2016 NFL Draft Scouting Reports
This is my third year doing draft breakdowns for SB Nation and maybe the most challenging group so far. As I've become more and more immersed with writing about the NFL, I have less and less time to pay attention to college football during the season. That ended up being both a curse and a blessing.
That mades it harder to know where to start because I simply wasn't as familiar with most of the top prospects. I ended up having to peruse mock drafts to kind of see who was hot. On the flip side, because it was my first time watching most of them, I went into it with a blank slate and wasn't as influenced by what I thought I saw from those guys after watching live games.
As usual, I confined my breakdowns to the positions I feel most comfortable evaluating without the availability of coaches tape, namely offensive tackles, edge rushers, defensive tackles and wide receivers. Not too many guys jumped off the screen for me this year, but that's okay. While there may not be a buncha future Hall of Famers in this draft class, I did see potential in just about every guy I watched.
I try to keep refining my process for breaking down these guys because I want to be as fair as I can possibly be. I also care a lot about my own reputation, so I try to be as accurate as I know how to be when I do these. I don't expect everybody to agree with my assessments, but I do strive to make sure that folks can at least understand why I feel the way that I do.
It's going to be awhile before we can judge who was "right" and who was "wrong" on most of these prospects, so for now just sit back, relax and enjoy these breakdowns as I try to get you a little more acquainted with the players your team may target in this year's draft.
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Joey Bosa, DT
DT, Ohio State
I really wanted to like Joey Bosa's film more than I actually did. I think that's mostly because the guy has such great technique for a college defensive lineman, and y'all know I'm a sucker for a defensive lineman with good technique.
Bosa does a great job of coming off the ball and getting his hands inside on blockers against the run so that he can control them. He also almost always uses an escape move to get off blocks. His footwork and hand coordination on pass-rush moves are consistent and textbook almost all of the time. I'm telling you, it's almost like the dude is a machine!
And that's kinda where the problem comes in ...
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Laremy Tunsil, OT
OT, Ole Miss
Turn on Laremy Tunsil's film and it doesn't take very long to see why so many scouts and analysts are high on the Ole Miss left tackle. At first glance it's apparent that he is a pretty big dude, but while that may be the first thing that catches your eye, it quickly becomes clear that his size isn't the main attraction here. This dude is athletic, mane. I mean really athletic. That kind of athleticism for a guy that big is definitely in short supply.
Don't get me wrong, I know people often associate "athletic" big men with being a tad bit "soft," but that couldn't be any further from the truth with Tunsil. You can see his power and aggressiveness on film, without a doubt. It's just that his athleticism blows you away. I saw this several times in each game when Tunsil would sift up to a linebacker and then block him either off the screen or damn close to it. That's power. However, you just can't sustain blocks like that on little guys without a lot of athleticism, no matter how much you bench press. After awhile it was clear that if he locked onto a guy on the second level, that dude was going for a ride not of his own choosing.
That's called consistently kicking ass, right there.
It is at this point that I feel the need to go off on a tangent, because one thing I didn't like about Tunsil's film wasn't really his fault and isn't particular just to him these days. A lot of these read option, zone read, etc. schemes that have taken college football by storm don't ask the offensive linemen to make some of the kinds of blocks they will have to make in the NFL. My colleague Danny Kelly and I talked about how this is negatively affecting offensive line play across the league during this past season, and as I watched Tunsil's film, it made more and more sense.
I also got more and more frustrated.
A'Shawn Robinson, DL
Alabama's A'Shawn Robinson is that rare defensive lineman who is actually bigger than he looks.
I don't know how many 310-pound guys I've ever seen who look closer to 280 than Robinson, but it can't be more than a handful (Alonzo Spellman comes to mind). He definitely doesn't move like many 6'4, 310-pounders I've ever seen, either. He is kinda tall, but he consistently comes off with great leverage, which helps him dominate at the point of attack against the run.
Normally you think of 3-4 defensive linemen as guys who come off the ball slow and kind of wait on the blockers, but Robinson would usually knock his would be blockers back into the backfield no matter whether it was a base block (down the middle) or some kind of stretch (lateral) block in either direction. Often times against would-be wide runs, Robinson would set the edge from head-up on the offensive tackle, and if you know anything about defensive line play, you know just how hard that is to do from that alignment.
