Nobody should panic if Kawann Short is the best defensive tackle available when the Seahawks are on the clock. He’d be a fine choice with the #25 pick.
The beauty of the Senior Bowl isn’t to sit and read countless differing opinions of the work outs or wax lyrical about performances in the game. It’s about noticing little qualities, taking on board information and then going to back to watch more tape. Which is exactly what I did after watching Short dominate during Saturday’s game.
Sometimes your initial impression can be wrong. It takes that second look to get a more accurate opinion of a player. My lasting impression during the 2012 season was an image of Kawann Short taking plays off against Ohio State. I’d read other people voice such concerns going into the game, and there it was on the tape. I watched further games and picked up on the occasional play where he’d engage and take a block without showing any real effort to progress. Whether he was gassed or whatever, he wasn’t playing with maximum effort. That lingered.
Yet I’m watching the Senior Bowl and here’s a guy who’s lost about 10-15lbs, looks refined and not as sloppy in the midriff. So I go back and watch six games (all of which you can see for yourself at the bottom of this article). I was wrong to concentrate too much on those plays taken off and it did cloud my judgement a bit. Crucially, what he does well is exactly what the Seahawks need to add to their defensive line.
At times it was impossible to block him 1v1, he needed a double team. Given the way Seattle’s defensive line operates with a LEO and three technique placed to the exaggerated right, it’s going to be very difficult to double up on Short even at the next level. Not even Sheldon Richardson flashes a comparable ability to get into the backfield.
He generally does a great job getting off blocks using nice hands and flashing great athleticism for his size. He’ll shoot a gap effectively and gets a nice quick burst off the snap. He’s shown decent ability on stunts to skip wide and attack from a different angle. You see the swim, club and spin moves — so he’ll be creative and keep an offensive lineman guessing. When he gets low and drives into his blocker he can flash a solid bull rush. Sometimes he gets too high and loses leverage but this is coachable.
When he was lined up as a three technique by Purdue, he had consistent success. He also played the one technique and nose. He’ll stack and shed at the line of scrimmage, he’s strong enough at the point to be effective against the run. Footwork is an underrated feature among tackles and he doesn’t take many wasted steps, he gets off the line and is moving quickly immediately. He can be crafty, often stopping as if beaten only to counter and explode again to deceive a blocker.
As you can see from the tape below, he’s capable of pursuing elusive quarterbacks to make plays (eg Denard Robinson). Out of all the tape I’ve watched this year, Short clearly had the most tackles for a loss among DT’s.
He’s been voted a team captain two years straight and hasn’t had any notable injuries so far. Apparently he opted not to declare last year after receiving just a third round grade from the draft committee. I highly doubt he’ll last until round three in April.
That’s not to say everything is positive. He looked bigger on tape than he did at the Senior Bowl so conditioning could be a problem. It’s nice to see he got in shape for the NFL scouts and it might not be a problem working within a pro-fitness programme. He looks better with the weight off and seemed to play even quicker.
Short has quite a lean lower body and you’d like to see him get bigger in terms of muscle mass. He’s going to need to drive with his legs and at the moment his top half is considerably bigger than the bottom.
Unlike Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd, the motor seems to stop running when the play moves away from his part of the field. Richardson almost turns into a linebacker when the play kicks out wide, tracking the ball carrier and often being the one to make the decisive tackle. Short, more often than not, shuts down and doesn’t make that same extra effort.
His ball location could be better at times. It’s not a major issue, but he sometimes makes the initial penetration and reads the play incorrectly — tackling a running back on a quarterback keeper or vice versa. It’s nowhere near as bad as Datone Jones for example, but it could still be an area of improvement.
You’d like to see more of a violent streak. He doesn’t tend to play ‘too nice’ like Sharrif Floyd, but he’s also the consummate pro. Usually that would be a major positive, but this is the three technique position. A little nasty here is generally a good thing.
The other issue is age. He’ll turn 24 this Saturday. In comparison, Floyd isn’t even 21 until late May. The Seahawks took a chance on a 25-year-old rookie in Bruce Irvin last year, but you have to get an impact from a player giving up 2-3 years on other rookies. There’s quite a few ‘older’ rookies this year — Sylvester Williams (25), Star Lotulelei (24), Margus Hunt (26) will all be in their mid-20’s. I suppose it could be worse, they could be Brandon Weeden (29). Upside and room to grow is understandably limited among older players entering the league.
Kawann Short is going to be a solid any-down tackle who offers an interior pass rush in base while maintaining strong run support. You might need to keep an eye on his weight and manage his snaps, but most teams do that with their defensive tackles anyway. In many ways he compares favourably to Randy Starks — a free agent who could be on Seattle’s radar in March. The Seahawks need someone who can play first and second down and collapse the pocket. While Short’s upside isn’t as high as Sharrif Floyd’s and he lacks the ‘born to be a three technique’ nature of Sheldon Richardson, he’s probably the next best fit.
The Seahawks could do a lot worse than draft Short in the first round. Check out the tape below. Tomorrow I’m going to do a piece on a player they could target if they opt to draft a defensive tackle in the middle rounds. If you’re looking for a player who could be the next Geno Atkins, Penn State’s Jordan Hill could be the guy.