Posts Tagged ‘ NFL Draft ’

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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  • 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: 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

The Best of the Best: Will Sutton

With it now only 10 days until the 2013 college football season begins, I’m happy to be debuting 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 (if they all declare), 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 10 prospect, Arizona State Defensive Lineman Will Sutton.

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Tale of the Tape

  • 6’1″
  • 271 lbs

Career Numbers

  • 113 total tackles
  • 32 tackles for a loss
  • 16.5 sacks
  • 4 forced fumbles
  • 6 passes deflected

After a less than stellar start to his career Sutton finally burst onto the scene in 2012.  Sutton took his game to a new level, finishing second in the nation in tackles for a loss with 23.5, and third in the nation in the sack category with 13.5. He also posted exceptional tackling numbers, finishing 2012 with 62 total tackles.  So with the boom season is he just a one year wonder, or is there more to his game to maintain longevity in 2013 and beyond?

Anticipating the Snap

  • When watching Sutton, the first thing that immediately jumps out to me is how well he can adjust to the snap timing throughout a game. He’s not the most explosive player off the ball.  However once he reads the snap, he’s able to anticipate and jump it so well that he’s often quicker than the opposing Offensive Lineman blocking him.                                                               Image
  • In this first play, we will look at a simple rush, but because of Sutton’s timing, the blocker isn’t able to disrupt Sutton effectively off the snap.                  Image
  • Another look at this play shows us how quickly Sutton has fired off the snap.  If you look you can see that because of Sutton’s timing, there is a lane created between the Center and the Guard where they haven’t reacted quick enough.                                                                                                          Image
  • In this frame we can see Sutton’s explosive closing speed on display.  He easily shoots through the gap created, and at this point all the Center can do is try and disrupt him from his side, or grab his jersey and take the foul.                                                       Image
  • Sutton finishes the play by stripping the Quarterback as he gets into the backfield.  Cal recovers the ball, but it’s a sizable loss on third and long resulting in getting the ball back to his offense.                                                              Image
  • Here again we see Sutton with great timing of the snap.  Notice how the Center has hardly gotten out of his stance, while Sutton has already fired up and again has both hands ready to attack the blocker.                                       Image
  • Sutton’s timing allows him to contact the blocker before he’s ready to deal with him, because of this Sutton is able to use a quick rip to get to the side of the blocker and blow by him.                                                                      Image
  • At this point Sutton has left the Center looking foolish, but more importantly he’s got a free lane straight to Quarterback.                                             Image
  • Sutton shows great closing speed to get to the Quarterback before he can set and throw the ball.  This results in the QB having to make a hurried throw off his back foot which falls incomplete.

Pass Rush Moves

  • Snap timing may have been the first thing that jumped out when I watched Sutton last year, but his pass rushing technique wasn’t far behind.  Sutton has a full arsenal of pass rushing moves, utilizing not only quick and devastating swim moves, but powerful rips and bull rushes when anchored properly.    Image
  • On this play we will once again see great explosiveness off the snap from Sutton, but it’s his  phenomenal pass rush move that I want to point out.  As the ball is snapped, Sutton shows again that he can consistently fire off the snap and engage his blocker in a very short period of time.                                                                  Image
  • At this point Sutton has already won his battle against the Center by utilizing a explosive swim move to force the blocker out of his way.  Before Quarterback Matt Barkley has finished his drop back Sutton has already created a free lane to the QB.                                                                                            Image
  • Sutton is able to easily get his arm up and around the blocker, making it impossible for him to be impeded in his pass rush.  With the free lane, Sutton is able to continue his explosive pursuit and brings the Quarterback down, forcing a punt.                                                                                                 Image
  • Next we’ll take a look at Sutton’s power in his pass rush game, his Bull Rush.  From initial contact it is easy to see that Sutton is able to generate incredible strength and power to drive his blocker back to the Quarterback when utilizing proper leverage.                                                                   Image
  • The ball has just barely reached the Quarterback off the snap, and it’s already evident how much of a leverage advantage Sutton has on his blocker.  Notice how much further back the Right Guard blocking Sutton is, as opposed to the Left Guard.  Sutton is already at least a yard further up the field.    Image
  • Sutton uses good technique, keeping his arms extended so the blocker can’t get into his body.  This makes it even easier for Sutton to use his leverage advantage to force the blocker into the backfield.                                             Image
  • Sutton not content to just make the Quarterback uncomfortable, is able to disengage easily with the leverage advantage, and finish the play by getting a hit on the QB.                                                                              Image
  • Something that is rare to see in a Defensive Tackles game, is an exceptional speed rush.  But on this play against Missouri, the Arizona State standout displays an extremely effective one.                                                     Image
  • As the play begins, you can see Sutton utilizing good technique, dipping his shoulder inside to give him the angle and leverage necessary to dip around the blocker.                                                                                         Image
  • Due to technique and burst, Sutton is able to slide around the Right Guard and put himself in position to make the play on the Quarterback.    Image
  • Even with the Guard grabbing at Sutton’s jersey, he is able to explode around the blocker and to the Quarterback.  The QB has no choice but to tuck the ball and take a sack.

