BBD Assistant Editor: Joe Marino
More times than not, good football players are also good athletes with prototypical physical traits, but being a great athlete and having great size does not necessarily mean one is a great football player. Every year, there are players whose draft stock is defined more by their measurables than what they have actually done on the football field. That is due in large part to NFL teams drafting players based on what they can become rather than who they are.
Earlier this week, we looked at 10 prospects whose tape is better than their tools. Here we examine the opposite. All of the players below have ideal physical ability, but what they put on tape in their collegiate careers wasn’t as impressive as what you can measure with a stopwatch or ruler.
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Back in May, I highlighted several deficiencies in Anthony Barr’s game. He only marginally improved in those areas as a senior.
Barr showed up to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine at 6’5″ and 255 pounds, and ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash and 6.82-second three-cone drill. Those times validated that Barr has great speed as a pass-rusher. The rest of his game, however, is lacking and needs development. The speed rush that Barr brings to the table will give him the opportunity to stick around and iron out his deficiencies, but the NFL team that drafts him should not expect to have a complete football player right away.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Clowney is the most talented and physically gifted player in this draft class, and it really isn’t close. There is ample reason to be excited about his potential in the NFL based on his physical ability alone, so much that it warrants a team selecting him among the first five picks in the draft.
At 6’5’’ and 266 pounds with 4.53 40 speed and a 37.5” vertical jump, Clowney is freakishly explosive for his size. That explosion, however, did not show up consistently in his 2013 college football season. Clowney has his fair share of apologists for his on-field play this past season, but the bottom line is that he did not display his full ability on a snap-by-snap basis for the duration of his junior year.
Clowney can be as great as he wants to be, and he very well might end up as one of the top defensive players of his generation. That optimism should not come without a caution, however, after he failed to live up to his full potential in 2013.
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Roby does not lack size (5’11”, 194 pounds) or athletic ability (4.39 40-yard dash, 37.5” vertical jump, 17 bench press reps), but while he took advantage of his athleicism for a fantastic redshirt sophomore season in 2012, his 2013 season was not indicative of his ability.
Roby was routinely beat in coverage and seemed to have numerous mental lapses on the field in his junior year. He did not have a great season as a tackler or in run support.
Roby’s 2013 game film might not be a true testament of his ability, but that film is out there for NFL decision makers to see, and they won’t ignore it. While Roby’s physical tools had him regarded as the draft class’ top cornerback heading into the 2013 season, he likely will not be the first drafted at his position due to his subpar play.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
While every team might be looking for the next Richard Sherman, the truth is every cornerback prospect with great size and length isn’t going to turn into a star cornerback.
At 6’3’’ and 218 pounds, Jean-Baptiste has the physical traits that have helped make Sherman great. He jumped 41.5” at the combine while completing an impressive 6.72-second three-cone drill. Per NFL.com’s Gil Brandt, he also clocked a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at Nebraska’s pro day, though his official time at the combine was just 4.61 seconds.
On the field, however, Jean-Baptiste has tight hips and struggles to blanket receivers, as his instincts are still developing. Despite his great size, the physicality he plays with is inconsistent at best.
A converted wide receiver, Jean-Baptiste is still learning the cornerback position, so his best football is likely ahead of him. Still, the physical ability he possesses is not always evident in his play.
Dezmen Southward, S, Wisconsin
Southward has the measurables NFL scouts look for in a safety. He measured in at this year’s combine at 6’ and 211 pounds, and though he did not workout at the combine, he produced eye-popping numbers at Wisconsin’s pro day. Per NFL.com’s Gil Brandt, Southward ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, 6.50 second three-cone drill and had a 42” vertical jump in Madison.
Southward’s athleticism does not show up in his film, however, as he does not have great reactionary or playmaking skills and is limited in his coverage ability.
In an interview with Southward for RSE Network, the Wisconsin safety made it clear that it is far more important how well he actually performs on the field, because his physical ability can only take him so far.
Southward has only played football since his senior year of high school, so his future could be bright as he develops his football instincts.
Matt Patchan, OT, Boston College
Patchan turned heads at the NFL Scouting Combine, measuring in at 6’6” and 302 pounds while running a 4.97-second 40-yard dash and leaping 33.5” in the vertical jump.
On film, however, Patchan shows a poor anchor and footwoork with an inability to sustain blocks. He is a waist-bender who plays with poor leverage and lacks functional strength.
While Patchan’s head coach at Boston College, Steve Addazio, told BBD’s Dan Hope at Boston College’s pro day that Patchan has all the attributes to be a first-round pick, I see more of a late-round prospect who gets drafted solely on his athletic upside.
Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
Gaffney checked in at this year’s combine at 5’11” and 220 pounds, then ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash, 6.78-second three-cone drill and turned in a 36.5″ vertical leap. I was baffled. There might not be any player in this year’s draft who has a bigger discrepancy between the athletic ability he showed in games, and what he displayed at the combine.
That type of explosive athletic ability does not show up in Gaffney’s film. At Stanford, Gaffney looked like a straight-line, upright runner who is slow to and through the hole. While he showed excellent power in his collegiate games, he was frequently tackled from behind and lacked breakaway speed.
Marquis Flowers, LB, Arizona
Flowers, a non-combine invite, had a spectacular performance at Arizona’s pro day. According to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt, Flowers measured in at 6’3” and 251 pounds, then ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash and recorded a 37″ broad jump.
On the field, Flowers plays slowly and lacks aggression. He lets the game come to him and is lazy in pursuit with marginal overall instincts.
It doesn’t matter if you have 4.50 speed as a linebacker if you cannot dissect plays quick enough to use your athleticism to your advantage.
Lamin Barrow, LB, LSU
Barrow put together an overall impressive workout at the NFL Scouting Combine, measuring in at 6’1” and 237 pounds while running a 4.64-second 40-yard dash, recording 22 bench press reps and leaping 35” in the vertical jump and 10’3” in the broad jump.
His on-field play doesn’t match up. He was not a read-and-react player or always involved in plays at LSU. He is passive and lacks aggression. He is a marginal tackler who lacks functional strength.
Larry Webster, DE, Bloomsburg
Webster, a former basketball player, put on a show at the combine. He measured in at 6’6” and 252 pounds, ran his 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds and leaped 36.5” in the vertical jump. But although he produced back-to-back seasons with 12+ sacks at the Division II level, his overall skill set is not indicative of a successful NFL edge defender.
Webster struggles to play with initial leverage, and his hand usage is poor. He struggles to disengage from blockers and doesn’t attack blockers with much power. His raw athleticism propelled him to productive seasons at Bloomsburg. but he has a long way to go in terms of translating that to the NFL stage.
Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Anthony Barr, Arizona, Bloomsburg, Boston College, Bradley Roby, Dezmen Southward, Jadeveon Clowney, Lamin Barrow, Larry Webster, LSU, Marquis Flowers, Matt Patchan, Nebraska, Ohio State, South Carolina, Stanford, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Tyler Gaffney, UCLA, Wisconsin