Patrick Devlin

Patrick Devlin, QB, Delaware
RS Senior, 6’4″, 222 lbs.

How do ya like that mess Joe Paterno?

I want to continue my examination of the top draft eligible quarterbacks for 2011 by talking about Pat Devlin, who I believe to be the top senior quarterback in the country. Devlin doesn’t get as much press as Jake Locker or Christian Ponder have since he plays at the FCS level. That’ll probably change once the draft season begins and the All-Star games and combine take place. And anyway, Devlin isn’t your typical no-name small school prospect. Much like Joe Flacco, he transferred from a big Pennsylvania program to Delaware in order to start without having to sit for a year. He was a blue chip recruit, Elite 11, and PARADE All-American quarterback in high school.

Now Devlin hasn’t had the best of starts to his senior season. He broke his left wrist in the second game of the year and then suffered a concussion on a dirty play which forced him from the game this past weekend against conniving, unscrupulous JMU. But Devlin is as tough as they come, played with the broken wrist anyway, and has been cleared to play against Maine this weekend. Here’s all you really need to know about Devlin to get a sense of just how tough he is. In the game against South Dakota State, he broke his wrist in the first quarter, but nearly finished the game anyway, going 14-25. Then two weeks later, he shredded my beloved Richmond Spiders playing with an adjustable cast over his gimpy left arm. It was just an impressive performance all around which effectively opened my eyes to him as a prospect.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any single game cut-ups style youtube videos like we’ve had for the higher profile prospects. We do however have a pretty good highlight video created by user brlloyd from his 2009 season, so you’ll at least get to see him throw the ball.

2009 highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4SBu8S3IFI

Devlin has a big, strong frame capable of standing tall in the pocket and throwing hard. Mechanically, he is an excellent passer. He shows off nice footwork in the pocket, keeping his feet active, steps smooth, and he can step up and reset quickly when he feels the rush. He shows off this skill as well as his patience as a passer on the play at the 2:10 mark of the youtube video. He’s a coordinated athlete and generally plays with excellent balance and weight distribution, and he looks really good driving off that front foot and stepping into his throws. He’s got a nice, compact throwing motion where the ball comes out at a high point and he delivers it with impressive wrist snap, spinning it hard and with good velocity. Devlin is absolutely capable of making the full repertoire of NFL throws and threatening a defense deep.

But Devlin isn’t just a thrower. He’s got nice touch underneath and when throwing on the run, and often places the ball where his receivers can pluck it and take off. Throughout that video, you see Devlin make throws into tiny windows and tight coverage because his receivers didn’t give him much separation. His placement on his deep ball is beautiful, nearly always dropping the ball over the receiver’s correct shoulder. And Devlin certainly isn’t afraid to aggressively attack a defense over the middle and give his receivers a chance to make plays. Look at that pass at the 1:00 mark of the video where he put the ball up in the air just over the hand of the DB, and his receiver rewarded his trust by making the spectacular catch. I also love Devlin’s timing and accuracy on his bucket throws. You can see him complete a few gorgeous ones at the 1:35 and 1:40 marks of the video.

One thing you can’t gather from this video is how mature Devlin is as a pocket passer. Devlin is a good decision maker who does a nice job going through his progression reads. His coaches rave about how intelligent and hardworking a player he is. They say Devlin can break down plays on film, pick up on tendencies, and diagnose coverages as quickly as they can. And though Delaware likes to go to a shotgun spread formation most of the time, Devlin’s situation is a bit unique in that the coaches let him read the whole field. He’s given a great deal of freedom and responsibility in his offense, and the coaches are clearly comfortable leaning heavily on his arm and decision making ability. For the most part, Devlin has thrived in his role, and is the undisputed leader and star of his team. It’s not all roses and sunshine with Devlin though. Talented as he is, there are still legitimate concerns about his level of competition and background in a shotgun spread offense. Teams will also want to make sure there are no serious lingering effects of his concussion and broken wrist. Certainly, NFL defenses will be much faster than what he faces each weekend in the CAA, and the pressure on him will be more consistent. Also, the difficulty of the transition from a college shotgun spread to an NFL offense can never really be overstated. But you know what? I’d honestly be more concerned about the level of competition someone like Sam Bradford faced in the Big 12 where his team completely overmatched every opponent at every position except Texas and Florida, and he got to play pitch and catch into 15 yard windows for two seasons. Delaware isn’t so flush in talent, and Devlin has had to learn to make plays on the run, under duress, and into tight windows. Plus, Tony Romo and Joe Flacco have blazed enough of a trail for FCS players in the NFL that the level of competition complaint becomes less of a focus. And clearly Devlin is an NFL caliber talent from a physical standpoint. Just go back to his senior year of high school where he was an Elite 11 invite along with first round picks Matt Stafford, Josh Freeman, and Tim Tebow.

