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NFL Draft 2014: Hump moves & extra gears, a scouting lexicon

Hump moves, burst, stacking and shedding ... the terminology sounds funny, but each word or phrase has a very specific meaning when it comes to evaluating draft prospects. Danny Kelly gets us ready for the NFL Draft with an illustrated guide to what those words mean.

The 2014 NFL Draft is less than two months away. If you're not already voraciously consuming scouting reports for players that you or your team might have interest in, you will be soon. These reports come in many styles and formats, but regardless of the author or resource, there seems to be a recognizable vernacular common to them all. This scout jargon might sound like technical mumbo jumbo or vague lingo, but each term or phrase is rooted in the history of the NFL and used by evaluators in the industry.

A few weeks ago, I walked you through the NFL scouting process, and now I thought I'd take a few scouting terms I hear thrown around regularly and try and break down what they mean to the scouts that use them.

Let's go position-by-position. First up ...


Closing burst
, click-and-close

When scouts and NFL Draft evaluators break down corners, two common terms you hear over and over are "closing burst" and "click-and-close." They're largely synonymous, but both relate to a cornerback's ability to transition from a backpedal or grape-vine style strafe to a forward movement.

"Lightning quick click-and-close ..."

Watch Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard below:

Video via the excellent resource,

Notice Dennard's backpedal, how he keeps his eyes in the backfield, and as soon -- and I mean, the instant -- he sees where the play is going, he transitions from that backpedal into a full-on run forward, closing with explosiveness on the ball carrier. He makes a strong tackle to finish the play.

Click-and-close or closing speed can be apparent when playing off coverage or coverage in the slot, and can relate to a corner or nickelback's ability to transition one direction or another to close the inevitable gap on a receiver. It's an essential and important attribute for a position group made up of the game's fastest athletes. As former NFL quarterback and local Seattle radio analyst Hugh Millen said a few years back,

"In the NFL, the corner is the guy on the playground, when you play tag, that always won. He's got that great agility. He is the cheetah running down the gazelle on the Serengeti. The corner is the best athlete on the football field, and I'll even include receivers and running backs, in that group, because think about the skill-set for a cornerback: he doesn't have to have great hand-eye coordination, he just has to be able to follow you."

All he has to do is follow you. Remember, the receiver has the advantage of knowing which direction he's going to run and cut to, and he knows when the ball might arrive. The cornerback can guess or recognize tendencies, but overall, he just has to react in full speed to a guy running right at him and not allow enough separation for a completion. Closing burst and click-and-close are huge.

Strong jam to re-route receivers

Press-man is becoming more prevalent in the NFL, and the ability to play on the line of scrimmage and jam a receiver is in higher demand. It's not an easy proposition. The act of going for a jam puts the corner in a vulnerable position -- miss, allowing a free release, and you're already a step or two behind the receiver. However, if you get a solid punch to the shoulder of a pass catcher, his route timing and route direction has been disrupted, even if it's ever so slightly.

An effective jam can be the difference between a completion and an incompletion.

In the NFL, for the most part, passing games are intricately designed, right down to the number of steps a receiver takes before making his cut, the number of yards he is running downfield, and the number of steps the quarterback is taking before releasing the football. Your quarterback is letting the ball fly on his third, fifth, or seventh step as he drops back from center (plus maybe a hitch or two) -- and you better be open and in the location he's expecting you to be in, RIGHT. WHEN. HE. HITS. THAT. BACK. FOOT. It's highly, highly timing based. An effective jam, even if it only re-routes the receiver by a foot or two or slows him up by a step or two, can be the difference between a completion and an incompletion.

A corner who is physical enough administer a strong jam and still fluid enough to flip his hips and recover quickly enough to run with a receiver is going to get snaps in the NFL.

Speaking of fluidity and flippage of hips ...

Has a low backpedal, tight hipped, fluid hips, flips his hips

Fluid athleticism is fairly subjective, I think, but simply refers to a player's ability to change direction without losing much momentum or speed. I would say the antonym for fluidity would be ... maybe, herky jerky, if that makes sense. Can a player who is strafing to the right expecting an outside release quickly flip his hips the other direction to stick with a slant? Can a player transition from a backpedal to a dead-on sprint downfield to stay under a deep bomb and break it up? Hip fluidity is one of the most important traits at the cornerback position. A stiff-hipped corner will be extremely susceptible to double moves or inside-out jukes because once he gets going one direction, it's all over.

Here's more from Michigan State's Dennard -- it's just one example, but watch as he transitions from a standstill to a backpedal to a dead run in the matter of three or four footsteps. This is fluid athleticism.

