The Best of the Best: Louis Nix III

We’re now three days away from the beginning of the 2013 college football season, which means it’s time for part eight of my Best of the Best series.  This 10 article series will take a look at my top 10 draft eligible players in college football.  This isn’t necessarily a prediction of where I feel they will be drafted, but more my thoughts on where these 10 rank against all other college players.  While I fully expect all of these players to be top 15 draft selections next year, there could always be fluctuation with a premium placed on positions like Quarterback and Offensive Tackle.  With that said, it’s time to look at my number three prospect, Notre Dame Defensive Tackle Louis Nix III.

Image

Tale of the Tape

6’3″

357 lbs

Career Numbers

95 total tackles

12 tackles for a loss

2.5 sacks

1 forced fumble

6 passes deflected

Let me just get this out-of-the-way.  Louis Nix III is big.  The Notre Dame Nose Guard is a massive player at 6’3 357 pounds (31 pounds heavier than last season), which makes him a very good player at his position.  He’s big, incredibly strong and hard to move.  Yet he is surprisingly athletic and somewhat nimble for his size.  He’s been a standout for the Irish anchoring their three-man defensive front, and had he come out last year probably would have been a top 20 Draft selection.  He came back for his Senior season though, and with the added bulk he’s put on could be even harder to deal with in 2013.  So lets take a look at what makes Nix one of the Best of the Best.

Explosive

  • One of the things that instantly jumps out to you when watching Nix, is that for a 326 pound man (listed playing weight last year) he’s extremely explosive.  He bursts off the snap, at times making it impossible for the Center to block him.  I want to point out a few instances of this.                  Image
  • On this first play against Purdue we’ll see Nix fire off the ball so quickly that the Center isn’t even able to get a hand on him.                      Image
  • Even at his massive size, Nix is able to explode out of his stance so quickly that he’s able to actually run right by the Center barely touched.         Image
  • Nix makes the wrong read on the Quarterback keep, but the quickness with which he gets back to the mesh point is almost shocking for a player his size.  Image
  • Again we’ll see the same thing, except this time against much better opposition.Image
  • Once more it’s surprising how quickly Nix fires off the line.  Notice the lineman to his right with the yellow box hasn’t even gotten out of his stance fully, and Nix is already up field engaging the blocker.                     Image
  • Due to his quick reaction to the snap, Nix is able to easily dominate the Center and get into the backfield.                                       Image
  • He finishes the play by making the stop for no gain.

Strength

  • Nix is one of the strongest players in the country.  When he utilizes his strength correctly he’s able to overpower blockers, dictating where they go on the field.  It also allows him to anchor against the run, at times becoming an immovable object.                                                Image
  • Here we’ll see a powerful bull rush against Stanford, where Nix is able to collapse the pocket.                                                       Image
  • When Nix gets out of his stance he’s actually not looking to good.  He wasn’t as quick off the ball, and he’s not extending his arms to keep his blocker off his frame.  But it’s what he does next that’s so impressive.            Image
  • With pure strength he’s able to power straight through the Left Guard, and get a lane to the Quarterback.                                                           Image
  • Nix is able to run through the blocker completely and get to the Quarterback.  This forces the QB to throw the ball before he’s ready.  The result of the play is an interception for Notre Dame, caused by Nix’s pressure.          Image
  • Against Alabama we’ll see a similar result.  At the start of the play the blocker actually has good positioning.  He’s gotten into Nix’s frame which should impact Nix’s ability to make the play.                                     Image
  • But again we see Nix bull right through the blocker, and finish the play in the backfield.                                                                Image
  • Nix’s strength also shows up in his tremendous anchoring ability in the running game.  Here Nix gets a good burst off the snap and gets up field quickly.     Image
  • Nix’s strength causes problems for the blocker immediately who isn’t able to move him even an inch backwards.  In fact, Nix begins shoving him back into the Running Back who is taking the hand off.                      Image
  • Nix drives the lineman back, and is able to free one arm to get a hold of the ball carrier and slow him down.  This allows his teammates to get to the RB and clean up the play.

Athleticism

  • Nix isn’t just a strong mauler though.  He’s got a rare mix of athleticism that you don’t often find in the Nose Guard position.  Not only can he fire off the ball quicker then most, but he also has quick and nimble feet, good ability to react and knock down passes, and surprising sideline to sideline ability.     Image
  • On this play against Stanford we’ll see Nix show a good level of lateral agility and foot speed to slide to the right side of the offensive line and help make the stop on the goal line.                                                      Image
  • Nix does a good job sliding to avoid the cut block as the play begins, and has good recognition to see the run is designed to the right side of the field where the offense is lined up in a heavy formation.                    Image
  • Nix is able to slide across the goal line, demonstrating good foot speed to shuffle laterally.                                                     Image
  • Nix quickly gets across the line, then launches himself into the pile and at the ball carrier making sure that he can’t extend the ball across the pylon in overtime.  This was a critical play as it set up the final play where Running Back Stepfan Taylor was denied on the goal line again to seal the Irish’s victory, and keep their perfect season in tact.                                                                                                                   nix leap 1
  • Nix’s athleticism also shows when he utilizes it to leap up and bat a pass down.  He’s actually very good at timing, and reacting to the pass for a player his size.

Ability to Make Plays While Engaged

  • The last thing that really stands out to me about Nix, is his ability to make the play despite being engaged with a blocker.  He’s shown a knack for being able to use one arm to bring down a ball carrier, despite the blocker having his hands on him.                                                  one arm bama1 1
  • Against Alabama Nix was able to demonstrate this ability several times.  Notice how Nix is blocked out right now by one of the best Offensive Lineman in the nation, Barrett Jones.  Not only does Jones have a solid block on Nix, but he’s also in on his frame and has leverage.  Nix certainly doesn’t look like a player who’s about to make a play.                                                                                                                     one arm bama1 2
  • However Nix is able to somehow get his one arm free, and grab onto the Running Back Yeldon as he goes by.  Nix is an incredibly strong player, and is able to slow him down enough with his one arm to let his teammates clean up.                                         one arm purdue 1
  • And here’s the same kind of play vs Purdue.  Again, one arm enough to create the opportunity for teammates to clean up.

Needs Work

While every single player in my Best of the Best series has traits to their game that in my opinion make them stand out, they all have things they need to improve too.  So let’s look at a couple of areas where I would like to see Nix improve in 2013.

Gets Turned Easily At Times 

  • At times Nix can get turned around fairly easily at the line.  When this happens it almost always takes him out of the play, and creates opportunities for the other team as Nix was the anchor of the Notre Dame Defense.                                                                           nix turned 1
  • Here we’ll see this happen against Oklahoma.  As the ball is snapped Nix tries to get inside the Guard, but turns his shoulders too much.        nix turned 2
  • As a result, the Guard is able to turn Nix’s body 180 degrees so that his back is to the ball carrier.  Not only does this make it impossible for Nix to get to the ball carrier, but it also makes him easy to deal with for the Guard.                                                                 nix turned 3
  • As a result Nix is a non factor in this play, getting pushed up the field with ease.

 Relies On Physical Ability Too Much At Times

  • This is nit picking, but at times Nix can be caught relying on his physical ability to make plays, and have lapses in technique.  Nix is pretty athletic for a player of his size, and he’s incredibly strong.  This leads to him being able to overpower or out hustle other players at times.   Nix appears to get comfortable at points in games, and when this happens he can have lapses in technique relying on physical skills to get the job done.  This can create problems with leverage, shedding blocks, finishing plays, as well as fighting through double teams.  While he makes the play many times due to raw ability, he will need to consistently utilize proper technique at all times to be the kind of impact player he has the chance to be.

Final Thoughts

Nix is the prototypical Nose Guard prospect in every way.  He’s a massive body in the middle, and when anchored properly can be a brick wall for the opposition.  He’s got great strength that he uses to regularly overpower blockers, but also a surprising level of athleticism.  He has a very explosive first step, at times getting into the backfield before the Offensive Line can react.  He’s got a good closing pursuit to the Quarterback and ball carriers.  He reacts to passes well, showing the ability to fill passing lanes, and deflect the ball at the line of scrimmage.  He also shows nimble feet that allow him to move around the line, and pursue ball carriers.

One of his greatest strengths, is the tendency he shows to make plays while engaged with blockers.  Even when he looks out of the play, he’s able to get one of his long arms out and slow down or drag ball carriers to the ground with ease.  He also shows good play recognition, finding the football fast and reacting.  He can get turned around at the line at times, and he also has lapses on his technique because he’s able to lean on his physical gifts and still be successful at the college level.  Going forward, he has a chance to be a very special foundation for an NFL teams Defensive front.  He reminds me a lot of a guy like Haloti Ngata.  Someone who has great strength and can be an anchor against the run, but also has the athleticism to play on the edge, and get to the passer at his size.  When you watch him play it’s easy to see why he’s one of the Best of the Best.

Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next player in my Best of the Best series.  Also, please feel free to send me any comments/critique to danguy013@gmail.com or feel free to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13

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The Best of the Best: Marqise Lee

We’re now four days away from the beginning of the 2013 college football season, which means it’s time for part seven of my Best of the Best series.  This 10 article series will take a look at my top 10 draft eligible players in college football.  This isn’t necessarily a prediction of where I feel they will be drafted, but more my thoughts on where these 10 rank against all other college players.  While I fully expect all of these players to be top 15 draft selections next year, there could always be fluctuation with a premium placed on positions like Quarterback and Offensive Tackle.  With that said, it’s time to look at my number three prospect, USC Wide Receiver Marqise Lee.

Image

Tale of the Tape

6′

195 lbs

Career Numbers

191 receptions

4144 all purpose yards

27 touchdowns

Marqise Lee came to USC as a player with only one High School season of experience at the Wide Receiver position, and a player who many expected to be a standout safety.  However, he’s not just found a home at Wide Receiver, he’s turned into one of the most dangerous Weapons in college football.  Lee is an explosive play maker who is elusive, and hard to get a hand on in the open field.  He’s shows great fight for the 50-50 ball, and uses his body well to block out a defender.  He flashes the ability to be a complete receiver, however he needs to be more consistent in most areas.  So lets take a look at one of the Best of the Best, Marqise Lee.

Play Making Ability

  • Lee is a natural play maker.  He has a quick burst off the line, and is exceptional in space.  He is able to change direction fluidly fooling defenders, and shows the vision and drive to fight through space.                                                     Image
  • At the start of this play we see Lee lined up on the outside of the formation.  The DB Tony Grimes backs off providing cushion for Lee, instead of deciding to try and jam him on his release.                                   Image
  • As the play develops, Lee runs a shallow route and makes the catch around four yards past the line of scrimmage.  The defender at this point in time has good position on him to make the tackle for a short gain. Image
  • As Lee turns and sees the closing defender he immediately stabs the ground and takes his momentum back to the outside of the field.  This move causes the defender to freeze.                                                                 Image
  • With the defender now behind the play and fighting to regain position, Lee is able to break to the edge of the field.  Also of note, TE Randall Telfer has done his job on the play and is down field to block out the safety. Image
  • With the safety effectively removed from the play by Telfer, the last defender who has a chance to stop the play before it becomes a sizable gain is the original defender.  He makes a diving tackle attempt that Lee is able to run through. Image
  • Lee finishes the play demonstrating his explosiveness after the catch as he out runs all the chasing defenders to the end zone.  He also shows great control of his body, tiptoeing the sideline along the boundary. Image
  • As the play begins, Lee takes the pitch to the left and works his way to the edge. Image
  • He is able to make the defender Sutton miss in the backfield, and continues through the play. Image
  • As the defender closes in on him, Lee realizes the other side of the field is relatively open, and looks to cut the play back. Image
  • Lee makes an exceptional cut inside of the defender leaving him vulnerable to an incoming block. Image
  • He shows great strength to fight through the trash, and run through numerous tackle attempts. Image

His QB helps him out, blocking the defender with the best angle, and Lee is able to turn a loss or no gain on the play into a significant gain down field.

Explosiveness

  • Even though he doesn’t possess sub 4.4 speed, Lee is an incredibly explosive receiver.  He’s quick off the line, and once the ball is in his hands he shows the ability to take it the distance on most plays.               Image
  • At the start of this play against Arizona Lee is again given a free release by the defender who is aware of what can happen if he lets Lee get behind him. Image
  • As Lee makes the catch you can see he has six defenders in close proximity to close in and make the play, with just one blocker. Image
  • As the first defender fails in his tackle attempt Lee begins to accelerate across the field and away from the defenders. Image
  • Now Lee has really put the defense in a bad position, he’s managed to evade several of the defenders that were in position to bottle him up.  Now the only worries are the man to the left and slightly up field of him, and the safety closing in from the bottom of the screen. Image
  • The safety is able to get a hand on Lee to slow him down slightly, however Lee shows good ability to run through the tackle attempt and keep going. Image
  • With the safety now out of the picture Lee escapes towards the sideline, maintaining his distance from the chasing defenders. Image
  • Even with a defender in close proximity, he is able to maintain enough distance to finish the play for a touchdown. Image
  • Another example of his explosive ability is demonstrated in the same game against Arizona. Lee makes the catch about 12 yards down field, with a defender in decent position to make the play.                               Image
  • Lee immediately looks to turn up field.  The defender who at this time has a pretty good angle on him begins to close in. Image
  • As Lee continues up field, he accelerates quickly, and is able to out run the defenders tackling attempt. Image
  • As Lee continues to accelerate, he leaves three defenders in an impossible situation.  There is no play to be made. Image

Lee finishes the play pulling away from all players including his blocker Robert Woods, and walks into the end zone for a touchdown.

Fighting For the Play

  • Lee shows great effort on the field for 50/50 balls.  He high points the football exceptionally well in most instances, uses his body to shield defenders, and he fights through contact down field to put himself in position to make plays. Image
  • On this play we can see that an under thrown ball has put Lee out of position.  The defender is now in front of him, and is in the driver’s seat to make a play on this ball.                                                                                                  Image
  • As the play unfolds though, we can see that Lee ends up winning the match up, putting the Trojans in position to extend their lead in a huge upset win. Image
  • Another angle of the play shows us that Lee is able to time his leap and get slightly higher than the defender to make first contact with the football.  Lee finishes the play by hauling in the contested catch for a long gain inside the red zone. Image
  • On this play Lee demonstrates his ability to shield the defender on the jump ball in the end zone.  As the play begins the defender is left on an island. Image
  • The defender makes a critical mistake and does not jam Lee off the line.  This allows him to break towards the end zone uninterrupted. Image
  • Lee turns in towards the football, walling off his defender and making it almost impossible for him to make a play on the football. Image
  • Despite the defenders effort on the play, Lee has now gained position and he is able to out leap the defender and make the catch for a touchdown. Image
  • In this example we can see Lee being faced with contact very early in his route.  The defender has used a technique known as an armbar to pin Lee’s inside arm down, and slow him through his route.                 Image
  • Lee like all great receivers, continues to fight through the contact while tracking the ball through the air. Image
  • Lee is able to use his strength to break free, and instantly begins gaining separation. Image
  • Lee is able to finish the play, making the catch for a touchdown and not having to rely on the pass interference flag that was thrown. Image
  • On this last play to demonstrate Lee’s determination and effort, we will look at a touchdown Lee had against Washington.  Lee runs another simple shallow route, and turns back to his QB providing him an easy target on the four yard line. Image
  • After securing the catch, Lee immediately looks to turn up field and fight for the score. Image
  • Lee is contacted just short of the goal line, but instead of being driven backwards he stays upright and keeps his legs moving fighting to cross the plane. Image

Lee continues to fight and the result is buying enough time for his teammates to join the pile and move it across the goal line for a score.

Natural Hand Catching Ability

  • Lee flashes the natural hand catching characteristics, showing the ability to go up and pluck the football out of the air.  He has soft hands, and does well securing the catch.                                                                             Image
  • On this play you can clearly see how smooth he can look catching the ball with his hands.  The QB places the ball high, but Lee is able to time his leap correctly and put himself in position to make the play.                     Image
  • Now you see Lee show the ability to fully extend his body and pluck the ball out of the air. Image
  • Lee then finishes the play by showing off his incredible elusiveness.  He is able to evade two tacklers, and then walks into the end zone with an easy touchdown                                                                              . Image
  • On this play Lee runs a simple slant pattern.  He demonstrates sharp route running, which helps him create separation from the defender. Image

As the ball arrives, he once again shows the ability to attack it and make the hands catch, because he’s able to make the reception in stride, he turns the catch into an easy touchdown.

Needs Improvement

While every single player in my Best of the Best series has traits to their game that in my opinion make them stand out, they all have things they need to improve too.  So let’s look at a couple of areas where I would like to see Lee improve in 2013.

Over Aggressive

  • I almost hate to knock Lee on this, because it’s part of what makes him so special.  However, sometimes the young receiver can become a little too aggressive resulting in plays for negative yardage, or turnovers. Image
  • On this play Lee is lined up in the backfield, and will take a pitch designed to go to the left. Image
  • Lee makes the first man miss, but is surrounded by Bruin defenders with nowhere to go.  This play looks to be a lost cause. Image
  • Despite defenders closing in rapidly, Lee still looks to cut back to the other side of the field, instead of heading North and South to pick up what little yards are there.                                                                                       Image
  • Finding no cutback lane available, Lee decides to finally try to get what yards he can on this busted play. Image
  • All this dancing around in the backfield has caused Lee to neglect protecting the football, and as he is tackled the ball will come out.  Instead of looking for an all or nothing play like he does almost every time he touches the ball, he could have just taken the yards available and lived to fight another day.

