With the NFL Draft being held considerably later this year in comparison to years past (don’t even get me started), this has given people (some experts, some not so much) a greater amount of additional time to breakdown & scrutinize every player even more than usual while prognosticating what each of them will be capable of come Sundays. As usual, I am going to take a little different spin on things and you can probably guess where I am going with this as most of you know me well enough by now; I am all about movement when and where it counts (i.e. on the field)).
That all said, because of the amount of NFL football I am required to watch during the season, I don’t have the time to take-in a lot of college football. In addition, I already have a good number of my NFL veterans in the facility training daily so I don’t want to take a ton of time to provide a super extensive breakdown on each guy.
However, I thought it may be fun for some of the readers out there if I take a few of this year’s most prominent top draft picks and tell you what it is that I have witnessed during some quick movement analysis time. In addition, I am going to be using some qualitative analysis of the ON-FIELD drill work at the NFL Combine and the respective Pro Days (yes; as long as we are looking at the right things we can get some information from these circumstances). From there, I went further ahead and watched some film on those guys to be able to bring you some sort of educated breakdown of guys who are likely to have their names called over the next number of days.
Per my usual, I base almost my entire analysis on a guy’s strength & weaknesses in the context of the movement taking place on the field and my assessment as to how optimized that is for the guy personally. Because I haven’t been doing this for months leading up to Radio City Music Hall, I only selected a few of my most favorite positions to watch and then selected a number of guys at each (a Main Mover and a Sleeper) to hold down our 2014 NFL Draft – All Movement Team.
First things first, let me get this out of the way. I already spent enough of my time breaking Clowney down a couple of weeks ago when I devoted an entire blog post to him. So, if you haven’t read that as of yet, you can do so here:
Here’s Johnny (Manziel)
Simply put; I could watch Johnny Football highlights all day long. He plays his own brand of football that is exciting and dazzling for a movement specialist…yet very frustrating for an offensive coordinator. And I should be the first to mention that I am not a quarterback guru by any means. As far as the tactical side of the position as well as even the technical execution of the exact act of throwing a football, I won’t speak much to. However, if it’s one thing I know its movement. And I can tell you that Johnny Manziel utilizes movement strategies like no quarterback I have ever seen. Thus, this year’s 1st or 2nd most polarizing player (Clowney being the other) HAS to make my list because this is a once in lifetime-type mover.
Now, I am not saying that he is the BEST moving quarterback I have ever witnessed…but what I am alluding to is the fact that he has movement skills that are rare AND different from all others. Sure; he’s not the world’s biggest guy…and that means maybe not possessing the armor to be able to use the same movement strategies in the League and expect to hold-up long-term. Thus, like all players, he will have to adjust to the differences in the speed of the game and the size of the opponents running around in it…and it’s likely that he will have to develop new movement nuances while attempting to maintain the play-making instinct that made him college football’s first true freshman Heisman Trophy winner.
Speaking of those instincts; let’s remember that even the cleanest movement mechanics (technical mastery) or the highest of physical quality prowess (specific motor potential) is no good to a player whatsoever if he can’t apply it out on the field when the bullets are flying and he has to produce the desired outcomes. And THAT is what separates Manziel from all others. His cognition and perception is second to none (at least those who play on Saturdays). NFL general managers/coaches may not like that all that much…at least at first…that is till that improvisation starts leading to him making plays like no other that can (and will) win football games. Then…all will be right with the world. He has the abilities to make A LOT out of nothing with reactionary agility in the open field as well as the uncanny balance to make throws while in contorted positions & unfortunate situations.
Finally, personally, I love the confidence. I don’t believe that this dude will back down to anyone or anything that the NFL throws at him (including the attention and scrutiny of the media). That is an intangible quality that you can work hard to develop but there are some guys that got it and some that don’t…well, Johnny Football has it and I would want him on my side come fight time.
My Main Mover – Calvin Pryor
As evidenced by the deals signed this past offseason by Earl Thomas and Jarius Byrd you will quickly realize what the NFL GMs and Coaches value in the position; range and instinct. The guy who I feel exemplifies these two characteristics is Louisville’s Calvin Pryor. He is a reckless hitter which of course can get a Safety in trouble (both physically over time and with fines on the pocket book). However, he just wants to hit anything and everything that is moving on the field. Pryor can and will cover from hash to hash and then some. I will say that though he is a complete safety, I would like to see him fine tune his movement mechanics a bit. He’s an aggressive and violent mover just like the way he plays overall, but there are times that he gets a little high in both deceleration and directional changes and this definitely leads to some leaks in energy and some compromising positions.
My Sleeper Mover – Brock Vereen
This is a definite sleeper that was stationed down the road from me here in Minneapolis. Though I have been to a number of Gopher games I think Vereen went a little under my radar and I don’t really ever remember him popping out. However, during the on-field drills at the Combine and his physical testing, I was definitely impressed and took a little more notice. In transitions and during directional changes, Vereen wastes little motion and is able to stop on a dime and get to where he wants to go. Playing in the Big Ten, he didn’t get to develop the range like some of his positional counterparts from other schools, so I could see some adjustment period definitely being needed. But he is a willing tackler and appears to be a kid of high motivational character.
My Main Mover – Justin Gilbert
From the moment I saw this guy in on-field drills I fell in love with his movement skills and this was only solidified greatly when I watch him on film. He’s not only got the best all-around movement ability of the corners but he also is blessed with great size to boot. His feet and movement in and out of directional changes are marvelous and he can flip his hips and bail with receivers as well as any DB I watched film on…after doing so, it also helps that he has the linear speed to catch up and the ball skills to finish. In addition, he is also one of the better return men in the draft as well. The fact of the matter is that this guy comes to make plays no matter what he is doing on the field at the moment and I don’t believe that this fact will change come NFL Sundays.
