Posts Tagged ‘Vinton’

Florida strong safety Matt Elam takes Louisville running back Jeremy Wright in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 2, 2013. The #21 Cardinals upset the #3 Gators, 33-23.

Florida strong safety Matt Elam knocks Louisville running back Jeremy Wright’s helmet off of his head during the Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans Jan. 2, 2013. The #21 Cardinals upset the #3 Gators, 33-23.

Matt Elam (5′ 10″, 202 lbs.) is one of the top safeties going into April’s draft. Elam was know for his highlight-reel hits during his time at Florida. He was a spark plug on their defense who kept the team excited and helped make Will Muschamp’s defense one of the best in the country this past fall. Elam was someone that even from just watching his tape, was easily found on the field from his excited and passionate play. He truly cares about his team and wants to do whatever it takes to help them succeed.

Here are his stats from Florida:

Career: 176 total tackles, 124 unassisted, 52 assisted, 23.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 13 passes defended, 6 interceptions.

2012: 76 total tackles, 58 unassisted, 18 assisted, 11 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 5 passes defended, 4 interceptions

Now that Elam (who will participate in drills at the Combine this morning) has declared for the NFL Draft, I will evaluate him. My evaluation will be based on these categories: Agility, Run Defense, Blitz, Range, Coverage, Tackle, Ball Skills, Speed, Completion Percentage and Health.

AGILITY: 

Matt Elam has pretty dang good agility. He is insanely quick as a runner, tackler and coverage man. He is balanced, he can keep up with any move that a receiver or running back tries to put on him, and he can change direction on a dime. Long story short, Elam possesses top of the line agility. 9.0/10.0

RUN DEFENSE:

Elam can attack the line and the ball carrier with the best of them. He takes on blocks head on and throws them with quick jukes and strong throws, but he sucks (and I am not using that word lightly) at bringing down the ball carrier. I’ll get to this more in the tackle section, but all he does is go for the big hit. This is NOT going to work in the NFL. I don’t know what it is going to take, but someone needs to teach Elam how to bring down a ball carrier correctly. I maybe saw him wrap up a ball carrier correctly five times in his tape. It infuriated me, and I would second guess drafting him in the first or second round because of it. 8.0/10.0

BLITZ: 

When asked to blitz and bring down the quarterback, Elam does fairly well. He is usually asked to blitz on the outside and beat the tackle around the edge, and when he does, he tries to put a huge hit on the QB. But this is where that whole tackle thing comes into play. Sometimes he puts a huge hit on the QB and other times the QB squats, lowers his shoulder, and bounces away from Elam. There are other times (and all of this happens in his run defense too) where the QB will break Elam’s tackle. Most of these times he strings the QB to the edge and Florida’s defense would swarm the ball carrier, which helped him out, but he still needs to get better at bringing down the ball carrier. 8.0/10.0

RANGE:

Since Elam is pretty dang fast (pre-Combine 40 time: 4.53) he moves pretty damn well in space. He can read where the QB is throwing the ball and closes in on it very fast, and when he sees a fumble he is usually one of the first defenders to get there because he takes great angles. Elam has very impressive range. 9.0/10.0

COVERAGE: 

Elam is a much better zone coverage man that a man to man coverage man. In coverage he can read the throw and the QB’s eyes and see where it is going and react much quicker. In man, he doesn’t have that opportunity and has to keep up with a receiver, who is usually at full sprint when Elam meets him down the field. He is pretty good at both, but he is much better when he combines with a corner in man coverage. QB’s like to take shots at receivers that Elam is covering, but few of them get completed. I wish I knew the actual statistic, but I’ll keep it at this. Elam is a pretty damn good coverage guy. 8.5/10.0

TACKLE: 