Inexperience

  • Lee is a raw athlete who has only been playing Wide Receiver since his Senior year of High School.  His inexperience at the position shows up in several areas of his game.  When route running he can take too many steps throughout his routes, reducing the amount of separation he can gain.  Also he has trouble beating pressing Corners off the line at times due to unrefined technique, and experience in those situations.  Finally while he flashes the ability to be a great hands catcher, route runner and very capable blocker, inexperience leads to lapses in his technique and production in these areas.  This isn’t really a concern however, because he has become better in all of these areas from the start of his Freshman year to the end of the 2012 season, and I would expect him to make the same strides this year.

Final Thoughts

Lee is an incredible athlete who happens to play the Wide Receiver position.  He shows great ability to track the football in the air, and flashes phenomenal ball skills to attack the football at its highest point and make the hands catch.  At times he’s a great route runner, making sharp cuts and utilizing the entire route tree throughout games.  While he doesn’t have as much top end speed as fellow Best of the Best member Sammy Watkins, he does show enough explosive ability after the catch to outrun chasing defenders in most situations.  He also has an incredible first step, exploding off the line.  He’s incredibly lethal once he secures the catch, showing great elusive ability, as well as the ability to run through tackles.  Furthermore, he uses his body well to shield the defender from the ball, and fights for the 50-50 ball better than any Wide Receiver in the nation.  He’s also a very willing and effective blocker, though his technique could use some refining.

His biggest flaw is probably his desire to turn every play into a touchdown.  This is evident from the very first time you watch Marqise Lee play, as he is always looking for the cutback lane that will provide the potential huge gain.  Part of this is why he is one of the Best of the Best, however he needs to be smarter in these situations.  He regularly goes backwards to get across field, at times doing this on conversion downs.  While it has been mostly successful for him in the college game, he can’t make a habit of this going forward to the NFL.  His other “flaw” if you will is his inexperience at the position.  Lee’s only been playing Wide Receiver for three years now, and while he shows the ability to be a complete player at the position, he has lapses in his game from time to time.  As I mentioned before I’m not overly concerned in this as he’s already made great strides in this area.  However I would like to see him get better at fighting through more physical Corners, as well as refining his route running to create max separation.

Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next player in my Best of the Best series.  Also, please feel free to send me any comments/critique to danguy013@gmail.com or feel free to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13

The Best of the Best: Jake Matthews

We’re now five days away from the beginning of the 2013 college football season, which means it’s time for part six of my Best of the Best series.  This 10 article series will take a  look at my top 10 draft eligible players in college football.  For my rankings, I factored my Draft stock for each player, as well as their impact in the college game.  While I fully expect all of these players to be top 15 draft selections next year, there could always be fluctuation with a premium placed on positions like Quarterback and Offensive Tackle.  With that said, it’s time to look at my number five prospect, Texas A&M Offensive Tackle Jake Matthews.

Image

Tale of the Tape

6’5″

305 lbs’

Career Numbers

37 starts in a possible 40 games

Matthews is a player who at the end of the 2012 season, I didn’t expect to be playing college ball this year.  He’s a very gifted Tackle, combining a good mix of athleticism, strength and technique into a pretty complete package.  He has yet to play at the premier Left Tackle position for the Aggies, however he has the ideal skill set to do so.  He’ll be on the left side of the line this year, replacing this years second overall Draft pick Luke Joeckel.  Matthews doesn’t just have good skill though, he comes from a family that has great NFL pedigree.  His father Bruce Matthews is part of the 2007 NFL Hall of Fame class, his older brother Kevin is a Center for the Redskins, and his younger brother Mike plays Center for A&M.  You may have heard of his cousins too, Casey and Clay play Linebacker for Philadelphia and Green Bay respectively.  So lets take a look at what potentially makes Jake the next great in the Matthews family.

Athleticism

  • Matthews shows great athleticism at the Tackle position.  He’s able to pull and get into the second level quickly to block, as well as reacting quickly to cut block rushers at the line.  He also has excellent foot speed in pass protection making is hard for rushers to get the edge on him.                Image
  • On this first play against Oklahoma we will see Matthews pull across the line, and get down field as the lead blocker for Quarterback Johnny Manziel.   Image
  • Matthews is able to transition fluidly as he pulls across the line to get in position as the lead blocker.                           Image
  • As Matthews gets into the second level you can see him locate and square up the unblocked defender.                      Image
  • Matthews gets to the defender allowing Manziel to cut to the sideline and pick up the first down.  Without his effort on the play this is probably a modest gain at best, instead of a play that moves the chains.             Image
  • Here again we’ll see Matthews show athleticism as he gets down field to block on a running play.                                                  Image
  • As the ball is snapped Matthews quickly gets into the second level to engage the Outside Linebacker.                                                      Image
  • After engaging the Linebacker on the seven yard line he seals the block, and shows good strength to drive the defender backwards.            Image
  • By the time the Running Back has been ruled out of bounds at the five yard line, Matthews has driven his defender seven yards from the engage point into the end zone.                                                                    Image
  • On this last play, I wanted to point out Matthews foot speed to shuffle and stay with rushers.  In this case, one of the best pass rushers in the SEC last year, Barkevious Mingo.                                                             Image
  • As the ball is snapped, Matthews quickly kicks out of his stance sliding back and out in order to meet the rusher in his lane.                   Image
  • Matthews turns to mirror Mingo, and engages him in his block.          Image
  • Even though Matthews isn’t able to fully secure Mingo his foot speed allows him to “dance” with him in order to stay in front of him.              Image
  • The result is providing Manziel with a clean lane to scramble.

Pass Blocking

  • Matthew’s foot athleticism allows him to keep up with pass rushers in blocking situations, but that doesn’t mean his pass blocking is successful just because he’s athletic.  Matthews uses very good technique, from his stance to his hand placement and usage.  He also has great awareness in regards to stunts and blitzes.                                                                                  Image
  • Here we’ll see Matthews demonstrate phenomenal pass blocking late in the game against Alabama.                                    Image
  • Matthews fires out of his stance and engages the rusher early.  He gets his hands up quickly to seal the block, and fight with the defender for leverage.  He uses good pad level, keeping his back arched and feet anchored so that he can prevent the defender from driving him back into the Quarterback.     Image
  • Despite the rusher getting his hands into Matthews face mask he maintains his leverage and doesn’t give an inch to the defender.  The defender is unable to move him at the line.                                                        Image
  • Matthews is able to secure his block again, and drives the defender down field and away from the Quarterback.  This allows the Quarterback to roll to the right and find a Receiver down field for a long gain.                 Image
  • On this play earlier in the game we’ll again see excellent all around pass blocking technique.                                                   Image
  • As the ball is snapped, Matthews again gets into an ideal stance.  His back is arched, and he’s low to the ground, almost like he’s sitting in a chair.     Image
  • He gets his hands on the blocker, and once again utilizes good hand technique.  He’s keeping the blocker off his chest as much as possible, and his hands are inside the shoulders to not get called for holding.          Image
  • He again shows great foot speed to shuffle and mirror the rusher, and despite not being able to fully hold his block does a great job “hand fighting” with his man.                                                                                                                              Image
  • On this last play I want to point out how Matthews is able to recognize and pick up stunts on the Defensive Line.  Here we will see the rusher marked with the yellow box delay and then take his rush to the outside of the line where Matthews is occupying.                                             Image
  • As the ball is snapped Matthews does a good job helping the Guard with his blocking responsibility, but soon will be asked to recognize the stunting lineman.                                                                                                     Image
  • Recognizing the stunt, Matthews slides over from where he was giving help to the Guard, and sets himself to embrace the stunting rusher.  He takes on the rusher with ease, and blocks him out while Manziel throws a touchdown pass.

Size and Frame

  • The last thing I want to touch on, are Matthews’ build as an Offensive Tackle.  Despite playing RT his entire career at Texas A&M, Matthews is the prototypical Left Tackle.  He’s got the ideal size at 6’5 and somewhere right around 300 pounds, and his athleticism allows him to keep up with speed rushers on the edge.  This is actually one of the reasons I expect him to be even more impressive in 2013 then he was in 2012.  In my opinion, his skill set will make him a better Left Tackle now, and going forward, then his teammate Luke Joeckel was.

Needs Work

While every single player in my Best of the Best series has traits to their game that in my opinion make them stand out, they all have things they need to improve too.  So let’s look at a couple of areas where I would like to see Joeckel improve in 2013.

Physicality

  • One area I would like Matthews to make some strides in, is his physicality on the line of scrimmage.  Whether in pass blocking, or opening up lanes for the running game, Matthews can be overpowered at times by more physical lineman.                                                           Image
  • Here we’ll see Matthews struggle blocking out Mingo.  Mingo gets a good first step off the line, and is able to create leverage.  He also allows Mingo to get into his frame which creates the opportunity for Mingo to move him up field.       Image
  • Despite having help from the Tight End, Matthews is struggling to stop Mingo’s surge.  He’s lost the leverage battle,                   Image
  • Matthews is forced to grab Mingo, and Manziel is dropped behind the line of scrimmage because of poor blocking.