Robinson also displayed ridiculous speed for a guy his size when he ran to the ball. He's fast enough to get down the line laterally and make plays against runs away from him from behind.
I SEENT IT, DAWG!!
Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Laquon Treadwell, WR
WR, Ole Miss
"BREAK OUT THE SYRUP!"
When I played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in the day, we had an assistant coach on offense who loved to yell "break out the syrup!" whenever one of the offensive players, especially when it was one of his guys, pancaked an opposing player. It was hilarious and jarring because it would come out of nowhere, usually when the meeting room was quiet.
I kept hearing that coach's voice yelling "break out the syrup" in my ear while I watched Laquon Treadwell play.
This kid is an absolute animal when it comes to blocking. It's easily the part of his game that stood out the most. Hell, we know most wide receivers were, are and always will be soft, so when a guy like Treadwell comes along and he is flat-backing cats left and right, that's always going to catch my attention. I would rather have a guy who won't just catch the football, but will also get after it blocking as well if it's at all possible. That kind of physical mentality usually translates into all parts of their game and helps elevate their worth a lot higher than the guys who only contribute as pass catchers.
Of course blocking is great, but we do judge receivers on how productive they can be in the passing game.
Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
Shaq Lawson, DE
Some of you may be asking, "Why do Shaq Lawson before you do Noah Spence?" Well, I'm glad you asked!
I like to have as much uniformity to my breakdowns as possible when it comes to the information I use to make my assessment. In general, I want to review no less than four games and ideally at least five. Unfortunately, my man Noah Spence only has three games up on Draft Breakdown, which isn't a knock on them. When you play at Eastern Kentucky, you don't always get on TV, which makes the TV copy of his games hard to get. I did watch those three games and was hella tempted to try to do a breakdown anyway. But, at the end of the day I was so impressed with what I saw in those three games that I didn't want to do Spence a disservice by rushing into things if there was any chance I might come up on a fourth game before the draft actually rolls around.
As for "Why Shaq Lawson?" well, I'm glad you asked me that, too!
Because I am technically an NFL writer for SB Nation and I cover the whole league, basically, I pretty much have to immerse myself into the NFL in the fall. That means i don't get to watch nearly as much college football as I used to, and even what I do watch, I'm not usually watching as closely as I used to. Unless it's my Vols, of course, but then they kept losing last year at first and I thought I was a jinx so ... look, never mind. I don't get to watch college football as much I used to, OK?
I did happen to catch a few Clemson games, and at a glance, this kid Lawson really impressed me. One thing I've learned since I started doing draft profiles, however, is that sometimes when you a look a little closer you find out you may have sorely underestimated or overestimated just how good some of these college players are. I figured with a little more scrutiny I would have a better idea of just how good Lawson was or wasn't.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
DeForest Buckner, DE
At 6'7 and 291 pounds with 34 3/8 inch-long arms, Oregon's DeForest Buckner defies easy comparisons to other NFL defensive linemen. The few names you do hear over and over are probably just guys who have played the same position who were the same height or taller.
Looking at you Calais Campbell!
While they are indeed the same height, around the same weight and will probably play essentially the same position in the NFL, I just didn't see much of Campbell in Buckner's game. They just don't move the same. As a matter of fact, Buckner is more of a combination of different guys than one guy in particular.
For example, Buckner is a cheeseburger away from 300 pounds, but if you see him by himself on the field he looks like a normal-sized human being. It's only when he is standing by an actual normal-sized dude that you see how wrong your initial perception was. That's kind of how Julius Peppers and Mario Williams are, too, when you see them on the field. I had to keep looking back at Buckner's combine measurements to make sure he really was that big because he looks more like a linebacker than this monster sized defensive end when he is in the frame by himself.
What keeps me from using Peppers and Williams as comparisons is that, quite frankly, both of those guys were were much better athletes coming out than Buckner showed himself to be on tape. Mario was almost exactly the same size and ran a ridiculous ass 4.71 40 while Peppers was a 4.68 guy. More importantly both guys played at those speeds, so their times weren't much of a shock. Buckner's 5.05 in the 40 at the combine is maybe a little slower than I expected compared to his film, but not by much.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Ronnie Stanley, OT
OT, Notre Dame
As I said in a previous breakdown, I didn't really get to watch much college football last fall, so these breakdowns are usually my first time seeing these guys at all. That is why I initially do not try to rank them. Until I break down at least two guys at every position, I don't have any idea who is the best.
