For those of you who can remember the 2010 and 2011 drafts (and even further back), you will remember that the Broncos were projected to take a defensive tackle early. It seems like we have been trying to find good DTs for the past decade with very little success, although Wolfe appears to have been a good/great selection. With Vickerson and Bannan both free agents, the Broncos are thin at DT (even figuring that Wolfe is moving to DT full-time). Outside of Wolfe we have Unrein, Siliga and Garland (on the PS) - so we are thin both literally and figuratively. We need some beef whether it comes from free agent DTs or drafted DTs.
Last year I did a break down of the DTs in the draft
(Jesse Williams demonstrating the proper form for the chicken dance)
I focused mainly on the combine, I will do so again this year. I will focus on a few guys that I think deserve more scrutiny looking at game stats and game tape for them. Remember, these are numbers and they must be tempered with on-field production. Any information is only useful if you take it in context. Also keep in mind that the folks over at Draftmetrics have figured out that for DTs the three combine results that have the greatest correlation on NFL success are 40 yard dash, broad jump and 20-yd shuttle. They define success as being a starter for 3 or more years in the NFL. In other words, DTs who are above average in those three stats have historically had more "successful" NFL careers.
I will continue to use Change of Direction, CoD, as measure of short-area quickness and I will also continue to use normalized data to generate the True Explosion Number, TEN. Take a look back at last year's fanpost to see the rationale. I will also introduce Quickness Score which is based on Football Outsiders Speed Score.
I looked at the top ~20 DTs in the draft. There are a couple of things to note. Firstly, there are four guys with the last name Williams (Jesse, Sylvester, Brandon and Nick), so be careful not to confuse them. Secondly, this is the largest group of DTs to come out in the past 9 years in terms of average weight. The average weight of the DTs at the combine last year was 311 lbs. The average this year is 316 lbs. The average DT weight over all of the years that I have been tracking (2006-2013) is 309 lbs. So the 2013 DTs, even slimmed down for the combine, are bigger than normal. So here's the BEEF (and the power numbers)
The Power numbers from the combine (along with height and weight)
|Height||Weight||Arm Length||Bench||Vert||Broad||Expl. #||TEN|
Many of the top guys were either unable to or chose not to do the bench, vertical or broad. So it is going to be hard to say what they might have done (and hard to compare them to past combine performances). I'm hoping that a few of these guys compete at their pro-days so that I can get a gauge on them both for now and for future reference.
Of the guys who did the bench, vertical and broad, four stood out (TEN): Akeem Spence (75.3), Brandon Williams (74.0), Sheldon Richardson (73.2), and Nick Williams (71.8). The best TEN from last year was Poe (81.0), but there were 5 DTs with TENs better than or equal to the best DT from this year, Spence. So as a group these DTs are not as explosive as the DTs from 2012 (average TEN last year was 70.5). This plays out in the average as well. The historical average for TEN over the seven seasons that I have tracked is 66.1. The average for the DTs this year was 64.8, so these guys are not only less explosive than the DTs from 2012, but also slightly less explosive than the average group of DTs at the combine overall.
To look at explosiveness another way, the worst vertical of all of the DTs last year was Ta'amu (at 348 lbs) who got 26" off the ground. This year Hill (22.5") and Logan (25") have no excuse since they both weight 40 lbs less than Ta'Amu. At least Barnes (22") has an excuse since he weighed in at 369 lbs (he skipped breakfast so he wouldn't hit 370). Terrence Cody (at 349 lbs) had the lowest vertical of any DT in during the time period (20.5")
(Sheldon Richardson about to slap some guy in the head)
(Akeem Spence showing Denard Robinson how much he loves him)
(Brandon Williams showing his game face)
KK's profile of Brandon Williams
Two guys really hurt themselves at the combine: Hughes and Grissom. Both came in as mid to late round prospects and both hurt their draft stock with their lack of power. Grissom was hurt worse since he is smaller, but both guys run the risk now of not getting drafted. As you will see next, Grissom's lack of speed and quickness further hurt his draft stock. Hughes, coming from a DII school, needed a great combine and he did not have it.
The Speed/Quickness Numbers
|40||3-cone||20-yd sh.||Lat. Ag.||CoD||Speed Score|
Three guys showed good straight-line speed - Floyd (101.4), Jesse Williams (108.5) and Nick Williams (103.8). You'll notice that I used Football Outsiders Speed Score (which factors in weight and 40 time) this year. Jesse Williams number is very impressive, but there were still three guys last year with better speed scores than the best DT from this year: Cox (113.2), Poe (112.5) and Howard (111.5). On the flip-side, two guys showed that even if you take their weight into account, they are slow over 40 yards - Geathers (78.1) and Grissom (77.1). This is strike two for Grissom who showed that he is not very powerful earlier. An average speed score for DTs at the combine 2007-2013 was 93.1.
Lateral agility is IMO worthless, but if you put any stock in it, then Hankins and Hill are your guys. Don't look too closely though, since both guys only have good LA scores because they crapped the bed while running the 40.