Video via

Below, he anticipates an outside release but then reacts to a post-route up the middle of the field. He almost floats as he nearly opens the gate outside, but then flips back inside with outside leverage. A stiff-hipped player would have gotten his feet tripped up making this transition, likely, but Dennard quickly moves from a backpedal to downfield run with ease.

Video via

Let's go back to the first example for one second.

Watch Dennard's helmet as he reacts to the receiver turn his head back toward the quarterback.

Locates the ball well; tracks the ball in the air

A cornerback's ability to recognize route depth and route strategy is key. Above, you can see Dennard run with the receiver down the sideline, and as soon as the pass catcher turns his head to find the ball, Dennard follows suit with perfect fundamental to find the ball. The pass is way off the mark, but Dennard had set himself up perfectly to intercept the pass had it been accurate.

Richard Sherman is among the best in the NFL at this skill. A player that I've seen compared to Sherman is Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste.

SJB, also a wide receiver turned cornerback like Sherman was at Stanford, understands typical receiver routes and can recognize when they start sinking their hips at their route stem. Once he sees them stem their route -- keeping in mind that a lot of what a receiver is trying to do depends on down, distance, and field position -- he can turn his head toward the line of scrimmage and look for the ball in flight.

Baptiste is not a perfect prospect, but one of my favorite things about him is that he's good timing his head turn to locate the ball. He seems to know where the receiver is going before the receiver goes there. See below -- this is a third down against Penn State, in overtime, so in other words, a big time situation. Jean-Baptiste makes a hell of a play.

Take note of his eyes -- he sees Allen Robinson stem his route out toward the sideline, recognizes the route, and turns his head immediately to find the ball. Had he just tried to play Allen or been unaware of where the ball was, this pass might've been completed. Instead, he plays the ball in the air and cuts of the angle of the pass. Turning your head to find the ball is extremely dangerous for a corner, because if you mistime that, you lose track of where the receiver has gone and you're absolute toast. It's also why it's such a valuable skill if you're good at it.

Video via

Inside linebackers/Safeties

I'm grouping linebackers and safeties for the sake of brevity, though each positional group is certainly different. Regardless, both require a few skills ...

Sifts through the trash/sorts through the trash

Whether you're a safety or a linebacker, you must possess the ability to avoid the mass of tangled bodies where the offensive line meets the defensive line, somehow manage to keep an eye on where the ball carrier is, avoid any pulling guards or tackles, and wrap up to make a tackle. Easy.

Watch Alabama's C.J. Mosley demonstrate:

It happens quickly, but you can see him diagnose a run, avoid a pulling guard, then hit the ball carrier.

Stiff in coverage

In "The New NFL," tight ends and running backs are used more and more as receivers, and thus, linebackers and safeties are more relied upon to cover the pass. The old prototype of the 260-pound middle linebacker is going the way of the buffalo as teams look more for speed and athleticism at their interior position. Outside linebackers look and move more like safeties.

Stiffness in coverage with regards to inside/outside linebackers and safeties is pretty much what it sounds like: an inability to change direction quickly and run with the likes of Vernon Davis, Jimmy Graham, and Jermichael Finley. Coverage skills are highly desired at these spots.

Instincts, quick diagnosis skills

When you hear that a player has good instincts, that's really just a cliche that means a player has excellent diagnostic skills/speed and has done a great job of studying tendencies of the opposing offense. An instinctive linebacker can quickly tell where a player is going based on what the offensive line is doing, get to his gap, and blow up the play. Obviously, this is not simple, but a player with great instincts (AKA great diagnostic speed) is more valuable than one with just pure athleticism.

Kiko Alonso displayed this last year, and the standard bearers are obviously NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, and Luke Kuechly. Safeties like Earl Thomas and Troy Polamalu have excellent read-react speed, and because of this always seem to be in the right place at the right time. It's not luck.

Stack and shed

Another term you might hear scouts use for linebacker play is their ability to stack and shed. I am not certain where the term originated, but I always picture it as someone stacking a box on an already-high stack of boxes. When an offensive lineman comes at you, "stack" him by getting your hands into his body and lifting up, swiping away the block and shedding to one direction or another.

Below, Mosley stacks-and-sheds a pulling right guard, keeping his eyes in the backfield to make sure he sheds to the correct side. He makes the tackle.

Video via

Defensive linemen/outside linebackers

On to the defensive line, including tackles, defensive ends, and outside linebackers.

Plays too high

This is common. It's a leverage thing, and simply put, the player stands upright too quickly and is easily pushed off his spot, bullied, or makes no progress forward.

