Kylin Hill: King of the Hill

Kylin Hill will forever be an icon for Mississippi State fans. Besides the fact that he helped get the state of Mississippi to change their flag, he was a key clog in the Bulldogs offense for four years. He did decide to opt-out of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic but figures to be one of the top running backs in the 2021 draft class. It seems that at the moment Alabama’s Najee Harris and Clemson’s Travis Etienne are one and two, but the spots after that are up for grabs. If Hill can have a strong combine to go along with the progress he has shown the past few years, there’s a chance he becomes a day two selection.

Positives

North/South Runner

Hill is exactly what you want in terms of a North and South runner. While he can be patient behind the line of scrimmage, once he sees his opening, he’ll hit the hole hard. He’s not a guy that’s afraid of contact but also displays the quickness needed to accelerate past linebackers. If you look at most of the best running backs in the NFL, you’ll see they have similar running styles to Hill. They see an opening and don’t waste time dancing side to side. Players who run East to West are either gimmicky players or spend time bouncing from team to team. Downhill runners will always have a place in the league.

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Emerging Receiver

If there’s one thing where we saw a big improvement in Hill’s game in 2020, it was as a pass catcher. While there is some room for improvement, Mike Leach’s Air Raid system devalues the running back position so Hill had to make the most of his opportunities as a receiver in the few games he played this year. In fact, he had more receptions than carries this year. I don’t see him used as an Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey type running back, but he is a true three-down back who will keep defenses honest at the next level.

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Physical Football Player

If you were to look up the term “football player” in the dictionary, you could put a picture of Kylin Hill right next to it. He’s tough as nails and will stick his nose into contact as frequently as he can. His contact balance is superb and rarely does he go down from arm tackles. Listed at 210 pounds, he plays a lot bigger than that due to the fact that he will take on anyone. Simply put, he’s a guy you want on your team to help build a culture of toughness.

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Negatives

Lacks Long Speed

If you look at some of his longer runs in the GIF’s above, you’ll notice how he’s always being tackled from behind. Players have been successful without long speed, but it diminishes their big-play potential. A guy like Frank Gore has been in the league since the Cold War, yet has never displayed good long speed. Hill is a guy who can gash defenses for 4-7 yards a play, which is what you will take every time but won’t be the guy you call upon to come up with a home run play.

Overly Aggressive

Sometimes he’s looking forward to running a guy over so much that he misses open lanes where he can gain more yards. The attitude and toughness are what you love to see, but in order to help his team out and maintain his health, he needs to change his approach a little bit.

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Conclusion

The running back position might not have the draft importance it once did, but that doesn’t mean it’s a meaningless position. For as much as the NFL is focused on the passing attack, great teams are able to run the ball effectively in key moments. Like I said earlier, I think Hill is a safe bet for a second or third-round selection and if he were to drop any further, he would be a steal. He’s a relatively scheme versatile player, so no exact team at the moment pops into my head as a good fit for him, but he is a good back who can come in right away and get some touches.

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Wyatt Davis: The Buckeye Bully

If you want someone who will bring it every single play, look no further than Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis. Davis was one of the players who declared for the 2021 NFL draft after the Big Ten originally announced there would be no fall football, but now that the conference is back in, so is Davis. Davis is the anchor on a good Ohio State offensive line and despite playing guard, will be a first-round selection barring any unforeseen circumstance. When you see Justin Fields make plays for the Buckeyes, just know it starts up front with guys like Davis.

*For the GIFS, Davis is #52 and lines up at right guard*

Positives

Mauler

Davis has that mean streak that you want in your offensive linemen. He’ll bring the fight to the defense every time and makes life difficult for anyone who tries to get past him. When they run behind him, he’s usually moving his man out of the way and helping gain positive yards. His functional play strength is elite for a player at any level and he’s able to use that strength to set the tone on the offensive line, whether it be in the run or pass game.

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Ability to get to the next level

What helps make him such a scheme-versatile player is his mobility. Davis is relatively quick for a guy his size and does a great job of getting to the second level. He demonstrates this both as the pulling guard or moving vertically up the field, clearing massive lanes that any running back can run through. While I think he would be best in a power run scheme, he displays the footwork and athleticism needed to run zone.