Here’s the section I’ve already mentioned twice and have been waiting to get to. And I’m going to put this bluntly. Matt Elam cannot tackle. I don’t know what it is. I’m wondering if he ever even learned how to tackle when he was younger. I was taught how to tackle almost every single year I played football, so I have no idea how Elam is so bad. All I saw in Elam’s tape is him trying to make big hits on guys and receivers, running backs and quarterbacks all just bouncing off of him and getting first downs or huge gains. I said this earlier, but I’m going to say it again. This absolutely infuriated me. These plays can work in high school where he was probably one of the best defensive players in his league, but it sure as hell didn’t work in college and it’s not going to work in the pros. Elam

needs to be taken aside and taught how to wrap up on a ball carrier. Going for big hits may work once a game, but a defensive player has to be able to WRAP UP! Honestly, if I were a GM in the NFL, I would pass on Elam because of this in the first few rounds. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t take him until rounds four or five. That’s how big of an issue this is. There’s plenty of teams that could use a good safety, but I’m not sure that Elam can do that unless he learns how to tackle. 5.0/10.0

BALL SKILLS: 

matt elam 2When Elam has the opportunity to create a turnover, whether that be an interception or fumble, he relishes the opportunity. He, like any defender, loves to create turnovers and give the ball and some momentum to his offense. He is also a pretty good defender on balls in the air. He’s not afraid to jump to hit a ball out of the air or dive to knock a ball that’s in front of him down. I like Elam’s ball skills. 8.25/10.00

SPEED: 

With a pre-combine time of 4.53, Elam is up with the some of the best safeties in the draft when it comes to speed. He has a great burst when he is blitzing and his acceleration is top of the line. Elam can catch up to just about anyone on the field and NFL teams will love that. 8.75/10.00

COMPLETION PERCENTAGE:

QB’s like to take shots at receivers that Elam is covering, but few of them get completed. I wish I knew the actual statistic, but I’ll keep it at this. When it comes to completion percentage, Elam’s is pretty low for a safety. 8.5/10.0

HEALTH:

No injury problems here. 10.0/10.0

OVERALL: 

Overall, Elam gets an 8.3/10.0 from me, but I just cannot get past his tackling ability. It’s just missing. I understand that as as player, one would want to make big hits because it gets them on SportsCenter and it gets them noticed by scouts, but when scouts dive into the players tape and see like I have that he can’t tackle, I can’t see scouts recommending that their team draft Elam in the first few rounds in April. I went into this thinking that Elam, from what I had seen this past season, was one of the top safeties in college football. He’s fast, he has good ball skills and he can read and react with the best of them. But he just can’t tackle. If it were me, I wouldn’t draft Elam until the 5th round, but I know that he’ll be gone by the end of the 2nd. Good Luck to whichever team drafts him. You have a project on your hands and I wish you luck. Maybe you’ll come out on top and make a great pick. Maybe he’ll be a bust. Just don’t pay him too much.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Let me know what you think in the comments below and follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook! @J_Vinton52 @OnTheClockNFL 

Next, I will be previewing Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU!

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Notre Dame's Manti Te'o (5) and Zeke Motta (17) and Michigan's Jeremy Gallon (10) reach for a batted ball during the game between the Irish and Wolverines on Sept. 22, 2012. Te'o intercepted this pass and the Notre Dame defeated Michigan 13-6.

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o (5) and Zeke Motta (17) and Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon (10) reach for a batted ball during the game between the Irish and Wolverines on Sept. 22, 2012. Te’o intercepted this pass and Notre Dame defeated Michigan 13-6.

It seems weird that a scandal the likes of which Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o (6′ 2″, 255 lbs.) has gone through could effect his draft stock so much. In December, Te’o was a surefire top 10 pick, but Deadspin publishes a story and suddenly he’s either at the end of the first round or out of it completely. This could be because teams are questioning his intelligence (as I have, because, c’mon. Who gets catfished that bad?), or how the scandal could effect his performance, as it undoubtedly did in the National Championship game where the previously unbeaten Irish were throttled by Alabama 42-14 and the defense looked nothing like it had the entire season. But I cannot answer those questions, all I can do is evaluate his skills.

