In the first installment, we covered the basics of scouting defensive lineman. In this installment, we're going to cover scheme and technique fit. These questions will help to fine tune the process for picking a defensive lineman. After all, we don't want to be a Josh McDaniels and try to pound a round peg into a square hole. We'll get more production out of a guy that fits both our scheme and team needs. In order to get our pick dialed in, we have identified a player that could answer "yes" to all the basic questions. Now we move to the second phase of questions. The scheme the Broncos employ and the team needs will be a deciding factor on who we should pick and where we can pick our guy. Lets get our choice dialed in.
To understand the type of players that fit what the Broncos needs are on the Defensive line, you have to understand what scheme the Broncos will use. The Broncos typically employ a base 4-3 with an under or over shift. This means they will typically have four defensive linemen on the field at any given time. These players are often characterized by the technique they play, which is just another way of describing how close they line up in proximity to the center of the offense. A general rule of thumb on the defensive line, the further away from center the position is, speed and athleticism becomes more important than size. Here is a basic outline of the different techniques in the 4-3 defense and their typical responsibilities and attributes.
Haloti Ngata and Pat Williams. The criteria I look for in a one technique in the draft differs a little for what I look for in a free agent. In the draft, I prefer that the younger guys have a little room to grow into the position. I look for guys that are around 315 to 320 lbs for the draft. Short range quickness is more important than a forty time. Explosion number is a big criteria to look at for the every position on the D-Line, for obvious reasons.
Tommy Kelly and Kevin Williams. Even moreso for the three tech, I look for guys that have some room to grow, because you want that guy that can get skinny to shoot the gap. I look for guys that are around 280 to 300 lbs. to play the three. Both short range quickness and the forty are important for these guys because pursuit is a bigger concern with the three technique. The player I like best for this position has always been Fletcher Cox.
Robert Ayers fits this profile quite well. Prototypical 6/7 techs include Ray Edwards and Terrell Suggs. For the power end, I look for a guy that can set the edge. He has to have discipline and show a tendency to stay at home and let the play come to him. A freelancing DLE can be a liability. We saw this a lot last season with Tebow running the option, the Raiders defensive front played very undisciplined and it cost them. The ideal power end will go about 260 to 270 lbs. and have room to get a little bigger.
Elvis Dumervil fits this mold quite well, even though he is a little on the short side compared to the prototype. Prototypical nine techs include Dwight Freeney and Kyle Vanden Bosch. For our nine, we want speed, quickness and leverage. I look for guys around 250 to 260, but I'll give consideration to smaller guys that show a knack for getting to the QB like Bruce Irvin from West Virginia.
The big questions are: Does our prospect have the physical attributes to fit our positional needs? If he is not where he needs to be, can he get there within a reasonable time? Does the prospect have enough upside and skill to shift the paradigm at the position if he is not a prototypical fit? Is he big and powerful enough to take on double teams as a one? Does he have the balance of speed and power to man the three? Is he powerful enough to set the edge and keep outside contain to be our six/seven? Does he possess the speed and leverage to get up the field and make life miserable for opposing QB's as our nine? Does he have a good mix of attributes that will make him a solid and versatile back up or rotational player?
The hardest part is judging these artibutes objectively enough to make a good decision on where to take our guy. If you have a guy that piles up the right answers, you take him early. If you have a guy that has some of the answers and shows some upside, you take him in the middle rounds. If you have a guy that shows something that can be worked with, take him late and try to develop him for down the road, but only if there is a need there within the time it will take to develop the player. Right now, the Broncos need a guy in the interior that has a piled up the answer yes on the things we are looking for, IMO.
Being a casual oberver of the roster, I have noticed for the past several years the interior linemen on the roster usually possess some of the attributes of certain techniques, but not all of them. That is good for depth players because that gives them some flexibility to fill in at other positions. For starters though, you want guys that come really close to what the prototype for the position is or have the ability to shift the pardigm for that position. They should be able to specialize in that position and to fill that specific need.
The Broncos have two starting DEs that are very close to prototypical and they both play at a high level for their position. If the Broncos could land a DT at the three that is as close to prototypical as Doom and Ayers are, this could be a dominant defensive line. They already have some good rotational guys in place. The Broncos do have a prototypical guy who will hopefully be lining up at one of the DT positions in Ty Warren, but he is a prototypical five technique (DE) in a 3-4, which has aspects of both the three and five techniques. Warren could probably play either technique and have success. We'll have to see where he fits best after missing the last two seasons with injury. My guess is he will have a greater impact playing the one tech NT. Sam Monson on PFF did a good piece outlining the defensive line techniques that you can find HERE, if you want a little bit more depth than I have covered.
In summing up, I feel the optimal situation for the Broncos defensive line is to have a good mix with some specialists and jack of all trades linemen to fill out the rotation. Character is always a concern, but I will let the guys that get paid worry about that. This of course is just my opinion. How do you guys feel about it?