What he entails for the Redskins

The NFL player I would compare Devlin to is clearly Joe Flacco. Devlin has a similar talent level, skillset, and build as Flacco, and he comes from the same college program and offensive system. That means Devlin could be a fairly early pick, and I don’t think it’d be a stretch to see him come off the board in the teens much like Flacco did. As I wrote in the Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck vignettes, I think the status of Donovan McNabb’s contract over the offseason will ultimately determine how seriously our front office searches for another quarterback. Personally, I think Devlin could be a solid choice in the first round even if McNabb gets a four year extension. McNabb has had a lot of surgeries over the years and he’ll soon turn 34. It’d be nice to have a talented backup and successor like Devlin to learn under McNabb for a few seasons before he decides to hang it up, or for when he goes down with injury. If a team wants to handle a quarterback transition gracefully, they need to plan ahead like the Packers did in 2005. But is it cost effective to pursue a backup and successor in the first round this year, when there should also be several other impact caliber prospects available at other need positions like CB, OLB, WR, DL, and OL? What if McNabb ends up staying healthy and playing for longer than anyone anticipated? I think the quarterback in question would have to be a pretty special prospect in order to justify drafting him in the first round when there is a chance he might play out his rookie contract without ever becoming the starter. But having too many good quarterbacks is hardly an actual problem, and if Mike Shanahan hand picked and drafted Devlin, that would be enough of an endorsement for me to get behind that draft pick. Devlin’s combination of arm strength, accuracy, mobility, and intangibles would make him a good fit in any NFL system. In summation, I believe Devlin is a very good prospect with loads of potential as a future starter, and one who looks the part of an NFL quarterback.

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Blaine Gabbert

Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Junior, 6’5″, 240 lbs.

The T-1000 of quarterbacks

Simply put, Blaine Gabbert is the most naturally gifted quarterback I’ve ever evaluated, from both a physical and mental consideration. If it weren’t for the presence of another brilliant QB prospect in Andrew Luck, I think Gabbert would easily be the top QB in the class. Since the two are roughly the same age and are a good bet to come out together (either this year or next), my guess is that they will inspire a stiff debate as to who is the better prospect. I’ll save my own thoughts on that debate for another time, as I’m going to spend this entry talking about what I perceive as Gabbert’s primary strengths and weaknesses.

Gabbert is the prototype for the position. He’s got a tall, strong frame that can take a beating, rumored sub 4.6 40 yard dash speed, and an arm his coach Gary Pinkel has described as a “John Elway” type. I think there is a good chance Gabbert was designed as an NFL quarterbacking android by scouts in some secret factory somewhere. What evidence have I for this conjecture you ask? Look at his Wikipedia page, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blaine_Gabbert. Date of birth: circa 1990??? What is he, Superman? You won’t find his birthday anywhere on the internet. Apparently, no living man witnessed his origin.

Back to reality, Gabbert impressed observers in his first season as the starter last year as a true sophomore. He’s continued his strong play and development into this season, and navigated Missouri to a 4-0 start despite a couple of hairy moments and near letdowns. In order to get a look at him in action, we’ll have to go back to the 2009 season, where our favorite youtube user AloAloysius has made a pair of nice videos of Gabbert’s performance in the first and second halves of the Nevada game:

First half: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9BB0mwOBMg

Second half: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7UUuIvBof8

Gabbert has impressive pocket stature. He’s a tall quarterback, but he moves around well in the pocket and doesn’t need a ton of room to set for his throws. He’s got a tall, over head release and the ball comes out at a very high point, but he’s not as slow or lengthy as Mallett. He can get compact and throw off balance or at an awkward angle when he’s pressured. And when that ball comes out, especially when he’s had a chance to sink his hips and properly shift his weight, it looks like a laser. Gabbert can absolutely spin it. He’s got one of the strongest arms in the class, and I actually think he’s got a better arm than Mallett does because he’s so much more coordinated and balanced throughout his lower half than Mallett is. Look at the deep out Gabbert hits at the 0:50 second mark of the video of the first half to see what I mean. The thing is on a titanium rope and he sticks it with such beautiful placement too, just where his receiver can catch it while he’s still in bounds. Gabbert routinely makes the most difficult NFL throws with velocity and accuracy, and he makes it look easy. He’s certainly capable of pushing the ball downfield and keeping a defense honest with his ability to attack it over the middle, like he does on an off balance throw on the first play of the second half video. But Gabbert isn’t just a big arm. He generally displays very nice ball placement on his passes, particularly along the sidelines, and he routinely gives his receivers a chance to make a play on the football and run after the catch. He looks as comfortable throwing underneath as he does on his intermediate routes, and when given a big, talented target like Danario Alexander, he can take advantage of very difficult windows to make spectacular plays. Now you will, however, see him get hyped up and struggle a bit with his touch on bucket throws like he does at the 1:30 mark of the first half. I think he could also use more work to develop his timing on his deep ball, as he’s got such a strong arm that this could be a real strength for him one day. Both are areas for improvement over the next few seasons in college and the NFL.

From a footwork perspective, Gabbert generally looks balanced and smooth when he is forced to move his feet. He almost never takes a full array of drops or runs play action with his back to the defense. This is a legitimate concern with Gabbert, because he runs a college shotgun spread offense and he’ll have a very steep adjustment to the NFL. He does take some drops however and shows good footspeed on them, although I would like for him to be a little more urgent down the road. He is strong in the pocket and has powerful stature, and looks comfortable reading the blitz and feeling the rush and getting the ball out quick to avoid it. However, when Gabbert is flushed from the pocket and forced to improvise, that’s where his brilliance as a playmaker really shines. His instincts kick in and he starts making breathtaking throws. The play at the 1:40 mark of the first half shows off stunning footspeed, arm strength, and accuracy on the run and looks like vintage Aaron Rodgers. In fact, Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers is actually who I would say Gabbert most resembles as a player. Well, except that Gabbert has the physical stature and college background of say, Ben Roethlisberger.. Gabbert isn’t afraid to pull it down and run when nothing else is open, and he’s got the mobility and strength to pick up tough yards and keep the chains moving when plays break down.

Gabbert has great intangibles to go along with his physical gifts. For such a young player (he’s only 19 or 20), he’s incredibly tough and poised. Gabbert’s also very smart and has an impressive level of polish and media savvy. Gabbert is given a great deal of play-making freedom in Gary Pinkel’s offense for a young player, even letting him call audibles. It comes from his coaches confidence in Gabbert’s ability to process information, make pre-snap reads and diagnose coverages. On the season saving, game winning touchdown against San Diego State this year, Gabbert recognized the overload blitz coming on cover 0 coverage, called the appropriate audible, delivered a sweet touch pass to his receiver who then took it for the game winning touchdown. And he did this after a disastrous start to the fourth quarter that saw him throw two interceptions, nearly losing his team the game. I think that showed a lot of mental poise and fortitude on his part. Gabbert’s also very physically tough as well and he will play through injuries and pain. During the middle of the 2009 season, Ndamukong Suh destroyed Gabbert’s angle on a hard sack, causing a pretty bad sprain. Gabbert shrugged it off and played the rest of the season on it without missing any time because his team desperately needed him in order to succeed. Missouri goes as Gabbert goes, and he’s the unquestioned leader, spokesman, and best player in his locker room. He is what an NFL quarterback should look, act, and sound like.