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Pass Protection

In a pass-first league, keeping your quarterback clean is the first step towards an offense’s success. An offensive lineman can be a dominant run blocker, but chances are they won’t be a long-term starter if they are unable to hold their own in pass sets. However, a stud like Davis is downright dominant as a pass blocker and translates very well to becoming successful in the NFL because of it. Of course, there are times where he might get pushed back a bit on a bull rush, but that happens to every offensive lineman who has ever played the game. Davis does a great job of extending his arms (without holding) and keeping his body in front of defenders.

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Negatives

Balance

Now I don’t expect a 6-4, 315-pound man to be a ballerina, but I saw Davis fall down more than I would like for a player of his skill. He can develop better balance and body control the older he gets. Is this a major problem? Not really, but it is something I’m going to pay attention too.

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Positional value

Offensive guards normally aren’t high draft picks. Of course, Quentin Nelson went top five a few years ago, but for the most part, the position isn’t treated as a premium. I figure Davis to go in the top half of the first round, which means expectations will be very high. There’s little doubt that he’ll succeed, but he may not get the luxury of a slow start like most rookies.

Conclusion

Davis is honestly as good as you’ll get for a guard prospect. Sure, he may not be the best in all of football within two years like Nelson was, but it’s not crazy to expect multiple Pro Bowl selections for him. Since there’s nothing he can’t do, he makes himself very valuable to any team. I would like to see him in an offense that wants to run the ball because he can be a machine at times, clearing out enough space that an 18 wheeler could run through. If your favorite team drafts Davis this spring, don’t be disappointed you drafted a guard. Be excited you drafted an incredible talent.

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

Caleb Farley: Next Top CB?

Caleb Farley was one of the first players to opt-out of the 2020 season to prepare for the draft and it was a move that made a lot of sense. He’s already entrenched as one of the top cornerback prospects in the class and was on a Virginia Tech team that doesn’t have national title expectations for the season. At the end of the day, you have to take care of yourself and your future. Farley is pretty inexperienced at the position, coming to Virginia Tech as a wide receiver, but has impressed in his two years as a Hokie. I think he’s solidly a first-round prospect due to his upside, but with a good combine and pre-draft process, should become the first corner drafted.

Positives

Lockdown Pass Coverage

If you’re going to be a high draft pick as a cornerback, teams must believe that you have the chance to be a lockdown cover corner. While teams might value other skills like tackling or special teams versatility, it’s being able to shut down the passing game that will earn you your money. Farley might have the highest upside of any player in this class when it comes to being a great man corner. Being a former wide receiver, he anticipates routes and thinks like a receiver so he knows the nuances of the position. He has the speed to keep up with smaller, shiftier guys yet the length and strength to battle with bigger opponents. He’s seemingly always in the hip pocket of receivers so it’s tough to gain separation from him.

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If you aren’t aggressive as a WR, Farley will eat you alive
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Will hang in their with bigger oppoennts
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Stuck to him like white on rice

Turnover Machine

Six interceptions in twenty-six career games might not seem like a gaudy amount, but it proves to me he has the awareness and anticipation to be a ball hawk in the NFL. As previously mentioned, he’s a former wide receiver, so you know he has the hands to not drop any easy picks. When he turns his head around (more on that later), he does a great job of keeping his eyes on the quarterback and jumping routes. Many of his interceptions came from his excellent coverage skills, in that wide receivers are unable to break free from him.

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Having good hands is a huge plus for a DB
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Thinks and plays like a wide receiver
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A defensive game changer

Physicality and Athleticism

At 6-2, 200+ pounds, Farley has excellent size for a corner, but it’s how he uses his size that makes him a top prospect. He battles in coverage and isn’t afraid to be physical with receivers. I honestly didn’t see him in press coverage too much, but when he did it, he held his own. In addition to his size, he runs very well and displays good short-area quickness. For what he lacks in refinement and experience, he makes up with with athleticism.

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Textbook coverage
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Pure athleticism on display

Negatives

Raw and Inexperienced

He came to Virginia Tech as a wide receiver and played quarterback in high school, so he doesn’t have much experience at the cornerback position. There are times where his inexperience shows up though. Now that he won’t have a third year of tape, there will be some questions. He might not produce immediate results as he continues to learn the position, so an organization needs to be patient and trust their coaching staff.