Athleticism

  • Sutton flashes great athleticism on the field.  He shows the ability to not only leap and knock down passes, but also make plays sideline to sideline.                  Image
  • Late in the game against Missouri Sutton flashes leaping ability, timing his leap well and extending fully to fill the Quarterback’s passing lane and force an incomplete pass.  Sutton shows good skill to knock down passes, with 6 pass deflections in his career.Image
  • More impressive about Sutton’s athleticism though, is his ability to make plays from sideline to sideline, and down the field in pursuit.  On this play I want to point out Sutton’s ability to read and react to the play going away from him, as well as his pursuit ability to get back to the play and help out on the tackle.  Notice Sutton is lined up on the far side of the field.       Image
  • Right from the snap, the play is designed to go away from Sutton’s side of the field as you can see from the Quarterback rolling to the near side of the field.   Image
  • As the ball is thrown Sutton is about 11 yards further down field, and roughly the distance between the hashes to the left of the play.  Note: The difference doesn’t look as significant in this image because I shrunk the dimensions to fit it into the article.  For a better representation of the distance please refer to this image. ( http://i909.photobucket.com/albums/ac300/theant1h3ro/suttonsidelinetosideline3big_zpsbe7d37c3.jpg )                                                          Image
  • As the receiver looks to turn up field, we can no longer see Sutton in the frame.  It certainly looks like he won’t be involved in the play.               Image
  • However just a moment later as the Tight End approaches the original Line of Scrimmage we see Sutton come back into the frame closing in on the ball carrier.                                                                                      Image
  • Sutton finishes this great pursuit play by joining in on the tackle.

Scheme Versatility

  • Sutton displays a good amount of versatility in terms of where you can play him.  While he finds most of his success lining up in between the Guard and Tackle (3 technique), he also flashes ability to make plays lined up across from the Center (0 technique), and further outside at End in a 5 technique position of a 3-4 alignment.

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.

Finishing Tackles in Space

  • Like most players his size, Sutton can have trouble making the play in open space.  While he excels at beating blockers and getting to the Quarterback, smaller and shiftier Backs and Receivers can give him fits at times.     Image
  • On this play we will see Sutton make the appropriate read, getting to Marqise Lee in the backfield on the reverse.  However, when confronted with the tackle in space opportunity Sutton isn’t able to finish the play.      Image
  • Sutton reads the play perfectly, pursuing the Quarterback back to the pitch point, and then instantly taking his pursuit from the QB to Wide Receiver Marqise Lee.  At this point Sutton is in excellent position to make a critical stop in the game.                                                                                Image
  • Sutton now dives for Lee, extending his arm to make a desperation tackle attempt.                                                                                                Image
  • Lee is easily able to run through the tackle attempt to extend the play.     Image
  • Sutton however doesn’t give up on the play, and will get a chance at redemption as Lee cuts the play back.                                                    Image
  • Sutton’s quick recovery forces Lee to make another cut back towards the rest of the Arizona Sate defense.                                             Image
  • Sutton is once again presented with the opportunity to tackle Lee for a loss, but like the rest of the Arizona State defense, he fails to do so.  In fairness to Sutton, there is a blocker getting a shot on him, and Lee is one of the most elusive players in college football.  Lee is able to turn this busted play into a Houdini act for a 20+ yard gain.

