Robert Quinn, UNC, LB
Junior, 6’5″, 270 lbs.
I’ll frame this vignette by just coming out and saying that, IMHO, Robert Quinn is the best player in this class and I think it’s by a fair margin. For my money, a more complete 3-4 outside linebacking prospect hasn’t come out since… I’m not even sure when. It’s a little difficult to find the right comparison for Quinn. DeMarcus Ware is probably the best one but I think he plays with more strength and awareness than Ware did in college. He’s good. Not even having brain surgery to remove a benign brain tumor his senior year of high school slowed him down. His life is a pretty amazing story, but more importantly for us, he’s an amazing prospect. Without further delay, some youtube cutups:
Robert Quinn vs. UVA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNoYxbvKxXE
Robert Quinn vs. Anthony Costanzo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqJrjwjf55c
Just from watching his cutups in these two games, you can see why Quinn’s scouting report reads so much like DeMarcus Ware’s. He plays with a very rare blend of power, speed, and recognition. First off, he’s got prototypical height and length to play linebacker and end, and at about 265 lbs., he’s already got NFL bulk and musculature to play 3-4 OLB. He’s a cut athlete with a good bubble and very long arms like Ware’s or Brian Orakpo’s. Quinn has an elite first step and the suddenness to make a lethargic blocker look foolish. Look at the play at the 1:22 mark of the video of the Virginia game. He’s off the line and stunting by the LG almost before the poor guy even gets out of his stance! Quinn pairs his deadly suddenness with elite footspeed–he can take very wide loops to get to the quarterback or he can use his quickness and strength to shoot inside at angles. He’s a good runner and can pursue plays from the backside and still be the first man on the scene. Quinn has great lateral agility, flexibility, and balance. He looks great stunting and scraping. He shows the natural balance and change of direction to flatten out on the edge once he’s got a shoulder on the tackle to beat an efficient path to the quarterback. He’s just a superb athlete. This might be apocryphal, but I read that Quinn set some crazy school records for his workout numbers. Apparently he ran the fastest 40 yard dash time for a defensive lineman in UNC history. He ran a 4.38… at 266 pounds. That’s .15 seconds faster than Julius Peppers ran for the previous school record. I doubt Quinn will ever run that fast again, but it ballparks his speed and acceleration for you. Anthony Castonzo is a very good tackle prospect–he’s Todd McShay’s top tackle right now and a projected first rounder. Yet Robert Quinn just kicks his ass in this game with his unstoppable quickness and strength.
Speaking of Quinn’s strength, you see it demonstrated best in the way he drives blockers, very rarely giving up ground in the running game. Quinn uses his hands well, has a jarring punch, and he controls and sheds blockers in time to make plays. He’s got great core strength, probably from his background as a wrestler where he was an All-American in high school and went undefeated three years in a row. That’s also where he must have developed his general nastiness and the sheer tenacity that allows him to make so many hustle plays like the first one you see in the UVA video. He generally works until the end of the play and never quits on a rush. Often you’ll see him snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and get pressures when his opponent does a good job shutting him down. Quinn is also a very powerful and talented hitter. He breaks down nicely in the open field and can drag down ball carriers–but he’s also active enough to create collisions around the line. His closing burst is elite and he’s an impact hitter that can lay the wood. He forced 6 fumbles last season and very nearly flattened BC’s quarterback into a fathead poster on that first sack of the video. Quinn also uses his combination of strength and agility very well to handle double teams and avoid getting pushed back. He gets skinny to split the double team on the last play of the BC video, and gets the pressure that forced the pick six.
One of the things I love the most about watching Quinn is seeing the level of recognition he plays with. He does a good job diagnosing blocking schemes (although FSU’s more complicated ZBS gave him some trouble), and he does a very good job reading the quarterback and sniffing out misdirection. He’s almost never fooled by screens and draws, and he does a superb job of locating the ball every play. He’s a smart player who reportedly works very hard and is capable of learning an NFL caliber playbook.