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Takes a terrible angle to the ball

Doesn’t Turn Head Around

This is my biggest pet peeve for defensive backs and it happens at all levels. You’re taught as a corner to stay close to your receiver but at a certain point turn your head around. Farley got cheap penalties or gave up big plays because he lost track of the ball. You can probably say this is a result of inexperience, but some players never develop this instinct.

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CB’s are taught to look at the receivers eyes, turn around when you see the eyes get bigger!
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Elite corners turn their head around to make a play on the ball

Bites on Double Moves

Because he’s so aggressive, Farley will bite on double moves. You have to take the good and the bad with aggressive corners, but this leaves you open for a big play against. Maybe being put into a system that utilizes a deep safety over the top will help Farley’s play as it’ll allow him to be aggressive but still have some help in case he gets beat.

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Jumping routes is a do or die scenario
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Tough to jump routes on speedy receivers

Conclusion

Farley was a pleasant surprise and impressed me when watching his film. He has a good chance to develop into a top corner in this league but a team will have to be patient with his development. He has the skills that you can’t teach and projects to be at worst a mid-level starter in the NFL. With the growing importance of the passing game, good corners are in high demand. I expect him to go right in the middle of the first round, where he has the chance to get some playing time early.

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

Najee Harris: From The Bay To Bama

A five-star recruit coming out of high school in Antioch, California, Najee Harris headed to Tuscaloosa to win a national championship and become the next great Alabama running back. While he won a national championship as a freshman, he waited until his junior year to really explode as he rushed for over 1200 yards. Many believed he would declare for the 2020 draft, but he came back to school in hopes of winning his second title. However, as we all know, we don’t know what the hell is going to happen this season.We do know that Harris’s chances of being a high draft pick are pretty good. At this point, he is my top running back in this class and a true three-down player who can play in any scheme.

Positives

Tough to tackle

At 6-2, 230 pounds, Harris is a big man in the backfield and sometimes looks like a man amongst boys. He has no issue running over players, but will also display the athleticism to hurdle over them as well. You’ll quickly become a favorite of the coaching staff if you’re able to break tackles, which is why Harris has seen a good amount of carries every season. He’s one of those guys who’s never truly down until he’s on the ground and will drag multiple defenders with him. I don’t want to be cliché by comparing him to fellow Bay Area native Marshawn Lynch, but they both run with so much force that there are definitely some similarities in the way they run. Don’t think you’ll be able to attempt arm tackles against Harris without him running right past you.

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Threat as a pass catcher

Typical power backs like Harris don’t have such soft hands which makes him that much more dangerous. His 27 catches in 2019 may not seem like a high total, but he isn’t given too many opportunities and is part of a running back by committee at Alabama. When he was thrown the ball however, he displayed nice hands and great route running. It wasn’t always dump-off passes he was catching either. He ran out routes and wheel routes to perfection. It’s interesting to see a guy of his stature be such an excellent pass catcher because oftentimes big college running backs are much further behind in development as a pass-catcher than the smaller and more nimble running backs. He’s a true three-down player.

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Vision

While he might not be the most explosive athlete, Harris makes up for that with excellent vision. He knows how to properly read his blockers in front of him and diagnoses when to bounce outside or cut it up field. He never seems to be in a rush when the ball is in his hands, which he plays to his advantage. The SEC is known as the strongest football conference and, in particular, the strongest defensive conference in the country. So the skills he’s developed, like his vision, are key to his success at the next level.

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Negatives

Runs high

When you’re a tall running back, the chances of you running high are almost a certainty. Even productive running backs, like former Alabama stud Derrick Henry, have trouble with pad level but it doesn’t affect their overall game. What running high does is leave you susceptible to more punishment in the middle of your body as well as allowing defenders more room to hit you. Like I said, this isn’t a death sentence on his career, but it’s not ideal.

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Pass blocking

For a player of his size and strength, Harris should be an excellent pass blocker. However, Harris has struggled on several occasions and put his quarterback in harm’s way. To me, it looks like a problem with being flat-footed and not attacking the blitzer. Rather he lets the defender get too close where they can bull rush him or make one move to get around. To be honest, not many college running backs are good at this, so there is hope for improvement. This is a skill that’s worked on over and over again at the professional level as the league is relying more than ever on the passing game.

