CFF Overview: DI – Something to Work With
As we continue to look through the mass of CFF data we have collected, we look at Defensive Interior lineman (Defensive Tackles and 3-4 Defensive Ends) who are outside the top tier but definitely have something to work with.
All four of these players are below the “top of the crop” group because they do not have the all-around skill set of those above them. However, all four of them have one or two strong points to build from. When these players are drafted there will be reasons to be cautiously optimistic that they will develop into useful NFL players.
Jordan Phillips is just a step below the top of the crop players, but there is a lot to like and build upon. Phillips is a 329-pound 1-tech defensive tackle, who is able and willing to hold up against double team. A raw prospect who still needs to be coached up, but he has natural strength where he can take on double teams and not be moved. However, he gets himself into trouble when he is looking for double teams that are not there when he should be taking over one-on-one blocks. While Phillips has the ability to control double teams, he has yet to develop his hands to shed consistently and make more plays, this could come as he learns the game better.
Signature stat: Run Stop Percentage of 9.0% fifth-best in draft class among DTs & 3-4 DEs against Power 5 teams.
With everyone looking for NFL comparisons, Malcom Brown does not look like any other player in the NFL. He has some of the strongest and quickest hands in college, as he is able to shed from any position. However, Brown is often put into losing positions because he is looking to attack from the snap and not set up his blocker first. In the NFL I’m not sure if he will be able to shed at the same level and with the same ease he did for Texas, which could lead to him being blown off the line of scrimmage and leaving the second level defenders in a tough spot. When Brown is beaten, it’s often by down blocks where he is unable to use his hands. If he is to become the same force in the NFL he was in college he will have to get stronger at the point of attack without having to shed immediately.
Signature Stat: Run Stop Percentage of 10.4% fourth-best in draft class among DTs & 3-4 DEs against Power 5 teams. However, was only 22nd in Pass Rushing Productivity with a 5.8 PRP score.
All of these prospects have one skill that is very strong and Michael Bennett is no expectation. With a first step to rival any in this draft class, he is able to cause problems when his first step is on. However, unlike those at the top of the crop he does not have a second way to defeat offensive linemen. When he is unable to win from his first step he is not powerful enough to hold up due to being undersized at 290 pounds. When the offensive line is able to play against Bennett’s speed he is unable to counter with a second move; he still needs to learn to use his hands to put himself into a better situation. Bennett will always be an undersize defensive tackle, which will lead to some losses when he is doubled, however if he is able to develop a counter than he could become a real force.
Signature Stat: Pass Rushing Productivity of 8.5 of ninth-best in the draft class of DT &3-4 DEs against Power 5 teams.
Like Bennett, Xavier Cooper’s best asset is his first step, but Cooper is willing to try over and over again to win with speed to the outside. Cooper’s game against Oregon shows his strength and his weakness all in one: After being in a position to dominate with his speed, Cooper is unable to take advantage because of his limited use of his hands, where he is unable to shed in the run game or beat the blocker consistently in the passing game, even though he was in a good position. He was also in position to have a couple more sacks against Oregon but was unable to bring the quarterback down. His first step rivals any other defensive interior player in this draft class, but he wears down frequently in the second half of games. If he can sort out his conditioning and develops his hands he could be a handful as an interior pass rusher.
Signature Stat: On limited pass rushing opportunities (184 pass rushing snaps) Cooper had a Pass Rushing Productivity of 9.0 against Power 5 teams.
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