Here are Te’o’s stats from Notre Dame:

Career: 51 games (49 starts), 437 total tackles, 212 unassisted, 225 assisted, 34.0 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 12 quarterback hits, 17 passes defended, 10 passes broken up, 7 interceptions

2012: 13 games (13 starts), 113 total tackles, 55 unassisted, 58 assisted, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 4 quarterback hits, 11 passes defended, 4 passes broken up, 7 interceptions

My evaluation will consist of these criteria: Agility, Bull Rush, Speed Rush, Run Defense, Speed/Burst, Strength, Tackle, Read and React, and Health.

AGILITY: 

Te’o has decent agility. He can get juked, which is not good, but he also has the agility to get through the line and into the backfield to tackle running backs and wide receivers on screens. He can change direction to go to the ball carrier very quickly, his feet are always moving fast and his hips could use a little bit more flexibility, but just put him in some yoga classes and he’ll be fine. 8.0/10.0

BULL RUSH: 

Overall, Te’o doesn’t have the best bull rush. When he does take a lineman on head on, it’s usually a stalemate, and it’s broken when the ball carrier comes through Te’o’s hole. There are also times when I saw Te’o get driven because he was keeping his eye on the ball carrier and not on the man blocking him. On those plays, Te’o would be much higher in his technique than on most of his plays. He is most successful when he stays low, like he is before every play, so if he can stay low more often, Te’o will be very successful in the NFL. 8.25/10.00

SPEED RUSH: 

As an inside linebacker, Te’o has not had to use a speed rush very often. Most times he is rushing up the middle, and a speed rush is used on the outside. I’m sure with the speed and agility that Te’o has that if he was asked to use a speed rush in the NFL, he could and it would be pretty good. But I’m basing my rating here off of how I’ve seen him rush on the outside and his speed and agility. 8.0/10.0

RUN DEFENSE: 

Te’o is a great linebacker against the run. He diagnoses the run very quickly and deduces which side and what hole the run is head toward faster than just about any linebacker I’ve seen in awhile. Te’o attacks running backs, is not afraid to take on any lineman or fullback that tries to block him and he doesn’t let running backs escape tackles easily. Just look at his Michigan State tape. That was not a great game for Le’Veon Bell and Te’o was a large reason for that. 8.75/10.00

SPEED/BURST: 

When the ball is snapped and Te’o is blitzing, Te’o is off like a cannon. He runs a 4.75 40 yard dash, and can chase down just about anyone at the line of scrimmage. His speed and burst can best be seen in Te’o’s sack of Landry Jones in the Oklahoma tape. He also sprints to catch up to any running back or receiver that gets past the line of scrimmage, no matter how far from the play he is. Te’o has great speed for a linebacker and his burst is as good as anyone’s. 8.5/10.0

STRENGTH:

If one just looks at Te’o’s biceps they can tell that he is one strong dude. His strength can also be seen when he take on offensive linemen and fullbacks that try to block him. It’s not an easy thing to take a 300+ pound offensive lineman and stop him dead in his tracks and be able to keep him where he is. Te’o possesses that ability because he is so strong. I’ll have a more accurate measurement of how strong Te’o is after he takes part in the bench press test tomorrow. 8.75/10.00

TACKLE:

Te’o is a very strong tackler. In the Wake Forest tape, I did see him miss a couple of tackles, but normally Te’o is a very good form tackler who hits opposing players with a ton of force. Not many people can escape a tackle from Manti, which is one reason that he accumulated 437 tackles in his career. 9.0/10.0

READ AND REACT: 

Te’o can read any play and react to extremely quickly. In many cases, it looked like Te’o knew what the opposing offense was going to do before the snap and was just waiting for the ball to move so that he could react to the play. I really noticed that in the Michigan tape. It was mostly on run plays, but it just looked like Te’o knew exactly what Denard Robinson and the rest of the Wolverine offense was up to. This or his tackling ability is his best quality and one that I really enjoyed seeing on tape. 9.5/10.0

HEALTH: 

There’s no physical injuries to report for Te’o, but the whole Lennay Kekua incident could lead to some mental issues, especially when he gets to the locker room after he gets drafted. But, he should just go out on the field, show what he can do, and that should go away quickly. 9.5/10.0