What he entails for the Redskins

As I stated in my vignette discussing Andrew Luck, whether Gabbert becomes a realistic option for the Redskins depends on where we end up drafting, and the nature of the extension that Donovan McNabb signs. Gabbert could end up being the number one overall selection if he finishes the season strong and decides to come out early. His draft stock will probably end up being defined for the year by how well he plays against upcoming games against Oklahoma and Nebraska in the final two weekends of October. If he’s brilliant, he’ll be drafted high. If he turns in ordinary performances, then he’ll probably slip into the teens to twenties range much like Roethlisberger and Rodgers did. If he’s awful, he might fall all of the way into the second round, in which case he’d probably just return for his senior season. His college offense is a legitimate concern and might frighten some teams off, as will his youth. He’ll probably need a couple of redshirt years of development like Phil Rivers and Rodgers got, in order to realize his potential. But Gabbert’s best days are way down the line, and it’s scary to think that a team could draft him, sit him for three seasons, and still have him be a 23 year old first year starter. On the surface, this makes him seem a very natural fit for the Redskins because that’s about the length of time they can realistically expect McNabb to continue to perform at a high level. And because of Gabbert’s intelligence and ability to move and throw accurately on the run, he seems like a great fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Much like Luck, I think Gabbert could be an excellent draft choice in the first round if he were available. There aren’t a whole lot of other players in the class who could have the kind of future impact on our franchise like Gabbert.

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Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
RS Sophomore, 6’4″, 235 lbs.

Look at all those pride stickers

Luck has earned a great deal of respect among the scouting community after only a season and a quarter of starts. Russ Lande at the Sporting News even went so far as to call him the best QB prospect he’s seen in over ten years. Watching Luck, it’s easy to see what the scouts are getting so excited about. It’s rare that a prospect possesses the kind of savvy and level of NFL preparation that Luck does, features made all the more astonishing when you realize how young he is as a player. I sat down this season, curious as to what the hype was all about. Needless to say, I came away impressed by Luck’s body of work this season. I understand the praise media scouts like Lande, Wes Bunting, and Greg Gabriel are lavishing on Luck. Frankly, I don’t entirely disagree with Lande’s wild claim. Sure folks might be getting a little carried away, but credit that to Luck because he’s a lot of fun to watch. Simply put, Andrew Luck and Blaine Gabbert (his likely rival to be the top QB in the class), are two of the most thrilling quarterbacks I’ve seriously evaluated. Between them, they make for one of the most compelling QB classes of the decade.

Don’t just take my word for it though. Fortunately for us, youtube user AloAloysius has made two fine videos of cutups on Luck’s Wake Forest and USC games from last season.

vs. USC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiFkLbz2FUw

vs. Wake Forest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yCvZcZFmzE

One of Luck’s greatest strengths is his mobility, as he’s one of the most mobile prospects I’ve watched. It’s not just about his impressive footspeed either. He’s the best prospect at moving around in the pocket in the country. He does a phenomenal job of feeling and avoiding pressure while keeping his eyes downfield, and he can step up and reset better than a lot of NFL quarterbacks do. From a footwork standpoint, his movement is very rapid and compact. At 6’4″, he’s got a big frame but he’s not a leggy athlete and can work in small pockets. His drops are textbook and executed with both smoothness and urgency. He consistently plays with proper weight distribution, but is also capable of throwing with good placement and touch when off balance. He already looks extremely comfortable running play action. Watch the playfake at the 0:50 second mark in the USC video. Luck executes a smooth seven step drop, whips his head around quick, and then makes the quick read and deft pass to his fullback who runs for a first down. On the playfake before that one, he executes a nice drop, immediately recognizes the pressure, sinks his shoulder to avoid it and extend the play, and then makes the correct read for the smooth shovel pass to his RB who takes it for a tough first down. Not many college QBs have the arsenal of skills that Luck showed off on that single play. Yet Luck makes those kinds of chain moving plays all of the time. The Stanford line is pretty ordinary, and it doesn’t always give him a consistently clean pocket. But Luck is so good at recognizing pressure and moving his feet and he’s got such a blazingly fast release that he almost never gets sacked. In 436 attempts, he’s only been sacked 8 times.