Adjusting to Left Tackle

  • I said before that I thought Jake Matthews would make a better Left Tackle than Right Tackle, and I stand by that.  However there will still be an adjustment period.  Matthews will need to make that adjustment quickly to make sure Texas A&M has the season they expect to.  I will be very interested to see how well he manages protecting Manziel’s blind side early, and with a game against Alabama early in the season he will have to make that adjustment rapidly.

Final Thoughts

Matthews is an incredible Left Tackle prospect, who just hasn’t played at that position yet.  He’s got great athleticism, demonstrating ability to pull and get into the second level as a lead blocker, as well as the quick foot speed needed to mirror receivers.  His pass blocking technique is very sound, utilizing a good stance, proper hand placement, that same mirroring technique, and hand fighting even when he can’t maintain the block.  At times he looks like he’s dancing with lineman, and they can do nothing to get around him.  Also, I love his NFL blood lines, as it’s a sign he will be able to easily adjust to the pro game.

He does show good ability as a run blocker, however I would like to see him be a little more physical at the point of attack at times.  More physical defensive lineman are able to push him back wards at times, creating opportunities for negative plays.  His length also does raise some concerns as he doesn’t appear to have the longest arms, but he uses technique and good hand fighting to keep defenders away from him most of the time.  I also will be closely watching his adjustment to playing at the Left Tackle position as it holds the key to his Draft stock.  If he excels at the position he’s almost certainly a top 10 selection on Draft day.

Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next player in my Best of the Best series.  Also, please feel free to send me any comments/critique to danguy013@gmail.com or feel free to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13

The Best of the Best: Bradley Roby

We’re now six days away from the beginning of the 2013 college football season, which means it’s time for part three of my Best of the Best series.  This 10 article series will take a  look at my top 10 draft eligible players in college football.  For my rankings, I factored my Draft stock for each player, as well as their impact in the college game.  While I fully expect all of these players to be top 15 draft selections next year, there could always be fluctuation with a premium placed on positions like Quarterback and Offensive Tackle.  With that said, it’s time to look at my number six prospect, Ohio State Cornerback Bradley Roby.

Image

Tale of the Tape

5’11”

193 lbs

Career Numbers

110 Total Tackles

1 Sack

5 Interceptions

23 Passes Broken Up

A shutdown Corner is one of the biggest luxuries a defense can have.  Sure a tenacious pass rush can make your back four look a lot better then they are, but having that difference maker who can take away a teams best weapon in the passing game is something no Head Coach would turn down.  Enter Bradley Roby, perhaps the closest thing to a “lockdown” Corner in the draft eligible Cornerback prospects.  Roby flashed talent as early as the first game he played for the Buckeyes and never looked back, registering 47 total tackles and three interceptions in his Redshirt Freshman season.  In 2012 he improved significantly, with 63 total tackles, and 17 pass breakups (his 19 passes defended lead the nation), and while he only registered two interceptions last year, it certainly wasn’t for lack of ability.  So lets look at what makes Roby one of the Best of the Best.

Playing His Man

  • The first game I watched of Roby’s I made a quick observation.  The Corner doesn’t look for the football while in coverage much.  I chalked it up to just being one game and continued to watch.  By the time I started watching his play from a fifth game I came to a realization.  This guy doesn’t look for the football much.  While that sounds troubling, and it could be, he excels in coverage for one reason.  Roby has exceptional ability to play his man, and disrupt passes without locating the football.                                                                                                                                                           roby knock down 1
  • In this first image the Receiver has won the battle for positioning, and has also extended further to meet the ball before Roby.  We can also see that Roby’s head isn’t turned towards the football tracking it, instead he’s playing his man the entire way.                                  roby knock down 2
  • Another look at the play.  Again, you can clearly see the Receiver has the better positioning, and Roby is not tracking the football.                          roby knock down 3
  • Here’s where Roby wins the play though.  As the offensive player extends to make the catch you can see Roby hands go up with him.  Roby has read what his matchups body is doing and has now reacted accordingly putting himself in position to make the play despite having no clue where the football actually is.  roby knock down 4
  • Because of his ability to adjust to the Receivers actions, Roby is in excellent position to knock the ball away with his left hand by the time the ball actually reaches Penn State’s Kyle Carter .  He does just that, and the result of the play is an incompletion that takes points off the board on a play where Roby looked easily beat.                                                                                                                                                                                               roby breakup 1
  • Just two plays later we see almost a carbon copy of the play above, on the other side of the field.  On this play Roby is much further behind and has to make up ground he didn’t on the previous play.  At this point it looks like the play is over and the result will be a Penn State touchdown, however the ball hangs in the air and it gives Roby the chance to close.                                                                                                                                                                                                              roby breakup 2
  • As the ball hangs in the air Roby is able to close the distance, but still hasn’t located the football in the air.  The Penn State Receiver on the other hand is turned towards the football (marked by the red circle), and is tracking it ready to make the catch.                                                              roby breakup 3
  • As the ball gets into the area of the players the Penn State Receiver leaps to make the catch.  Roby still with his eyes locked on the Receiver reacts to the Penn State players movements, and leaps with his hand in the air to knock down the pass.  Not only is his hand in perfect position to bat the pass down, but Roby has timed his leap so well that any contact between the two players will be as the ball is arriving, and not called pass interference.                       roby breakup 4
  • Roby is able to use his body to prevent the Receiver from making a catch without drawing a flag.  The ball bounces off the Receivers pads, and falls harmlessly to the ground.

Tackling 

  • One thing I love to see in Corners is for them to be willing, and effective tacklers.  Robdy is not only willing, but he’s extremely effective, and perhaps even excellent.  He shows ability to seal the edge in run defense, and displays very good wrap up tackling technique in most instances.                          roby anderson tackle 1
  • In this play against Cal, Roby’s tackling is on display in an open field situation against the Bear’s elusive C.J. Anderson.                              roby anderson tackle 2
  • As he approaches the line of scrimmage Anderson (marked by the yellow arrow) makes the first Buckeye defender miss and is able to extend the play.      roby anderson tackle 3
  • Anderson is able to elude one more Buckeye on the run (Linebacker Ryan Shazier #10), and looks like he may make it to the edge.  Before he can though Roby is able to close and wraps up low on Anderson.  Roby shows great strength to drag Anderson to the ground for a very minimal gain.                        roby edge tackle
  • On this play against the Spartans, Roby shows his ability to seal the edge against the run effectively, and bring down one of the toughest and most physical backs in the Big Ten last year, Le’Veon Bell.  In the frame you can see that Roby is engaged by his blocker, and doesn’t look like much of a factor.           roby edge tackle 2
  • As Bell breaks for the edge you can see at the top of the frame that Roby has managed to turn his man, putting his body in between Bell and the field in front of him.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       roby edge tackle 3
  • Roby has now managed to fight off the Receiver, and completely shed his blocker.  He now is able to square his hips to Bell, and put himself in better position to make the play.                                                                                                                                                                                                               roby edge tackle 4
  • Bell who is known for his power, and toughness would be very difficult to bring down if Roby tried to wrap up high on him.  Instead, Roby goes low, and takes the backs legs out from under him stopping the play for a short gain.                                                                                       roby closing tackle 1
  • In this last play, Roby shows the ability to close on a Receiver in space, and bring him down on initial contact.  As the play develops the Penn State Quarterback finds no Receivers open.  As he feels pressure starting to get near him, he locks in on his check down, the Tight End underneath.                                  roby closing tackle 2
  • By the time Quarterback Matt McGloin is finishing his throwing motion and releasing the ball Roby has already changed direction and is closing in on the intended receiver.                                                                                                                                                                                                              roby closing tackle 3
  • As the ball reaches the Tight End, Roby has easily closed the gap between him and the Receiver and is now in position to make a play.                            roby closing tackle 4
  • Roby actually does a poor job of wrapping up compared to most of his tackles, but is able to show great strength to bring down the bigger Tight End despite poor form.  The play was a critical stop in the third quarter of a game that Ohio State was leading by just a touchdown at the time.  Instead of the drive extending and possibly resulting in a Penn State touchdown, Roby forces the Nittany Lions to settle for a Field Goal.

