An NFL Draft Blog

An NFL Draft Blog
Formerly known as the player rater.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Adrian Clayborn- 2011 Draft Scouting Report

Iowa Senior defensive end Adrian Clayborn is the most complete player of all of the 3-4 defensive ends from this year's draft class. As I said before, 2011 will be the greatest class of 3-4 defensive ends in the history in the draft (mostly because the 3-4 defense is so new), and I'd say Adrian Clayborn will be the grand prize of the group.

Clayborn has natural physical tools. Clayborn has excellent height, good bulk, and above average athleticism for his size. He also possesses long arms, and above average upper body and lower body strength. He also possesses excellent quickness, and good change of direction skills.

Clayborn's numbers are outstanding. Last year, he got 63 tackles and 11 sacks, emerging as a pass rusher last year after 50 tackles and 2 sacks during Sophomore year. He also has deflected an above average 6 passes in his career. He has been a pretty consistent player throughout his career at Iowa in a game-by-game basis as well as a play-by-play basis.

Clayborn has natural quickness and reaction ability. He has solid anticipation of the snap, he has good quickness off the ball, he has good change of direction skills, and he has excellent suddenness and arm quickness when using pass rush moves.

Clayborn has solid instincts. He typically doesn't over commit on misdirections or screen passes, but I occasionally see him out of position on play actions. He also can read and react to plays quickly, and he takes excellent angles to opposing ball carriers in pursuit.

Clayborn provides a solid array of pass rush moves. He has a good swim move, and he has some development in his rip move on run plays. He also uses his hands extremely well, he possesses excellent form on his speed and bull rush, and he provides excellent suddenness in defensive line stunts.

Clayborn is an excellent tackler. His tackling fundamentals are outstanding, he possesses the arm strength to make improbable arm tackles, and his overall fundamentals are excellent. He is also an extremely hard hitter that can force fumbles.

Clayborn's main concern are character issues. He was arrested on assault charges in 2009 after punching a cab driver, and a woman was arrested for stalking him later in the year. But overall, I think his character concerns are a little overrated; he is clearly a hard worker that puts a lot of effort onto the field, contributing to his production. He seems to be dedicated to football and he has a strong work ethic. I really don't think his character concerns are that big of a deal.

Here are some highlights of Clayborn:

Adrian Clayborn vs. Georgia Tech

Overall, Clayborn is a player with natural talent and outstanding on field intensity. I think he would be a pretty safe pick, because of his combination of talent and excellent football fundamentals. A very good player, who will succeed at the NFL level.

NFL Comparison: Julius Peppers, with less height but a little bit more on field intensity.
Grade: 95
Projection: 95

Updated Scouting Report(s): Patrick Peterson. I decided it just wasn't fair to analyze corners by the yards the opposing team's number one receiver gets. Corners usually cover one side of the field, not one receiver. I still know that Peterson is horribly overrated, but the validity in my original measure for success isn't perfect, so I changed it. I also added a paragraph about his character.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Speed Receivers vs Big Receivers

An everlasting debate among NFL draft circles is taking the speed receiver over the tall receiver or visa-versa. Personally, I have always favored the speed receiver, but I decided to test which receivers get more yards; The Speed Receiver or the Big Receiver.

I decided to measure how many yards all the receivers in the NFL got based on their height. I want to start out by saying that I didn't count five receivers in my study; Miles Austin, Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, Vincent Jackson, and Calvin Johnson. These 5 receivers are all 6'3 or taller and run a 40 yard dash in 4.40 seconds or less. Let's be honest; Calvin Johnson is 6'5, and he runs a 4.35 40 yard dash. Is he a big receiver, or is he a speed receiver? Well, there is no right answer. He is both. It wouldn't be fair to count any of those guys for either group.