Form Tackling

  • While Sutton is a very physical player, at time his tackling technique leads something to be desired.                                                        Image
  • Sutton makes the correct read and is in position to stop the Quarterback on the keep, however instead of wrapping up and dragging him down he goes with a weak arm tackle.                                                                  Image
  • As a result, the Quarterback is able to run through the attempt, and the result of the play is a touchdown.  In an Arizona State loss that was decided by four points this is a critical mistake.

Leverage Consistency

The other area of his game I would like to see Sutton focus on this year is being more consistent in regards to leverage.  When he gets off the snap and gains good leverage he’s virtually impossible to block.  However when he struggles to gain leverage at the point of attack due to poor technique, his pad level being too high or a lack of burst off the snap he can be moved around easily.  Sutton did add 30 pounds of weight during the off season, so this should help with his ability to anchor and create leverage, however it is an area he will need to improve to reach his potential.

Final Thoughts

Sutton is a phenomenal Defensive Tackle, who shows a balanced ability in both the passing game, and in run support.  He has a very strong set of pass rush moves that he combines with great snap timing and a good degree of power to win match ups on a regular basis.  He usually utilizes good technique, and shows good ability to read and react to plays in the backfield.  He has a nose for the ball, pursuing well sideline to sideline and making hustle plays throughout games.  He also utilizes quick feet to cut through narrow lanes, to make plays.

Like most Defensive Tackles, he struggles at times to make plays in space, and can have lapses in technique and pad level that create leverage issues.  He also doesn’t always have good tackling technique resulting in missed opportunities.  Scheme versatility makes him an intriguing prospect as a 3-4 Defensive End, or pass rushing Under Tackle in a 4-3 alignment.  He missed the entire 2010 season with Academic problems, and at 6’1 will more than likely have doubts due to his size.

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

Carolina Panthers 2012 Seven Round Mock Draft

Since it would be too easy to mock Fletcher Cox in the first I’m not going to do that.  I’m buying that the Eagles want to move up and get Cox and we would be the primary competition for him.  I say cut out the middle man and add a valuable pick in the process.  The Panthers trade the #9 and #216 picks to the Eagles for the #15, #46, and #172.  Then, with a lot of value still left at the fifteen hole, the Cats manage to move down again trading the #15 to the Green Bay Packers for the #28, #59, and 123.  The Packers move up and get one of the two first round pass rushing specialists in Nick Perry, or Whitney Mercilus.

Pick #28: DT Devon Still, Penn State

6’5/303/4.94/26

While Cox may have more upside then Still, Devon was the more consistent player last year.  I see the talent difference as marginal, which is why I’m trading down.  If you tell me I can get two good to great prospects in the top 60 of the draft, or four, I’m taking four every single time.  Still is strong at the point of attack, and drives lineman back into the pocket on a regular basis.  He’s a well rounded tackle who provides contributions in run support, as well as the pass rush.  Has a similar skill set and size as Ndamukong Suh, but needs to play a little more nasty.

Pick #40: CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama

5’10/193/4.46/33.5

This is another value pick, but also comes at a position of need.  Jenkins absolutely should not be on the board at this point of the draft, but he will because of some character red flags.  This guy is an absolute monster, the best cover corner in the draft.  He has top ten talent, and the Panthers have to grab him if he’s there in the second.  He’s a little on the small size at 5’10, but he has elite speed, and is a physical corner who isn’t afraid to initiate contact.  Would be a stellar pickup here, and likely start opposite Gamble from day one.

