Saturday, October 28, 2017

2018 NFL Draft Prospects: Week 6-Centers

This week's Good, Bad and Ugly focuses on the brains of the offensive line, the center.  The man in the middle is almost always overlooked when it comes to the media spotlight.  They just go out there with a hard hat and lunch pail attitude and work the middle of the line against the biggest defenders on the field.  They also have to be smart enough to call out defensive pressures or risk getting their QB killed.  Let's take a look at the Week 6 performances of Brian Allen-MSU and Garrett Bradbury-NC State.

Brian Allen (OC/Sr/Mich St.)
6-2", 300lbs

Opponent: Michigan

THE GOOD: Allen looks very good when on the move.  He has the quickness to get down the line for zone/pull blocks and to get up the field to block on the second level.  His footwork on his drop step is technically sound and allows him to "strike a match" along the line as he goes by.  Allen shows good power in his punch.  Despite being slightly undersized Allen looks to have good overall play strength.  He keeps his pad level low with good bend at hips and knees.  An immeasurable trait is his nastiness.  Allen will look to put a hurt on defenders and will not miss an opportunity to continue the play after the whistle.

THE BAD:   Properly using his hands is not a strong suit of Allen's game.  He needs to learn to lead with his hands rather than with his head/pads.  When power blocking Allen will collide with the defender with his head a majority of the time and lose the opportunity to gain leverage on the defender.  When in pass protection Allen's hands will be completely out of position.  Very often one arm will be hugging the defender around the waist rather than trying to create leverage under the pads.  It is possible his arms are to small to effectively engage the defender early.

THE UGLY:  It was frustrating to watch Allen's awareness in pass protection.  Allen will lose focus and allow defenders to run right past him into the backfield.  When he was responsible for help he would stare directly at a collapsing protection and not offer any help to that side.  It is one thing to not see where the pressure is coming from and another to be looking directly at it and not react. 

IN THE END: Allen's agility and strength make him a viable project in the NFL.  However, he will need to clean up his pass protection if he wants to see the field sooner than later.  I expect him to be taken in the 5th round into the early 6th round.

Garrett Bradbury (OC/Jr(R)/NC St.)
6-3', 295lbs

Opponent: Louisville

THE GOOD:  Bradbury wasn't the strongest OL I have watched nor was he the most dominating OL. What impressed me was his technique.  He did everything you want an OL to do.  He kept pads low, kept hands inside, moved well, kept footwork clean, kept feet moving, great body control, good balance and blocked well on the 2nd level.  It was an almost mistake free tape vs Louisville.

THE BAD:  With all the positives listed above you would think he is the most talked about OL prospect.  I would classify his game as quiet dominance because he doesn't flash the power/explosiveness teams crave in the trenches.  He wont get overpowered at the point of attack but he also wont be the bulldozer in the middle of the field either.  When his technique was not enough to win he found himself struggling to maintain his block because he did not have the strength to compensate.

THE UGLY:  Bradbury's biggest difficulty came when he was man to man against DTs with longer arms.  He was very susceptible to the "snatch and throw" technique and ended up on the ground a few times.  Once the DT locked on his pads he was able to control/move Bradbury how he wanted to. He must develop a counter to long armed DTs or he will have a hard time being consistently successful in the NFL.

IN THE END:  If I was a NFL team needing a versatile interior lineman in the middle rounds of the draft I wouldn't hesitate to take Bradbury.  He will provide a team the luxury of playing him at OG or OC.  His play reminds me of Rodney Hudson.  He will make some team happy around the 4th round. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

2018 NFL Draft Prospects: Week 5-Offensive Guards

This week in the Good, Bad and Ugly series we get into my favorite group, offensive guards.  These are the guys not pretty enough to be a tackle but nasty enough to take on 300+ pound defensive tackles.  This year's crop of guards has some exciting talent in it. Let's take a look at Will Hernandez from UTEP and Cody O' Connell from Washington State.