And I just went for that entire paragraph without talking about how impressive he is when he actually leaves pocket and decides to run with it. Luck has some wheels and is an impressive natural athlete in space. He’s also a big quarterback with a strong lower half capable of running through tackles, which he shows off at the 4:16 mark of the USC video. Luck is an extremely instinctive football player that has great vision as a runner and you see him show it off when he winds his way through a defense. He’s someone that the defense has to account for on third and long, because he’ll be able to pick up those first downs on broken plays in the NFL too. I like that he knows when to pull it down and lower a shoulder to fight for yards, when to slide, and when to slip out of bounds after he’s done his job. He’ll be one of the most athletic QBs in the league one day. My favorite play of his in the game against Oregon this past weekend came after a turnover. The Stanford receiver fumbled the ball after a vicious hit and it looked like the Oregon defender who recovered it was off to the races. Instead Luck chased him down inside the five yard line and made an impressive, bone jarring tackle that saved the touchdown and actually knocked the ball lose. That’s not a play you typically see a quarterback make. It showed a lot of athleticism and balls.

Luck isn’t just an athlete though. He’s a mechanically polished passer with a lot of arm talent, who reminds me a lot of Jay Cutler as a passer. Like Cutler, he’s got an extremely rapid, compact, throwing motion and his capable of making throws from multiple angles. You’ll see him make a lot of off balance throws, but he’ll complete them easily. He just doesn’t need to set and wind up to get the ball out. His arm strength isn’t anything to write home about at this point, and it’s one area where he differs from Cutler. But I’d say it’s about as strong as Sam Bradford’s was and Luck shows off a couple of passes in those videos where he steps up and drives the ball down field into tight windows. The pass at the 2:50 mark of the USC video is a beautiful example of his ability to drive the football and attack the safeties over the middle of the field. At the 4:02 mark of the same video, Luck runs playaction, steps up, and then sticks a beautiful deep comeback across his body on a rope to Whalen–an NFL caliber throw. Plus, as Greg Gabriel has pointed out, Luck’s arm will get stronger as he gets older. He’s still only 21 years old and hasn’t finished filling out. He’ll get into an NFL training program with NFL QB coaching and strengthen his wrist snap and add upper body bulk. I don’t think he’ll have a limited passing repertoire in the NFL. Luck is also an accurate passer who generally throws with very good ball placement and timing. His receivers make a ton of plays after the catch because Luck throws such a catchable pass, especially when passing underneath and on the run. He can get a bit erratic over stretches of a game, but I think you can chalk that up to a young quarterback being a bit excitable from a lack of experience.

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, Luck excels at making progression reads and he plays in an NFL style offense where he’s asked to read the whole field. His decision making has generally been good, evidenced by his low interception totals, although he does force the ball into double coverage at times. For a player so young and inexperienced, Luck sees the field extremely well, and it’s obvious he’s an intelligent guy that processes information very quickly. I love his ability to manipulate safeties with his eyes and open things up for his receivers. I also love how easily and naturally he keeps the chains consistently moving on offense by finding his late options underneath. Best of all, there is no question of Luck’s physical and mental toughness in my eyes like there has been with other top prospects like Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez. Going back to that tackle in the Oregon game, Luck is a surprisingly physical player who thrives under pressure and making positive plays after the timing has broken down.

What he entails for the Redskins

I think Luck is going to be a very successful quarterback in the NFL provided he finds a home with a decent franchise. I think he’d be a terrific fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense and would be the type of rookie that could probably come in and start some games before the end of the year despite only being 21 years old. If the Redskins are looking for a quarterback in the offseason, Luck would be a great choice and offer tremendous value in the first round. The trouble in projecting luck to the Redskins is that he’ll probably go much earlier than we’ll be drafting. If a team in need of a QB like Buffalo or San Francisco ends up finishing with the first overall selection, it’s not a stretch to project Luck being drafted there. Also, with Donovan McNabb likely to sign an extension sometime before free agency begins, the priority for the FO might become finding weapons on offense and defense to support McNabb rather than finding and selecting his successor. I think there is also a very good chance that Luck might decide to return to school for his junior season and then this will all become a discussion for next year. But if he does come out, and he does slip into a manageable draft range (say 10-15) I could certainly see Mike Shanahan either selecting him or trading up to take him (depending on where we end up drafting). After all, the NFL player I’d say Luck resembles most as a passer at this point is Jay Cutler, who Mike Shanahan traded up to draft in 2006. And he did this despite going to the AFC championship game with Jake Plummer four months earlier. I honestly wouldn’t care what Shanahan gave up in order to draft Luck, current draft picks, future picks, his soul, etc. Luck is a special prospect with rare talents. I’ve currently ranked him slightly ahead of Gabbert as the best QB prospect in a special class.

