Overrated/Underrated - Defense  

Posted by Walter

Defensive End

Overrated: Quentin Moses, Georgia
If you haven't figured it out yet, as a fan and coach, I favor players who are versatile and can contribute in more than one area of the game. Moses is decidedly not that. Moses burst onto the scene as the replacement for David Pollock by registering 11.5 sacks in 2005, but that number fell to only 4.5 in 2006. This was a huge problem because Moses does not contribute in other areas of the defensive scheme. He is not a physical player, and isn't all that interested in taking on blocks in the running game. All in all, Moses does one thing well: speed rush the quarterback. He reminds me a lot of Jevon Kearse, who will register his share of sacks but has always been a liability in the running game. Moses is currently graded as a first round pick, but at only 257 lbs. he looks more like a situational player in the mold of a Robert Mathis or Carlos Hall (both late round picks). Moses just doesn't do enough things well to warrant an early pick, and is not nearly the all around prospect that his teammate Charles Johnson is.

Underrated: Tim Crowder, Texas
A recent trend in NFL drafts has been the vast underrating of Longhorn defensive lineman. Guys like Casey Hampton, Shaun Rogers, and Cory Redding all slipped past the first round for one reason or another, then went on to have pro bowl caliber NFL careers. Crowder looks like the next great player to fall into that category. Crowder is a big, strong end at 6'4'' and 270 lbs., but what I like best about him is the improvement he has shown over the past 4 seasons. Crowder had perhaps the quietest 10 sack season in the country in 2006, not to mention his 18 tackles for a loss. While Crowder does not have the overall athletic ability NFL teams covet in ends, in my eyes he projects as a long term strong side defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, who will play the run well and contribute 7-9 sacks per season. Great teams need players like Crowder, and some team is going to get a gem in the 2nd or perhaps even the third round.

Defensive Tackle

Overrated: Alan Branch, Michigan
Branch is perhaps the most overrated defensive prospect in the entire draft. He is huge at 6'6'' and 331 lbs., there is no doubt about that, but Branch just doesn't have the production that you look for in anything other than a nose tackle. Branch does certain things well, most notable he takes on blockers and eats up space. But that is the job of a nose tackle in a 3-4, not a 1 or 3 technique in a 4-3. Branch played in 37 games as a collegian, but he registered only 9 sacks and 18 tackles for a loss in those games. This tells me that short of taking up space, Branch is not going to make very many plays for you. Now don't get me wrong, Branch could end up being a pro bowl player on the nose in the right 3-4 scheme, but last time I checked nose tackles are not in that much demand. Hell, there isn't even a single nose tackle in the NFL hall of fame. If a team drafts Branch looking for a space eater in the middle of a 3-4 they will get what they want, but the hype surrounding this guy makes him sound like he has the ability to play inside in the 4-3 and make plays in the opposing team's backfield. If you're expecting that from Branch, you're going to be very disappointed.

Underrated: Jay Alford, Penn State
At only 6'3'' and 288 lbs. I understand why Alford is nearly devoid of hype. He is very undersized for inside play in the NFL, but you have to consider Alford's production during his last two years at Penn State. Alford has posted back to back 8 sack seasons playing against Big 10 offensive lineman, many of whom will be drafted into the NFL. That said, just about all of Alford's production comes in the pass rush. He isn't great against the run, and will probably be even worse in the NFL. However, if used correctly, an NFL team could definitely take advantage of Alford's quickness and agility by using him initially as a situational pass rusher in the 3 technique. A team like the New Orleans Saints would be a great fit for him as he could be teamed with Hollis Thomas (an excellent run stopper) to form quite a potent duo. Remember, some of the greatest interior pass rushers ever are undersized players who use their quickness (remember John Randle?) to elude guards....who are usually the lineman who were too clumsy and awkward to play tackle.


Overrated: Job Beason, Miami
Beason passes the eyeball test at 6'0 and 236 lbs., and the fact that he runs a 4.55 40 makes him all that much more appealing. Yet, regardless of how unreal his triangle numbers are, Beason just didn't make that many plays for the Hurricanes during his career. His Junior year, Beason accounted for only 66 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 8 tackles for a loss. Not exactly numbers that scream first round pick (where many pundits have him going). Beason does have a lot going for him, most importantly the lineage of great Miami linebackers, so the insane hype surrounding him is not unexpected. But haven't we learned that no matter how good a player looks, if he doesn't produce on the field there is a reason for it. I mean take a guy like Lavar Arrington. By no means am I comparing Beason to him, but looking at Arrington you'd think he would make every tackle and be unblockable in the pass rush. Yet he isn't because he free lances too much, and doesn't understand his positioning. Again, I am not accusing of Beason of these shortcomings, but the example just serves to illustrate the point that whenever a player struggles to produce there is a reason, many times that will not appear in your physical attributes or stat sheet.

Underrated: Stephen Nicholas, South Florida
In past years, the mere fact that Nicholas played at South Florida would have been enough to explain his lack of hype....however that is no longer the case. Under Jim Leavitt, South Florida has become a major force in the Big East, even beating West Virginia this season when they were ranked in the top 10. Nicholas' numbers are just absurd. He has posted back to back 80 tackle seasons (over 100 in 2006), back to back 7 sack seasons, and back to back 15 tackle for a loss seasons. In 2006 Nicholas even broke up 7 passes for good measure. What do these numbers say? Well, basically they tell me that Nicholas is just all over the field, making plays in every facet of the defense. Nicholas is undersized at only 225 lbs., he has a fine frame at 6'3'' and adding weight is one of the easiest things for an NFL player to do. In a perfect world, Nicholas would play the weak side in a 4-3 defense, but his 4.7 speed may not be fast enough. Still, he can work on that, and I truly believe that Nicholas can help an NFL team immediately as a weak side backer, or a nickel linebacker because he is so good at blitzing and zone coverage.

Defensive Backs

Overrated: Marcus McCauley, Fresno State
McCauley is 6'1'' with 4.35 speed, so he sounds like he should be the next great NFL corner. Thing is, he just doesn't really care about football. How else can you explain his overall mediocre collegiate career, and his generally uninspiring senior season? Playing for Fresno State in a non BCS conference, McCauley should have dominated every single opponent he played. He didn't. McCauley's tackle totals went up each of the past three years (a bad thing for corners as it indicates a greater number of passes completed in front of him), despite the fact that he played in fewer games. In the past two seasons, he's intercepted only one pass, and he was repeatedly torched by top notch competition. McCauley is a classic player whose ability as a football player just doesn't match his measurables. Of course, coverage technique is coachable while triangle numbers are not, so McCauley could still end up being a solid NFL corner. Still, in my experience the best players are the ones who love the game and really care about it, and McCauley does not strike me as that type of player or one who is all that interested in being coached.

Underrated: Josh Wilson, Maryland
Aside from sharing sprinter's speed, Wilson is the opposite of McCauley. Wilson is undersized at only 5'9'' and 190 lbs. but he is absolutely fearless in run support, and actually a hell of a lot more physical with receivers than he is given credit for. Most importantly though, is the fact that Wilson squeezes every iota of ability out of his 190 lbs. while guys like McCauley are content languishing in mediocrity. Wilson loves football, and is the type of player who you would expect to start out as a situational player, but work his way into more and more playing time. Wilson's size may force him to start his career strictly as a situational nickel back (playing the slot man like many undersized defensive backs), but Wilson is the type of player who has a nonstop motor and does enough little things that coaches will want him on the field as much as possible.


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