My Sleeper Mover – Justin Verrett
I don’t know if anyone who is following this class of Corners would actually call this guy a sleeper but I just had to put him on my list and give him a shout cuz I like him and his movement skill so much. Granted, he is a former All-American and one of the better all-around CBs in this draft, but he also can move with the best of them. His ability to stab and move in directional transitions as well as his ability to play the run immediately reminds me of one of my boys, Antoine Winfield. Of course, he’s similar size to ‘Toine as well. He’s got great instincts and can anticipate opponents’ movement & tactical behavior and this allows him to hawk on some plays that many others can’t. I think this guy will end up being a very good choice to play over the slot for many years to come.
My Main Mover – Sammy Watkins
It’s been said by many that year’s wide receiver class could possibly be representative of the deepest of all-time. And the cream of this crop is clearly Sammy Watkins. This is for good reason. When watching Watkins you immediately can see a guy who is polished at the movement nuances of his craft. This is not an easy thing to say for wide-outs as they enter the NFL. And even though the route trees will get a whole lot more complex in a hurry, I believe Watkins will have an immediate impact due to his explosive burst which is displayed both in straight-line/linear situations as well as out of sharper breaks in his routes though his deceleration mechanics and ability could stand to be improved which will be shown as he gets accustomed to the heightened skill-level of the DBs that will be covering him. Nonetheless, he has top flight NFL linear speed at the position and this will mask any compensation in deceleration during routes and change of direction. His run-after-the-catch ability is simply superb and he behaves more like a running back in the open field than a wide receiver (which you probably know excites me!).
My Sleeper Mover – Bruce Ellington
The first time I saw Bruce Ellington move was during the drills at the combine. Even though I was relatively unimpressed with the wide receiver group as a whole (especially with all the hype), the same could not be said about Ellington. The South Carolina wide-out accelerates in a hurry and moves in & out cuts/breaks with crispy violence. He has quick, explosive burst and would make a great ‘poor man’s Percy Harvin at the NFL level. He is athletic with great balance and both are so much so that it will show up on Sundays too. He really leverages his plant foot far & away from his vertical line of force in breaks which enables him to stop on a dime and set guys up both in tight spaces and when lots of green grass is around.
My Main Mover – Ryan Shazier
Though I really like the movement displayed by the top 2 linebackers in the draft, Khali Mack and Anthony Barr, the guy I would probably rank as the best is Ryan Shazier of Ohio State. Though a little on the light side, this kid is a flat-out athlete! For a backer, he has range and lateral speed that is truly rare (similar to an old school Ray Lewis)…his explosive burst and acceleration (3 steps) is NFL world-class. To make him even more dangerous is he will stop on a dime and change direction to quickly reaccelerate regardless of whatever position he found himself in right prior to the directional change.
My Sleeper Mover – Chris Borland
Some may dispute Borland as being a prime mover in this group of both inside and outside backers because of the quality of some guys at the top of the heap. However, those people must not look for anything besides what a tape measure shows them. I saw a fair number of Wisconsin Badger games the past number of years and Borland was all over the place making plays. He’s a tough tackling machine and most of this is due to a combination of his supreme football instinct matched by his ability to perform with near optimal biomechanics. He flexes and hinges well with great sequencing to lower his center of gravity and widen his base of support (a naturally lower center of mass helps this of course). Teams will be hesitant to take Borland high because of his limited ability to match up downfield with today’s explosive, pass-catching tight ends but near the line of scrimmage and with playmaking abilities in short spaces I am not sure that there is a better overall mover at the position…and if there is, I haven’t seen him.
If you have read anything from me, you didn’t think that I was going to go without discussing a running back now did you?! Of course not! I saved the best position for last! Granted, because of the very apparent devaluing that is occurring with the position across the league, some now place RBs as an afterthought. However, there are some NFL-ready running backs in this draft….though I don’t believe that there is the next Adrian Peterson hanging out in this group or a Shady McCoy-potential level of mover, I do believe that there are some guys who will make some wow plays come Sunday afternoons.
My Main Mover – Tre Mason
The back who most exemplifies ‘my type’ of mover is by far and away Tre Mason. Similar to my pick from last year, Gio Bernard, Mason has the ability to use a very low center of gravity out of any width & stagger of his base of support/stance. These mechanics are routinely shown and on display in his quick start & stop & restart ability. He also has a jump cut to be able to shake guys quick in the hole and leave them grasping for air. Though Mason may not become an every down back in the league (due mostly to his build and size), he will be a flashy playmaker for whoever gets him on their roster.
My Sleeper Mover – Lache Seastrunk
Though there are a good number of backs who will have an impact in the coming years, I think Seastrunk is not only a sleeper mover but he is also relatively unknown who can be an immediate playmaker in the League. He is very instinctive overall and this will help the transition to the higher speeds of Sunday an easier one. Though there are a number of things that I would tweak with his movement patterning, I do feel as though he is one of the niftier backs in short spaces that I saw film on from this draft. He runs with a low center of gravity and uses his lines of force and steep angles well; the one thing that will remain to be seen is how much the Baylor offense helped him versus how much it may have hurt him in his preparation for the environmental circumstances of the NFL.
All in all, there are some movers and shakers in this draft who are going to impress you if you are an NFL fan.