Sometimes it’s good to have another look at a player. Aaron Donald is a great example — my opinion changed dramatically after a more extensive review.
I let myself down by not taking him seriously during the season.
Now, there aren’t many players I’d rank above him going into the combine.
Unfortunately, I’m not quite as excited about the two prospects below after watching more tape this week.
Stephon Tuitt (DL, Notre Dame)
I’m really, really confused by Stephon Tuitt.
He left high school as a 4/5 star recruit, at 6-5 and 252lbs. Scout.com listed ‘athleticism’, ‘speed’ and ‘pass rushing skills’ as plus points, with ‘strength’ and ‘technique’ the two areas he needed to improve.
So when you put on the tape, why are we watching a +300lbs plus monster who doesn’t move well, is a really limited athlete but appears to have decent strength and at least some degree of technique?
It’s like he spent the last few years concentrating way too much on the areas he needed to improve and dropped what made him such an exciting recruit in the first place.
And it’s incredibly frustrating.
He’s listed by ESPN at 6-7 and 322lbs. That’s nose tackle size, and he plays like a nose tackle asked to work the edge. His 2013 tape is sluggish and completely underwhelming. Yet every now and again there’s a little glimmer. He’ll swim past a blocker and burst into the backfield. He was incredibly effective against USC — his one genuinely good game in 2013.
The rest of his tape is nowhere near as enticing.
It’s the USC game that makes you want to tear your hair out. Inside this mammoth frame could be a competent pass rusher. If he was playing at 275-280lbs, you’d probably have a guy who’s big enough to hold up against the run, but he’d also be much quicker — and much sharper.
So why has he got this big? I just don’t get it.
Is it a conditioning issue? Was he encouraged by Notre Dame to add weight?
Whatever the reason, it’s going to hammer his draft stock this year.
In a scenario where he ends up on my team, the first thing I’d want him to do is drop a ton of weight. Re-emphasise the speed while maintaining a frame that is able to defend the run. At 280-285lbs he could pretty much line up at the three technique, the one, as an edge rusher or a five.
Right now I’d probably feel obliged to have him inside or limited to a Red Bryant-style two-down role. But even then, he isn’t Bryant. He doesn’t play with anywhere near the same level of intensity or freakish strength. Anyone thinking this could be a good match for Seattle — essentially a cheaper replacement for the big guy — is probably going to be let down after watching the video below.
Tony Pauline sums up his season in a week-2 blog for DraftInsider.net (following Notre Dame’s game against Michigan): “He looked un-athletic, marginally explosive and was constantly on the ground.”
I have very little interest in Tuitt and I suspect the Seahawks will feel the same way. Unless he shows up in better shape at the combine and puts on a show, he could easily drift. I’m not quite sure why he’s still being projected as a round one pick by some high profile pundits.
Maybe they know something we don’t?
Either way, it aint obvious.
You can see his final game for Notre Dame below, a bowl game against Arizona State. Mike Mayock mentions in the commentary that Tuitt played ‘heavy legged’ this year.
The tape overall is just one great big example of this.
At his current size, he’s just a cumbersome defensive lineman who isn’t special. And I’d say it’d be an upset if he goes much higher than rounds two or three.
Dee Ford (DE, Auburn)
If you browse through the 2013 tape, you’ll find a few games where Ford looks the part.
His display in the BCS Championship was particularly impressive. He gave the FSU offensive line fits, regularly pressured Jameis Winston and finished with two sacks.
They couldn’t deal with his speed off the edge, it was like candy from a baby. If you were watching this game in isolation, you’d get excited. I know I wanted to see more.
How good could this guy be?
That interest grew when he had a big impact at the Senior Bowl — reportedly performing well during work outs and grabbing a couple of sacks in the game.
I dug out his tape against Texas A&M and Alabama — because they are the games scouts will gravitate towards.
Against the Aggies he came up against Cedric Ogbuehi — destined to be a high pick in the 2015 draft and A&M’s latest brilliant tackle.
We all know what to expect from an Alabama line — and once again in 2013 they continued to churn out top-tier talent.
In both games, Ford was pretty much dominated.
He was a complete non factor against the Crimson Tide, recording one tackle and struggling to get off a single block. It was a pretty ugly display to be honest.
Even the tight ends had a lot of success against him. That can’t happen in college.
Right at the end of the A&M game, he makes a couple of sacks. And that looks good on the stat sheet. But on both occasions Johnny Manziel ran straight into him — scrambling into trouble.
The sacks are a deceiving stat, because this battle was very much won by Ogbuehi. Having watched Morgan Moses handle Jeremiah Attaochu earlier in the week, this was a close second in terms of a pure one-sided match between tackle and pass rusher.
If you get Ford in space with a QB in his sights, he can chase them down in the open field. He has good speed — some say as fast as 4.4. He’s a finisher if he can get free.
But that’s the problem — getting free. When he’s asked to take on a competent or experienced tackle, he struggles to shake a block. He doesn’t have the upper body power or hand-use to disengage. He isn’t a great fighter at the line, working to get free and break into the backfield. Ford relies on a very wide starting position and beating his guy for off the edge in a foot race.
Ogbuehi looked like he was playing at a different level.
Every time he just set up his stance and got his hands on Ford — it was over. He’s got a good enough kick step to shadow and counter the speed. This was food and drink until the late mistakes from Manziel gift wrapped the sacks.
Teams are going to gravitate towards these two games and any excitement built up over the Senior Bowl week is going to be tempered.
Some will covet his speed if he does run a really fast time at the combine. I can see him in a wide-9 having some success, albeit as a specialist early on. He’ll likely secure a place in rounds two or three if he shows up well in Indianapolis.
Yet his overall game isn’t good enough to warrant a first round pick. I’m not expecting to project him to Seattle at #32 — even with their penchant for speed off the edge.
He doesn’t have great length or size (barely 6-2, 243lbs) and I’m not sure he’s got the frame to get any bigger. He’s a redshirt senior entering the draft so this might be close to the finished article we’re seeing.
There’s more to being a LEO than pure speed. Cliff Avril isn’t huge at 6-3 and 260lbs — but he’s a more rounded and complete player. He’s big enough and strong enough to use a bull rush and the 4.51 speed is adequate to be an effective edge guy too.
When a blocker gets into his pads — it aint over.
Too often that’s the case with Dee Ford — and he could easily still be around in round three as a consequence. Round two is probably his ceiling — and that’s with a good combine.
If the Seahawks do have interest here, I suspect they’ll probably wait it out. I’m not convinced there’s any reason to target him at #32.
He does have some potential to work in coverage — and he might be a better fit in an orthodox 3-4.