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Defensive Tackle: Draft Part 1

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Scouting reports of Danny Shelton, Eddie Goldman, Malcom Brown, and Jordan Phillips.

Danny Shelton at the Senior Bowl
Danny Shelton at the Senior Bowl
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Pettine_BASE_saban - Note


Nose Tackle (NT -- ST in the picture above)
  • A 2-gap player asked to occupy and control a blocker(s).
  • Skill set: A stout player that can hold his ground against interior linemen and double teams.

Weakside Tackle (WT)
  • Typically 1-gap assignments -- asked to penetrate or fill.
  • Differing skill sets can be used here: Can be a quicker, disruptive penetrator or a stouter gap filler that is hard to move.

Strongside End (SE)
  • Typically 2-gap assignments.
  • Skill set: Needs greater agility and range than the average defensive tackle to maintain contain on the edge. Doesn't have to be quite as stout at the point-of-attack as an interior lineman.  The ability to penetrate/disengage from offensive tackle once the ballcarrier commits to a path is more important, as are pass rushing skills.

Sub (not pictured above)
  • A dedicated pass rusher at defensive tackle in obvious passing situations.
  • Pass rush skills are a premium here. Stoutness versus the run may be sacrificed.



Grades

A grade of 7 is adequate.

Grades of 8+ are strengths.

Grades of 6- are major liabilities.

  • Stoutness (st) -- Ability to hold ground versus run blocking offensive linemen.
  • Penetration (pn) -- In the run game, the ability to fire through a gap and into the backfield or to fit into a gap and fill it.
  • Pass Rush (pr) -- Ability to threaten pass blockers and the pocket.
  • Zone (zn) -- A separate grade is assigned for players who play better or worse against zone runs than their grades would indicate. Left blank otherwise.
  • Projected Position (position) -- Where the player best fits in Coach Pettine's defensive scheme.


You can find a more in-depth breakdown of the different positions on the Browns defensive line here. For more details on the grades for the Browns 2014 defensive tackles, see this article.


Okay, let's look at the grades:

		st pn pr zn	positions
D Shelton 7  9  9  8 WT9, NT8
E Goldman 7 10  8 10 WT9, NT7
M Brown 7 10  9   WT9, sub9
J Phillips 8  8  9  7 NT8, SE9

Here are the 2014 Browns for comparison:

		st pn pr zn	positions
Hughes		10  9  7  8	NT9, WT9
D Bryant	 6  8 10	SE9, sub9
A Bryant	 5  8 10	sub9
Winn		 7  8  8	SE7, sub8
Kitchen		 7  8  7	NT7
Taylor		 7  8  7  6	WT7, NT6
Meder		 6  8  7	WT6, NT6
Fua		 7  7  7	SE7
Rubin		 6  7  7	NT6, SE7
McDaniel	 6  7  7	NT6




Scouting Reports


Danny Shelton #55

Stoutness: 7

Penetration: 9

Pass Rush: 9

Zone: 8

Positions: WT9, NT8

  • Despite his appearance, he's a much better 1-gap filler than a 2-gapper trying to hold his ground.
  • Good ability to penetrate into the backfield as a pass rusher but very limited range to chase down quarterbacks.
  • Poor knee bend.
  • Good vs. zone plays because he's stout on the move but his range is limited.
  • Low center of gravity makes it difficult for offensive line to move him when their feet aren't set.
  • Poor knee bend and leverage means he can be driven by linemen that can sink their hips and get lower than him.
  • Outstanding agility and very good feet for such a large player. Always in control of his body.


Danny Shelton has some elite athletic traits, especially agility, for his size. However, his bend is very average, making his Stoutness at the point of attack decent but not special. He doesn't possess elite 2-gap run stuffing traits.