Speed

One of Roby’s greatest tools on the field is his tremendous range due to elite long speed, and good athleticism.  Roby has sub 4.4 speed that allows him to recover when beaten, and close on ball carriers.  Because of his recovery speed he’s hardly ever actually out of a play.  Even when the Wide Receiver gets by him he can close while the ball is in the air.  His speed also makes him a threat as a blitzer from the edge.                                                                                                        Roby closing speed 1

  • On this play against Miami of Ohio Roby demonstrates his elite speed to chase down a receiver who it appeared would walk into the endzone.  The Miami of Ohio Quarterback finds the Receiver in the middle of the field on the post route, and delivers a beautiful ball hitting him in stride.                             Roby closing speed 2
  • The Receiver is able to run past a diving tackler, and at this point Roby is barely visible in the frame (marked by the red diamond).                      Roby closing speed 3
  • At this point Roby actually has good positioning to make a potential play, but he will end up taking a somewhat poor angle to the Miami of Ohio player.           Roby closing speed 4
  • The angle results in Roby actually ending up slightly behind the receiver instead of on his hip ready to make the tackle.                         Roby closing speed 5
  • Despite the poor angle Roby is able to use his great long range speed to run down the Receiver and tackle him inside the 10 yard line.  Even against inferior competition this is a huge play in the first quarter of a scoreless game.                                                                                                               roby blitz sack 1
  • On this next play, we’ll look at how Roby’s speed is useful when utilized as an edge blitzer.                                                                         roby blitz sack 2
  • As the ball is about to be snapped Roby has already timed the blitz perfectly and already has his momentum moving forward as he moves towards the line of scrimmage.                                                                                                                                                                                  roby blitz sack 3
  • As the ball is snapped Roby has already gotten almost level with his teammates along the front line, and has already exploded to the edge.                               roby blitz sack 4
  • Roby shows good awareness taking a wide enough path to the Quarterback that the Tight End sliding to block him cannot engage.                       roby blitz sack 5
  • Roby is able to use his great speed and explosion to run around the Tight End unblocked.  He finishes the play by punishing the Quarterback on a blindside hit.

Coverage Ability and Ball Skills

  • Roby has incredible physical tools, but none of that matters if you can’t actually cover your man.  Unfortunately for the opposition Roby is excellent in coverage.  His interception numbers may not jump out at you, and I would honestly like to see him finish a few more plays with ball hawking, but Roby’s ability to get to passes and disrupt at the catch point is one of the tops in the nation.  Not just that, but with his burst he can break on a ball and make a play in almost any situation.                                                                                                                                        roby allen breakup 1
  • On this play, Bryce Treggs runs a post route and appears open for a First down.  However Roby will show great reaction to make a diving deflection.              roby treggs breakup 2
  • As Treggs goes to make the catch, Roby is able to extend and get his hand in the catch window to disrupt the Freshman Wide Receiver.                    roby treggs breakup 3
  • Roby finishes the play, knocking the ball out of the reach of Treggs.                                                                                                                       Roby comeback breakup
  • Here, we see the Michigan State Receiver run a nice comeback route.  At this point in the play the ball has just been released, and the WR has created separation between himself and Roby.                                                                                                                   Roby comeback breakup 1
  • With the ball in flight, Roby is able to use his great closing speed to reduce the separation, and put himself in position to make the play.  Roby shows good coverage awareness to extend his arm into the Receivers catch window and deflect the pass.                                                                        Roby p6 1
  • On this play early in the game against Nebraska, Roby shows good ability to transition from his back pedal in order to stay with the Receiver when he makes his cut.                                                                                                                                                                                      Roby p6 2
  • As the ball (marked by the red circle) arrives to the players Roby is able to break on the ball, and establish position to make a play.                         Roby p6 3
  • Roby shows good hands to finish the play with an interception, and will win the footrace to the end zone.

Needs Work

While every single player in my Best of the Best series has traits to their game that in my opinion make them stand out, they all have things they need to improve too.  So let’s look at a couple of areas where I would like to see Sutton improve in 2013.

Grabs Down Field

  • One of the areas of concerns in Roby’s game is that he has a tendency to grab in coverage.  He’s an aggressive player who reacts to his matchups movements, and it can result in him being put out of position.  When he feels like he’s beat, he routinely grabs down field.                                                   Roby Grab 1
  • On this play Roby will read the Receiver and see that he’s going to break to the outside, and down field.  However Roby is off balance, and doesn’t show the best ability to flip his hips and turn to run with a receiver.                                                                                                          Roby Grab 2
  • Instead, Roby locks up his receiver impeding him in his route, and drawing the defensive penalty.  In this instance the play probably prevents a huge gain so it can be overlooked, however Roby can’t make a habit of this as he transitions to the next level.  Which he does.                                        roby grab psu 1
  • Again, we’ll see Roby grab down field to prevent a big play, except this time he’s in much better position.  Roby is in a great spot here, he’s got the sideline as a friend on the left, and if the Receiver cuts back inside he’s in better position to transition, and has a helper a few yards away.                              roby grab psu 2
  • Just like the play before though, Roby locks up his receiver and is called for the foul.  This play is much more concerning to me, because it’s very unlikely that the Receiver is able to get by him.

Transition Ability

  • As I’ve already touched on briefly above, Roby isn’t the best when it comes to flipping the hips.  This not only leads to situations where Roby feels like he needs to grab, but also situations where Receivers can create too much separation because he’s not able to transition and react to the Receiver’s breaks quick enough.  Roby will need to make some improvements in this if he’s going to be an elite cover Corner in the NFL.

Final Thoughts

Roby is a supremely talented athlete, who is by far the best Corner in the NCAA.  He uses great physical gifts to win matchups, and possesses a unique ability to make plays without finding the ball.  At times it seems like he’s got eyes in the back of his head, as he plays his man and goes up to knock the football away with his back turned to the ball.  Roby is a willing, and very good tackler.  He’s scrappy, and unafraid to stick his head in and knock Running Backs around.  I was having a back and forth with Eric Stoner from Draft Mecca on twitter about Roby, and I would like to borrow his words that he used to describe Roby in run support.  He called Roby a “Pit Bull”, and for me the comparison is perfect.  He’s tough, scrappy and aggressive, and while he may not be the biggest guy he’s tough to break free of when he wraps up.

Roby also shows great coverage ability to react to the pass and get in position to knock it down.  He’s got a good ability to get to the catch point and disrupt the Receiver, and his physicality makes every catch a chore for the opposition.  He also is a guy who makes plays on Special Teams, with several punt blocks in his career.  I would like to see him be a little less aggressive down the field in regards to initiating contact during the Receivers route.  Roby had shown that he’s somewhat susceptible to double moves, and the play fake, which goes back to his aggressiveness in coverage.  He also needs to transition better, and develop better “flip the hips” ability, but at this point in time it’s hard not to be extremely impressed with Roby when you watch him.  One thing to watch, is Roby has some off the field concerns.  In my opinion they aren’t serious enough for any team to remove him from their board, however it’s something to monitor going forward.

Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next player in my Best of the Best series.  Also, please feel free to send me any comments/critique to danguy013@gmail.com or feel free to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13

The Best of the Best: C.J. Mosley

We’re now seven days away from the beginning of the 2013 college football season, which means it’s time for part four of my Best of the Best series.  This 10 article series will take a  look at my top 10 draft eligible players in college football.  For my rankings, I factored my Draft stock for each player, as well as their impact in the college game.  While I fully expect all of these players to be top 15 draft selections next year, there could always be fluctuation with a premium placed on positions like Quarterback and Offensive Tackle.  With that said, it’s time to look at my number seven prospect, Alabama Linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Image

Tale of the Tape

6’2″

232 lbs

Career Numbers

210 total tackles

14 tackles for a loss

6.5 sacks

14 passes broken up

5 interceptions (3 defensive touchdowns)

One of the more interesting things to watch for me this season will be the progression of C.J. Mosley from Alabama.  Mosley is an intriguing guy.  He’s primarily taken a backseat to other Crimson Tide backers, however when he’s on the field he flashes a ton of ability.  You can instantly see traits that make him a special player at the college level.  He can cover, he can run sideline to sideline, he can tackle, he really is a well-rounded player.  So lets look at what makes him one of the Best of the Best.

Coverage Ability

  • When first watching Mosley, his play in coverage situations instantly jumped out to me.  He reads the Quarterback well, has smooth hip transitions, looks fluid in his drop back, and has good ball skills to finish plays with interceptions.

