CFF Player Profile: Brandon Scherff, OL
Is he a guard? Is he a tackle? Is he the most sure thing in the 2015 NFL draft?
Those are the primary questions regarding Brandon Scherff who is vying with the likes of La’el Collins, Andrus Peat and Ereck Flowers to be the first offensive lineman taken. But after watching every single one of his 2014 snaps how do we think he compares to the rest of the draft-eligible linemen?
Overview and Stats
Scherff was a near ever-present for Iowa last season, missing just 30 snaps all year despite having to undergo knee surgery after picking up an injury against Ball State (where he showed his toughness by returning). That speaks volumes to the man and it’s fair to put a giant asterisk on his 2014 season from Week 2 onward because there’s no telling how much knee surgery impacted his play.
But for evaluation’s sake, lets take it that it didn’t impact his play. And with that in mind, it’s both easy to see why he’s a lock to go in the first round, but harder to understand why everyone is quite so high on him. A definite “safe pick” Scherff is the kind of guy who may not be that far from his ceiling as a player, but with such a high floor at potentially two positions, he offers an NFL team the kind of plug-and-play draft pick that won’t see you win the draft, but will ensure you don’t lose it in Round 1.
In my mind, however, you want that homerun when picking early and Scherff just isn’t that guy.
There is a lot he does really well. He is as good as any lineman when it comes to not just locating linebackers at the second level, but getting contact on them. He’s like a homing missile in that regard who makes a second level defender pay with a violent punch on first contact and has the leg drive to ensure they’re closer to the chains than the line of scrimmage.
Still he could do more. One of the noticeable things whether he is blocking in space or at the line of scrimmage is that he is not a finisher (in so much as he struggles to sustain blocks). Sure he can get leg drive to push a guy down the line on an outside run, but he rarely locks his block in that he doesn’t allow a defender back across his face. Whether it be stiff hips or not, he’s not the guy who generally executes a reach block to set up a cutback.
Giving the level of competition he faced for most of the year this has to be a concern when he gets to the NFL level, because whether at tackle or guard he’s going to be faced with this. He’s a guy in the run game that will need to beat you with speed and positioning off the snap, catching you off guard and hoping the back hits the hole quickly. Because if things slow down, then his lack of control will show up.
The bigger issues with Scherff come in pass protection. And again I look back at his early season injury and wonder if it impacted him. Despite facing a pretty easy slate of edge rushers (especially compared to any of the SEC or PAC-12 tackles) he had some troubles. Perhaps nothing highlighted this more than the issues he had with Wisconsin’s Joe Schobert who really had his way with him to the tune of two hits and two further pressures. With 47 seconds to go in the first half, Schobert is quick off the line but not so quick Scherff shouldn’t be able to do something about it. He can’t and the result is his QB taking a bit hit.
So there are concerns with speed. Inside and out (he had a couple of moments in the Tennessee game where he couldn’t adjust to the inside counter), and there are concerns with how he dealt with stunts. The second half of the Maryland game showed a guy who generally dealt with end-tackle stunts well, good punch on initial contact and picks up the looping tackle. But against tackle-end stunts, he really struggled to anchor.
Some of this was down to his left guard not being much help, but too often an interior lineman got his hands into Scherff and he didn’t have the length and strength to stop from being worked backward and into the QB’s path. He was much better against lesser athletes when he saw what was coming off the snap, where his polish was evident as he got a good kick step and mirrored well.
Not impressive marks in pass protection, a huge red flag when you consider that his level of competition was the weakest of any of the highly-regarded tackles and only mitigated somewhat by how healthy he was.
All this isn’t to paint the picture of a poor player. Merely to say that as an offensive tackle, Scherff doesn’t have the kind of upside to warrant a first-round pick. Instead, his value is more from the potential he has at guard, and the ability he will have to play a number of positions well, with that versatility a big plus to NFL teams who want contingencies in case of injuries.
A surefire Day 1 starter, there are few teams Scherff won’t go to and make better. But don’t be surprised if others go onto have more illustrious careers.
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