OVERALL: 

Manti Te’o gets an overall score of 8.69/10.00 from me. I have had the pleasure of seeing Manti play in person (Stanford @ Notre Dame in 2010) and between his motor and everything I listed above, I believe that Manti can be an All-Pro linebacker in the NFL. The one aspect of Te’o’s game that wasn’t taken into account above is how good he is in pass coverage. He figured something out between the end of the 2011 season and the beginning of the 2012 season because Te’o went from 0 picks in his career at Notre Dame to 7 in the course of one season. Many of those picks came in crucial situations and I believe that this will be the ability that whatever team that drafts him will love utilizing. It is something he does better than any linebacker in the 2013 draft. Now who will pick him? Personally, I believe that Te’o will be available at the end of the first round, because of the Lennay Kekua incident and questions about him that have risen from that, and the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens will snatch him up. The Ravens are losing middle linebacker and  future hall of famer Ray Lewis to retirement and they really couldn’t do better than picking up Manti Te’o as his replacement. Te’o will learn a lot playing alongside Terrell Suggs, Dannell Ellerbee and Courtney Upshaw. It’s not very fun being the man replacing the man, as Te’o would do if drafted by Baltimore, but I believe that he’ll be up to the challenge.

HIGHLIGHTS: 

Let me know what you think in the comments below and follow me on Twitter! @J_Vinton52

Next, I will be previewing Matt Elam, SS, Florida!

Keenan Allen (21) goes up for the ball against Jalil Brown (23) during a game against the University of Colorado.

Keenan Allen (21) goes up for the ball against Jalil Brown (23) during a game against the University of Colorado.

Keenan Allen (6′ 3″, 210 lbs.) out of the University of California-Berkley is not one of the more known wide receivers in this year’s draft, but he is one of, if not the, best receivers. He suffered from the fact that Cal was well, average. Had he gone to, say Alabama, we all would know much more about him and he would probably be in competition for a top 5 draft slot. Allen was a five star recruit coming out of high school (Northern Guilford, Greensboro, NC) as a safety, but after committing to Cal, Jeff Tedford converted Allen into one of the nation’s top wide receivers during his three years at the school. Sadly, Tedford was fired after Cal finished the 2012 season 3-9 (2-7 in the Pac-12), and as many juniors do when their head coach gets fired, Allen declared for the NFL Draft instead of staying at Cal for his senior season.

Here are Allen’s stats from Cal:

Career Receiving: 205 receptions, 2570 yards, 17 touchdowns

2012 Receiving: 61 catches, 737 yards, 6 touchdowns in 9 games (missed final 3 games due to PCL tear in left knee)

Now, I will evaluate Allen on these criteria: Size, Speed/Quickness, Get-Off, Route Running, Hands, Body Control, Catching in Traffic, Yards after the Catch, and Blocking Skills.

SIZE: 

Allen is 6’ 3” and 210 lbs. That is great size for a receiver. It will allow him to get above corners and safeties in the NFL and be seen by his quarterback. I love his size and I’m sure NFL teams do too. (Good height to win jump balls downfield) 9.0/10.0

SPEED/QUICKNESS: 

Allen runs a 4.53 40, and his feet sure look damn quick to me. I don’t see Allen being used a primary deep threat in the NFL, he’s just an inch or two too short for that, but his speed can get him behind coverage and his quickness will allow him to juke defenders right out of their shoes. He can also make very sharp cuts, and get back to full speed very quickly. This is a great asset that Allen needs to use to his advantage. Allen is a very agile and physical ball carrier when he has the ball and he also has great hip flexibility because he has the ability to get low in his routes and explode out of his breaks. 9.0/10.0

GET-OFF:

Keenan Allen has a very strong get-off. On pretty much every play where he was lined up outside, he would have a very quick get off and get to top speed almost immediately. He also throws moves to shake defenders and get open in the middle of the field. 8.5/10.0

ROUTE RUNNING: 

Allen is a very solid route runner. I can’t really see in my head a route that he doesn’t really run well. His best routes are slants, cross routes, speed outs, and vertical “go” routes. One of the primer route runners in the nation. 9.0/10.0