Or the worst for that matter.
I have broken down that second guy at some positions by now, so at the very least I can compare those first two guys and determine which of the two I like more. In this case, Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil was the first offensive tackle that I broke down. Now that I've watched Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley, I have a frame of reference for both.
Let me just say this, I think Tunsil is definitely the better athlete. He's better out in space down field on screen plays. Tunsil is a much more powerful run blocker. And, well, he just plays meaner than Stanley on tape.
I would still take Stanley over Tunsil seven days a week and twice on Sunday.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Josh Doctson, WR
There are two pretty important things I need to see from any wide receiver that I break down before I can be comfortable predicting if they'll succeed on the next level. Both are pretty simple and straight forward, but necessary.
First, I need to see if they can get open. That isn't just dependent on their straight line speed, i.e. 40 times, but also how quickly they can get in and out of their breaks when they are running routes. Can they consistently get off a jam at the line of scrimmage? Do they use their hands effectively to create separation when there isn't much? Do they understand how to keep working to open areas when things break down, or the first window for their route is closed?
These are the kind of little things that receivers of all speeds can do to help themselves break free of a defender and give their quarterback a target.
It's easier for me to see these things with some receivers versus others because of the different schemes and quarterbacks. If I can't reasonably discern whether they should be able to get open against NFL competition, then I usually have a hard time giving them a positive evaluation.
The second thing I need to see is probably going to sound funny, but I'm dead-ass serious. They have to be able to show me that that the can actually catch the football consistently. You can run all the 4.3 40s in the world, but if you can't catch, you can't really help my team all that much. At least not as a wide receiver. Maybe if we need a kickoff return man we will give you a call.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE
DE, Oklahoma State
Watching Emmanuel Ogbah play makes my head hurt. That is definitely not a compliment.
It just doesn't make any sense!
Duane Burleson/Getty Images
Jack Conklin, OT
OT, Michigan State
I started watching Michigan State left tackle Jack Conklin, having never seen him play before this. After a couple of games, I decided that he was a guard at the next level. It wasn't that he played badly ... It was actually more a combination of two things.
He's a mauler type of run blocker who likes to give defenders a li'l extra something something at the end of the play if possible. Nothing dirty, he looks to leave a man flat on his back like a cockroach before the whistle blows if possible.
And I can dig it!
That's normally the kind of "scrappy" mentality that you see from future guards rather than tackles. It's not that most tackles are soft, it's just that most of them are usually more athletic while the guards rely more on brute force, the good ones at least. Conklin played like a guard most of the time and in this context that is very much a compliment.
Second, I didn't like his pass set. At all.
Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Nkemdiche, DL
DL, Ole Miss
I feel like I need to remind people before reading this breakdown on Robert Nkemdiche that my assessments don't take into account off-field issues at all. These are projections based strictly on how I view each prospect as a player and whether I think their skill sets should transition well to the NFL. A guy can play like a top-five pick, but we all know that character issues could potentially knock them down draft boards.
Nkemdiche did play like a first-round pick in the five games I watched. That doesn't mean he was perfect or even close, but he showed me enough in those five games that I can foresee Nkemdiche being a force on the next level. I think a team with an attacking style 4-3 defense (where "attacking" means they want their interior defensive linemen to get up the field and rush the passer just like their defensive ends) would be the perfect landing spot for him.
That doesn't mean he can't play well in other schemes, too. I just personally believe his greatest chance for success in the NFL is as an undertackle/three-technique. Sure, he could be a five-technique in a 3-4 and maybe even a nose tackle in a 4-3, but I don't think a team will get nearly as much bang for their buck in those positions as they would if they put him at undertackle.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Corey Coleman, WR
Corey Coleman is a bit of a contrast from the first two wide receivers I broke down for this year's draft, Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell and TCU's Josh Doctson. The latter two are both 6'2 and over 200 pounds. Coleman stands 5'11 and weighs 194 pounds, so there's definitely a difference in stature. But let's be real here; the difference between Coleman and the other two guys when you watch them play is the difference in game speed.