I decided to see of the top 50 receivers in the NFL last season, in terms of yards gained, how many of them were 6'2 or taller (big), and how many of them were 6'1 or shorter (to be that short and in the top 50, by definition they almost have to be fast). So what were the results? 34 receivers were 6'1 or shorter, 16 were 6'2 or larger. Even if some of my readers thought that discounting players in the previous paragraph was a little unfair, the numbers are still completely staggering. So, now the question is, why?

The common conception among big receivers and little receivers is that the little guys are quick and often big play threats with the ball in their hands with the ball, but the big guys are bigger targets to hid with the football. But there is one factor that people have never really accounted for when evaluating the differences of these two types of players.

Let's compare two, imaginary players: Player A is 6'4 and runs a 4.47 40 yard dash; Player B is 5'10 and runs 4.47 40 yard dash. I think everyone should concede that being taller than Player B, Player A is a much longer strider than Player B; but Player B's feet move at quicker rate than player A's; for in order to go at the same speed that Player A is going at, his feet have to be quick for his strides are shorter. Not a lot of people realize this, but having quick, short strides can be an advantage in route running. See, having quick feet means that a player can reach top speed a little bit more quickly off the line of scrimmage and not lose much speed when changing directions. Quick feet also can change directions with a little bit more suddenness, for their legs have a natural ability to move faster. To explain why, suppose it takes two strides for both player A and player B to change directions at a 90 degree angle. Because player B has slightly quicker strides, two strides for him will take less time than the strides of player A. Even though it will only be about a quarter-second difference, with speed of the NFL game, that quarter-second can be vital in a player's route running ability. I am not saying height is a bad thing, but that speed is much more important; for there is no consequence for having good speed, but there is a small consequence for having height instead of speed.

Overall, lack of height in a receiver has a decent advantage in route running capabilities that being tall doesn't have. Just remember; height isn't a bad thing, but their is a small consequence in a receiver's skill when they are tall, yet there is no disadvantage to being fast.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Charlie Gantt- 2011 Draft Scouting Report

I am very high on Michigan State tight end Charlie Gantt. It's not that I think he will be a great player; but I think he can be a valuable role player on any team.

Next year's tight end class is awful. I'll keep it simple: I don't see myself giving one tight end of next year's class a first or second round grade, unless Kyle Rudolph goes out for the draft. That being said, I really like Gantt.

Gantt's physical ability is truly the only thing that holds him back. Gantt has good height (6'6), solid bulk (260lbs), but horrific speed (4.87 40 yard dash). He also lacks quickness of any kind, he isn't athletic at all when trying to go up and catch footballs, and he lacks lateral mobility. But he does possess above average strength, a nice, wide frame, and a big body with long arms.

Gantt has above average hands. He doesn't drop too many passes, but he does trap a fair amount of passes against his frame. Gantt's lack of physical tools stop him from being able to get high in the air, catch the ball at it's highest point, or really stretch the field as a receiver, but he is still functional as a pass catcher.

Gantt has some route running ability. Gantt really lacks quickness or deceptiveness in his routes, but he has showcased an ability to read coverage schemes and make excellent decisions when running option routes, which will help him in the NFL.

Gantt is a brilliant blocker. He blocks with unbelievable tenacity, he has good strength, and he uses his hands well to make all defenders succumb to his tremendous power. He also understands how to take perfect angles to opposing defenders in zone blocking schemes, and he gets a great initial punch on opposing linemen.

The reason why I like Gantt is that I feel Gantt could be the perfect goal line tight end in two tight end formations. Gantt will probably never be much of a starter in the NFL, but in two tight end formations and in goal line formations, the tight ends are usually required to block, which is vital in outside runs in these formations. Gantt is a great blocker. But, not only that, when a tight end has to be a receiver in those formations, they usually need to find some open space in the back of the end zone and use their height to make sure only they can get the ball. Gantt possesses the height and the ability to read opponents coverage schemes to be outstanding at that. Just perfect in that role. Honestly, could a team ask for anything else in that role?