HANDS: 

Strong hands. He didn’t really get to show them in college, but I believe that his hands compare well with just about any receiver in the country. He attacks the ball with his hands and rarely catches the ball with his body. All in all, great hands. 8.5/10.0

BODY CONTROL: 

Allen has decent body control. I saw good examples of this in his tape and bad examples. First off, bad examples. There were a few plays that I saw where Allen was running down the sideline and just wouldn’t think where his body was in relation to the sideline, and would step out of bounds. One of these even cost Cal a touchdown. And as for good examples, there was a play (in the Ohio St./USC video) when Allen had to jump in the air along the sideline and grab a pass and had the body control to get a foot inbounds before going out. If he can improve on this, then Allen will have a better chance at becoming a great receiver in the NFL. 8.25/10.00

NCAA Football: California at Arizona State

Keenan Allen runs downfield against Arizona State

CATCHING IN TRAFFIC: 

Not the strongest at catching in traffic, but that has in part to do with his quarterback in college. Many of the passes thrown to Allen at Cal were too low, too high, too far in front of him, or too far behind him so he never had the chance to catch many of them. I believe that thanks to his hands, Allen can catch just about any ball, but he just wasn’t given the opportunity in college to do so. 8.5/10.0

YARDS AFTER THE CATCH: 

Allen can cut on a dime and juke just about any defender, so this is one of his better areas. He stretches the field north-south, which I love, and doesn’t go down easily. He tries to get every possible yard and he is very fast, which helps him out a ton here. 8.75/10.00

BLOCKING SKILLS: 

I did not see much of Allen blocking. But the little bit I did see is described perfectly by NFL.com’s draft profile of Allen. It says Allen “does not utilize his size or length as a run blocker,” and that he “does not execute cut blocks and at times fails to hit a target.” Now don’t get me wrong. Allen did have some good blocks, but this is probably the area that he needs to work on the most going forward. If he can become an elite blocker, then there is no limit to what he can accomplish. 8.0/10.0

OVERALL: 

Overall, from me Keenan Allen receives an 8.61/10.00. I believe that Allen is the best receiver available in this year’s draft. It’s hard to tell that from his tape, but many of the times that Allen looked bad on tape, it was due to a poorly thrown ball from his quarterback, and half-brother, Zach Maynard. I think that if Allen had had a better QB throwing to him that he would have much more hype going into this year’s draft. But I just think that all of his intangibles will add up to him being a great receiver in the NFL that whatever team that drafts him will be lucky to have. Now who will be that lucky team? Due to the PCL tear that Allen suffered in week 9 against Utah, he will not go as high as he should. I believe that Allen has fully recovered, but he is being cautious with is and skipping the NFL Combine this weekend, which will hurt his draft stock. Because of that, Cordarrelle Patterson will probably be the first receiver off the board, not Allen. I really can see Allen getting drafted by the Packers and joining fellow Golden Bear Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. When I was watching his tape, Allen reminded me a lot of Greg Jennings, and since Jennings is inching closer to retirement and he might leave Green Bay in free agency, it wouldn’t be a bad move for the Pack to grab Allen at a premium, and it is definitely something I see them doing.

HIGHLIGHTS: 

Let me know what you think in the comments section below and follow me on Twitter! @J_Vinton52

Next, I will be profiling Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame!

Tyler Eifert (80) goes up and catches the ball over Stanford defenders Devon Carrington (5) and Terrence Brown (6) at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN on Oct. 13, 2012. The Irish beat the Cardinal on a goal line stand 20-13 in OT.

Tyler Eifert (80) goes up and catches the ball over Stanford defenders Devon Carrington (5) and Terrence Brown (6) at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN on Oct. 13, 2012. The Irish beat the Cardinal on a goal line stand 20-13 in OT.