Coleman's speed is pretty ridiculous ... in a good way.
Don't get me wrong, I think Doctson and Treadwell both have enough speed to compete in the NFL (I do admit to a tiny bit of skepticism with Treadwell), but Coleman has that peeeeeeeeewwwn to leave DBs in the dust. His pro day 4.37-second 40 time was cool and all, but Coleman looks even faster than that when you watch him streaking down the field.
Coleman has that you-better-put-a-safety-over-the-top-of-him speed that can be invaluable for most offenses and offensive coordinators. He also has the kind of lateral quickness that can be used effectively in a variety of other ways like punt returns, when combined with his crazy straight line speed.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Leonard Floyd, LB
You know that old saying, "Jack of all trades, master of none?" It perfectly describes what I saw when I watched Leonard Floyd play.
Whether out of necessity or by choice, Georgia lined this kid up all over the place in the four games I used for this breakdown. One play he might be lined up as a 3-4 inside linebacker. Next, he might be at outside linebacker walked out on the slot in pass coverage. The play after that, he might have his hand in the dirt as a defensive end rushing the passer -- you just never really knew where he might be.
Problem is, even though he played pretty well overall in all those spots, he wasn't really outstanding at ... anything over the course of those four games.
Maybe the most impressive thing about Floyd's play was how consistently fluid he was in pass coverage. Considering the fact that he is 6'6, weighs over 240 pounds and is being considered primarily as an edge rusher, that's not what you would normally expect to see.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Taylor Decker, OT
OT, Ohio State
Let me start out with this disclaimer: As I have said previously I normally want to watch at least four games of a guy before writing a breakdown, optimally five games. The reason is I usually need to watch that many plays against different players on different teams to get a good feel for who a guy is and, maybe more importantly, who he isn't.
With Taylor Decker I only got to watch the spades equivalent of three and a possible games. The Michigan State video may have been missing some plays because it was certainly shorter than the other videos and some of the plays were definitely out of sequence. If there were plays missing from that video, I have no idea whether they were good plays or bad plays for Decker.
The problem for me is, as we all know, time waits on no man. The draft is quickly approaching, so I won't have time to wait for a site to post more tape of prospects. If I have already watched three games and can get at least that possible fourth from somewhere, I'll take it at this point, especially if I think I've gotten a good feel from what I've already watched.
I do feel comfortable with my assessment of Decker, but there is a chance I missed something, good or bad, because I only was able to see that three and some of a fourth game. I wanted to point that out so that three years from now if I look silly because Decker's actual performance is significantly different from what I project him to be in the NFL, folks will look back and see that I was already copping pleas.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Sheldon Rankins, DT
Watching Sheldon Rankins play in five games, I like him a lot, but I haaaaated the way Louisville used him for much of those games. Which isn't to say they used him wrong. Sometimes you have to put guys in positions that aren't necessarily most favorable to them, but are most favorable to the team when you're trying to win ball games.
I get that.
I just selfishly wish I could have seen Rankins play defensive tackle exclusively rather than anywhere else on the line.
It's not that Rankins was awful at defensive end or anything. He's a little shorter and not quite as fast as you usually need to be to kick ass on the edge the way he kicked ass inside. Hell, he was just a lot more fun to watch at defensive tackle.
The Auburn game was particularly frustrating to watch for me because it seemed like damn near the only times they didn't have Rankins at defensive end, they had him at tackle stunting wide for contain on the opposite side of a blitz. There just weren't many opportunities for Rankins to make plays in that situation.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Will Fuller, WR
WR, Notre Dame
If you could do it all over again and based on the totality of his NFL career thus far, would you still draft Ted Ginn Jr. in the first round? That is basically the question any team looking to pick Will Fuller in the first round of this year's draft has to ask themselves.
Well, let me amend that.
Would you draft Ginn in the first round again if you also took most of his special teams stats away? Because even without seeing Fuller returning punts in those five games, I don't see him in the same class as Ginn when it comes to being a return guy. Ginn has averaged over 11 yards per punt return with four touchdowns for his career, after all.
Fuller just doesn't appear to be shifty enough for all that.
What Fuller does have is long speed aplenty. There's no denying that, and just about every team covets that one dude who can take the top off a defense consistently with just the threat that they might go deep. Other than that, however, I don't see Fuller as being above average at much else.