Overall, Gantt may never be a great player, but he can be perfect in a backup tight end's role. Just brilliant. And let's be honest; one of the best backup, goal line tight ends in the history of the NFL, which Gantt could very well be, is pretty good value in the 4th round.

NFL Comparison: Steve Heiden. The resemblance is, quite simply, uncanny.
Grade: 75
Projection: 66

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Julio Jones- 2011 Draft Scouting Report

Right now, I think Alabama receiver Julio Jones is going to run away with the title of most overrated prospect of the draft. A.J. Green is so much better than Jones, no matter what any analyst says.

Jones has solid physical tools. He has good height, solid bulk, and average speed. But Jones doesn't really possess those same long arms that Green has, he clearly lacks athletic ability to go up and get the ball, and on film it's totally obvious that he is way slower than Green.

Jones seems to put up a good effort onto the field, With the ball in his hands, he shows excellent toughness and he plays with good intensity, and he is a solid run blocker. I definitely have seen better run blockers, but Jones definitely is in the upper tier.

Jones definitely doesn't possess the same athletic ability that Green has, but he has enticing upper body strength. Jones doesn't usually make defenders miss in the open field or outrun them, but one thing Jones does well is power through safeties like a tight end, probably because of his excellent bulk. It also gives him solid chances to improve his production as a run blocker.

Jones has some of the worst hands I have ever seen. He consistently drops pass after pass after pass. He frequently traps balls against his frame. He also struggles to catch the ball at it's highest point with outstretched arms, and he doesn't possess the athletic ability to goo up and get the football like Green does (just look at the highlights. You just don't see that natural quality that is pretty easily seen in Green's highlights).

Jones is a poor route runner. That's pretty much expected from a guy his age, but I don't think he has natural change of direction skills that will allow him to ever become an amazing route runner. Of course, being quick in and out of breaks isn't all there is to route running, but it's about half the battle, and vital against corners that have natural route recognition skills. Jones may eventually learn how to incorporate head fakes into his routes and read coverage schemes, but I don't think he'll ever provide true quickness.

Jones had very underwhelming numbers sophomore year. 43 catches, 596 yards, 4 touchdowns. I have always been high on players who produce statistically, and Jones wasn't been able to produce last season simply because of his lack of separation skills and horrific hands. Those are big drawbacks in his game.

Here are a couple of good looks of Jones in action:

Julio Jones: Freshman Year

Julio Jones: Sophomore Year

Overall, I really think Jones is overrated. I know I just used this analogy with Patrick Peterson, but why would anyone draft a wide receiver who can't catch a football to save his life. I don't care if he is 6'4 and he runs a 4.49 40 yard dash. It's not a good idea to draft wide receiver who can't catch (see: comparison)

NFL Comparison: Braylon Edwards with less athletic ability
Grade: 92
Projection: 96

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Patrick Peterson- 2011 Draft Scouting Report

Next year, 4 or 5 corners have a shot at being a first round pick. I actually haven't got any game film on Virginia's Ras-I-Dowling, but all of the others are really overrated. LSU corner Patrick Peterson just might be the most overrated player at any position in this year's draft class.

Peterson is one of the most physically gifted corners I have ever seen. He is really tall (6'1), he has a whole lot of bulk (maybe even too much at 212lbs), and he is extremely fast (4.42 40 yard dash). He is an extremely fluid athlete, and he possesses natural change of direction skills that allow him to cover even the best of route runners. He also is has extremely long arms that allow him to deflect a lot of passes. He also is a very good tackler and solid run stopper.

Peterson has natural ball skills. He has excellent hands, long arms and unbelievable athleticism that allows him to tip almost any pass that comes in his direction. He also possesses good upper body strength for ripping passes out of receivers hands.