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New Layout by Soup

One of my buddies named Soup at the Extreme Skins message boards designed the awesome new banner and background for the blog. I’d like to thank him for doing such a spectacular job, as well as for all the help he’s given me in the design for the blog.

Soup’s a talented artist in addition to being a fellow draftnik. He’s made a lot of fantastic Redskins graphics and is putting up a site that will feature his work. You’ll be able to visit it here: http://soupgfx.webs.com/

Additionally, if you’re a member of the Extreme Skins community, you can see his work on his profile page here: http://www.extremeskins.com/member.php?57131-Soup

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Allen Bailey

Allen Bailey, DL, Miami
Senior, 6’4″, 285 lbs.

Gaaahhh Hulk Smash!

Boy are we in for a treat with Allen Bailey because he’s got not one, not two, but three games worth of cutups on youtube for our viewing pleasure. As for some background on Bailey, he’s got a Paul Bunyan like personal legend growing for himself.

Here’s the short version of his backstory: blah blah grew up in tiny Gullah town of Sapelo Island Georgia, blah blah had to row across a swamp to the mainland to play football, blah blah freakish natural abilities, blah blah stud MLB recruit in high school, blah blah once killed an Alligator with a shovel.

That’s the gist of it. It really is a fascinating life story. If you care to read more, check out this article by Mark Schlabach from 2007: Bailey focused on Alabama, Florida, and Miami. If not, on to the youtube videos:

vs. GT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkxO8qcM5lk

vs. FSU: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-A6SlfWKPo

vs. Wake Forest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQvcXWLQKyk&NR=1

In two of the games (FSU and GT), Bailey plays mostly inside as a three technique and he looks most comfortable in this position. In the Wake Forest game, Bailey clearly struggles a bit playing out on the TE in a seven and nine technique. Chalk it up to positional unfamiliarity. He’s been moved around at Miami so much that he’s never had a chance to find a home position. From an athletic standpoint, he’s clearly capable of playing DE in a 4-3. But I’d say he lacks the instincts and recognition skills to do it at this juncture. He’s probably a better fit in the interior at a three, four, and five technique in our scheme.

The first thing that jumps out at you from the videos is Bailey’s frame. He’s a taller, faster Brodrick Bunkley with even less body fat. He’s got a broad, barrel chest, big bubble, and thick legs. He has a condor-like wingspan which is one of the longest I’ve ever seen, and he’s got enormous hands that look like they could palm watermelons. Suffice it to say, he has a unique body type.

The second thing that jumps out from the videos is Bailey’s dominating speed and strength. I was able to pick up from those short clips that he’s got an elite first step and does a good job anticipating the snap count on occasion (watch him jump the snap at 1:30 in the FSU video). He can fire out of his stance incredibly fast and plays with great pad level and arm extension. However, he looks off on some of the snap counts and is too slow out of his stance, especially when we see how blazing fast he can be with the proper anticipation. I’ve worried before about his disappearing in games, and I think a failure to read his run/pass keys might be the culprit behind this as he takes himself out of plays when he doesn’t. Watch how Florida State runs the exact same running play twice in a row on him and he’s slow to fill the gap both times from hesitation. Bailey looks like he still has LB instincts. He’ll need to show this year that he’s settled into his role as a defensive lineman and make some strides in his recognition skills. Still I will say that he generally looks very good locating the ball in the backfield, and he made some really nice heads-up plays against a tricky GT running offense. I think it’s only a matter of time and repetition before he develops the awareness to consistently make an impact at his position.

However, when Bailey is on, he’s dominating. He’s got heavy hands and uses them well to sort through blocks. He is very good at stacking and shedding his blockers and he makes big linemen look impotent. He gives up no ground in the running game because he plays with such flexibility and base strength, and is capable of disengaging blocks at will most of the time (although he can struggle with this when asked to get up field). I believe he could be a phenomenal two gap run defender with some polish.