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Spence, DE
DE, Eastern Kentucky
As y'all should know by now, I do not like to do breakdowns of guys who I don't get to watch play at least four games. Unfortunately, this offseason I have only been able to find three of Noah Spence's games and the NFL Draft is fast approaching. Therefore, I have decided to break my informal rule and do a quasi-breakdown of Spence so that I can at least put something out there about what I saw in the three games that were available.
The whole reason why I would do this for Spence and maybe not every other player is because I think Spence is a special player, a special pass rusher. If he was just some dude on the field, then I wouldn't feel the need to do his breakdown at all.
Spence looks like he could be the best edge rusher in this year's draft, off-the-field issues notwithstanding.
So what could have made me feel this way after seeing just three games?
I'm glad you asked.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Dodd, DL
After watching Kevin Dodd play in four games I can definitely see why some teams have him pretty high on their draft boards as an edge rusher. He isn't all that explosive off the ball, but he has developed this window-wiper move that is both efficient and very effective. In a class that doesn't have many pass rushers that can consistently win around the corner, that makes Dodd a hot commodity.
It doesn't hurt that he also has really good size at 6'5 and 277 pounds with arms that are 34 inches long. His physical dimensions give him a scheme versatility advantage over a guy like Noah Spence, for instance, who might be a better pass rusher, but at 6'2 and around 250 can only fit on the outside for now and may even get physically overwhelmed by some of the bigger tackles in the NFL on the edge sometimes. Whether you run a 3-4 or a 4-3, there is somewhere for Dodd to fit and play well.
Dodd wasn't exactly He-Man out there against the run, but he was able to set the edge and hold his ground for the most part. He actually did a really good job of coming off and getting full extension of his arms when he took on offensive tackles, which allowed him to both control the tackles and also force the running back to try to cut back on off-tackle plays, but I figured I wouldn't bore you by posting a bunch of clips of him doing that, because while it was really good technique, he wasn't usually making the play.
Where Dodd really made money was when he stunted inside the tackles on running plays. On most of those plays he actually beat the would-be blockers clean with the kind of quickness that is uncommon for a man his size. Several times that resulted in a tackle for loss, two in particular stand out against Alabama and their Heisman Trophy-winning tailback, Derrick Henry.
Against a pretty good offensive line and a damn good running back, Dodd was able to rise to the occasion and wreck shop in the backfield.
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Jones, DT
DT, Mississippi State
As I said on Twitter while checking out his tape, Chris Jones was fun and frustrating to watch. Since I'm in a good mood, let's talk about the fun stuff first.
Jones is a big-ass dude at 6'5, 310 pounds. If you are keeping score at home, that means he is actually two inches taller than former Alabama defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson. Jones moves like a much smaller man. His deadly combination of power and quickness was on full display at times in each of the five games of his that I watched. It didn't hurt that Mississippi State's scheme allowed him to show a wide range of abilities.
I have to say that this was one situation where the team moving the player around a lot benefited both the team and the player. It gave the team a lot of flexibility with their calls and allowed Jones to showcase the full extent of his talent from almost literally every alignment where you could ever see a defensive lineman.
I saw him as a five-technique defensive end bull rush a left tackle a couple steps, then rip off to hit the quarterback and get a pressure on the play.
I also saw him as lined up in a 4-3 head up on a right tackle and split a double team with the right guard to make a tackle in the backfield against a toss iso on a pretty good running back.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Billings, DT
You can't help but be a little enamored with Andrew Billings after you watch him play. He's undersized and not necessarily all that blessed in the athletic ability department, but that dude fights his ass off on the field to make plays. It was such a contrast to the last guy I broke down that it just jumped off the screen. I just love to see a guy hustling to try to get in on every play.
And not just those plays in his general vicinity, either. Dude was running down plays all over the field!
But it wasn't just the obvious plays like those that stuck out to me about Billings' effort. It was also the play where he's getting triple-teamed but he is still fighting to push them all back to the quarterback.
It was the play where he is locked down because of a double team by the center and right guard, but he sees the quarterback trying to step up so instead of just standing there he flings his body (unsuccessfully I might add) in the quarterback's general direction trying to make a play.