With the much-anticipated 2013 NFL Draft merely days away, Greg Cosell, expert NFL analyst and Senior Producer at NFL Films, sat down with TCIPF to answer questions submitted by YOU! Check out your Q&A with Greg for his take on everything from the importance of the Combine to what it takes to make an impact as a rookie.
What is the deepest position in this year’s draft?
One position I feel is really deep in this year’s draft is wide receiver. I think there’s a specific kind of receiver that the NFL is trending towards. It’s bigger WRs: guys who are 6’1 or 6’2…210, 215, or 220 pounds. Receivers who are not necessarily fast, in terms of timed speed, but they’re physical, they’re tough, they’re competitive, and they have very, very good hands.
There’s a number in that group: DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson), Da’Rick Rogers (Tennessee Tech), and Aaron Dobson (Marshall). Obviously you have Cordarrelle Patterson (University of Tennessee) who’s a little bit of a different kind of player but he’s 6’2, 216 pounds. Then you have his teammate, Justin Hunter, who is built exactly like A.J. Green (Cincinnati Bengals) and, when you look at him on film, he looks like A.J. Green. Now, he’s not at that level of player at this point, but he has similar attributes. I think Justin Hunter is the most vertically explosive receiver in this draft and, to me, is the most intriguing.
In your experience, how much of a player’s draft potential can be affected by his Combine performance?
To me, where a player gets drafted should not be affected by his Combine performance. I think if you’re doing your due diligence and watching copious amounts of tape, then you know what a player is. The Combine should really verify what he is or what he isn’t.
Every once in a while, you’ll get a situation where something that happens at the Combine seems totally contrary to what you saw on tape, either good or bad. When that happens, you need to revisit the player on tape. You should never draft a player based on his vertical jump or his 3 cone drill performance.
If you look at a wide receiver on film and you absolutely love him but, at the Combine, this WR runs a 4.9—you have to re-assess simply because that’s very, very slow. You’re forced to think about what you may have missed and perhaps it’s time to re-visit him on film. On the other hand, if you don’t like a player on film and, all of a sudden, he has a great vertical jump at the combine, that’s not reason to draft him. At the end of the day, you have to like him playing football, not working out in shorts and a t-shirt.
Based upon what you’ve seen from them, how do you think offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher compare?
I think Joeckel and Fisher are similar players. Fisher is a little bit bigger. I think both of them are very good because of repetitive execution as opposed to elite athleticism. They’re good athletes, but they’re not at the level of great athletes. When you go back in recent history, over 15 years or so, and you have Jonathon Ogden, who was just inducted into the Hall of Fame; Orlando Pace; Walter Jones…These are elite athletes at the left tackle position. I don’t think Joeckel and Fisher are quite at that level. As I said, their strength is repetitive execution. They’re rarely off-balance and it’s so critical for tackles to be on-balance and not be in recovery mode, because that’s when you get beat. However, I think they are probably better athletically than Jake Long, the #1 pick in the draft five years ago. I wouldn’t say they’re as good athletically as Ryan Clady, of the Denver Broncos, who was the 12th pick in the 2008 draft. When all is said and done, I think both Joeckel and Fisher will play in the league ten years and be very solid players.
What does it take for a quarterback to be successful at the professional level?
This could be a college course that you spend a semester on. For a quarterback to be successful at the professional level, you have to start with attributes, traits, and characteristics and examine why QBs succeed in the National Football League.
Eventually, everything gets manifested in physical traits. To reduce it to the simplistic, “Cliffs Notes” version, you’ve got to be able to make throws. You can watch tape of NFL QBs and you can look at traits that are all measurable, identifiable, quantifiable, and tangible—it’s all there on film!
The more tape you watch, the more you recognize these traits. You must be able to throw the ball extremely accurately: “ball location” is the better term. You must be able to throw the ball with bodies around you, when the pocket is collapsing—in the cauldron of fire. To use the term I like, “a muddied pocket” because, in the NFL, the bodies get close to you, a lot more so than they do in college football. You must be able to move around a little bit in response to pressure; not necessarily run around but move, reset, and maintain your downfield focus, then deliver the football. You must be able to throw the ball with timing and anticipation. What that means is you must be able to throw before receivers come out of their breaks. In college, you can get away with waiting until they come out of breaks—not in the NFL. You must be willing to make difficult throws and this is something that’s always overlooked. In the NFL, the windows are very small, very tight. If you’re not willing to pull the trigger to make tight throws, particularly in those critical 3rd and long situations to convert 3rd downs, you are not going to be a high-level NFL quarterback.