Pick #46: LB Lavonte David, Nebraska

6’1/233/4.65/19

I like TD, and I hope he comes back healthy and plays every game, but chances are at some point we’ll need a quality backup to come in.  They get that guy in David, who can contribute not only on special teams, but be a quality starter if called upon.  David is a sure tackler, who flows well sideline to sideline.  I’ve been extremely high on Davis ever since the 2010 season, and think he has the tools to be a monster.  Even if TD can go, they get his long term replacement in the second round.

Pick #59: OT Mitchell Schwartz, California

6’5/318/5.45/23

Schwartz is a solid tackle with above average athleticism.  Will provide injury assurance in case Otah can’t go, and valuable depth along with Bruce Campbell.  Also, if needed he can slide around the line and play guard.

Pick #104: TE Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette

6’6/238/4.53/34.5

Ron Rivera can’t resist as he sees this athletic monster staring him in the face in the fourth.  Green gives Cam Newton another weapon to feed the ball to, and make our offense even more deadly.  At 6’6 with low 4.5 speed Green becomes an instant match up nightmare for opposing defenses.

Pick #123: WR Tommy Streeter, University of Miami

6’5/219/4.40/33

The Panthers need to find a number one receiver in the next three years.  They also would love for that guy to be a freak like Calvin Johnson Jr.  They wanted Stephen Hill, but had too many more important needs to grab him at the end of the first where he went.  They get a guy they think can be groomed to that level much later in the draft in Streeter.  Streeter is an extremely raw route runner and pass catcher, but has size and speed that cannot be taught.  If he can mature as a wide receiver he has a chance to play at an exceptional level down the road.

Pick #143: MLB James-Michael Johnson, Nevada

6’1/241/4.68/23

Outside of the top three MLB’s in the draft, there’s nobody to write home about.  Still, the Panthers are hurting at the position with little to no depth behind Jon Beason.  While I really like Thomas Williams and feel he could fill in on a limited basis, we still need bodies at the position.  Because of this, you take Johnson here based on the skill set he has.  JMJ has great size at 6’1 and around 240 pounds, and above average speed at the position.  He’s a little stiff in coverage, but is excellent in run support attacking the ball carrier with great burst.

Pick #172: P Drew Butler, University of Georgia

6’1/203/5.04

The Panthers jump the gun a little bit here.  They would like to wait till their compensatory pick to address punter, but feel a run on the position is coming.  They pull the trigger and get the best punter in the draft.  Butler has an incredible leg, averaging 44 yards per punt last season.  He also gets great hang time on his kicks, which was one of the main criticisms of Jason Baker.  Butler will come in and make an instant impact on special teams as a punter, and kickoff specialist.

Pick #180: DE Donte Paige-Moss

6’3/268/4.67/26

Much like when the Panthers selected Greg Hardy, Paige-Moss is a guy who has the tools and would have been selected much higher had he stayed an extra year.  At the start of last season, many 2013 mocks had him rated as the top DE.  He has good size for the position at just under 6’4″, and around 270 pounds.  He also has good athleticism, and is a above average edge rusher.  He lost his starting job this year, but in 2010 was a standout with 49 tackles, including 7.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss.  His character has been called into question after he ripped the Carolina coaching staff following their bowl game, and he is recovering from a knee injury.  However, this late in the draft you have to take chances, and Paige-Moss has the ability to turn into a draft gem if he puts it all together.

Pick #207: QB Darron Thomas, Oregon

6’3/220/4.72/36

The Panthers find the perfect backup to Cam at the very end of the sixth round in Thomas.  Thomas is raw as a passer, but has great athleticism and running ability.  The addition of Thomas allows the Panthers to run the same offense if Cam were to ever go down.

Undrafted Free Agents

OT Mike Ryan, UCONN
RB Jeff Demps, Florida (If track doesn’t work out)
WR Lance Lewis, ECU
DT DeAngelo Tyson, Georgia
CB/KR Greg McCoy, TCU
LB Chris Galippo, USC
S   Lance Mitchell, Oregon State
FB Chad Diehl, Clemson

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