I have to admit. Trying to evaluate any Notre Dame player is hard for me. I’ve grown up as a Notre Dame fan, idolizing the players who wear the golden domes every Saturday during the fall. So this is actually one of the harder previews I’ve done thus far. But, oh well. Here goes. Tyler Eifert (6′ 6″, 251 lbs.), the Mackey Award winner for best tight end in the country in 2012, caught 140 passes for 1840 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career at South Bend, with 50 of those catches, 685 of those yards and 4 of those touchdowns coming during Notre Dame’s 12-1 season. Various sources have either him or Stanford’s Zach Ertz as the top tight end in this year’s draft. The question that remains is, will he be a good NFL tight end?

I’ll try to answer that by evaluating Eifert on these categories: Agility, Pass Blocking, Run Blocking, Route Running, Hands, Speed, Size, Release, Run after the catch, and Health.

AGILITY: 

Tyler Eifert has very good agility. In the Purdue video, there was a pass play where he had to change directions and completely lost the guy who was covering him because of how quick his feet were and how loose his hips were (4:18). Eifert definitely possesses the ability to change direction as a runner and route runner. On his pass blocking, his agility could be a little bit quicker, but it’s not bad and reps in practice can definitely help change that. 8.5/10.0

PASS BLOCKING: 

Due to the fact the Notre Dame really liked to line Eifert out wide, I really only saw him pass block once on the line (5:24 Purdue). That block was pretty good. Held off a defensive end long enough for Everett Golson read the defense scramble a bit and throw the ball away once he realized that no one was open. 8.0/10.0

RUN BLOCKING:

I think that Eifert is a solid run blocker. In the Purdue tape at 5:09, Eifert pancakes a Purdue defender (either a corner or a safety, I can’t tell but I think it’s a corner) on a run play. He is very technically sound both on the line and when he is lined up wide. Gets low, gets his hands inside, and drives linebackers and DBs away from whoever has the ball. There are times when a backer can rip through him, or he can get juked by a DB pursuing the ball carrier. In the NFL, Eifert looks like he will let defensive ends pull him down and he looks like he will have a tough time getting his reach blocks against quicker ends. Stronger linebackers rip through his blocks now and will continue to do so in the NFL. He just needs to use his hands more and more effectively. At 1:31 in the BYU tape, Eifert pancakes BYU LB Spencer Hadley. If he can do that all the time in the NFL, he’ll be a great run blocker. 8.25/10.00

ROUTE RUNNING: 

Eifert is technically sound when running his routes. As I mentioned in the agility section, he can turn direction on a dime, so any slant, post, or out route is good for him. I really like Eifert as a route runner. This is one of his greatest assets, so he should use it to his advantage. 9.0/10.0

HANDS:

Eifert has GREAT hands. Best example from the Purdue game is at 4:38. He catches the ball while on top of a linebacker and holds on to the ball as he falls to the turf inside the Purdue 5. He also almost had a touchdown over double coverage (corner and linebacker) earlier (at 2:45) but the ball got knocked out of his hands right before he hit the ground. At 1:40 of BYU game has to go up and catch the ball at it’s highest point, and secures it with his hands. He sometimes uses his body to catch the ball, which is not good, but usually has great hands. 9.0/10.0

SPEED:

Eifert runs a 4.80 40 and in pads he can out run pretty much any linebacker. He can’t out run many DBs, but his size gives him advantages over them. He has a good burst off of the line. 8.5/10.0

SIZE:

At 6′ 6″, 251 lbs., there isn’t much not to like about his size. He can get above just about any defensive player that might cover him and he has the size to be a great blocker. Now he just has to put that size to use in the pros. 9.0/10.0

RELEASE:

As I said in speed, Eifert comes off of the line very well with a huge burst of speed. Not the greatest at disengaging from pass coverage,  he can get tied up with DBs and miss passes because of it. But overall, he has a good release. 8.5/10.0

RUN AFTER THE CATCH:

As a tight end, Eifert’s not the greatest at running after the catch. He’s not going to out run a DB, but he can break tackles and use his agility to juke defenders and get a few extra yards. He’s very strong and that can be seen in his stiff arms and when he breaks tackles. 8.5/10.0

HEALTH:

