I have a lot of bathroom reading: Power: Legends, The Complete Saki, Confessions, the 10th anniversary Calvin and Hobbes and, recently unearthed, a 2005 Baseball Prospectus Annual. BP produces a top 50 prospects list. The 2005 list was headlined by Andy Marte, Delmon Young, Felix Hernandez, Dallas McPherson and Casey Kotchman.
There's no surer way to sound foolish than talk about prospects with certainty. Draft season is in full swing and bloviations are budding on the trees. Everyone has an opinion, and the pervasiveness of ignorant, half formed, but arrogant to match, opinions threatens to strip the joy from an otherwise exciting time for football. Baseball Prospectus spent hours, dozens of hours, to create a list of the best prospects in baseball, and though the list has many notable names, players that have realized or begun realizing their potential, and though their method was probably smarter, more exacting and better supported than any amateur or even professional NFL draft analyst's, they whiffed badly: Ian Stewart, Joel Guzman, Prince Fielder, Daric Barton and Jeremy Reed fill out the top ten. I had forgotten Guzman existed.
The Senior Bowl is a little less than two days away. It should be fun. Scouting is about discovery. No one can be right, not perfectly, and the best most of us can hope for is accuracy. Accuracy of description, if not potential.
Defensive tackle is a well scouted position. From 2006-2009, 14 of the 26 Pro Bowl bound defensive tackles were selected in the first round. Another seven were selected in the second round. I haven't read a full historical analysis, but it's not too hard to spot the profile that makes a Pro Bowler: 300+ lbs, good athleticism and quickness of the snap. A few players like LaRoi Glover and Tommie Harris succeeded despite suboptimal weight. Both had/have phenomenal athleticism, both were still very close to 300 pounds, and Harris has worn down. Glover hailed from the 90s.
The Senior Bowl has a few interesting talents on display. The most interesting of which, Terrence Cody and Dan Williams, are likely 3-4 bound. Seattle is looking for a gapper. I mentioned Brian Price, that resulted in a slobber fest, and with potentially four tackles ahead of him, he could fall into the second, where he would go from overhyped "sleeper" to value, but it's more likely Seattle will address the position later in the draft. With five, and maybe six counting late-riser Cam Thomas, defensive tackles potentially earning a first round grade, the middle rounds could be stacked with quality talent. One just has to be open and look, instead of sure of their own authority and expertise.
Mike Neal: Neal lost an inch in transit, but it might be for the best as Neal is a little too long and lean for the interior. 6'3" 295 is skirting the edge of tweener status. He has a broad frame and maybe could add weight without sacrificing quickness. From what I've read, the Senior Bowl has not been kind to Neal, and he's a project pick with only moderate upside, but that's the Rocky Bernard profile. Definitely not a starter, and on a team that needs one, maybe not worth spending more than a late pick to acquire.
Geno Atkins: Atkins is a very talented athlete. Many scouts wonder why he never developed into much of a player. He was a rotational tackle at Georgia and has accomplished little since his standout sophomore season. That year he had 26 combined assist and solo sacks and tackles for a loss. He only has 52 for his entire career.
That's not bad though, and Atkins hasn't fought injury, isn't old, and given his decent productivity, is exactly the kind of talent that slips into the middle rounds but has a lot of upside. Not Tim Ruskell approved, but if Pete Carroll thinks he can improve talent from the inside out, Atkins is a worthy consideration. He's a pure 4-3 defensive tackle, a little underweight, and strictly a disruptive presence instead of a plugger, but a good fit for a Monte Kiffin derived system.
Lamarr Houston: Double R is another guy that's having a tough week of practice. He's also the first name I've listed that actually has the size and profile of a professional defensive tackle. Houston lacks explosiveness off the snap. So he's a project. Dallas Morning News reporter Gerry Fraley says he was caught offside twice on Wednesday. That means he's battling timing issues. That's perhaps the least worrisome problem a player can have.
Houston had seven sacks his senior season, all solo, 15 solo tackles for a loss, plus four assists, and 60 total assist and solo tackles. He also had ten hurries and four passes defended. That's filling out a stat sheet in a major way. It almost tantalizes to hear that he's having trouble in individual drills. It casts him as unpolished and therefore with untapped potential. Someone to note, and another semi-project that can be had in the middle rounds.
The Senior Bowl is one week of practice concluded with a semi-competitive game. It can shake up the NFL Draft, but it surely doesn't define the players involved or pinpoint their potential. Some players are naturally better at one-on-one drills. Some players, for whatever reason, just don't bring their ‘A' game. Some players prepare better, some had more time to prepare and some are just 'on'. Should we debit Houston for one bad week? When others were honing their one-on-one drills, he was recording 10 tackles, two for a loss and a sack in the National Title Game. Maybe he's tired.
That's why I am departing the protective generality of empty overviews and starting a series of tape breakdowns. One player, every snap, no bullshit. With any luck, I'll start tomorrow. Each year the draft suffers more noise, more opinion, and I've lost the stomach for it. I want to watch some football.