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Lack of long speed

While Harris might run through you or even over you, he’s not going to outrun your defensive backs or even linebackers. He has good enough agility and probably has a good enough 10-yard split, but he doesn’t have that breakaway speed. Many of the all-time greats didn’t have that explosiveness and had incredible careers. When you have other skills like Harris does, you’ll be fine in the long term and can get away without being a home run threat every time you touch the ball.

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Conclusion

Of any running back I’ve looked at until this point, none have the pure power Harris possesses but that isn’t what makes him so special. It’s the fact that he can run so angry, yet be such a developed runner and pass catcher that makes him as pro-ready as they come. Personally, I don’t think he has much more to improve upon at the college level but can’t blame someone for wanting to get that second ring. I think barring any unforeseen circumstance, he’ll be at worst a second-round pick and figures to be a scheme-versatile player.

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

Travis Etienne: A Tigers Roar

Back to back 1600 yard rushing yards has put Clemson’s Travis Etienne on the map as one of the best running backs in the nation. Many experts believed that Etienne would declare for the 2020 and be one of the top backs in the class, but decided to go for one more national championship run for the Tigers. He had moments where he looked like the best player on an offense full of NFL caliber talent and scored in all but two games in 2019. He plays more of the Robin to Trevor Lawrence’s Batman and because of that, it allows him to fly under the radar when he is an immensely talented player. While he does have a few things to work on, his draft stock is unlikely to rise too much, but the chance to win a second championship is tough to pass up.

Positives

Receiving Ability

Etienne has seen his catch total rise every year, with him totaling 37 in 2019. He does have the advantage of being paired with a skilled quarterback and a spread offense that allows him to get open on short routes. Once he gets the ball in his hands in open space, he is a shifty runner and has great vision that allows him to gain big chunks of yards. He also holds his own for the most part as a pass blocker but will have lapses where he looks average in this department. I think of all of the running backs in this class, he could be the most versatile and dynamic in the passing game.

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Acceleration

While I don’t think he has great long speed, his short-area explosion is off the charts. I am looking forward to looking at his five and ten yard splits at the combine as on film it looks like he’s elite in terms of quickness. Most coaches value short term acceleration rather than long speed, so I suspect that Etienne will be highly coveted and RB1 for most teams. He has quick feet and utilizes this to get the edge on outside runs, which makes him able to run any route or succeed on any carry.

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Downhill runner/breaking tackles

Coaches at every level say, “Always keep your legs moving” and Etienne is a textbook example of that. He is a tough runner despite not being a “big” back and will rarely go down easy. He’s a downhill, north-south runner who will get you any yards that he can. It seems like many runners are more about finesse nowadays, relying on speed and craftiness rather than running through a defender. In the open field, Etienne is especially hard to bring down because any arm tackle that comes his way will be easily broken.

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Negatives

Patience

If Etienne wants to be an effective runner at the next level, he needs to trust his blockers more and be more patient behind the line of scrimmage. Too often he would not let the play develop and end up running right into a crowd of defenders. It seems like he gets too excited or just lacks a feel of his surroundings. He could also be a lack of vision he displays as there were a few times were a cutback lane was open, but Etienne moves too quickly and misses that chance. Hopefully, he can develop into a more well-rounded running back and trust his linemen to do what they are supposed to do.

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System RB?

Is he a product of Clemson’s offense or would he be great on any team? No one knows, but I do feel like he is the beneficiary from having a star like Trevor Lawrence as his quarterback. Defenses will gladly let him beat them while focusing their efforts to shut down Lawrence and the passing attack. This doesn’t mean he’s a scrub or not worthy of his success, but it’s something that I think you have to taken into account when watching his film.

Conclusion

Etienne has probably the highest floor of any running back in the 2021 class but might not have the highest of ceilings. His draft stock is unlikely to change to be honest, but there are still plenty of things to work on. I have three running backs (Etienne, Hubbard, and Najee Harris) all clumped together with none being the clear cut top guy in this class at this point. If Etienne can further develop his feel for the position and can become a more patient running back, he can sneak into the the first round and could be a relatively high pick. He can play in any scheme and he has the one thing you can’t teach, which is being a winner.