Never injured that I can find. Great sign for his NFL future. 10.0/10.0

OVERALL:

Eifert gets an overall rating of 8.73/10.00 from me. Eifert is strong, fast, has great hands, and has ton of potential as a blocker. I haven’t seen much of Zach Ertz, but I believe that Eifert won the Mackey Award for a reason over Ertz and is the top TE in the 2013 Draft. Not many teams have great tight ends (New England and Baltimore being exceptions to that), so where exactly he will go is a hard thing to predict. Minnesota is definitely out, they just picked Notre Dame’s last great tight end, Kyle Rudolph in the 2011 Draft. And as I look through the draft order, the only two teams that I see that will be thinking about drafting a tight end will be Chicago and Atlanta. The Bears haven’t had a good TE in years, and let’s face it. Tony Gonzalez’s career is rapidly coming to a close and the Falcons need to find his replacement. I’m not sure that the Bears will be looking for a TE in the first round, so look for Eifert to head south to Atlanta and join the Falcons. He couldn’t have a better mentor than Gonzalez.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Let me know what you think and follow me on Twitter! @J_Vinton52

Next, I’ll be previewing WR Keenan Allen, California!

Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (34) reaches for Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly (10) in their game Sept. 15, 2012 at Farout Field. The Tigers held off a 4th quarter comeback to beat the Sun Devils 24-20.

Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (34) reaches for Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly (10) in their game Sept. 15, 2012 at Farout Field. The Tigers held off a 4th quarter comeback to beat the Sun Devils 24-20.

Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (6′ 4″, 295 lbs.) is not one of the flashier names that will show up on the board of the 2013 NFL Draft. Richardson, originally from St. Louis, went to College of the Sequoias, and junior college in Visalia, California, after graduating from Gateway Tech High School. Richardson was a dominant defensive lineman and tight end at Gateway Tech. He was the #4 overall player (any position) in the nation according to Rivals.com, and he was the #1 defensive tackle prospect in the country. He was also the #1 overall player in Missouri, and he originally signed with Mizzou as part of the 2009 signing class, before going the junior college route (due to academic issues). Richardson was named as a 2008 EA Sports First Team All-American after a senior season at Gateway Tech which included 88 tackles and 19 sacks, while adding seven fumble recoveries, five forced fumbles and one interception. He scored six defensive touchdowns his senior season, and added 27 receptions for 541 yards and eight touchdowns at TE. At College of the Sequoias, he put up 65 tackles, 17 0f which were for loss during his second season with the Giants.

Here are his stats with the Missouri Tigers: 112 total tackles, 6 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 4 passes defended in two years (24 games)

Now, I will evaluate him on these criteria: Agility, Bull Rush, Speed Rush, Run Defense, Speed/Burst, Strength, Pass Deflect, Tackle, Read and React, and Health.

AGILITY: 

Sheldon Richardson is blessed with a very quick first step that helps him penetrate his gap faster than just about anyone in this year’s draft. He wins many of his get-off battles because of that first step. He is also very quick when he slants. This can best be seen in the Alabama video at the 5:00 mark. In this play, Richardson uses his agility and extremely fast first step to get inside of the offensive tackle that is trying to block him. The tackle stands no chance and Richardson quickly gets by and sacks Alabama QB AJ McCarron before he even has a chance to read the coverage. 9.5/10.0

BULL RUSH: 

Richardson is very strong and has quick feet, and this helps make his bull rush pretty dang good. Richardson possesses the power to push whatever lineman he is going up against all the way back into the quarterback, which, trust me, is not something a QB wants. This causes the play to break down, the QB to scramble, and hopefully (in Richardson’s eyes, at least) a sack. This also helps him in his run defense. He can push the lineman back and make the running back juke to whatever hole suits Richardson and his defense best. Sometime his bull rush can hurt him, but I’ll get into that later. All things considered, he has a great bull rush. 9.0/10.0

SPEED RUSH:

As a defensive tackle, Richardson does not get use a speed rush very often. There are times when he would get the chance, as when Missouri would run what I call an “exit” stunt. (Basically: A defensive end slants inside and the defensive tackle slants outside to replace him). He rarely used that chance, however. So, this grade is based on not much tape, but it is also a very rarely used move for defensive tackles, so I understand why there is very little tape. 7.0/10.0

RUN DEFENSE: 

The main thing that I noticed when it comes to Richardson’s run defense is that it takes him a long time to read the play and realize where the running back is going most of the time. There were times when he would diagnose it in his head right away, but most of the time he would use that first step, lock on to the lineman, lockout his arms, and drive the lineman back, which is good, but he would be trying to read the play while doing that, and sometimes he would completely miss the play. Others, he would diagnose the play right away, but he needs to work on reading runs. He also has a tendency to get turned by linemen and allow them to create a hole and take him wide, which is a cardinal sin, and something that he needs to work on preventing going forward. He also can over pursue at times. 8.0/10.0

SPEED/BURST: 

As I have said multiple times, Richardson’s burst is amazing! His first step is as quick as they get and he can beat just about any lineman off the line. His speed (4.89 sec. 40 yard dash) is pretty good and it allows him to catch up to quarterbacks who have scrambled out of the pocket on passes and running backs who are scrambling around in the backfield when he gets penetration. I like his speed a lot and I think it will help him going forward. 9.0/10.o

STRENGTH: 

Sheldon Richardson is a strong man. He pushes 300+ offensive lineman back 5+ yards until they run into their own quarterback. And let me tell you, when those guys are trying to drive you down the field, it takes a ton of force and strength to move them at all, and to be able to overpower them and move them back at least 5 yards? That’s amazing. Definitely something I love about him and NFL teams will love it too. 9.5/10.0

PASS DEFLECT: 

He only knocked down four passes in two years at Missouri, so this is definitely not his strongest area. His future coaches will need to work with him on getting his hands up when he can’t get to the quarterback and knocking more passes d0wn. There is nothing better than a DT that loves to knock passes down. It’s a drive killer and a great quality. If he can get better at this, than he can become a great DT (or NT) in the NFL. 7.0/10.0

TACKLE: 

There were times in his tape that Richardson would look like he had a chance to take down a running back in the backfield only to miss the tackle and allow the RB to get a first down. Sometimes this had to do with the running back (there was one play, and I can’t remember where it is in the video, where Richardson had his hands on Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, only to have Lacy break the tackle and get a first down), and sometimes it had to do with Richardson’s form. Richardson is usually a good tackler, but no one likes to see missed tackles in the backfield. 8.5/10.0

READ AND REACT:

I mentioned this in the “Run Defense” section, and I’m basically reiterating it here. There are times when it takes Richardson too long to diagnose a play. Other times it would be fast, but he does need to improve on this in the run game. In the pass game, he reads and reacts very quickly, which makes me wonder why he is so slow on runs. 8.0/10.0

HEALTH: 

The only question that lingers about Richardson’s health is the shoulder surgery that he had before the 2012 season. It didn’t look like it really hampered him during the fall but it will be something that NFL teams monitor throughout this process. 9.0/10.0

OVERALL: 

Overall, Richardson receives a 8.45/10.00 from me. If I can see some improvement in that reading and reacting in the run game, then that number will go way up. I really like Sheldon Richardson. I can see now why he was such a huge prospect coming out of high school and I can’t wait to see him playing on Sundays. I really do believe that he will fix the issues he has and become a perennial Pro Bowl level defensive tackle. Now as to who I think will draft him? The mock drafts I have seen have him going anywhere from #10-#18 overall, and for me the teams with the best chances of picking him are the Dolphins, Steelers, or Cowboys. And, I really think the Cowboys have this one. Both the Dolphins and the Steelers are in need of defensive linemen, but I think the Steelers will focus more on a defensive end, and the Dolphins have so many needs that I just don’t see them picking Richardson, or any other defensive lineman, in the first round. Look for Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys to pick up Sheldon Richardson in the first round on April 25.

HIGHLIGHTS: 

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Next, I’ll be previewing Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert!