Jumps Off the Tape, Will Sutton: Shooting the gaps

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State defensive tackle can't do everything, but his moves to get upfield jump off the tape. Danny Kelly's series continues with a look at Will Sutton.

When scouting NFL Draft prospects, there are always players who "jump off the tape" to me more than others. Why? It's tough to say -- draft scouting is a subjective field and there are hundreds of variables to consider. Within, there are going to be different biases and different priorities in terms of which skills or tools to look for at different positions among evaluators.

This series of short scouting reports will aim to pick out a play, or a couple of plays, that jumped out to me as representations of why I am in a certain prospect's corner. It's incomplete evaluation, but it is meant to highlight what a player can do and why those skills might project to the NFL level.

DT Will Sutton, Arizona State: 6'0, 303 pounds

Sutton would almost definitely have been a first- or second-round pick had he come out following his breakout 2012 campaign -- he finished the year with 13 sacks -- but he decided to stay at Arizona State an additional year to get some seasoning. Unfortunately, he listened to the criticism that he was too small to play on the inside at defensive tackle in the NFL (he was playing at around 285-290 pounds or so) and he bulked up to, according to some reports, 330 pounds for the 2013 season.

This added weight showed up in a negative way -- some of his explosive-movement skills were gone, and the extra 30-40 pounds robbed him of some of his foot quickness. That said, his tape, while admittedly inconsistent, does show the skills he retained to put pressure on the quarterback and make offensive linemen wary.

What I focused on for this report was Sutton's violent hand usage. This example below comes on an innocuous play, but shows you why he wins in the trenches even when he's not the fastest or most athletic player on his line.

These two plays demonstrate a repertoire of moves that he's developed: the overarm swim move, and the stiff arm to hump move back inside.

Sutton packs a load in his hands, and when offensive linemen try to account for that, he alters his approach with a number of moves, and surprises, then wins.

Further, and again, I acknowledge that his 2013 tape was very inconsistent -- he played hot and cold and would disappear for stretches -- but I will say that it's clear Sutton was getting the brunt of the offensive line's attention in many of his games. Even facing double teams, Sutton showed that he could "get skinny" and penetrate to disrupt plays with excellent snap timing and technically sound hand use. He didn't record a stat on any of the next four plays, but his production was in his disruption (three of them against double teams).

The Bottom Line:

I like Sutton as a key cog in a defensive line rotation, likely for a 4-3 team with one-gap principles. He's a bit wild in his play and may not be best asked to two-gap with a patient outlook, but if you ask him to get upfield and shoot gaps when facing single coverage, I think it's a role in which he could excel. When he's "on," he packs a punch, plays with tenacity, moves the offensive line and disrupts play. The key will be to get him into a situation where his strengths are accentuated.

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Final note: When building their NFL Draft boards, scouting departments watch every single snap of a particular draft prospect's season. Within those hundreds of snaps, there are likely some great plays and some bad plays, and a multitude of nondescript plays in between. Scouts must determine how consistently a player can display the good traits and figure out how easily coaches can mitigate or coach out the bad. This report is just a jump-off point.

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