What he does bring to the table, however, is a very well-rounded game with his ability to get Penetration and his Pass Rush skills. He also holds up extremely well on the move -- actually, he's much better on the move than trying to hold his ground -- and the only thing that keeps him from being elite against stretch plays is his poor foot speed and range. What sets him apart is that his squatty build allows him to easily shrugs off blocks to his upper torso when the offensive lineman doesn't have his feet set -- which is usually the case for offensive linemen blocking on the move on zone runs -- and his elite agility to keep under control on the move.

(Most big nose tackles lose control at top speed and struggle to change direction, making it easy for a runner to avoid or slip past them in space. While Shelton will never be confused for a cornerback, his ability to break down in space and adjust to the ballcarrier is elite for a 350 pound man.)

As a Pass Rusher, Shelton brings much more to the table than the average nose tackle. While he doesn't have the bend to get great leverage when trying to hold his ground (which hurts his Stoutness), he gets great leverage when charging forward, giving him an effective bull rush. He also has the agility to redirect in an attempt to disengage from blockers. What stands out even more about his agility is his ability to adjust on the move, which makes him excellent at finishing plays if he can get in range (which, in part, accounts for his 9 sacks and 16.5 tackles for a loss this past season).

Yes, range is the limiting factor when it comes to his Pass Rush and ability to get out on the perimeter on stretch plays. He just doesn't have the long speed to get where he wants to be.

I've seen various reports that Danny Shelton has a poor motor. I disagree with that, but I think it comes down to a disagreement about semantics. Shelton played a lot of snaps at Washington and he wore down as games went on. I would call that an issue with his stamina.

I see "motor" as being related to effort. A high motor player works really hard on the field, is determined, never gives up on the play. Relentless. Danny Shelton has a good motor. He hustles and he sticks with a play even when it seems like he's out of it...and often gets back into the play because of this. His play just gets sloppy when he's worn out at the end of a game, but sloppiness and laziness are two different things.

My final verdict on Shelton is that he is much better in a 1-gap assignment trying to get Penetration by filling a gap and then working his way into the backfield than 2-gapping and trying to anchor at the point of attack. It simply comes down to poor bend/flexibility, which impairs his Stoutness. Because of this, I prefer Shelton at weakside tackle than at nose tackle, at least against opponents who run man-power schemes.

You can watch Danny Shelton tape at his Draft Breakdown page.


Not ideally suited for 2-gapping. Shelton has only average Stoutness when playing upright:

Shelton_Stout_gap2


Can't get low enough and is driven back.

Shelton_Stout_gap3


Shelton usually wins the engagement with offensive linemen on the move.

Shelton_Stout_oZn1


Knees don't bend much but he can still get low when charging forward:

Shelton_Penetration_shed2


Sheds and has the body control to make the diving tackle in space.

Shelton_Penetration_shed1



Eddie Goldman #90

Stoutness: 7

Penetration: 10

Pass Rush: 8

Zone: 10

Positions: WT9, NT7

  • Much stouter when working ahead than when trying to stack up in a 2-gap assignment.
  • Violent and explodes into blockers.
  • His quickness, physicality, and range make him a threat to blow up outside zone plays.
  • Doesn't give up ground working laterally, can even get penetration because he's able to maintain leverage on the move.
  • Not a refined pass rusher, needs to put in a lot of work to develop moves for his arsenal.


Eddie Goldman is exceptional against zone runs. First of all, he has heavy hands to inhibit guards/centers from releasing to the second level. When they make their initial combo blocks on him, he slows their progress to the linebackers. He delivers a powerful jolt with his hands that can knock the guard or center back a step upon contact.

He also leans forward and mauls offensive linemen on the move.  When working laterally, he latches on, leans into his man, and often gets an upfield push. He's able to do this without falling because he has very good balance. Then he uses his strong hands to shed and make the play.

He has fairly good range. This plus his ability to drive offensive linemen backwards while on the move makes him an impact player on the playside or backside of stretch plays and other outside runs. The push he gets allows him to change the angles and destroy cutback lanes.

Goldman is very raw as a Pass Rusher. He doesn't have a variety of moves and he doesn't string together primary moves and counters. What he does offer is quickness off the snap and sheer violence.

