive combo (Stephen Hill).  There's room for something either way, and yet the need is overblown because some feel a "true #2" is missing.  I disagree - not that there's not a great #2.  There isn't - I'm disagreeing that it's needed.

Dorsett probably isn't the ideal player in Carolina, but that playmaking could benefit here.  He could make some interesting things happen.  Currently a 2nd or 3rd round type player.  He might struggle to make the field, because Carolina likes players like Cotchery who do the small things well, and have more experienced deep receivers to supplant him.  But, in a year, Cotchery's gone, and Ginn is signed on for two.  You never know what could happen in a year or two.

Around The Draft: Andrus Peat

I'm starting to see Peat, the February "best Tackle in the draft" after January's Brandon Scherff and the prior October's Cedric Ogbuehi, dip a bit.   At once a top 10 pick, and now a bit later, Peat might be around at 25 now, so i'm going to breeze through this Stanford OT, as I yet again need to put out two posts today.

The 6'7, 313 lb Stanford Junior checks most of the boxes immediately.  Tall, and while not exceptionally long-limbed, 34.325 is enough, and 10.625 hands are plenty.   Good movement stats on him.

Outland semi-finalist, Second team All American.  Long term starter for a 3 year guy, 27 starts to finish his career and a freshman rotator who averaged 20 snaps a game.   All three years, Peat was a left tackle, I expect that to continue in the NFL (unlike Scherff, La'el Collins, or other players, he doesn't get considered a possible "lesser" prospect for being a RT or G, though I believe a player is a player, and you pick a player for the position you need; this thing where Joel Bitonio and Zack Martin, good tackles, played G on teams with good Ts, has skewed a lot of viewpoints).

Tape shows a talented player in a pro style system.  Knows the game and his role, probably does well in the whiteboard work.  Seems to be a good technician,  When he keeps guys in front of him, has a good anchor to stop a defender, and he generally keeps position to make sure that happens, with a good ability to mirror and change direction.

Good run blocker, not an exceptional combo blocker but he can do it - he just holds a long time on the first block.  Good drive blocker, and good reach blocker (blocking down for a pulling guard, for instance).   Thick lower body who can make things happen in the run game, I read some concern that he's not dominant there, but that's OK.  He would get better in this offense with all those reps, and Carolina likes a LT that can run block.

He's got some issues, in that his technique isn't always as great and I read that some call him soft.  Not ideal, but I can't say with him.  And I can't hold the supposed Jonathan Martin demons against him.  I see a player with more athleticism than that, though Martin does read similarly, comes from the same school, and was thought of as a mid-first round pick in 2012 - enough that he was a legitimate consideration at that 8 pick for me, though behind a number of defenders.  

I don't know what Martin encountered as a Dolphin, fully.  Whether teammates were really just awful, or if they were awful and they felt they needed to toughen him up/make him work harder.  Neither excuses anything or makes it relevant to Peat, I guess, but in the back of my mind, there's a narrative there.

Watching Peat fall a bit, it makes me somewhat nervous because of that narrative.  But that's not fair.

He can man the edge well, and he can block the run.   If he falls to 25, that's potentially likely to be the best player, plus or minus how you feel about Todd Gurley.