Will Hernandez (OG, Sr(R), UTEP)
6-3", 330lbs

Opponent: Army

THE GOOD: As you can see above Hernandez is a massive individual.  His large size does not affect his movements while in space or moving laterally. When he moves he looks fluid and quicker than expected.  He squares up well when taking on 2nd level defenders and will use his body to seal off running lanes.  Hernandez shows off elite strength when in-line run blocking.  His grip is also very strong and when he locks out on defenders they usually stay neutralized.  He has also been known to throw defenders to the ground using one hand.

THE BAD:  Hernandez struggles with keeping his pad level low.  While he looks to have fair flexibility in his knees his upper body is usually in poor position to take on defenders.  He will either be leaning too far over his feet or completely upright.  His stiffness hinders him when he is attempting to block on the second level.  There were times where smaller unclear LBs were able to avoid his block by slipping under his hands.

THE UGLY:  A troubling flaw in Hernandez's game is his inability to explode off the snap.  Time and time again Hernandez was the last man off the ball.  By doing so he allows defender deep into his chest before he can react to them.  Luckily for him Army's defenders are undersized and he was able to use his upper body strength to recover and stop the defender.  He is also hindered when trying to perform combo or pull blocks.  The slight delay will throw off the timing of the play and his assignment will beat him to the spot.

IN THE END:  Hernandez definitely looks the part.  Big, strong and mean is his calling card and he uses it well.  His movement skills will also open his scheme options at the next level and raise his raft stock.  With some polishing he can be a dominant player in the NFL.  He may be at his best in a power man offensive scheme, but like I said, he is versatile enough to play in a zone scheme.  His game play compares to Matt Slauson.  I expect him to be selected between the late 1st round and early 2nd round of the NFL draft.

Cody O'Connell (OG, Sr(R), Wash St.)
6-9", 370lbs

Opponent: USC

THE GOOD:  If his listed size doesn't make an impression on you, O'Connell's nickname is "the continent".  His nickname is fitting once you see him compared to the other players on the field.  He stands out among the giants as soon as you turn on the tape.  I was expecting too see a lumbering lineman running around the field but I was surprised to see him move well.  By no means is he flying around the field but he also is not stuck in cement.  O' Connell is also very consistent with his hand placement.  He is quick to engage defenders and will keep his hands centered to the chest area.

THE BAD:  O'Connell is a "catch and grab" type lineman.  He does not perform well when asked to power run block.  He is not going to be a lineman that will blow open a hole nor will he move piles.  Rather he will occupy his man enough so as to not affect the timing of the play.  He will also get off balance and fall off his block when trying to power block.

THE UGLY:  Despite being an intimidating figure on the field his play does not intimidate his opponents.  When you watch O'Connell in both pass and run blocking it is obvious that he has a severe lack of play strength.  In pass protection he is regularly driven back into the quarterback.  While run blocking his defender is able to maintain his ground and stay alive on the play.  When blocking man to man he lacks the explosion to drive his man out of the hole.  Even while blocking from angles, like in down blocks or pull blocks, he will get minimal push on the defender.  His lack of strength will also show up in his hand usage.  As I said, he is quick to get his hands engaged on the defender but he struggles to maintain grip on a defender.  His hands are easily knocked off by the defender in both run blocking and pass protection.

IN THE END: O'Connell's effectiveness is one dimensional and scheme limited.  This should undoubtedly hurt his draft stock.  His lack of play strength is going to be troublesome at the next level.  It is hard to imagine him being effective versus larger and stronger defenders in the NFL if defenders are barely budged when he engages them now.  He has some tools that can be built upon but he will be a project OG.  I expect him to be taken in the 5th or 6th round of the NFL draft.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

2018 NFL Draft: Prospect Spotlight

Isaiah Wynn
6-2, 302lbs
Games Evaluated: ND, Tenn, Vandy, Mizzou

  •       Exceptional run blocker
  •       Great footwork in pass and run blocking
  •       Possesses above average strength from hand grip to lower body
  •       Effectively uses powerful foot drive to move defenders
  •       Maintains balance while blocking
  •       Rarely falls off block
  •       Great body control
  •       Able to bend fluidly
  •       Leader on the field

  •       Kick slide lacks proper angle
  •       Hand placement needs improvement
  •       Does not use hands to punch defender
  •       Loses focus at times
  •       Inconsistent pad level
  •       Can be slow out of stance

The Bulldogs are enjoying a great season so far and have their eyes on playing for BCS glory in their home state.  They are literally running over their opponents behind their run game this year.  Of course, all great run games rely on the “big uglies” up front to open holes and the Bulldogs are no exception.  This unit is surprisingly anchored by the smallest man on the line, Isaiah Wynn.  Wynn is the most versatile lineman on the team and has been praised by his teammates in the past for be able to play all fives position on the line.  He has started in 33 of the 43 games he has appeared in.  This year is his first starting at left tackle after spending the last two seasons at left guard. 

