Today is NFL Draft day, and we're less than 8 hours to the start of round one, but that doesn't mean we can't squeeze in some last minute knowledge on some of the draft's top prospects. I connected with UW Dawg Pound to get some more info on DT Danny Shelton, and Chris Landon (@chrislandon) was nice enough to respond to the 6-pack, cheers!
1. He gets compared to Haloti Ngata often. Is that a product of their shared Pacific Islander decent, or more accurately based off their game?
Although there is nearly a 10-year difference in their class level, I think the comparisons between Danny Shelton and Haloti Ngata are quite valid. Obviously, they share similar frames and both put up ridiculous numbers for a Nose Tackle in their senior seasons. Beyond that, the major commonality in their game is their quickness off the snap and explosion into the line. Both are "pocket collapsers" not only because of their raw, brute power but because they can often get on blockers before they are ready for them. It's the secret to beating the double team and a rare attribute for large interior lineman. The other attribute I see as a common trait between the two is the motor they both showed in pursuit of plays going away from them. Shelton played over 80% of UW's snaps last year while often chasing ball carriers sideline to sideline. For a guy carrying 345 lbs, that's impressive.
2. Do you see him as a three-down DT in the NFL?
From a capabilities perspective, Shelton is an every down lineman. He's best against the run given his abilities to shed blocks, maintain his balance and execute as a tackler. He's less recognized as a interior pass rusher as his closing speed is nothing to speak of and he doesn't have much in terms of finishing move (except for the barrel roll).
However, he excels at pushing the pocket into the QB and creating sack opportunities for teammates. UW had two top-10 pass rushers in CFB in 2014, including the nation's sack leader in Hau'oli Kikaha.
3. He registered a ton of tackles for a DT, 93 total for 2014. How much of that was due to UW's defense, or his own ability?
I remember blogging early in the season as Shelton was racking up ridiculous tackle and sack numbers throughout the year and thinking that there was no way that the pace could last. Funny thing was that it did. The PAC 12 hasn't seen that kind of nose tackle production since Ngata and much of it was attributable to the fact that Shelton simply never gave up on a play. That kind of motor hadn't always been present in his UW career and really only became an attribute as both his conditioning and technique improved. It really came together his senior year.
4. A lot of scouts have noticed that he may fade against better opponents, and only put up big numbers against lesser competition. Do you see this, and is that a concern for teams?
Outside the fact that just about every college player does better against weaker competition, I'd point out that Shelton's three best games in conference a year ago were probably Oregon, Arizona and Arizona State - all of whom finished the season ranked. Some teams have systems that can compensate for what a Danny Shelton kind of guy can do - I'm thinking about pass-heavy, quick hitting offenses like WSU and Cal - but I don't think that there are any mirages in Shelton's stats.
5. Outside of his physical strength, which is well documented, 34 bench reps at the Combine, what do you see as his greatest football strength?
Two things really stand out. First, he has very active and violent hands that were in part developed through his relationship with Kikaha (who is a Judo champion). The hands help him gain advantages against the bigger linemen who are able to contain his explosiveness. The second thing is his tenacity. Watching the big man chase a play down 10 yards away from the snap and then squish a puny 215 lb ball carrier - or better yet a receiver - is a sight to behold.
6. Ultimately, where do you see him getting taken?
I don't think there is much debate that he is the top interior lineman available in the draft. As such, I see him going in the top-15. I'm sensing #6 to the Jets, #7 to the Bears, #9 to the Giants or #15 to the 49ers are all real possibilities.