Bailey is an explosive tackler. I’m not sure I’ve seen a defensive lineman so good at making plays away from his frame except for Ndamukong Suh. And Bailey can break down in an instant in the open field and hit like a linebacker. He’s so incredibly strong, once he wraps up, ball carriers cannot break his tackles. He makes some plays with his hands and wingspan alone. He can also lay the wood when he gets a bead on a QB–he nearly flattened poor Riley Skinner. He looks fantastic in pursuit and he’s got sideline to sideline range… as a defensive tackle. I also love the heads-up way he protects his legs from cut blocks. His strength and balance are such that you never see him get taken off his feet. I’m pretty sure I watched a blocker in one of the videos try and crack him and Bailey just shrugged him off like a fly.

As far as pass rushing goes, I don’t think he’s got the ability to consistently bend the edge and use speed to loop wide to the QB. He has to use angles to get to the QB. Sometimes this leads him to break containment and opens up the cutback on his side for misdirection plays. It also leaves a lot of room for mobile QBs to run through once they escape the pocket. He’s got a terrifying bullrush, but aside from that, he doesn’t really have a repertoire of pass rushing moves. I want to see him develop his swat and rip moves more and show some counter moves. Lacking speed to threaten the edge is not a big deal though considering his position. He still manages to get good penetration on passing plays, especially if you project him as an end in a 3-4 front.

What he entails for the Redskins

I think he’s a great candidate to play end in our defense. Because of his versatility, he’d be able to play all of our downs in all of our formations. He can two gap and anchor against the run, stack and shed, play laterally, shoot gaps, stunt, drop into zones, and pass rush. Basically, if you can draw up a responsibility for a lineman, he could do it. I also wouldn’t hesitate to occasionally play him as a one technique. The key with Bailey will be patience. He’s a smart player with a wonderful attitude and a great work ethic, but he hasn’t had the time to develop like other prospects like Adrian Clayborn have. Bailey might have a quiet rookie year, but he’s the type of player that, in a few seasons, could blossom into an impact player much like Darrelle Revis did for the Jets.

There is no question that Bailey owns the highest ceiling of any of the 3-4 lineman in this year’s deep class. He’s a top 25 pick based on potential alone. He’s already put out some good tape and he’s shown flashes as a dominant run defender. Plus the tools are there for him to be a threatening pass rusher one day. I don’t know how much credence to put into his alleged 40 yard dash times. Apparently he ran a 4.6 at Miami once, but I don’t know if that was when he was at LB or DT weight. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s more likely to run in the 4.8-4.9 range now, which is still very fast. And even if he does nothing else but become a dominant two gap stack and shed run defender in our front, he’d be well worth our first round pick.

As of now, I still have to rank Bailey behind Adrian Clayborn as a potential five technique. But after giving him another look, I’m comfortable ranking Bailey ahead of Cameron Heyward and Marcel Dareus as the second best 3-4 DE in the class. Heyward is more hot and cold than Bailey and I see Dareus as a better fit for a three technique in a 4-3 front, or playing five technique in a one gapping, attacking front just like I did for Gerald McCoy last season. All in all, he’d be a vital addition to our defense, especially if Mr. Haynesworth gets moved.

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Robert Quinn

Robert Quinn, UNC, LB
Junior, 6’5″, 270 lbs.

You ain't seen nothin' like him

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.

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Player Vignettes

For my first series of posts, I’m going to write a set of player vignettes examining various prospects based on the fantastic youtube cutups created by users AloAloysius and MARI0clp. Many thanks go out to them for making these, they are a great way to get a look at some of the top prospects going into this college season.

The first group of vignettes will be defensive front seven players, posted in no particular order.  For the sake of simplicity, I list the player at the position I’d project him to play in the Redskins’ 3-4 base scheme.  My hope is to provide a little context on the player in each post, breakdown what’s apparent about the player’s skillset from watching their cutups, analyze how they might fit for the Redskins, and give a loose projection of where they might be taken in the draft.

Enjoy.

– Andrew

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