If you read yesterday’s column on offensive players, trust me when I say I won’t treat the defensive side of the ball any different. Generally, this side of the ball has players that have more aggressive personalities, with more character issues such as arrests, fights, etc. This will change from year to year. These are some of the defensive players who I am very interested in as we get set for the Scouting Combine.
Adrian Clayborn: He might be the most versatile defensive lineman in the draft. He has the ability to play and dominate on the edge as both a run stopper and pass rusher. He can sink inside and be disruptive with strong use of hands to shock and shed on the move with good initial quickness to hit the gap and split double teams.
My concerns: 1. He was born with Erb’s Palsy in his right arm due to his head and neck being torched while being delivered via the vaginal canal. He suffered nerve damage to his spine and neck along with his arm and the right side of his body. All 32 medical staffs will need to determine whether or not this will get worse. Will there be continuous rehab issues and missed time during the season? And what program will he be on during the offseason?
2. He was arrested in January 2009 for assaulting a cab driver (all because the driver honked at him). He pled guilty to a misdemeanor of disorderly conduct and paid a fine. This will be a very interesting interview. Punching a cabby for honking?
I really like this player. If he comes out of the medical testing with flying colors and you feel good about his off-field situation and there are no other incidents, take him.
Marvin Austin: Austin has prototypical size for an interior defensive lineman at 6-2, 308. He is a good athlete with a very good first step. He has good quickness and lower body explosion to anchor against the run and the ability to gap penetrate and defeat double teams with inside rush ability. His motor will idle too often and he has been labeled an underachiever, but when this player gives it his all he is disruptive and can’t be blocked.
My concerns: 1. Austin was declared ineligible for the 2010 season for his dealings with an agent. The incident set off a major investigation that led to the firing of staff members including assistant coach John Blake. Blake resigned, but sources tell me he was pushed out to save Butch Davis’ job.
2. Which player are you going to get – the lazy player or the dominant one? When I was a director of college scouting for the Carolina Panthers, we drafted a defensive lineman in the second round: Kris Jenkins. He had the same major concerns as Austin does. Jenkins is a better athlete than Austin and was bigger, but he carried the same tag of ‘underachiever.’ Jenkins showed up at the Blue-Gray game and totally dominated the drills including team periods as well. Steve Hale, the director of the Senior Bowl, invited him to show his ability against the top competition in the country, and he was dominant again. We drafted Jenkins in the second round, and despite injuries and weight issues, he earned several trips to the Pro Bowl and was the most dominant big man I helped draft in my 15 years.
DeAndre McDaniels: This safety has the size, coverage skills and the ability to play in and around the box like an undersized bandit linebacker. Let’s get right to the point: Everyone has a mother. Some of us have sisters, girlfriends or wives.
While this young player has a chance at a solid NFL career, his off-the-field issues are a concern. He was arrested in June, 2008 for assault and battery (a misdemeanor). The female was his girlfriend and called police. Once police responded, she said, “He covered my head and face with a comforter and choked me, hit me and threw me down stairs.” According to my source, McDaniels completed an intervention program that wiped his record clean.
As the VP of player personnel for the St. Louis Rams and a director with Carolina, players that carried guns, dealt drugs and beat women went on the do not draft board because tigers never change their stripes, and the chances of that happening again is very likely.
Brandon Hogan: A former high-school quarterback that started at receiver upon arriving at West Virginia, he is an outstanding athlete that could line up at several different positions. He settled at cornerback. Hogan possesses the skill set for kick returns and he has a history of production. He will compete for a starting position immediately.
My concerns: 1. He received a citation for public urination and disorderly conduct in the spring of 2010. Some teams will blow this off as a college prank. But for me, I’m questioning maturity and possible drinking issues. After he is drafted and should he be arrested for the same act outside of a nightclub, the team owner will want to know if this is a pattern developing, and my answer would be yes.
2. How important is football? During 2010 not only did his academics fade, but he was distracted and his focus on football (weight room, running sessions, etc.) on a scale of 1-10 was a 4. He allowed himself to get out of shape and reported to spring football out of shape. The questions for this player at the Combine are going to have to do with his desire and character. How important is football? Do you have passion for the game? Do you have a drinking issue? How many times do you go out to clubs? Do you think the weight room and offseason workouts are important to the development of football players? These are just for starters.
Von Miller: Miller is a very good athlete with size, speed and brings natural pass-rush skills to the table. He lined up with his hand in the dirt for a high percentage of the time at Texas A&M. He has an explosive first step, the ability to turn speed into power, strong use of hands to tilt and toss a tackle off balance and burst to the quarterback drop zone with production.
My concern: 1. What is the best defensive front for this outside linebacker? Is it the 3-4 where he can take advantage of his ability to rush the passer? He has man-coverage skills and the ability to keep his outside arm free to stretch the play to the sideline. Or is the 4-3 a better fit where he would line up from the stacked position most of the time? He does have very good football instincts with eyes to flow to the hole and the ball carrier, which he displayed at the Senior Bowl. Miller is a good player with burst, acceleration and tackling skills. My advice to any team would be to grab him regardless of the defensive scheme you use, though he could be a Pro Bowler in the 3-4 right away.