There were a few quibbles I picked up on before I’d label him a finished product. While he’s got a pretty nice array of pass rushing moves for a college player, like his impressive club, I think he could stand to develop a spin move to help him out with double teams. I also think he could use his counter moves more often to get off blocks. I’d also like to see him develop more of a bullrush given his natural strength. Every once in a while, you’ll see him have problems redirecting and getting off blocks. He’ll allow defenders to turn him and he’ll break containment pressing too hard to get up field. Also, I think he could protect his base a little better because he does occasionally get taken off his feet. As far as body type goes, he lacks the size of an every-down 4-3 lineman which limits his value a bit for teams running that scheme. Plus he doesn’t really own a gigantic base–his calves actually look a little slender. Perhaps his primary flaw will be that he has minimal experience in coverage. It’ll probably be a whole different ballpark for him once he gets to the NFL and has to defend a few short zones and I probably wouldn’t ever want him isolated in man coverage. It looks like he’s got decent ball skills and he timed the deflection of that screen pass pretty well in the BC video, but I doubt he’ll stand out for his hands. No 3-4 OLB does though. Maybe he won’t ever be as slick in zone coverage as Terrell Suggs, but he’s a smart enough player that does a good job reading the quarterback so I think he’d eventually be alright in the fairly simple coverage responsibilities he’d see in most 3-4 schemes.
What he entails for the Redskins
Quite simply, he’s the perfect strong side linebacker in a 3-4. Drafting Quinn could give us an unspeakably good pair of starting outside linebackers alongside Orakpo. They would have the potential to be even better than Ware and Anthony Spencer. Quinn is smart, plays the run well, and is a pass rushing terror. Plus he’s been pretty durable in college, and has a nice level of fitness so he can play a high number of snaps. His versatility means that you can play him in nearly all of your 3-4 packages as well as on the line and never worry about selling your playcalls. And the boon he’d bring to our pass rush cannot be understated. I worry about Orakpo should Andre Carter’s production get lost in the scheme transition, especially when Albert Haynesworth isn’t on the field. Orakpo would be left as the sole source of consistent pressure in our front 7 and we’d have to start blitzing defensive backs to mix things up. Drafting Quinn would nullify that issue since you can keep them both on the field constantly. Add Albert Haynesworth into the equation, and I say this without hyperbole, I do not think you could block all three consistently. With the kind of support Quinn would receive from Orakpo and Haynesworth, it would only be a matter of time before Quinn is considered the best player on our team.
The problem with drafting Quinn is that he might be a very high pick. He could very well go first overall and I sincerely hope we aren’t drafting first overall come April. But an undersized, tweener type like Quinn hasn’t been taken first in at least a decade. Chris Long went second but that hasn’t worked out well, and it was to play RE in a 4-3. Gaines Adams went 4th but he never panned out in Tampa Bay even before his tragic death. Derrick Harvey went a little bit later at 8 but he’s venturing on bust territory as well. Jammal Anderson had the size but lacked the strength to be an every down lineman and was a speed rusher in college who relied on a finesse game to get pressure. He’s considered a disappointment in Atlanta too.
I actually doubt a 4-3 team picking in the top five will take Quinn because of a perceived lack of position value for a player best suited to 3-4 OLB. Typically, if an edge rusher is taken in the top five, it’s by a 4-3 team and he has to have a physique like Mario Williams. Other than that, the player has to be an every down lineman like a Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Tyson Jackson, Glenn Dorsey, Amobi Okoye, or Shaun Ellis. Or, he has to be an elite 4-3 weakside linebacker like A.J. Hawk, Keith Rivers, Jerrod Mayo (though he plays ILB in New England’s three man fronts), or Ernie Sims. Occasionally, a 4-3 team will take an elite LB like Aaron Curry or Rolando McClain to play on the strong side or at ILB.
3-4 OLBs have surprisingly poor value in the draft even though they routinely fill up the top 5 sacks and pressures lists. Remember how far Orakpo fell in 2009? He might have fallen further if he’d been pigeonholed as a 3-4 OLB. Shawne Merriman and Ware dropped in 2005. Spencer fell all of the way to 26 in 2007. I think there is a chance that Quinn could drop out of the top eight. Perhaps if we go 8-8 and pick around 12, he might be available to us. If the price wasn’t too absurd, I’d even advocate trading up to pick him if he made it out of the top eight. Quinn is my early favorite player for us in the class and is at the top of my wishlist.