One of my favorite parts about the NFL draft, and my guess is I'm not alone here, is sifting through the seemingly never ending database of prospects looking for late round picks or potential undrafted free agents that could make an impact. But, a common problem with this strategy is it's very difficult to accurately judge a player on paper; football isn't played on paper. Just because someone had good workout numbers doesn't mean they will be a good player, hence the term "workout warrior." Furthermore, for many of these little known, workout warrior type it's often hard to find anything but "highlight" videos; as it's been mentioned by a few of us here, it's a dangerous idea to try and gain a whole opinion based on these clips. But for a couple late round sleepers I've identified, linebacker Miles Burris and cornerback Derrius Brooks, that's all we have. Instead of a "scouting report," consider this an introduction to their strengths.
Both of these players I believe are examples roughly similar to Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin, even K.J Wright; an overlooked, unknown, or 'misfit' player that could make an impact. John Schneider offered to Seattle Times' Steve Kelley back in March: "We always preach to our scouts that we're always looking for the positives. The key to a great scouting department is finding out what a guy can do. And you tie that in with Pete's innate ability to instill confidence in people...Pete did it with me when I ran that first draft. He told me, 'Hey, you're so prepared. Trust your work. You're going to nail it.' He's good that way.""
Positive intention is common speak for Carroll and co., and it's an attitude that I think has contributed to the Seahawks' ability to be aggressive and remain optimistic throughout the roster overhaul. Camp body or potential star, we know they are always looking for upside in players and especially in those that work hard and/or posses unique qualities; accentuate strengths that others may not see. Here I'm attempting to paint an upside based picture of these two players because that's what the highlights provide, but there are also questions to address because there is limited access to unbiased tape.
First, Miles Burris out of San Diego St. He was two time first team All Mountain West. He's played in 50 games and been a starter for three seasons. His production the past two years; 152 tackles, 39 for loss, 17.5 sacks. Four forced fumbles and only one pass breakup in his career. Within watching the first 15 seconds of this video I heard an energetic competitor that constantly gets after it, the type of mentality Pete Carroll would love on the practice field. He was also 2010 SDSU Student-Athlete of the Year and a three-time MWC all-academic honoree. Burris' resume portrays a smart and hard working player; apparently that's something Burris prides himself on.
"For me, I pride myself on football knowledge," said Burris, "I have a pretty good understanding of the game - of coverage and where people fit. It's on to me, when I get into a camp, to get into the playbook and try to not only understand the position they're going to have me in but the overall concept of the defense and why people do what they do." More: "I think I've been able to show I have versatility. Some teams project me at (strongside linebacker). Sometimes, it's the two inside guys or an outside-rush guy. Everyone has their own opinion, but I think that works for me. I really do believe I can play any linebacker position in any scheme."
The oft-cited Greg Cosell featured him in a "diamond in the rough" column last week as a player that will play in the NFL, sharing the sentiment of not knowing exactly where he fits:
"The San Diego State linebacker was one of my favorite players to watch on tape. I loved his intense, urgent playing style. He primarily aligned outside on the right, almost always in a two-point stance, but was at times utilized as a movable chess piece all over the defense. Burris was not a quick-twitch, sudden athlete, but he played with balance, body control and play speed. He was more of a speed/power rusher than a bend-the-edge/quickness rusher. I'm struggling to transition him to a specific position in the NFL. Can he be a rush linebacker? He might be too small, and lack flexibility and burst off the edge. Is he a strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 base defense? A middle linebacker? I don't know yet, but Burris will play in the NFL." (His ESPN draft profile has a bit more info on the facets of his game.)
Burris' numbers are impressive across the board. At 6'1" plus, 246 pounds: he ran a 4.67 40, registered a 37.5 vertical, broad jumped 10'1" at the combine, repped 225 pounds 31 times, had a 4.20 short shuttle and an impressive 6.68-6.81 3-cone drill (varying times depending on source) that sent him into a back flip - not a move that endeared some scouts. You can see the workout highlights here. Burris had this to say about his seemingly disappointing 31 reps: "I've benched 455 before. For somebody that can bench that much, I probably should be able to do a little more on the reps (31). Where does he notice this strength helping? "Shedding blocks is where I notice it the most. When a big guy tries to engage you, you can give them that pop and separate. You have the strength to grab on and stroll off at the end. It has definitely worked for me."
In the 20 minutes of playmaking on the highlight tapes Burris makes plays behind the line, sideline to sideline and between the tackles (mostly lined up on the defensive right side as Cosell noted), showing good range and an impressive ability to simply make the play. He seems to have good timing, solid awareness, and can really attack downhill from the edge. The impression I get is he is adequate but doesn't excel in coverage, though he can enforce the middle and make plays in underneath coverage (7-8:00 2010, 2:30, 8:20-8:40, 9:15 2011). He can track plays well downfield (:55, 1:50 2010). He can stop and/or contain the screen (2:30, 4:21, 5:11, 6-6:25 2010, 5:10, 6:30, 7:05 2011). He can also simply blow plays up (4:15 2010, :50, 1:56, 5:30-5:40, 6-6:10, 6:45 2011). He has a trademark celebration for these types of plays. Not flashy, and I kind of see it representing a 'no quit' type thing. He brings toughness and competitiveness.
He shows multiple instances of playing stout defending his goal line and attacking when near his opponents throughout the junior year highlights. He's a hard hitter that seems to get the job done someway, somehow. His production against only mid/upper-level college competition is a factor, but still impressive. He tracked some reverses/misdirection very well (first :50 seconds of 2010, 2:08 2011), but it would be great to see the whole picture against misdirection. Also, it's hard to tell if his ability to simply avoid blockers - against the run and pass - and make the play will fully translate, but he is also strong and flashes staying on his feet after a low block. Matchups could be key with him.