Goldman has decent quickness. He doesn't have a sprinter's get off, but he can fire off the ball, get low, and drive into his gap to get Penetration in the running game. He often fills the gap but can get into the backfield from time-to-time as well, mostly by getting his hands on the offensive lineman and winning the wrestling match.

His Stoutness against the run is not particularly special. He isn't too easy to move but he can be driven back, especially by double teams. He just doesn't have special bend for dropping anchor and sticking to a spot, he does far better driving forward.

Goldman is a 1-gap weakside tackle. He could potentially play some nose tackle versus zone blocking schemes but he shouldn't be used in that capacity against man-power offenses.

You can see some of Eddie Goldman's college film at his Draft Breakdown page.


Driven off the line of scrimmage:

Goldman_Stout_stack2


Goldman shows ability to stack up at the point of attack but also the limited flexibility that hinders his Stoutness (has to lean so far forward that he loses his balance).

Goldman_Stout_stack1


Demonstrating his typical forward lean (and the balance to pull it off) while working laterally. Imposing his will.

Goldman_Stout_oZn3


The things Goldman can do vs. stretch plays:

Goldman_Penetration_oZn2


Penetration off the snap. Violent contact here and good hand placement, getting into center's chest.

Goldman_Penetration_blowUp1



Malcom Brown #90

Stoutness: 7

Penetration: 10

Pass Rush: 9

Positions: WT9, sub9

  • 1-gap tackle.
  • Fantastic at penetrating gaps.
  • Decent at anchoring at the point but asking him to 2-gap would be a tremendous misuse of his abilities as he's far better in an attacking style of play.
  • Great initial quickness off the ball.
  • Very good pass rusher.
  • Decent range.
  • Wants to play downhill all the time. Sometimes takes himself out of the play with his overaggressiveness.


Malcom Brown is a 3-tech, though at 6'2" 320 pounds he's a rather large one. His game is predicated on his ability to slip off blocks and get into the backfield. Penetration is his M.O. and he does far more than just fill gaps. He's a disruptive force behind the line of scrimmage.

His ability to knife through gaps translates into his Pass Rush. Brown explodes off the ball and can slip by linemen who are slow out of their stance. He has active hands to rip past interior pass protectors. Brown still has some room to grow as a pass rusher, though, as he doesn't quite have a full arsenal of moves and sometimes he throttles down when his initial move is unsuccessful.

His focus on disrupting the pocket or backfield can sometimes make him a bit of an unguided missile. He can bite on misdirection, playfakes, and screen passes, overrunning plays due to overaggressiveness. He has good awareness of where the ball is so this doesn't happen nearly as often as it could, but it's still a price you have to pay for his frenetic style of play.

When it comes to Stoutness, I'm almost inclined to say that for this particular player it's irrelevant. Brown is so good at pressing the pocket and attacking downhill that asking him to draw a line in the sand and declare "None shall pass!" would be a waste of his talents.

In terms of Stoutness while 1-gapping, Brown is difficult to drive backwards because he plays so low. He's able to take advantage of interior linemen with poor bend if they make the mistake of leaning into their blocks in an attempt to drive him. He's often able to absorb the heavy hit, shrug it off, and slide past the blocker.

Zone schemes vs. man-to-man gap schemes: In either situation his preference is to knife through his gap and attack. His good initial quickness makes it difficult for linemen to cross his face and get playside of him, so he's tough to wall off and seal out of the play. He doesn't have great range to chase down the runner sideline-to-sideline but he can cover the first 5 yards or so rather quickly.

In Pettine's defense, Malcom Brown would be a 1-gap weakside tackle. He doesn't have the versatility to fit at nose tackle, as he's not much of a 2-gap player. However, he brings added value in sub defenses due to his Pass Rush skills.

To see some of Malcom Brown's college film, you can check out his Draft Breakdown page.