Then, of course, there’s decision-making. The more tape you watch, the more you can see where the ball should go based on route combinations and coverage. That’s why I say all of these things are measurable and quantifiable. No one’s a great QB because he’s a great guy; no one’s a great QB because he’s good in the huddle, or because he takes his offensive lineman out to dinner and bond. Eventually, you have to make throws.
In this day and age, what are the expectations of a quarterback when he is drafted in the first round (in terms of a timetable for performance)?
This has dramatically changed. If you draft a QB in the first round, and certainly within the top 10 or top 15, you are basically saying by the sheer fact that you drafted him that he’s a franchise quarterback and he’s playing right away; that’s where we’ve evolved to in the NFL.
If you look at this year’s draft, let’s say Geno Smith gets drafted in the top 10. You’re drafting Geno Smith because you believe he’s a franchise quarterback. You can’t draft Geno Smith at, let’s say, #7 and then call a press conference to say, “We don’t know when Geno Smith is going to play!” You simply cannot do that anymore. If you draft him at #7, he’s your starting quarterback from the moment Roger Goodell says, “With the 7th pick in the draft…” That’s the way it is now. So you have to understand that, if you’re going to draft a QB in the top 10 or top 15, the expectation is that he’s your starting QB.
How have teams’ approaches to the safety position evolved in recent years?
The questions about safeties have changed dramatically in recent years. It used to be that the safety position was clearly delineated between two kinds of safeties: box safeties, who are essentially glorified line backers, and free safeties, who play deep and are essentially viewed as pass coverage safeties. The NFL game has changed offensively with the passing game such that safeties have become far more interchangeable. They must be—otherwise, teams and defensive coordinators will have a hard time defending offenses today. You can’t just be a box safety. Now, if you have one of those guys who’s just a box safety, that limits and reduces what you can do on the defensive side of the ball simply because he has physical and athletic limitations. So, this idea of a box safety as someone who basically plays within the box as a run defender—are there still these players? Absolutely! You could argue that the Ravens just won a Super Bowl with Bernard Pollard who is essentially a box safety. There are always exceptions. However, I think as the NFL goes forward, teams will not look to make that delineation between box safeties and deep safeties; they will want interchangeable safeties that can play both roles.
From the tape you’ve seen, which player projects as the potentially best, most dominant NFL pass rusher? Why?
I think there’re a couple of players who, at this moment in time, you wouldn’t automatically plug in and say they’re dominant from day one. However, I think they have skill sets that lead one to believe that, with experience and nurturing, they could become dominant pass rushers. I think there’re three names that come to mind: Jarvis Jones (University of Georgia), Barkevious Mingo (LSU), and Dion Jordan (Oregon).
Jordan was not used primarily as a pass rusher in college. He was basically a standup outside linebacker and they used him a lot in space. I had to watch an awful lot of film because I wanted to see him rush the QB; he didn’t just automatically do that. After a while, when I saw enough plays, I said to myself, “This kid is really athletic!” He can bend. He’s flexible. I think, over time, Jordan can evolve and develop into a very good pass rusher.
Mingo is a guy that is very, very fast—he has explosive traits. To me, he was a little straight-line in his movement. He needs a bit more flexibility—that’s something that he needs to work on. However, he can run and he’s very athletic, overall.
To me, Jarvis Jones is the most NFL-ready pass rusher right now. I don’t think he’s quite as purely athletic as Jordan or Mingo, but I think there’re similarities between Jones and someone like Terrell Suggs from the Baltimore Ravens. I think Jones is the most ready to step in with his variety of moves to be a NFL pass rusher beginning week 1.
Check back on Tuesday, April 23rd for Greg’s answers to more of your draft questions! Make sure to visit the NFL Films Facebook and Twitter pages for the next opportunity to submit questions for Greg.