CFF Overview: DI - Buyer Beware
The NFL Draft is about projecting what a player could become as much as judging what they are right now and how they can help immediately. That forward projection can lead to overdrafting players based expected development rather than the player they are right now and some of the severe limitations to their games.
Continuing our look at defensive tackles and 3-4 defensive ends (previously: Top of the Crop | Something to Work With) we take a look at a group of talented defensive linemen whose theoretical potential is perhaps outweighing the player they are right now and are most likely to become.
Carl Davis, Iowa
There was perhaps no more frustrating player for me this season than Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis who at times looked like a player capable of being a destructive force while at others was almost completely invisible. At his best, and Davis did put his whole game together for full games and consecutive games, Davis proves that he is among the most talented defensive players in the draft but the consistency simply isn’t there and he has a tendency to play without any semblance of a mean streak.
At 6-foot-5 and weighing in at 320 pounds at the Combine, Davis has the size teams crave and on tape he showed the ability to be a disruptive force with impressive games against Wisconsin and particularly Nebraska to finish the season, but the consistency before that was lacking.
After proving himself to be a level apart against the likes of Northern Iowa and Ball State to open the year, Davis then proceeded to turn in a sequence of pedestrian performances before turning things up against Wisconsin towards end, maintaining that form through Iowa’s bowl game and putting in a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.
That middle patch of the season is the troubling thing for judging Davis, was there a good reason for the drop off or is he simply in an inconsistent player? At his best, Davis has shown the ability over stretches that could he could be one of the best players in the draft, but at others he is a non-factor and has a tendency to play like a 290-pound defensive tackle against the run rather than a 320-pound behemoth.
Signature Stat: Recorded nearly half of his 37 pressures (17/37) this season in the first and last games of Iowa’s regular season against Northern Iowa and Nebraska.
Eddie Goldman, Florida State
Regarded in some quarters as a potential first-round selection, as high in some places as the middle of the first, Goldman simply doesn’t fit the ball for a top draft pick. In that range you want a special player and at least some spark as a pass rusher from a defensive lineman and Goldman is lacking in that area. A good-but-not-great run defender, Goldman fits physically, standing 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 336 pounds, but his play on the field doesn’t match up.
What Goldman does well is win the initial contact and uses his upper body to control blockers, but he doesn’t get rid of blocks and get in around ball-carriers as often as you’d like to see for a player touted so high in the draft. One of his rare productive games as a pass rusher came against Louisville with five pressures, but that was as much about the man blocking him as Goldman himself; that level of production was lacking throughout the rest of the season.
Goldman’s strength and control against single team blocks will intrigue and if a team can teach him to shed more consistently they will get a solid two-down run defender.
Signature Stat: His 4.9 Run Stop Percentage in games against Power 5 opponents placed him outside the Top 50 draft-eligible defensive tackles and 3-4 defensive ends.
Arik Armstead, Oregon
You often hear Broncos’ quarterback Brock Osweiler referred to as “6’8 Brock Osweiler” and, to some extent, Armstead could be described in the same way because his height and his frame right now is the thing to get most excited about him as a player. His height gives him great length and he can extend to control blockers well, but he does not shed blocks well and has a very limited impact as a pass rusher at this stage of his development.
Armstead is, of course, very raw and coming out a year early teams will have essentially a blank canvas to mold into the player they want, but they have a lot of work to do. There are flashes of the player he could be and to his credit he showed his potential with a strong performance in the National Championship game against Ohio State, leading the Ducks’ defense with four stops. At this point, Armstead is far more about the theory of what he could be than the player he is likely to be in the short-term, making him a risky proposition too high in the draft.
Signature Stat: His Pass Rushing Productivity of 5.3 against Power 5 opposition placed 15th among draft eligible 3-4 defensive ends.
Gabe Wright, Auburn
A player who flashed explosion but extremely rarely and his lack of consistent production does not match up to some of the explosive plays that he produced throughout the 2015 season. In the regular season opener, Wright was deployed as a defensive end against Arkansas’ powerful offensive line and in games later in the season it became clear how Wright may have held up against the Razorbacks’ running attack; not well.
Wright added weight at the Combine to tip the scales at 300 pounds, but his performances on the field imply he is merely a pass rusher at the next level and his production in a rotation on the Auburn defensive line raises question marks as to whether he will be productive enough once there. There are plays to catch the eye with explosion that a lot of guards struggle to live with but registering only 20 pressures throughout the season is not the sort of consistent production you expect to see from a player with Wright’s talent.
Signature Stat: His PRP of 4.1 against Power 5 opposition was tied for 28th amongst draft eligible defensive tackles, behind the likes of Jordan Phillips who, unlike Wright, aren’t being drafted for their pass rushing ability.
Follow Ben on Twitter: @PFF_Ben