Image

  • In this first play against Notre Dame in the National Championship, Mosley shows off tremendous ability to not only pick up the Receiver (yellow square) coming across the field on the shallow crossing route, but also shows the ability to jam and reroute him to take him out of the play.                     Image
  • As the Receiver slips off the line Mosley kicks out to meet him in his route,  the receiver tries to shake him with a quick studder, but Mosley is able to stay right with his man displaying some quick footwork of his own.                    Image
  • Mosley then is able to initiate contact and jams the Receiver.  He’s able to knock him off his route, and he continues contact through the play.              Image
  • At this point Mosley has thrown the Receiver completely off his route, and is also showing good athleticism to stay with him in coverage.  Mosley has effectively eliminated the Receiver from being an option on the play.  Due to his reroute and tight coverage, if the Quarterback throws him the ball it will likely be deflected, or the Receiver will be tackled for no gain.                      Image
  • On this play against Michigan Mosley demonstrates good ability to read the Quarterback and put himself in position to make the play.  As the QB snaps the ball notice Mosley has already started his back pedal, and has his eyes on the QB while getting into his coverage responsibilities.                            Image
  • As the QB goes through his progressions Mosley continues to watch him in order to be able to determine where the ball is going.  Mosley reads the QB and determines where the ball is going by this point, and has already made his adjustment to break on the ball.                               Image
  • As the ball is released to the Wide Receiver appearing to come open, Mosley has made the correct read, and already jumped underneath the post route.   Image
  • By the time the ball actually arrives, Mosley is in position to make the easy interception which he runs back for a score.                             Image
  • On this play, we again see Mosley read the Quarterback throughout, and make a great play on a ball.  As the play begins Mosely will again drop back fluidly and keep his eyes on the QB                                                           Image
  • Mosley makes the read almost instantly, and moves laterally to where the Quarterback’s eyes are on the field.                                  Image
  • The intended Receiver is the Running Back coming out of the backfield, but he goes the wrong direction on the timing route.  Once again, Mosley has put himself in position to at least attempt to make a play on the ball by the time the QB is releasing it.                            Image
  • It’s a terrible mistake by the RB Lane, but that doesn’t make Mosley’s play any less impressive.  The Linebackers shows great reaction ability to dive and secure the football before hitting the turf.  At the time of the interception Alabama only had a four point lead, and Mosley’s play put them in prime scoring position again.

Run Support

  • A lot of times you find guys who are good at coverage but shaky in run support, or vice versa.  For Mosley he was supposed to be a strictly coverage linebacker.  While he excels in coverage, he is also extremely impressive in run support.  He fills gaps well, diagnoses and reacts quickly to most plays, and is a sound tackler.                                                                                   Image
  • On this play early in the game against Notre Dame, Mosley shows good ability to read the play, then shoot the gap and make an extremely physical tackle.  As the play begins Mosley lets his defenders in front of him occupy blockers while he reads up field.                                                                  Image
  • The Running Back is held up in the backfield when his blockers are not able to generate a push down field.  At this point Mosley will diagnose and find a gap and shoot through it.                                                          Image
  • Mosley explodes through the gap and wraps up the ball carrier.  The plays over, but the Backer is about to impose his will.                                   Image
  • Mosley drives the RB Theo Riddick back a few yards, and then in a move you would be more likely to see in a WWE ring then a football field he violently throws him back and over his shoulders to the turf.  This helps set the tone for what will be a physical beat down of the Irish.                    Image
  • On this play Mosley again shows how quickly he can burst through a gap and bring down the Running Back.                                                     Image
  • Mosley quickly reads the play and locates the lane for the Running Back.  Before Riddick can even cut back Mosley has exploded into the lane and closed it off.  Image
  • Mosley is able to easily bring down Riddick for no gain on the play.       Image
  • On this last play, Mosley shows the ability to make tackles even partially blocked.  Mosley is being blocked by a much bigger Offensive Lineman, but because of his length is able to keep the lineman off his pads.                Image
  • As the RB plows through the hole Mosley is occupied by the much bigger Offensive Guard.  However, Mosley will be able to free one of his arms and that’s all he needs.                                                                            Image
  • Mosley is able to stick his free arm out and shows great strength to be able to stop and eventually drag down the RB while partially blocked.

Sideline to Sideline Pursuit

  • One of the biggest misconceptions about Mosley in my opinion is that he’s not an exceptional athlete.  I disagree with this, because he’s able to play sideline to sideline and is great in pursuit.  While he may not be the fastest guy in a straight line, or the highest jumper, his ability to track and tackle ball carriers all across the field shows me a great level of athleticism.                Image
  • On this play Mosley somewhat bites on the play fake and begins moving with the Running Back.  However he will show he quickly is able to recover.    Image
  • By the time the Quarterback is in his pump back to release the ball Mosley has already recovered and has his momentum moving in the right direction.   Image
  • As the Receiver makes the catch Mosley is nowhere on the screen.  The Receiver looks to have a blocker in front of him, and this could be a big play.     Image
  • Before he can get too much further down field though Mosley comes flying in and makes the tackle.  What looked like a significant gain isn’t even a first down because of his play sideline to sideline.                                Image
  • On this play Mosley is spying the QB, and will make a tremendous play to force the Irish to punt.                                                          Image
  • Mosley quickly reads the field, and finds the huge running lane the Quarterback has been provided on third and short.  He instinctively shoots across the field to fill the QB’s escape route.                                               Image
  • Mosley has the angle on the play, but it’s still going to be a footrace against a very athletic QB.                                                                   Image
  • The Backer is able to get over to the QB in order to close off the inside cutback, and force him to the sideline where help is waiting in the form of a Tide teammate.  The two of them force the QB out-of-bounds, and force the Irish to give the ball back to the Tide offense.

Blitz Ability

  • Not only is Mosley skilled in coverage and able to make plays in the run game, but he’s also a very effective blitzer.  The Linebacker times his blitzes well, anticipating the snap and exploding off the line.  He gets into the backfield easily at times, and shows great closing burst and pursuit ability to run down players in the backfield.                                                             Image
  • Mosley times the snap excellently on this play, and gets great explosion off the line.  Notice how much further up field he is then any other white shirt.     Image
  • The Center is able to make contact with Mosley, but his reaction to the snap is so quick that the Center can’t really deal with his rush.  The Center makes an effort to grab him and take the penalty instead of a sack, but Mosley is strong enough to run through the holding attempt with little problem.           Image
  • Once Mosley gets into the backfield and gets a free run he’s essentially a run away freight train.                                             Image
  • The Quarterback tries to avoid the Linebackers rush, but Mosley is able to easily pursue and sack the Missouri QB.

Needs Work

While every single player in my Best of the Best series has traits to their game that in my opinion make them stand out, they all have things they need to improve too.  So let’s look at a couple of areas where I would like to see Mosley improve in 2013.

Taking Unnecessary Steps on Plays 

This is a bit of nit picking because usually Mosley makes the play anyway, but at times he can be caught taking too many steps on plays.  This mostly happens when he’s has his eyes in the backfield diagnosing the play, and in my opinion is a result of just not having enough reps yet.                                            Image

  • On this play against Missouri we see an example of this.  While his teammates are attacking the ball carrier Mosley is still shuffling laterally diagnosing the play.Image
  • Even as he gets downhill to the ball carrier, he’s still shuffling laterally somewhat.  This makes him slow to react to the Running Backs cutback, and creates a big gain for the Back.                                                       Image
  • However he does make up for it with tremendous pursuit down field to drive the RB out of bounds.

Being the Focal Point of the Defense

  • This isn’t so much something Mosley has to improve on, more of something he’s going to have to adjust to.  While the Tide Defense has great players along the entire depth chart, Mosley will be seen as the guy.  How will he handle the pressure?  How will he deal with having offenses scheme around his play making ability?  These are two things I will definitely be watching as the 2013 season unfolds.

Final Thoughts

C.J. Mosley is my top ranked Linebacker in the NCAA, and for good reason.  He’s skilled at literally every phase of the game.  He’s an ace coverage Backer showing the ability to jam Receivers through their routes, and drop back seamlessly into coverage.  He also reads the Quarterback better than any LB in the nation, and shows the ball skills to interrupt and pick off passes.  He’s also skilled in the run game.  Mosley displays great tackling ability, wrapping up and dragging the ball carrier to the ground, and he also at times punishes the opposition with violent tackles that make them think twice before running his way again.  He shows ability as a blitzer, getting into the backfield and chasing down the Quarterback for a sack, or forcing him to throw it away.  The Backer also has exceptional sideline to sideline ability, pursuing ball carriers, and showing the skill to cut back across the field and make plays with lateral agility.

I would like to see him clean up some of his footwork as he can be caught taking too many steps while diagnosing plays at times.  This can take him out of position on plays, and create big gain opportunities for the offense.  At times he doesn’t react as quickly as you would expect him to after you see his reaction time on the good snaps.  This is caused by a lack of reps in my opinion, and will start to go away as the season progresses.  I’m also going to be watching Mosley’s transition from a great role player into the focal point and leader of the Defense as that is a position he hasn’t been asked to fill at Alabama before.

Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next player in my Best of the Best series.  Also, please feel free to send me any comments/critique to danguy013@gmail.com or feel free to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13

The Best of the Best: Anthony Barr

We’re now eight days away from the beginning of the 2013 college football season, which means it’s time for part three of my Best of the Best series.  This 10 article series will take a  look at my top 10 draft eligible players in college football.  For my rankings, I factored my Draft stock for each player, as well as their impact in the college game.  While I fully expect all of these players to be top 15 draft selections next year, there could always be fluctuation with a premium placed on positions like Quarterback and Offensive Tackle.  With that said, it’s time to look at my number eight prospect, UCLA Linebacker Anthony Barr.