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

Rashod Bateman: Ready To Rumble

Rashod Bateman made the wise business decision by opting out of the 2020 college season in order to prepare for the 2021 draft. He was a key member of the Minnesota football resurgence in 2019, a team that won 11 games and finished ranked in the top ten. Bateman is a prototypical possession receiver who seems to make at least one big play a game that helps his team win. To keep it simple, he’s a football player and does all the little things well. Could he have used one more season? Of course, but with all that’s going on this was the best decision for his future. I would say he’s more than likely a late first-round pick, but a good combine would shoot him up the board.

Positives

Run after catch

While he’ll never be mistaken for an Olympic sprinter, Bateman is dynamic after the catch. He’s tough to bring down due to his toughness as a ball carrier and his resiliency. When I say he’s a football player, it shows up when the ball is in his hands. There are many times where he should have been tackled, but refuses to go down. He also has a high football IQ and sees the field well, which makes up for his lack of speed. I made this comparison on our Twitter, but he reminds me a lot of JuJu Smith-Schuster after the catch. Neither are dynamic athletes but are true football players who make things happen with the ball in their hands.

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Fearless and Smart

Bateman will make a killing at the next level over the middle, which isn’t a place on the field where many receivers want to be. In the middle of the field is where most of the heavy hitters on defense are and there are going to be many times where you have to prepare to take a big hit. Bateman caught many of his passes on slants and dig routes (which we’ll cover later) and he never shows any hesitation or have what some call “alligator arms”. In addition to his toughness, Bateman is a smart player. Since he runs so many routes over the middle, when he notices things breaking down for his quarterback, he’ll make himself more easily available. I see a lot of receivers, at all levels, stick to their route and not come back to the quarterback. This rarely happened with Bateman, as he has his eyes on the quarterback and will go get the ball no matter the cost.

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Route running

Like I mentioned earlier, Bateman runs a lot of routes over the middle and runs them very well. He’s great at fighting off press coverage and uses his body to his advantage to get inside and open. Once he’s established himself on those routes, he’ll run a double move and get open deep. At the next level, he’ll be a great possession receiver who will be a quarterback’s best friend on third down since he can get open on intermediate passing situations. Even though he’s opting out of this season, he’s a relatively pro-ready route runner who will be able to step in and produce.

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Negatives

Pushed around on deep routes

For being so physical on short and intermediate routes, Bateman struggles to get separation on deep routes, more specifically go routes. A go route, or a fly route, is essentially just the receiver going straight down the field. On this route, you want to gain separation from the corner, while also giving your quarterback a spot to throw you the ball. So, it’s imperative to not let the corner push you towards the sideline too much because then there’s a tiny window to fit a long pass into.

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Long Speed

Bateman several times couldn’t gain that separation going deep unless it came from a double move or a lapse in coverage. This is a speed and agility issue that needs to be worked on over the next several months of draft preparation. There were times where he had a lot of green grass in front of him and was tracked down by defensive backs and that’s due to his lack of breakaway speed. He has several months to work on his 40 yard dash time, so this issue can be hopefully taken care of.

Conclusion

I don’t think Bateman will ever become a superstar, but I see him being a good player for a long time. He’s a guy that doesn’t rely on his athleticism to do well, which bodes well for his longevity. I would almost be surprised if he didn’t have multiple 1k receiving yard seasons when it’s all set and done as long as he’s with the right quarterback. He’s more than likely never going to beat you deep but will kill you in a west coast system or one that relies on a short and quick passing game. Like I said earlier, I think he’ll still be selected towards the end of the first round with teams like the Saints or the Ravens being great fits.

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Gregory Rousseau: Rock You Like A Hurricane

Gregory Rousseau exploded onto the scene in 2019 and became the best pass rusher in the nation not named Chase Young and did it as a redshirt freshman. He finished with 15.5 sacks (second in the nation) and 19.5 TFL’s (seventh in the nation), but flew under the radar on the national scene because he played on a 6-7 University of Miami team. While he is still as raw as an uncooked steak, Rousseau has plenty of desirable traits that teams will covet in what looks to be a weak edge class. Will he be able to follow up 2019 with another monster season? If he is able to get 14.5 sacks (which will be tough with a shorter schedule), he’ll be the first player in FBS history to have 30 sacks after his first two full seasons. Rousseau looks like a top ten lock at the moment and if he can clean up a few things, getting picked in the top five looks promising.

Positives

Sack Artist

You don’t finish second in college football in sacks by accident. Simply put, Rousseau just knows how to get to the quarterback. Whether it’s his speed, size, or just being in the right place at the right time, he got the job done in 2019 with 15.5 sacks. He likes to use a nifty swim and rip move that is tough for linemen to stop due to his size (more on this later). I don’t think he’s the prospect Nick Bosa or Chase Young were the past two years in terms of technique, but Rousseau has so much untapped potential and skill as a pass-rusher that he’ll be the top edge player in this class.

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Length

At 6-7, 253 pounds, Rousseau is a specimen. At that height, he would enter the league as one of the tallest players and he uses his length to his advantage. He can afford to be a step late or initially misread a play because he can make up that ground quicker with his long arms. There will be moments where it seems the ball carrier is about to break away before Rousseau extends to bring them down. I referenced his swim and rip moves earlier and he’s able to be so successful at that because it’s almost impossible for linemen to keep his hands in front of them. I see Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, both the same size as Rousseau but much heavier, have similar pass rush moves, and have had success at the NFL level. General Manager’s and scouts salivate at arm length and Rousseau has to be a favorite among that crowd.

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Versatility

From the film I watched, I saw Rousseau line up as a 4-3 end, 4-3 defensive tackle, nose guard, and at 3-4 standing outside linebacker. While he profiles best currently as a 4-3 end, also known as a 5 technique in most systems, it’s good to know that he can play all across the line. As he matures and gains more muscle, teams should feel comfortable kicking him inside to a 3 technique on passing downs or even play as a “big end” in a 4-3 under defense. This kind of versatility is important as the defensive line position typically likes to have a steady rotation, keeping those big boys fresh in the 4th quarter. Ideally, if you can pair up Rousseau with a sharp defensive mind who likes to get creative on blitzes, you could see him line up in a variety of ways.

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Quickness

Normal human beings at his size should not accelerate as quickly as Rousseau does. I expected some clunkiness or some awkward movements in his game based on his size, but he moves almost like a basketball player. He has a quick first step and explodes at the drop of a hat. There were also times where he displayed nice wiggle around an offensive lineman, which is something you normally see from a smaller lineman or a linebacker.

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Negatives

High Pad Level

When you’re 6-7, you’re going to have problems keeping your pad level low, which is particularly important for a defensive lineman. When he gets out of his stance he’s almost in an upright position, which is going to get you no penetration. This is a very fixable issue and any good defensive line coach will work extensively with him to improve on his technique. It will take some time to correct this issue, as a problem like this isn’t fixed overnight. Old habits die hard, but this habit has to be nipped in the bud.

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Functional Strength

Way too often, Rousseau gets overpowered. It’s tough to play defensive line at his height and weight (6-7, 253 pounds), so he will need to gain a considerable amount of weight. If he can get to around 270 pounds roughly, he’ll be able to push back and his high pad level won’t be as big of an issue. He’s still young and relatively inexperienced at his position, having played a plethora of positions in high school. Give him time to mature and he’ll grow into his “man body”.

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Conclusion

There’s still a lot of work to be done with Rousseau if he wants to become a complete player. Right now he gets by with size and athletic ability alone, but that won’t make you a superstar in the NFL. At worst, he becomes a pass rush specialist in the NFL and carves out a nice and long career. However, if he gains strength and becomes a better football player, he could become a cornerstone piece on a defense for the decade-plus.

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Dylan Moses: The Prodigal Son

The 2016 Parade Magazine National High School Player of the Year had high expectations coming into Tuscaloosa. His high school highlight reel has amassed millions of views and he was offered a scholarship by LSU and Alabama in the eighth grade. That’s quite the legacy to live up too. However, as a sophomore in 2018, he was named a Butkus Award (nation’s best linebacker) finalist and seemed primed to break out as an All-American in 2019. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL just days before the season. In an unexpected twist, Moses announced he was returning for his senior season and becomes the leader on what should be a very good Alabama defense. He was likely to be a late first-rounder in 2020 but hopes to push his stock into the top half of the 2021 first round while also trying to lead the Crimson Tide to a National Championship.

Positives

Tackling Machine

It’s such a simple part of the game, but all good defenses are ones that don’t miss tackles. Moses is a very physical player when meeting a running back in the hole and rarely gives up any ground. Even though he isn’t the biggest linebacker, he will stick his nose in there and not give an inch. He is also known to the lay the wood and come up with a huge hit. Those kinds of plays and that attitude can totally change the landscape and momentum of a game. He makes it known that when you try to go up against him one on one, you will lose and you will wake up with a few extra aches and pains in the morning.

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Athleticism

When he reads the play correctly, he can explode like an elite linebacker. He almost moves like a running back at times. He’s very quick and can also cut on a dime. Now there is some concern about him keeping his speed after his knee injury, but by all reports, he has recovered exceptionally well. In a league where mobile quarterbacks are succeeding more than ever, a linebacker like Moses is a perfect chess piece to counteract that. Use him as a “spy” on defense and he’ll be able to run down almost any player. He would be best utilized as a weak side 4-3 linebacker where he won’t be tangled up with big blockers in front of him and instead have the necessary space to roam and move fluidly.

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Versatile Player

In the Crimson Tide hybrid 3-4 defense, Moses lines up everywhere. He starts at middle linebacker, but plays a lot on the weak side, where he projects best at the pro level. He’ll even line up on the edge and will rush the quarterback from time to time. He is very comfortable and successful blitzing from any spot. There are also moments where he is lined up over a slot receiver (usually a tight end) and will do a good enough job of holding down that position. He might not be elite in pass coverage at this point, but has the tools needed to get to that level.

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Negatives

Slow to disengage from blocks

Moses might play strong when going against ball carriers but looks overmatched at moments against linemen or tight ends. He can get rag-dolled from time to time and be totally taken out of the play. He needs to do a better job of maintaining a lower pad level and using his quickness to break free of blockers. This is the main reason why I think he will be best suited on the weak side as he will not have to deal with blockers as often if he lined up in the middle. Hopefully, he used this rehab process to try and gain some more functional strength so that he will be able to play more physical against bigger opponents.

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Putting it all together

For as athletically gifted as Moses is, he has some moments where I’m thinking “what in the hell is he doing?”. Whether it’s a misread or he’s just pushed around, he’s more athlete than football player right now. Of course, when we last saw him play it was during the 2018-2019 season where he was a sophomore, so it’s possible that he has gotten stronger and increased his football IQ. This isn’t a huge issue in my eyes, but some teams won’t like him if he doesn’t show signs of progression.

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Conclusion

Moses is going to be a starter in the NFL. I have little doubt about that, but will he reach his potential of being an elite linebacker? I’m optimistic but would love to see him put it all together before getting to the league. He should be a first-rounder based on traits alone (assuming he is back to full health), but how high will be dependent on correcting his flaws.

Check other break downs here:

Trevor Lawrence

Justin Fields

Ja’Marr Chase

Trey Lance

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

Trevor Lawrence Breakdown: The Prince That Was Promised

The story of Trevor Lawrence is known by now. The top recruit in the 2018 class broke high school records set by DeShaun Watson and led Clemson to a National Championship as a true freshman. From the moment he stepped on campus, he’s been seen as a generational talent and the probable first overall pick. Losing just one game in his two years, the stars are aligned once again for Clemson to make the National Championship game and for Lawrence to win the Heisman this season. As I break down Lawrence, what I thought coming in was confirmed. He’s a rare prospect. The term “can’t miss” is thrown around way too much, but in this case it’s deserved. Assuming he cleans up a few issues, he will become an Andrew Luck type prospect and undoubtedly become the first overall pick in the 2021 draft. Below I break down some of Lawrence’s strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths:

Arm Strength

The ball shoots out of his hand like a cannon and he makes it look so effortless. To compare, Patrick Mahomes’ top throwing speed at the combine was 55 mph and Lawrence’s top throwing speed in 2019 was 61 mph. Whether he’s in the pocket or scrambling, he’s able to get enough juice on the ball to fit throws into tight windows. As you can see below, he can throw it sixty yards in the air while making it look easy. To me, this is his best attribute as there are technical things you can clean up, but you can’t teach the arm strength he possesses.

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Mobility

I’ll break down his mobility into two parts: pure ability as a runner and throwing on the run.

As a runner, he shows great athleticism for a guy who’s listed at 6-6 and 220 pounds. Clemson runs a lot of zone reads and trusts his decision-making to make the right read. When he decides to keep the ball or they run a play designed for him (mostly counters or QB power), he shows speed and good vision to make the big play. For as much as people talk about his natural ability as a passer, his running ability is severely underrated. When the play breaks down, he’s excellent at scrambling and finding ways to pick up extra yardage. He’s never looking to run first, but teams will often blitz linebackers or drop them into coverage due to them being fearful of his arm. When this happens, he tucks the ball down and is able to make a play.

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The second part of his great running ability is the fact he keeps his eyes down the field while scrambling and is able to complete passes on the run. I see too often in college (and sometimes in the pros) that quarterbacks panic under pressure and will run without looking down the field. Lawrence can scramble out to either his left or right and has the arm strength to get the ball to his receivers. As NFL offenses get more creative and put mobile quarterbacks at a premium, Lawrence makes himself that much more valuable with his versatility and athleticism.

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Touch and Accuracy

Like a great shooter, when Lawrence gets hot he quite simply does not miss. This is evident on deeper throws that require some touch on the ball. We’ve seen a lot of quarterbacks with rocket arms, but the great ones are able to loft passes over defenders and right on target to their receivers. On these throws, Lawrence is mechanically sound (we’ll get to that later) and as you can see pushes off his back foot rather than solely using his pure arm strength. Quarterbacks who can make these throws, especially down the sideline, are ones you see starting on Sunday’s.

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Mechanics/Size

Lawrence 100% passes the eye test. He looks like he was made in a quarterback laboratory. If Lawrence is actually 6-6 as indicated on the Clemson website, it would make him tied for the tallest starting quarterback currently in the league. At 220 pounds, he could add another ten or so pounds of muscle, which will help him against bigger NFL defenders and he has the frame to put on that weight while maintaining his speed. Mechanically speaking, he has a clean release that doesn’t include a hitch or herky-jerky movement. He does a good job of using his lower body to drive the ball forward and for the most part does a decent enough job of setting his feet with smooth footwork. You’ll also notice how his feet are always moving and he’s never a statue in the pocket. It’s the little things that give you the big gains.

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Needs To Work On

Decision Making

Lawrence truly believes that he can use his arm strength to throw though any window, no matter how small it may be. Because of this, Lawrence makes a lot of bad decisions that resulted in him doubling his interception total from his freshman year and got lucky on several occasions. His whole life, he’s been able to use his arm to make any throw, even if he was staring down a receiver. However, as there’s more tape on him and the competition gets better, he’s not going to be able to get away with this. This is the mindset that many great gunslingers have which has resulted in high interception totals for all-time greats like Brett Favre, Dan Marino, and Peyton Manning. You have to take these kind of mistakes because for every head-scratching moment, they have four or five ‘wow’ moments.

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Over-throwing leading to missing open receivers

Like mentioned before, sometimes Lawrence trusts his arm too much. He’ll miss open receivers, usually by throwing high and outside, which is an indication of throwing too hard. I compare this to seeing a hard-throwing pitcher, you have to learn to contain your power and become a pitcher rather than a thrower. It’s frustrating to see because Lawrence will make so many great throws and then misses some easy ones, but it comes with the maturation of every great quarterback.

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Not Sliding/Protecting himself while running
This is just nit-picking now, but he needs to be smarter when running. I understand he’s a football player and he’s not afraid of contact, but as a franchise player he has to be cautious and make sure he can stay on the field. It may cut down on some game breaking plays like the one he had against Ohio State in the Playoff Semi-Final, but it’s going to ensure his longevity.

In conclusion, Lawrence is a special prospect and as of now would have a higher grade than recent #1 picks like Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray, and Baker Mayfield. Barring an unforeseen situation, Lawrence will hear his name called first in the 2021 draft and becomes an immediate game-changer.

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Current Projection: #1 Overall Selection

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