Very gradually, just slowly enough to not be noticed by my friends and family, my brain is turning into tapioca pudding from staring at information related to the NFL Draft. I really need to find a more sensible hobby. Maybe I'll build a trebuchet in my backyard. Or, perhaps, I could learn to knit sweaters for Reilly. Almost anything would be more productive than obsessing over the draft, and probably much less frustrating.
Now, on with the lunacy...
My first impression of the defensive tackles that are available for the 2014 NFL Draft, is that they aren't particularly exciting. There are a few that I think should turn out quite well, but the overall quality and depth seems very weak. At some point I'll really have to compare this group to the ones from some of the more recent drafts, to see if this really is a weak crop, or if it is just my imagination. Either way, I just thought I should mention this, to explain why I'm going to be exceptionally negative on the DT subject.
As always, I will include the player's Kangaroo Score (my measure of lower body power), and the Agility Score (which comes from their short shuttle drill and 3-cone drill). Each score is given in the form of how many standard deviations that a player is above, or below, the average result for someone in their position group. I will also list the average number of tackles for a loss (TFL) that a player had in their last two years in college, just to provide some rough measure of how disruptive they were.
While I am sure that some player will emerge, who does quite well despite not being seen as very appealing by the computer (and vice versa, someone the computer likes will under-perform), this isn't of any great concern to me. I'm just trying to see if a team would wind up with better results, over a period of time, if they bet on certain players, that fit a particular athletic/statistical profile. I don't expect this to appeal to everyone, but if you're curious as to my justifications for this, you can read the post on Athleticism and the Defensive Tackle, which should quickly put most people to sleep.
This list will continue to be modified/updated as new data and
prospects come to my attention. I won't list every prospect here, but will just focus on the ones that I think are interesting for one reason or another. Last updated: 4/6/2014
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Kangaroo Score: 0.195 Agility Score: 1.517 TFL: 18.5
So far, Aaron Donald is far and away the best/safest DT prospect that I can see amongst the players who will be taken in the draft. While he may not have the raw power that I normally would like a prospect to have, his ridiculous Agility Score more than adequately makes up for this. He has also been insanely productive despite being surrounded by mediocre talent at Pittsburgh, which is obviously nice to see. I suspect he will be an extremely safe pick, but with that being said, I think his success will depend on what team he winds up on. For a 3-4 defense he could be somewhat useless, as the linemen you see in that defense tend to be relied upon to tie up blockers so that the OLBs can do the pass rushing, and I doubt that he has the power to do that. In a 4-3 defense, he could be a quick (1.59 10-yard split) and slippery penetrator of the opponent's offensive line. Even here, I think he would benefit from having a mammoth nose tackle next to him, to provide the run stopping presence, and to allow Donald to do what he does best. He might even be interesting as a 4-3 DE, though his scores come out very differently when compared to the players in that position group (1.014 Kangaroo Score, and a 0.142 Agility Score when compared to DEs & 3-4 OLBs). He's probably the only DT that I can really justify taking in the 1st round.
Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame
Kangaroo Score: -0.400 Agility Score: -1.800 TFL: 4.75
Do you remember when Terrence Cody was a hot nose tackle prospect? Do you remember how that turned out? Actually, I don't think it will turn out quite that badly for Nix, but I do expect him to have significant troubles. I'm not really that concerned about Nix's lack of impressive college production, as nose tackles don't tend to be great accumulators of stats. I am, however, mildly horrified by his measurable traits, as his lack of power and agility spells major trouble. I've heard some discussions saying that he could still be recovering from injuries, which might perhaps explain some of this, but I'm not here to give the benefit of the doubt. I am here to doubt. I think Nix will most likely end up being a fairly high draft pick that some team will quickly regret. This appears to be one of those cases where people look at an enormous player (he weighs 331 pounds) from a famous college football program, and they just assume he is actually powerful, even if all of the evidence points in the opposite direction. Much like Santa Claus, I think his physical proportions suggest a high-cookie diet, rather than power. I would nix whatever plans I might have when it comes to selecting him (I had to say it).
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Kangaroo Score: -0.618 Agility Score: -0.477 TFL: 9.5
Jernigan was moderately productive in his time at Florida State, but not so productive as to justify being selected in the first 2 rounds, where he is projected to go. When we also consider his poor athletic ability, I really fail to see what people are so excited about here. Also, his name is Timmy. You have to hold that against him. I suppose that there are some who call him...Tim. I would suggest getting a refund on your season tickets, if your team selects Jernigan at the top of the draft.
RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Kangaroo Score: 1.515 Agility Score: -0.001 TFL: 10.25
Athletically, these are the kind of results I would expect from a nose tackle, just pure power. He is a true demonstration of die vollidiot stärke in action. At 6'6" tall, however, that position probably wouldn't be a great fit for him. He probably fits better as a 3-4 DE, though I'm not sure if his mediocre agility wouldn't be a problem there. While his Agility Score is perfectly acceptable, and average, how he reaches this result is a bit peculiar. His result from the 3-Cone drill was -0.717 standard deviations below average. On the other hand, his result from the short shuttle was 0.714 standard deviations above average. I normally associate this with a player that has a stiff upper body, but a somewhat flexible lower half. I don't enjoy discussing other men's flexible lower halves, so you can make of this what you will, and come to your own conclusions about Hageman. I think teams will find a place for him, and he could be useful in a 3-4 or a 4-3, just because of his exceptional power, but I'm not sure if I would bet on him becoming a star. He was only moderately productive, which is a bit disappointing considering his physical gifts, so I wouldn't take him before the 2nd round. Still, players with his ability and level of production can generally be expected to become at least solid/average players at least 60% of the time, which is a higher likelihood of success than you will typically get with most other DT prospects. He supposedly scored a 13 on his Wonderlic, so I would have to expect that he is indeed a moron, not that there is anything wrong with that. The odds that this leads to him being bankrupt within five minutes of filing his retirement papers is not anything for us to be concerned with.
Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame
Kangaroo Score: ? Agility Score: ? TFL: 11
I'm actually fairly curious about Tuitt, based on his statistical production in Notre Dame's defense, but until I get some sort of results from his pro day, I can't really say too much one way or another.
Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina
Kangaroo Score: -1.620 Agility Score: ? TFL: 11
I still need the data to figure out his Agility Score, but at this point the signs are pointing in a troubling direction. While he was a moderately productive player, it's not as if he didn't have a fair amount of talent around him at South Carolina to give him a boost. I would be extremely wary of a defensive tackle with such poor Kangaroo Score. Unless Kelcy quarrels with chipmunks, he might get overpowered.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
Kangaroo Score: -0.842 Agility Score: -0.327 TFL: 18.5
Unlike a lot of the mediocre prospects I see in this draft, Sutton at least produced at a very high level while in college. Unfortunately, I still have some concerns, because his teammates Carl Bradford, Davon Coleman, and Chris Young also produced at a high level, making me wonder who was really benefiting from this collection of talent. So far, I am starting to suspect that Sutton might have been one of the larger beneficiaries in this situation, based on his relatively poor athletic traits. He did improve his Agility Score to 0.048 at his pro day, but I don't
generally count that as the official result unless I have to. Even if I
did adjust this score, it still wouldn't be high enough for me to take a
gamble on him. I wouldn't dismiss him altogether, but I also wouldn't pin my hopes, or a high draft pick, on him. I would probably avoid him, though I am curious to see what he becomes.
Kerry Hyder, DT, Texas Tech
Kangaroo Score: -0.394 Agility Score: 1.473 TFL: 12.75
Since he is only projected to be a sixth round pick by most people, I could see some reasons to take a shot at him. He sort of measures up as a poor man's Aaron Donald. Similar to Donald, I would probably expect him to fit better in a 4-3 defense. Personally, I probably wouldn't pursue him, but I wouldn't mock someone who does choose to do so.
Beau Allen, NT, Wisconsin
Kangaroo Score: 1.049 Agility Score: 0.977 TFL: 4.75
My, my, what have we got here? For a player who is projected to be a late-round-to-undrafted prospect, I have to say that I am rather intrigued. As I said when discussing Louis Nix, I am not terribly concerned with a nose tackle that has mediocre stats, and as you would expect Allen's college stat sheet really isn't too stunning. His average TFL result would actually be slightly higher, at 6.5, if we looked at his two-year results prior to the 2013 season, after which his role in Wisconsin's defense changed a bit. He's actually eerily similar to Nix in almost every statistical category, outside of tackles, where Nix has a bit of a lead, though he obviously crushes Nix in terms of athletic ability. Regardless, all I want out of a nose tackle is a fat guy with the power and athletic ability to tie up opposing offensive linemen, and for the paltry cost it would take to acquire Allen, I think he could be well worth going after. When it comes to nose tackles, you almost require a Kangaroo Score that is around one standard deviation above average, and Allen manages to hit that mark. As for his agility, his nimbly-toed results are really quite unusual for a man as large as he is (329 pounds), which is just a nice little bonus. The biggest concern I have with someone like Allen, is whether a team will actually give him enough of an opportunity, as late round picks tend to be treated rather poorly. Despite this, I view him as a interesting target for Team Kangaroo, as there is minimal risk or investment required to go after him, but potentially a reasonable payoff. I might actually target him as high as the 5th round, depending on who
else is available at other positions, though he is generally projected
to go even later than that.
Bruce Gaston, DT, Purdue
Kangaroo Score: 1.024 Agility Score: 0.508 TFL: 6.25
Athletically, Gaston has a lot in common with Beau Allen, despite being about 20 pounds lighter. While this makes Allen's Agility Score seem even more impressive, due to his enormousness, I think I actually prefer Gaston in many ways. Gaston may, or may not, be a suitable player to be used as a nose tackle, but I think he is more versatile than Allen. I also think he benefited less from surrounding talent than Allen did, as Purdue has kind of been an embarrassment the last couple years. The more I picked apart their stats, the more the data seemed to point to Gaston as the preferred pick, amongst the late-round lottery ticket types of DTs. When I watched Gaston play, he clearly seemed to be the more disruptive of the two, and while I wouldn't bet on Gaston becoming a star, I do suspect he should at least provide good depth for a team looking for a DT.. He generally seems to be ranked as a 7th round to undrafted prospect, but I suspect he could turn out to be better than a number of the guys who will be taken in the first three rounds....if he is given a chance....which probably won't happen. I would happily target him in the last couple of rounds.