Wynn has lined up against the best edge defenders in the SEC and has been very impressive.  He never seems to be out of place or struggling with his assignment.  Despite being “undersized” Wynn seems to possess very good strength in all aspects from his hands to his lower body.  When asked to open holes in the power run game he does an excellent job at moving his man off the line of scrimmage.  Whether he is taking his man head on or down blocking on a DT he adds a relentless foot drive to his natural strength that will quite often end up with him blocking his man well beyond the line of scrimmage.  When asked to perform hook or reach blocks Wynn has great body control and will consistently turn his man the proper way (outside or inside seal) to open running alleys for the RBs.  His quick feet and good footwork are also evident in his pass protection sets.  Wynn is also consistent with his mechanics on pass pro drops.  He will “sit in the chair” as he drops, keep his feet in contact with the ground while shuffling and has hands cocked in proper strike position.   Combine his mechanics and his strength and he has no issues stuffing power rushes from DEs while in pass protection.  What is most impressive is his ability to stay balanced while moving close to, or over, 300lb defenders down the field and will rarely fall off his block.  Unfortunately for defenders, Wynn is as aggressive at the end of his block as he is at the point of attack.  When he is assigned a man he will maintain the block all the way through the whistle.  On multiple occasions Wynn took the opportunity to completely take his man out of the play by pouncing on him after he performed a “pancake” block. In all four games studied Wynn had at least 1 pancake block in each of those games.    

Second level blocking is where Wynn struggles the most.  There we many times where he could not get to his second level assignment while executing pull, combo or ace blocks.  Despite having good agility and footwork, Wynn looks like he is unsure of how to attack smaller quicker defenders.  Wynn will be inconsistent with his hand placement, getting out of his stance and awareness.  In both pass protection and run blocking Wynn likes to have his inside hand outside of the defenders arm in order to grab under shoulder pad.  Despite being effective while doing so, it is a concern at the next level.  In multiple games Wynn was caught off guard on the snap of the ball and allowed a free runner at the QB.  When Wynn displays his “take off” explosion it is an impressive thing to watch.  However, there are many times where he is just slightly behind the snap.  If not for his quick feet helping him compensate for being late it would be more of a noticeable issue.  In pass pro Wynn needs to develop the use of a punch and maintain proper angle in his kick slide.  In all games studied Wynn rarely used any type of punch in pass pro or run blocking.  Wynn has very strong hands so when it was used it was effective.  He needs to become more familiar with technique and timing of his punch in order to be prepared for all scenarios when facing NFL pass rushers.  Georgia is a power run team and uses many quick set pass plays, so it is not a surprise Wynn needs to refine his angles while in his kick slide.  Wynn has all the agility, strength and footwork needed to stay with speed or power rushers in the NFL.  However, Wynn’s kick slide lacks the proper angle to counter a quick change of direction from a defender.  Wynn will get completely perpendicular to the line, which allows a two way go for quick defenders with good change of direction ability.  Against the Missouri Tigers Wynn was beaten twice late in the game by inside moves from the DE. 

If Wynn were 6-5” and 315lbs he would be considered the top LT in college football.  Possessing the combination of speed, strength and skill is one thing but to execute all of them on a high level is rare.  His run blocking is exceptional and with some polishing he can be a very good pass protector.   Wynn would be ideal for a power man blocking scheme but has the versatility to play in all schemes in the NFL.  With his tag as “undersized” he will surely be taken off some draft boards and downgraded on others.  I expect him to go in the middle rounds of the draft but some team will get a 1st round talent for a discounted price. 

NFL Comparison: Terron Armstead  (NO)