Showing Stoutness at the point of attack:

MBrown_Stout_stack1


Penetration: Brown fires low off the ball and through the B-gap:

MBrown_Penetration_slip1


Slipping through his gap:

MBrown_Penetration_slip2


Brown chucks the center aside on a pass rush:

MBrown_PRush_rush1



Jordan Phillips #80

Stoutness: 8

Penetration: 8

Pass Rush: 9

Zone: 7

Positions: NT8, SE9

  • A surprise here: I like Phillips as a 5-tech at strongside end as well as at nose tackle.
  • He knows how to turn his knees inward and splay his feet wide and get pigeon-toed to drop down to get leverage. Downside: He isn't stout vs. run blockers when he doesn't have the opportunity to do this.
  • He flashes the ability to get penetration and to fill gaps but also has stretches where he struggles to disengage from blockers.
  • Excellent feet for his size, great balance, and good range.
  • A surprisingly good pass rusher.


Jordan Phillips has the athleticism of an undersized 3-tech but in a much bigger body. This is especially apparent in his Pass Rush ability, as he has tremendous agility, flexibility, and quickness in the lower half of his body which allows him to change directions fluidly and accelerate.

The biggest question mark in his game is how well he can put the advantages of his enormous 6'6" frame to use while minimizing the disadvantages. One disadvantage is that his chest is a very large target. A lot of his success in the NFL will come down to whether he can use his long arms to protect his chest or whether he allows offensive linemen to lock on and control him. He does a good job of winning the hand-to-hand battles in the power running game but struggles with it when pass rushing or running sideline-to-sideline on stretch plays.

The other major challenge he faces is with getting leverage, due to his height. He has good bend to drop low when anchoring at the line of scrimmage. He doesn't have elite Stoutness at the point of attack, but it's very good. He struggles on the move -- because he's more upright when running -- and is easier to push around on zone runs. He makes up for this to some extent by his excellent range and agility, because he can keep himself in the play, but he still gives up too much ground.

The most intriguing thing about him as a prospect is his versatility. Due to his range, agility, and Pass Rush skills, he may be better at 5-tech strongside end than he is at nose tackle. He has the quickness to contain on the edge and the fluidity and closing speed to be a pass rush threat on the outside on plays where the SAM linebacker drops into coverage and leaves him as the last man on his end of the line.

Mike Pettine has experience starting a player with Phillip's body type at the strongside end position. In 2013 in Buffalo when Alex Carrington went down with an injury, Pettine started 6'6" 325 pound Alan Branch at 5-tech for 13 games. Branch isn't as dynamic of an athlete as Phillips but they have many similar traits. Given that the team already has Desmond Bryant and that the need at nose tackle is greater, I don't foresee Phillips starting at strongside end but he could see some reps there and versatility is definitely a plus.

You can see some videos of Jordan Phillips at his Draft Breakdown page.


Phillips shows off his Stoutness here, rotating his right leg and getting a bit pigeon-toed in order to get lower for leverage:

Phillips_Stout_stack3


Here he fails to get his feet set before contact and is driven back.

Phillips_Stout_stack1


He gives up a yard, but is able to set his feet and anchor:

Phillips_Stout_stack2


Good and Bad: Phillips gives up ground here but also shows off his incredible range.

Phillips_Stout_oZn4


Phillips shows his agility and fluid lower body with this counter move:

Phillips_PRush_rush1



NFL Combine Thoughts:

  • Shelton weighed in at the Senior Bowl, so his vital statistics have been confirmed. It will be interesting to see how the other three (and the rest of the DT class) measure up later this week.
  • I suspect that Phillips records the best 40 time, long jump, and vertical of this foursome.
  • Malcom Brown may very well have the best 10-yard split.
  • I'm eager to see Eddie Goldman in the bag drills. He has lethal hands on tape, let's see if he shows them off in Indy.
  • Who will show up leaner than expected? Will anyone be out of shape? Eddie Goldman looked sluggish versus Oregon...then again so did everyone on his team.