Image

Tale of the Tape

6’4″

248 lbs

Career Numbers (1 season on defense)

84 total tackles

21 tackles for a loss

13 sacks

5 passes deflected

4 forced fumbles

After beginning his Bruin career as an H-Back, Anthony Barr has found a home at Linebacker in UCLA’s 3-4 scheme.  Barr may be the most surprising name on my list being that he’s only been playing the position for 14 games, but when you watch him it’s easy to see why he’s here.  He’s an incredible athlete still learning how to play as a pass rusher, but there’s a lot to love about his game.  He’s quick and explosive, a violent tackler, and he has a good level of pursuit and lateral ability.  So first we’ll start with why he made my list.

Pass Rushing

  • One thing that stands out to me about Barr is how effective he is rushing the Quarterback, despite being very raw in terms of technique.  Barr doesn’t have a go to pass rushing move, and honestly his passing rushing moves as a whole leave a lot to be desired.  However he does flash ability with several moves, but more importantly he outworks and out hustles his blockers.  His sacks are effort sacks, where he’s just faster, stronger, and working harder than the man trying to stop him which I love.  Barr also flashes awareness to disrupt passes even when he can’t get to the QB, showing the ability to anticipate the throw and leap to knock it down.                                                     Image
  • On this play against USC, we’ll see Barr’s ability to get into the passing lane and disrupt the pass.                                                                   Image
  • Barr hesitates slightly at the line but it ends up helping him.  He’s able to run around blockers untouched due to the hesitation, and while it’s not him that gets to Quarterback Matt Barkley he’s the one that makes the play.  He knocks the ball down on 3rd and 10, and forces the Trojans to punt.              Image
  • On this play against Cal, we’ll see Barr at his absolute best in regards to rushing the passer.  He gets a good jump off the line, and when he engages the blocker he is able to keep his arm extended to keep the Tackle off his pads.  He also is able to keep an arm free to put himself in even better position for the play.   Image
  • A different angle of the play shows how Barr is able to keep the Offensive Tackle off his body.                                                              Image
  • Barr shows off some nimble feet to dance in the backfield, then punishes the Quarterback with a jarring hit.  He wraps up and drives through the QB with violent aggression, knocking the ball free in the process.             Image
  • This next play will show how effective Barr can be with pass rushing moves once he gets completely comfortable with the position.  Barr gets a great jump off the snap, firing down field, and towards the Tackle.                       Image
  • As Barr reaches the blocker he flashes a devastating spin move.  His spin is so quick, and so explosive, that the Tackle has no chance to get him blocked.   Image
  • Another look at the play shows how easily Barr gets around the blocker.Image
  • He shows inexperience in not being able to finish the play with a sack, but his move forces the Quarterback to step up field, where his teammates clean up for him.                                                                                         Image
  • One last thing that I want to highlight about Barr is how he routinely finds lanes to get through when he’s rushing.  He’s essentially a Running Back when he’s rushing the passer, finding areas of the line where he can cut and explode through to create havoc.                                                           Image
  • Barr begins heading down hill as the ball is snapped, but there isn’t really a gap for him to get through on the left side of the line.                Image
  • He quickly locates the lane in between the Guard and Right Tackle, and changes direction in his rush.                                                        Image
  • Barr quickly shoots through the gap, and he makes the read so quickly that the Running back isn’t able to pick him up.  Quarterback Matt Barkley is able to get rid of the ball before the sack occurs, but it’s still an impressive rush.

Run Support

  • For such a raw player Barr makes a lot of plays in run support.  He pursues well, flashes sideline to sideline ability, and is a good tackler.  I’m also impressed with the ease at which he breaks blocks at time.  His hand technique needs a lot of refinement, but he’s able to disengage with incredible strength and determination in order to free himself to make plays.          Image
  • On this play in the Pac 12 Championship against Stanford, Barr shows the ability to pursue and close on a player, as well as finish the play with a drag down tackle.                                                                                        Image
  • Barr has been given a free release on his rush with the play designed away from him, but he uses great closing speed to get into the backfield and cause the Running Back to adjust his path.                                Image
  • The Running Back makes a move to evade Barr, however he’s not able to outrun him fully, and gets his hands on him in the backfield.                Image
  • Despite not having the back wrapped up, Barr is able to utilize great strength to drag him to the ground with the one arm he has on his jersey.     Image
  • Later in the game against Stanford Barr shows a very underrated skill in run support, the ability to seal the edge and force the Running Back back inside.    Image
  • Barr engages the Tackle, and does a good job keeping his arms extended so that the blocker can’t get into his pads and move him easily.  Notice the pulling Guard marked with the yellow square, he will come across the field and pick up the block on Barr so the Tackle can get down field to block.      Image
  • The Guard picks the block up, but now Barr as been able to line himself up with the Running Back, creating a situation where the RB will have to run through him to get to the edge.                                                     Image
  • Barr does a good job staying extended on this play, which gives him the ability to move laterally.  This forces the RB to move back to the inside of the field where his teammates are able to clean up the play.

Pursuit Ability

  • Whether it’s a Quarterback or a Running Back that he’s chasing Barr has great pursuit ability.  He’s shows good athleticism to actually get to the opposition, and has quick feet to avoid traffic.                                    Image
  • On this play we’ll look at Barr’s pursuit ability while rushing the QB.  Barr gets into the backfield relatively easily, however Barkley will be able to escape.   Image
  • Barkley is able to step up and evade Barr’s rush.  Barkley will show some decent athleticism of his own, as he escapes towards the edge of the field.  However Barr isn’t out of the play.                                                      Image
  • Barr is chipped by the Running Back, but he refuses to give up on the play.    Image
  • Barr pursues the QB throughout the play, and the result is Barkley being forced to throw the ball before he’s ready.  The down ends up being converted, but it’s no fault of Barr’s.

Intensity on the Field

  • This last one is pretty self-explanatory.  Anthony Barr is an extremely physical player who seems to love delivering violent, punishing hits to players.  While he may draw a foul every now and then, he plays with a bit of a mean streak (while not getting reckless) that I love.  Once his technique is more sound he may end up being somewhat of an enforcer on Defense in the same way a guy like James Harrison was for many years.

Needs Work

While every single player in my Best of the Best series has traits to their game that in my opinion make them stand out, they all have things they need to improve too.  So let’s look at a couple of areas where I would like to see Barr improve in 2013.

Diagnosing Plays Better

  • At times Barr actually does a very good job reading the play, adjusting, and flowing to the ball carrier.  However, his inexperience does cause him to have trouble diagnosing plays on a somewhat regular basis.  He especially needs to work on his understanding of the option, as he can be caught badly out of position when he faces it.                                                   Image
  • On this play we’ll see Stanford run a Read Option play, where the Quarterback will keep the ball.  Barr’s responsibility is to play the Quarterback and force him to hand the ball to the Running Back where he has teammates to crash down on him.                                                                                       Image
  • Barr is slow to diagnose the play as a Read, and over pursues.  This creates a lane for the QB.                                                     Image
  • Barr attempts to grab the Quarterback as he escapes, but he’s unable to.   Image
  • Barr does recover well, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a first down run that could have been prevented with better awareness.                 Image
  • Just a few plays later they get him again with the exact same read.

Experience

  • This isn’t really an improvement, but one of his biggest flaws.  Because he’s only been playing defense for one season Barr doesn’t do a lot of “little things” you would like him to.  He doesn’t utilize proper leverage, his hand placement and technique is not where you would like it, and he has a delayed reaction to deception plays.  All of these things come with practice though, which he just hasn’t had enough.  As he continues to play and get repetitions throughout the regular season I would expect him to make strides in all of these areas.  Still, for now they are flaws in his game that he will need to make progress in to be drafted as high as he could be.

Final Thoughts

Barr is a supremely gifted athlete, who right now is in the progress of learning how to play a position.  He’s got great downhill quickness, and can flow sideline to sideline well.  His quick feet allow him to cut through traffic at a good rate, and his time as an Offensive player allows him to see rush lanes very quickly.  He also is good in pursuit, and is an effective pass rusher despite a lack of consistent pass rush moves.  Finally, Barr is a physical and violent football player, who can impose his will on players at times.

The biggest question with Barr is progression.  Does he continue to get better at the rapid rate he’s already improved, or does he hit his ceiling before most believe he will?  He has all the physical tools to be a dominant pass rusher in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 alignment.  His technique needs a lot of seasoning, and he may need to learn for a few years before he can perform at a high level in the NFL, however there’s no denying he’s one of the best pass rushers in college football, and one of my Best of the Best.

Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next player in my Best of the Best series.  Also, please feel free to send me any comments/critique to danguy013@gmail.com or feel free to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13

The Best of the Best: Sammy Watkins

We’re now nine days away from the beginning of the 2013 college football season, which means it’s time for part two of my Best of the Best series.  This 10 article series will take a  look at my top 10 draft eligible players in college football.  For my rankings, I factored my Draft stock for each player, as well as their impact on the college gridiron.  While I fully expect all of these players to be top 15 draft selections next year, there could always be fluctuation with a premium placed on positions like Quarterback and Offensive Tackle.  With that said, it’s time to look at my number nine prospect, Clemson Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins.

Image

Tale of the Tape

  • 6’1″
  • 205 lbs

Career Numbers

  • 139 receptions
  • 3361 all-purpose yards
  • 17 touchdowns

In 2011 Sammy Watkins made his Freshman debut against Troy, and had a more than solid day hauling in seven passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.  The Florida athlete used that performance to springboard him into a stellar first season resulting in 82 catches, and all-purpose yardage in excess of 2,200 yards.  In 2012 Watkins battled injuries and a stellar year for former teammate and new Houston Texan DeAndre Hopkins, and his yardage took a big step back with only around 1,100 all-purpose yards.  Now as 2013 begins Watkins is healthy again and looks ready to prove why he’s one of the elite talents in college football.

First the good.

Explosive

  • Watkins is an extremely explosive athlete.  As a track star, Watkins shows the top end speed to run away from defenders, and has the shiftiness and quickness you love to see from players at the position.                    Image
  • This play is one of Watkins most explosive plays from his Freshman year.  It’s third down at the beginning of the third quarter against Auburn.  The Corner across from Watkins is lined up 10 yards off of Sammy to prevent the big play.  Image
  • Watkins runs a quick curl route right to the sticks and sits in the open area to pick up the easy first down.                                  Image
  • As he makes the catch, Watkins instantly looks to go North and South and pick up as many yards as possible.                                            Image
  • Watkins is able to use the extra gear he possesses to accelerate right past the diving tackler and now has become a thread to take a simple six yard route the distance.                                                                               Image
  • Still accelerating after the catch, Watkins runs by another diving Defensive Back.Image
  • Watkins uses his exceptional explosiveness after the catch to break to the edge.  At this point there’s no shot for the defense to make the play, Watkins walks into the end zone.                                                            Image
  • Here, Watkins will take the ball out of the backfield against Furman.   Image
  • Watkins teammates have done a good job providing him with a clean lane to run through by sealing their blocks against the lesser competition.  Image
  • In an instant Watkins has already accelerated through the hole and past any tackler that had a chance to bring him down before the play became a huge gain.  There’s one last attempt to push him out inside the five, but the result of the play is a TD.  Since pictures don’t do this play justice, here is the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6S_TlcXCLU .

Route Running

  • Another area where Watkins really shines is his route running.  He runs extremely quick and crisp routes, He is assertive in his foot technique, stabbing the ground and making angular direction changes rather than rounding off his routes.  Also, he shows the ability to run most routes in the route tree, and run them well.                                                                                            Image
  • On this play Watkins is able to beat his man easily with an effective stop and go route.  Watkins heads up field for about six to seven yards then puts the breaks on and fakes curling back to the Quarterback.            Image
  • The Defensive Back bites on the curl fake, slowing down in his back pedal and preparing to break on the curl.                                                Image
  • As Watkins cuts back to the outside of the field, the DB is left helpless and must now fight to recover.                                                         Image
  • Watkins now has a step on his man, and has the speed to pull away.  The QB was ultimately sacked on the play, but a half of a second more time in the pocket and this play would have resulted in a touchdown for Watkins and Clemson.                                                                          Image
  • Here we’ll see Watkins utilize a quick in route to beat the man coverage.  Watkins heads a few yards up field then abruptly stabs the ground, allowing him to make a sudden direction change.                                    Image
  • With the sharp stab, Watkins is able to make a 90 degree direction change in an instant, leaving the defender with a tough hip transition to recover.     Image
  • The quick cut creates the cushion Watkins needs to make the catch.      Image
  • Finally, we’ll look at a post route that was an easy touchdown for Watkins.  Watkins who is lined up off the line of scrimmage goes down field about 10 yards and again stabs the ground hard.                              Image
  • The stab allows Watkins to cut easily and cut towards the middle of the field, while still moving further down field at the same time.           Image
  • Watkins is able to get behind the safety, and to the spot that the Quarterback has thrown the ball.                                                       Image
  • The Safety is late to react, and Watkins is left all alone in the middle of the field.  The Quarterback and Watkins have good timing with one another and Watkins is able to make a nice leaping catch and walk into the end zone.

Yards After the Catch/Contact

  • One of the biggest things I look for when watching a Wide Receiver is what they can do after the catch/first contact, or their YAC ability.  Watkins combines quickness, explosiveness and elusiveness into a package that is a YAC lovers dream.  He immediately looks down field once securing the catch looking for cutback lanes, and the most likely path to pay dirt.  He shows the ability to shake tackles, and once he sees green he’s almost always gone.     Image
  • Here we see a great example of what Watkins is capable after the catch, or first contact.  On this play Watkins takes the hand off in the backfield, and will be contacted very early.                                                                          Image
  • Watkins is contacted almost immediately, and deep in the backfield.  However the elusive runner is able to shift through the tackle and keep moving.  Image
  • Again Watkins faces contact in the backfield and he is once again able to slip by.                                                                                                      Image
  • Becoming a trend on this play by now, Watkins slips yet another tackle attempt in the backfield.                                                                    Image
  • Watkins runs through one more tackle attempt then is finally brought down by the fifth man.  However the damage is done for Auburn.  A play that should have been stopped in the backfield for a significant loss on third down has now resulted in the chains moving due to Watkins individual effort.

Versatility

  • It’s truly a disservice to call Watkins just a Wide Receiver because he’s much more.  He’s a special athlete that can be a weapon in just about any offense.  His great top end speed, and quick lateral agility make him a threat to score every time he touches the ball.  He’s a player that you can get the ball in many ways.  Whether it be from one of the outside Receiver positions, in the slot, in the return game and even handing the ball off to him in the backfield.  If you can draw the play up you can probably include Watkins in it.

Needs Work

While every single player in my Best of the Best series has traits to their game that in my opinion make them stand out, they all have things they need to improve too.  So let’s look at a couple of areas where I would like to see Watkins improve in 2013.

Competing For 50-50 Balls

  • Watkins is an elite talent and wins a lot of match ups just because his physical skill set is that much better than his opponents.  When he is faced with a worthy match up though he sometimes has trouble competing for contested passes. Image
  • Early in the game against Auburn his Freshman year, Watkins is able to run by his defender and get a step on him.  This would be an easy touchdown, however the Quarterback doesn’t push the ball deep enough.  At this point Watkins is doing a great job tracking the ball through the air.                   Image
  • Watkins makes the adjustment to the under thrown pass, and at this point is still in good position to make the play over a Defensive Back who hasn’t located the football.                                                                        Image
  • Here’s where things go wrong.  Even with the defender on the inside, Watkins still has the upper hand because he has located the football in the air while the defender still hasn’t turned his head.  If Watkins gets vertical and attacks the football at its highest point, he will likely win the match up being able to secure the catch before the defender can make a play.  However, Watkins doesn’t get very vertical at all, and because of this puts himself at a disadvantage because now he has to catch the ball through the defender.               Image
  • Watkins makes the catch initially, but is not able to secure the ball like he would if he attacked the football in the air.            Image
  • Without being able to secure the catch in the air, the defender is able to rip the ball free as Watkins is going down to the turf.

Playing More Physical

  • If Sammy Watkins wants to reach his ceiling he will need to learn to be more physical as a Wide Receiver.  What I mean by this is he will need to work at fighting through the jam, and also learn how to use his frame to shield his defenders.  A receivers body can be a great tool for the player, being used to create separation, and keep defenders from being able to make a play on the ball.  To this point that’s not something I’ve seen used often by Watkins, and it would only make him even more of a threat if he developed this skill.

Final Thoughts

Watkins is an extremely gifted athlete playing Wide Receiver.  He has incredible explosiveness and quickness, with great top end speed.  He’s a shifty elusive player who is able to evade tacklers and pick up YAC in bunches.  He runs precision routes, and has a feel for where the first down sticks are on the field.  At times he shows great body control to make catches on the sideline, and is a very willing and underrated blocker.  He has good hands, but at times lets the ball get into his pads when you would like to see him rip it out of the air.

Watkins needs to work on attacking the 50-50 passes better, and also using his body more to win battles.  He dealt with injuries all last season, so he will need to show that he is injury free and can stay that way going forward.  He has minor character concerns that teams in the NFL will want to look into, but nothing that will impact his draft status or cause a team to remove him from their board in my opinion.  He lacks ideal size for an outside receiver, but with his other physical tools has the ability to be a very good number one Wide Receiver at the next level.

Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next player in my Best of the Best series.  Also, please feel free to send me any comments/critique to danguy013@gmail.com or feel free to to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13