Only two DTs showed exceptional quickness at this year's combine: Jared Smith (11.59) and Josh Boyd (11.80). The DTs this year are generally less quick than the guys from 2012. There were 7 DTs with CoD scores below 12.00 last year. If you include Hill (12.00) there were only 3 this year. Smith's 11.59s is good, tied for 4th best over my whole time range - better than Wolfe (11.70), Suh (11.65), Fletcher Cox (11.60) and tied with Vaughn Martin. We will take a closer look at Smith Later since he is currently projected as 7th-UDFA. On the flip-side, the guys with the most difficulty redirecting their bulk were Geathers (13.38s), Barnes (13.22s) and Brandon Williams (13.00s). Despite weighing in at 23 lbs heavier than Geathers, Barnes, at 369 lbs, was able to change direction better. Brandon Williams, at 335, showed himself to be the quickest of the three battleships, but that isn't saying much. From the data only two players with CoDs greater than 13.00s have gone on have a productive NFL careers - Terrence Cody of the Ravens (13.22s) and Ahytba Rubin of the Browns (13.05s). Both guys have succeeded despite their lack of quickness.
If you do a similar weight adjustment to CoD akin to Speed Score, you get what I am calling the Quickness Score (QS). From QS Smith and Boyd are indeed they only two quick DTs in this draft even factoring in weight. The Quickness Score is show below, remembering that many guys didn't do the 3-cone and/or the 20-yd so we don't know where they would fall. For Quickness Score a higher value is better (similar to Speed Score). 100 is average (by design)
Smith's 117 value is good and puts him in the same company as Flecther Cox (115), Marvin Austin (114), Aintmessingaround Suh (117) and Terrence Knighton (114). Boyd's quickness score is also very good. Conversely, Geathers' (75) is the third worst quickness score that I have found - the only two guys who were worse were Ra'Shon Harris (72) and Dorrell Scott (74).
I have not been able to find the 10-yd split on the 40 times for the DTs from the 2013 combine - if someone has a link please put it in the comments. I'd love to be able to incorporate this number into the Quickness Score.
A closer look at 3 DTs
So lets take a closer look at three guys: Jesse Williams (shown at the beginning, doing the chicken dance), Akeem Spence (shown above giving Denard Robinson a hug) and Jared Smith (shown below sitting down on the job).
Jesse Williams was the Australian stud NT in the center of the top-rated two-time national champion Alabama defense. He truly is a freak in terms of athleticism. Williams grew up playing rugby and only starting playing football later in life (similar to Orlando Franklin). He played two seasons at Bama. His stats are not that impressive, but he was playing with a lot of other NFL caliber defenders on those Bama defenses so he probably wasn't going to wrack up huge stats particularly playing NT in 2012 (and some 5-technique DT in 2011).
26 career games
61 tackles (17 solo)
7 QB hurries
1 blocked kick
Two of his best career games came in two of Bama's biggest games in 2012 - A&M and LSU. In both games he recorded 7 tackles playing the 0/1 technique. He has the strength (and maybe the quickness) to dominate in the middle - even at the NFL level. What he doesn't offer is anything in terms of pass rush. IMO he would be an upgrade over Bannan should we draft him, but he is not going to consistently collapse the pocket at the NFL level. They compare him to Sione Puoha at NFL.com. Pouha has appeared in 106 NFL games and has 4.5 career sacks. Williams is projected to go in the late 1st to mid-2nd round right now. I think that KK profiled Jesse Williams, but I can't find the article right now.
Akeem Spence played three years at Illinois. Spence does not possess great strength or great quickness, but he is average or above average in both areas. Here are his career numbers
186 tackles (65 solo)
3 QB hurries
Spence was involved in a lot of tackles for a DT with a 8 games of 8 or more tackles. He carries his weight well, but is not very quick out of his stance (according to nfl.com). Like Williams he is not a pass rusher and only happenes into the occasional sack. His weakness scare me (from nfl.com)
"Doesn't explode off the ball. Fires off with higher than ideal pad level. Slow to use his hands. Won't run legs when engaged. Not the best at handling doubles. Not much of a pass rusher."
nfl.com compares him to Sione Fua of the Panthers - a rotational DT who has yet to do much in 24 career NFL games (0 sacks, 22 tackles, 1 FF). Spence is currently projected to go in the 3rd-4th round of the draft. If the Broncos end up drafting him, I can see him essentially filling the role that Bannan played last year in a similar manner (no pass rush but stout against the run)
KK already profiled Spence here Akeem Spence
Jared Smith, who played at New Hampshire, is probably looking at a 7th round pick if he gets drafted. He had a good combine, but not a Dontari Poe style combine. He had the second best broad jump, the second best vertical and was average on the bench. His college stats are not eye-popping
129 tackles (59 solo)
5 blocked kicks
The majority of these stats were accumulated playing against FCS talent so, while they would be good for an SEC player, they are not that great. I haven't heard anything about Smith wowing folks at any of the senior bowl, but he impressed enough people to get a combine invite. Here's what nfl.com has to say about him
I think he could turn into a good NFL player, but I don't think he is what we are looking for to either improve upon or at least replace the production that we got from Bannan and Vickerson last year.
So who do you like (if any) of these DTs? Many of them have already been profiled by KK over the past two months.