Quick/explosive off the snap, times the snap

For me, this is honestly one of the most important factors to consider when evaluating defensive linemen. I watched Michael Bennett -- who ran a 5.0 second 40 at the Combine when he came out -- dominate games at times this season, and it all came down to his unbelievable ability to time the snap and explode out of his stance. This is why 10-yard splits are more important for these positions.

Pitt's Aaron Donald is the prime example of this. Donald is so quick and explosive off the snap that the guard in front of him barely gets his hands onto him. This forces the quarterback to throw quickly, and it results in an interception. Disruption is production.

Video via

Locates the runner

Another one of my favorite players in this year's draft is Florida's Dominique Easley, whose timing at the snap is probably second to none. He's often the first out of his stance on the snap and regularly makes his way into the backfield to disrupt run lanes or pressure the quarterback.

One byproduct of his aggression and explosion at the snap though is that he can, at times, lose track of where the ball has gone.

At the NFL level, everyone's an athlete. While there are more subpackage pass-rush specialists these days, you still must possess the ability to play the pass while defending the run. Easley will need to work on being explosive yet keeping his eyes and head up to locate the football.

Club move, shoulder dip, hump move, rip move

These are pass-rush terms. The club move is essentially a powerful swing of the arm, using it like a club to swat away a defender and his arms/hands. The shoulder dip is most common on outside speed rushes, where the player gets a slight edge on the tackle to the outside, then dips down to slide under any leverage said tackle has.

The hump move starts as an outside rush, and when the tackle overcompensates, you "hump" back inside, pushing the tackle back upfield.

A rip move is more technical, and utilizes the outside arm to rip in underneath and across the face of an offensive lineman.

On to the offensive side of the football.

Wide receivers/tight ends

Focus drops

This term is used a lot, and I'm not entirely sure scouts differentiate it from normal, rocks-for-hands drops, but for me, a focus drop involves the receiver taking his eyes off the ball prematurely to start running upfield or brace for a hit. Regular drops are worse than focus drops, because in theory you can teach a player to watch the football in.

Too easily redirected

This is the inverse of the above explanation of the jam. A receiver that cannot get a clean release from the line into his route, or is easily pushed off his route, will cause issues for an offense. He won't be where he needs to be when he needs to be there. He'll either not get the ball or the ball will go to where he's supposed to be and possibly get picked.

That extra gear

I saw former Ravens' scout Daniel Jeremiah say Colorado's Paul Richardson "has an extra gear" on Twitter the other week, and I'm wondering if this is the play that he was watching when he said it.

Video via

The corner has what appears to be an angle on Richardson after the initial catch, and against most receivers, probably would have run the play down to avoid the score. Richardson hits the NOS though and just flies up the sideline, running away from the defender with absurd speed. Teams will love this. Speed kills.

Quicker than fast

You hear this expression in relation to receivers, and it's pretty much the inverse to the above video. Short-area burst and agility is very important for a receiver because it allows him to get separation in the short-to-intermediate area. Suddenness is a synonym. You see a lot of slot receivers that can be quicker than fast and still make a name for themselves in the NFL, because they can get open underneath.

These players won't take the top off the defense like Richardson above, but can prove valuable in moving the chains.

Sinks hips, rounds off routes, gears up/gears down into cuts

Route running. The ability to run with precision, cut and change direction without slowing down or gearing up and gearing down. It's not the easiest thing to spot, but watch a few savvy pros in Doug Baldwin and Julian Edelman do it in practice here, then watch prospects do it on the field to compare. Release, footwork, balance, precision.

High points the ball, plucks the ball at its highest point

A lot of people find these expressions annoying because the ball is not at its highest point once it reaches the receiver, in most cases, but regardless, we all know what it means, for the most part.

Go up and get it. Attack the football. Flyer's up.

LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the best in the 2014 Draft at this. I want him on my team.

Video via

Hands catcher vs. body catcher

Again, fairly obvious here, but it's something to note when scouting a receiver. Does that player go up and use both hands to pluck the ball? Do they watch passes into their hands or do they bucket-catch everything? Do they let passes into their body? At the NFL level, body catching too often is frowned upon. Use those mitts.

Catch radius

Catch radius is the combination of height, arm length/wingspan, and vertical jump, and represents the sheer area you can throw the ball to in order for the receiver to go get it. Body control is a big factor here too.

Running Backs

Second-level burst

That extra gear.

Good awareness to pick up blitzes

An extremely important factor for a potential NFL back. Your offensive coordinator is not going to want to play you much if you can't pick up a blitz. He prefers the quarterback to you in most cases. Protect him.