In 2010, Peterson has done a great job of returning kicks and punts. It looks like, as a kick and punt returner he is near Josh Cribbs' level: 165 yards on 10 punt returns for an astounding 16.5 yards per return (3rd in the FBS of guys with 7 returns), and 151 yards on 5 returns for a great 30.2 yards per return (6th in the FBS of guys with 5 returns). It's a nice bit of versatility to his game.

Peterson plays with above average on field intensity. He is a somewhat physical tackler, he has solid strength, and he has decent mental toughness. But oddly, he showed up at LSU's spring practice this offseason at 222lbs. That is probably a little too much weight for a corner.

Peterson's main issue is a complete lack of cover skills. He possesses pretty bad route recognition skills. He is very bad at anticipating slants routes, and he frequently loses focus on his man. He often gives receivers too much of a cushion and he is very susceptible to being fooled by head fakes and breaks in routes.

I am sure many of my readers read the validity in "yards allowed," article I wrote in mid-December. If you are reading this and you haven't read that article, don't write me off quite yet. Read the article. The statistic appears valid, and it really makes Patrick Peterson look bad. I know people are going to doubt the statistic, and say that corners too often line up on one side of the field, but try to remember the fact that coaches are going to want a real dominant corner on a real dominant player.  For example, if you are Urban Meyer (or, I guess Will Muschamp), and you are facing Georgia, you are going to want a corner as dominant as Janoris Jenkins matched up against A.J. Green as much as possible, and your second corner, sophomore Jeremy Brown, matched up against Green as little as possible. If you watched the Florida Georgia game closely, you would clearly see that Jenkins never leaves Green. He gets and interception off of him and holds him to a mere 42 yards, his worst game of the season. Without watching the game, should I even have to ask my readers if they are going to contest the idea that Jeremy Brown played a large role in stopping Green? I don't think so. It was clear that Jenkins was matched up against Green, and using that game in Jenkins' favor is completely valid. Now, if a coach has two corners that are practically interchangeable, such as Virginia's Ras-I Dowling and Chase Minnifield, then the statistic is invalid. Each corner will match up against the number one receiver at different parts of the game. But let's be honest; take the Alabama LSU game for example. Les Miles would eat grass before he let true sophomore Morris Claiborne line up against Julio Jones when he has Patrick Peterson on the roster (okay, that was a bad example). But still, there is no way he would let Claiborne line up against Jones if he can make Jones line up against Peterson. Julio Jones got 89 yards in the game. For the sake of proving my point, after I wrote this article, I watched the game. I used KC Joyner's sabermetrics of figuring how many yards Peterson allowed and how many yards he gave up per throw, and watched every ball Greg McElroy threw. Julio Jones had 6 of his 9 catches against Peterson (he had 10 catches on the game, but one was while Peterson was on the sideline, taking a one play breather), for 52 yards, and Peterson also allowed a 37 catch to Marquis Maze in the game (Technically, the catch didn't count. Peterson did a blatant pass interference on Maze, pulling his right arm around his back, and the officials ruled he made a one-handed catch, but when the play was reviewed, they ruled it wasn't a catch. Peterson still got a 15 yard pass interference penalty called against him, but at the NFL level, that's a 37 yard penalty. Considering I'm evaluating him for the NFL, I'm considering that a 37 yard catch). So let's add that up; 37 yards for Maze, 52 for Jones... that's 89 yards! Coincidentally, the exact number the stat counted against him. That stat isn't usually going to be that perfect, but I think it is good enough to be considered valid. Not only did he allow 89 yards, but McElroy also completed 7/9 passes he threw toward Peterson for those 89 yards (and one of the misses was a pretty bad throw to Jones). Peterson allowed 9.9 yards per ball thrown toward him. Greg McElroy got 9.35 yards per ball he threw on the season. His quarterback rating against Peterson? 144.9. His quarterback rating during the season? 114.2. Not good for Peterson. Miles did try to make sure that Peterson was lined up against Jones as much as possible. Jones still got yards. It was Peterson's fault that he did.