Questions: I am curious to see the negative plays in space, or what happens when he is overpowered against the run on the second level or on a pass rush - running backs seem to offer the quarterback little protection against Burris because he plays with balance- or just see his instincts and consistency over the course of a game. How often are aggressive backside tackle attempts missed, how often is he unable to knife to the ball or when does he fill the wrong hole, is he always relentless in pursuit? How are his recognition, angles to the ball and take on skills as a middle backer; where does he fit in sub-packages, how does he play with a hand/hands on the ground, how much room is there for growth with his pass-rush repertoire, handwork and stunts included? Finally, what are his capabilities from the left side, on the inside and outside?
I think potential front seven versatility, smarts and play making production behind the line of scrimmage with both tackles for loss and sacks, combined with play speed and a tenacious style (7:50 2010, 3:22-3:45, 7:50 2011), could make him a very attractive late round option for Seattle; a player they could try in multiple roles and perhaps one who can pick them up quickly, like K.J. Wright last preseason. Semi-tangential thought on Burris to finish; he could be the third former SDSU 'backer on the roster joining Matt McCoy and Heath Farwell. He is projected as a third day pick and depending on how the first two days go; an athletic, strong, hardworking, versatile linebacker with some nasty could be in the cards. Depending on how they project him, as a core guy that will compete with veterans to see the field on all downs now or if his role will have to develop over a year or two, will play a role in if he's rated a mid or late round prospect.
Now on to Derrius Brooks out of Western Kentucky. He's much more of a mystery, but a fun one at that. A few months back I mentioned that I am waiting for the Seahawks to find a short, explosive corner that even though he doesn't fit the tall, long and lean prototype could maybe fit as the short, explosive, savvy "Aaron Glenn type;" Pete Carroll was part of the Jets' staff when Glenn was drafted. I also referenced John Schneider's sentiment that they simply are diligent within their scouting criteria with cornerbacks and that's how they find diamond in the rough types. I buy the idea that good corners come in all shapes and sizes. Brooks is only 5'9.5" (190 pounds) but has 33 1/4-3/4 inch arms (varying sources), which I'm under the impression are second longest of any corner available for the draft (6'2" Trumaine Johnson has 34+" arms), and hands (9 1/4) are solid. In the highlight tape you will see him use those long arms to deliver some vicious blows (2:51 in video) when in press coverage - he plays press coverage and off the line, a guy that can turn and run when playing both - and he makes a nice one handed snag over the middle.
The other numbers: a 4.25-4.36 40 (varying sources) with a lightning quick 1.46 10 yard split, 38" vertical, 6.61 3-cone, 4.17 short shuttle, 10'5" broad jump. His 13 reps at 225 aren't great, but this is a small guy with long arms; not the best recipe for reps. In general, he is compact and looks like a natural and fluid athlete that potentially fits the criteria. One thing that stood out is his ability to break on the ball; he flashed recovery speed if he loses his man, plant and burst ability at the top of the route, and can stay with his man 1 on 1 (3:25, 3:40 in video). A lower level of competition is a factor to take into account here, but he played against big time competition a few times a year. Plus, he's been a college corner for only two years and was the team leader in picks from '10-11 with seven total - with four of them in '11 to go along with 14 passes defended, 48 tackles (33 solo), one forced fumble and recovery.
What happened before 2010? A twist...
Before 2010 he was a wide receiver - similar to another long armed Seahawk cornerback - and a deep threat at that, something I think contributes to his ability to find, track and make plays on the the ball as a corner consistently in the small sample here. In the video he shows he can separate as a pass catcher, and flashes as a threat returning or running - he has a touchdown as a passer, rusher, receiver and on a pick six in his career, with a kick return to inside the 10, a guy that potentially has true full field speed. Also, you'll see him as a gunner on punt coverage, sometimes running down the field untouched because he can out-quick his man from the start; also flashing downing the ball inside the 10. One thing that remains unknown is his tackling ability/consistency and physicality as a defender. He played safety his senior year in high school and "I like to hit." He also "love(s) the ball." I like that he has prior experience/feel as a receiver to help him transition to learning corner, but it's unclear the how consistent his instincts are.
Given the lack of information on him it's tougher to tell his competitiveness/intangibles/off the field profile, but the fact that he was willing to switch positions and then had relative success on the other side of the ball is promising. Here he claims to love playing special teams, which would certainly help his cause, and admits to working hard to up his bench press reps to 13. Lastly he says, "I have felt like I could play at the next level my whole life. I knew that if I set my mind to do something then I am going to get there, no matter what." My guess is the front office would take a liking to his positive, self-affirming attitude as small school guy, unique and "well built" corner.
He was a "big winner" at a post-season all-star game, a "sure-fire" pick in the draft. Ron Parker and Jesse Hoffman were two speedy, smaller school DB prospects brought in during undrafted free agency last season. They still have Byron Maxwell to develop, Doug Baldwin said Coye Francies is someone to watch. Brooks may sneak under the radar due to his lack of height, but makes up for it with length, athleticism and a seemingly, uncommonly rounded resume as a playmaker. I'd be very intrigued to see him compete in camp, especially if he proves capable of playing inside - maybe that's on the tape, good or bad - not to mention the fact that he could be a raw, Jameson Konz type that gets a chance on both sides of the ball. We also know Pete Carroll has an affinity towards fast, tall, long and/or unique secondary players; my impression is Brooks has room to grow and could fit the criteria, despite his height. The question is where do teams have him rated after watching tape; a late round pick, or as a player that was maybe draftable but ultimately becomes a post-draft target?
(Note: The Burris senior year tape goes haywire around the 9:45 mark.)