Below, the play ends up a bit broken after a Jameis Winston scramble, but this is a nice blitz pickup by Devonta Freeman. Delayed blitzes can often be the toughest to pick up because in a lot of cases, the running back is taught to evaluate whether he needs to protect vs. the blitz, and if no one comes, he releases out to the flats to catch a pass.

Here, the delayed blitz almost works, but Freeman sees it at the last second, understands that he's responsible for it -- which is no easy thing -- and picks it up.

Video via

Good forward lean/runs behind his pads vs. runs upright

Integral. It's leverage. It's the difference between running through arm tackles and getting slammed backwards by a defender. A good forward lean is pretty apparent, and a player that exhibits it generally falls forward when getting tackled. This is important.

LSU's backup running back Alfred Blue is a bit of a sleeper this year, but in my opinion, runs with a nice forward lean at all times.

Video via

East-west vs. north-south

Is the back always trying to break a run outside and/or make a bunch of people miss? He's east-west. Is he running up in to the briar patch, looking to plant his facemask into linebackers' chest plates? He's north-south.

Offensive linemen

Targets in the open field

This can be tough for offensive linemen. Once they've moved downfield past the line of scrimmage, they're tasked with locating and blocking a linebacker or safety. Often said linebackers/safeties are faster than them. This can lead to lunging, missing, or just a general look of confusion as to where to be on the part of the lineman. A great second-level blocker should be know who he's blocking even before he snaps out of his stance, take a good angle, and latch on while keeping a wide base and solid balance.

Stephen White highlighted Greg Robinson's second-level blocking in his profile of the Auburn tackle.

Fluid, consistent kick-slide, light-footed kick slide

The kick-slide is just the first step or two that a tackle takes on the snap, in passing situations. It's important because if a tackle is slow to kick slide, NFL level pass rushers will be past them or through them in an instant.

Active hands, strong punch, heavy handed

Simply put, shock and awe.

It's an underrated and underappreciated aspect of offensive line play, but a strong punch or heavy-handed approach can be deadly. It seems obvious, but a jolting punch to a pass rusher can set them off balance, disrupt their angle, and most importantly, keep them off of the tackle or guard's body. Once a pass rusher gets into an offensive lineman's body, he has all the control and leverage, and can really cause issues.

Clemson OT Brandon Thomas shows heavy hand use and a powerful punch below to clear a run lane.

Video via

Anchors, re-anchors

An offensive lineman's ability to anchor is just what it sounds like -- can he dig his heels in and stop a bullrush? Re-anchoring is even harder but is a valuable skill. Once an offensive lineman has been uprooted from his spot -- likely from letting a defender get into his body -- can he regain balance, leverage, and re-anchor?

Bends at the waist, waist bender

The ideal lineman bends at the knees, keeps a wide base with his feet, and has a flat back. Waist benders get out over their skis, so to speak, and are easily swatted away.

Gets overextended, falls off blocks

Related to waist bending. A waist bender that is attempting to run block can easily have his arms clubbed down and then fall forward, and ending up on the ground is not really the idea unless you're cut blocking.

Passes off stunts

This requires anticipation and teamwork. It also requires that a player keeps his head on a swivel. I've seen NFL players that can't seem to figure out how to do this, so it's nice when a prospect can.

Video via


For the record, I've purposely left off the quarterback position because, frankly, the quarterback position is such a quagmire to evaluate and there are so many factors, all with industry terms, that it would be its own column. Maybe some time soon.

Past quarterback, there are a few position-less terms that you often hear.

Plug and play

This usually refers to a polished player when it comes to technique, a player that has experience in a pro-style offense, and a player that has exhibited the ability to learn an intricate playbook. Plug and play simply means: go plug him into your offense in Game 1.

Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane

This is a funny little scout expression that just refers to a player that looks the part physically and athletically (a freak) but doesn't really have the temperament necessary to play in such a violent game. Too passive, not physical, shies from contact, can't figure out what's going on, no instincts -- these types of things come into play.

Plays nasty, plays through the whistle

On the other hand, sometimes you get guys that aren't quite as gifted in the athletic department but have the perfect mentality to play football. Loves hitting, loves hurting people, loves intimidating. Intense, mean ... you get the picture. Takes pleasure in quick little cheap shots after the play is dead, and sets the tone for your team -- you'll often find these guys in the trenches.


There you have it. Hopefully this quick refresher guide makes it easier for you to process and digest the hundreds of scouting reports you'll be reading before early May.