Peterson is consistently out of position in coverage. He lacks instincts, and sometimes it seems like he just doesn't know plays. He is usually overaggressive in coverage and he struggles to commit to his zone in pass plays and play actions. He also commits a whole lot of pass interference penalties after he gets beat.

Overall, when I think of Peterson, I think of a corner who can't cover. He really has a lot of flaws in his coverage skills that will hinder his production in the NFL. I really don't care how physically gifted he is; if he doesn't produce, he's worthless.

NFL Comparison: Carlos Rogers
Grade: 92
Projection: 98

Updated Scouting Report(s): Terrance Toliver

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Aldon Smith- 2011 Draft Scouting Report

Here is a shocking statistic: in 2009, 6 BCS players got at least 60 tackles and 11 sacks: Ndamukong Suh, Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Wisconsin end O'Brien Schoefield, Purdue end Ryan Kerrigan, Oklahoma end Jeremy Beal, and ... Missouri Redshirt Freshman end Aldon Smith? Yep, it's true. Aldon Smith was the most productive Freshman in the NCAA last season, and I think the most underrated player in the FBS (though not the most underrated draft prospect).

Immediately after seeing his stats, I decided that I needed to scout Smith. I know that this year he is just a Redshirt Sophomore, but if he improves his play this year at all, I am talking 67 tackles and 13 sacks, he quite simply has nothing left to prove at the FBS level and should leave for the draft.

Physically, Smith isn't going to wow anyone. He possesses excellent height, but he could afford to add 10lbs of bulk, but he has solid athleticism (in football pads, but he runs a mediocre 40). Because he is so young, he still needs to mature out physically, but by the end of the year or so I expect he will bring good athleticism to the table. I am yet to see Smith really use the bull rush (the only Missouri game I've gotten to see this offseason was last year's Border Showdown against Kansas,) so I doubt he has much strength.

What makes Smith so special and so productive is his swim move. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Smith uses his swim move more effectively than every defender in the FBS. He does it with outstanding quickness and suddenness, he has long arms that help him separate from lineman, and he always uses the move with excellent form. Also, in general, he uses his hands brilliantly to separate from lineman. It's his use of his hands that makes him so special.

Smith attempts to use that swim move on just about every other play. The issue with using the swim move too often is that it will become predictable; lineman will eventually the start hitting the defender in the rib cage and start driving him off the ball. Smith can get away with it simply because he has been utilized brilliantly by the Missouri coaching staff. Missouri has a tendency to line Smith up at all areas of the line and use countless defensive line stunts with Smith. That doesn't work with ends that use the speed rush; for it is impossible to use the speed rush on the interior of the line. But it is exactly how a coach should use an end that relies on pass rush moves. If Smith lines up against every lineman on the opposing team, it will take more time for each individual lineman to catch on and see how heavily he relies on that swim move. Plus, coaches will be able to see what lineman defend his swim move the best and what lineman struggle against it the most. Missouri's use of Smith allows him to stay effective throughout the game, instead of just one quarter per game.

As I said before, I have only seen Smith play in one game. Kansas only ran the ball 11 times in the game. I honestly couldn't get a read on how good his instincts are, but he did seem like an effective tackler who plays with excellent intensity. He doesn't have much quickness off the ball, but I suspect that he has solid instincts though because of his excellent tackle numbers.

Here are some highlights of Smith:

Aldon Smith vs. Colorado (By the way: you see that swim move I was talking about on that last sack, and it's pretty easy to notice that he lines up all over the line throughout the game.)

Overall, I am amazed with Smith's use of the swim move and how well Missouri's coaching staff rotates him throughout the line. Smith has been so productive at the college level that he might leave for the draft; especially considering how staying in school if you are a polished defensive end doesn't tend to pan out very well (see: George Selvie). Smith is a great player, and I think he will be very successful at the NFL level.

NFL Comparison: Kyle Vanden Bosch, with less bulk.
Grade: 97
Projection: 94