All told, Rob Sims started five games his rookie season, including two in the playoffs. He received strong reviews from everyone who watched him. That's good and significant, but Sims is still really just a prospect. Finding reliable information on any draftee not from this most recent class has proven to be a bit of an adventure, but with enough searching I found the scoop on Sims. So, for a second, let's assume last season never happened. It's 2006, the draft is upon us, Hutch is gone and the Hawks are fresh off being jobbed in the Super Bowl. With the 31st selection in the fourth round of the NFL draft the Seattle Seahawks take Rob Sims, T/G out of Ohio State. How would I rate this pick?
The first thing to know about Sims is that he's a four year starter who recorded 40 starts over his college career. That's always a very good thing. Sims split time between tackle and guard at OSU--for many analysts that puts him in the dreaded tweener role. I, however, love tackles that are drafted to play guard. Tackles are generally more athletic and the position is of more premium than guard, so it generally attracts better overall talent. Further, when the majority of a player's career is spent at tackle (28 starts as opposed to just 12 at guard) they are scouted as a tackle and many of the negatives, be it stiff hips or an inability to work in space (Sims was cited for both), are evaluated whilst they play as a tackle. For whatever reason, these negatives are more or less transposed as-is when evaluating the player as a guard. That's somewhat akin to knocking a player's range in center field, moving them to right field and then assuming that same weakness. In other words, a player who has shown any ability to work as a tackle at the highest level (in this case meaning at a major college) probably won't have major agility problems working as a guard. It's simply a less demanding position.
The two qualities I value most in a scouting profile are effort and technique, with few exceptions I treat the rest as dross. Sims is considered an outstanding technical pass blocker. That's a very big positive for a player with less than ideal agility. It's not too important to me if Sims is a good guy or not, but I want to know if he'll work. Sims' father was a defensive tackle in the NFL, his mother a teacher. Bad seeds come from the country club as well as the ghetto, but at the very least, we shouldn't expect Sims' pals to shoot up a night club. Before 2005, Sims had been criticized for carrying extra weight and suffering lapses of stamina. It's possible Sims carried the weight as an attempt to compensate for a poor overall build for a tackle: At 6'2" and with just 31 3/4" arms, you can imagine he had trouble with edge rushers. Sims worked hard to become a guard before the 2005 season, so it's fair to say that while a certain amount of danger exists that Sims will loaf, his 40 career starts, willingness to reshape himself as a guard and NFL pedigree indicate a reasonable willingness to work.
Sims didn't participate at the NFL combine because of a hamstring injury. An injury before the most important week of your young career is usually a big red flag for me for a variety of reasons. For Sims, though, less so. Previously, Sims had missed only one contest in his whole college career because of injury and that injury, groin pull, was similarly transient and minor. The real problem with Sims missing the combine is that it limits the amount of information we have to evaluate his physical tools. The same injury persisted into his pro day, but Sims decided to participate in the majority of drills anyhow. His results are intriguing, if incomplete. His 5.25 at the forty is essentially meaningless. For one, it's hard to know how it was affected by his hamstring injury, but more importantly, at least for my analysis, is that without a 10 yard and 20 yard breakdown I can't separate his initial acceleration (which is important) from his top-end speed (which isn't). His upper body strength, both fast-twitch (27 reps) and especially slow-twitch (515 pound bench) are impressive. In fact, his strength drills were all excellent: 515-pound bench press, 600-pound squat, 365-pound power clean. Compare that to the top two guard prospects off 2007, Ben Grubbs (430-pound bench press, 363-pound power clean) and Arron Sears (425-pound bench press, 500-pound squat, 310-pound power clean). Overall, it's an incomplete portrait, albeit tantalizing.
So, in summary, Sims is a former offensive tackle with 40 career starts at a major university, strong technique--especially pass blocking, and a hardy mix of physical tools that are sub-elite, but muddled a bit by an untimely injury: That's a very, very strong prospect and one I would have applauded Ruskell for grabbing late in the third round.
Sims has the drive, strength, technique and talent to be an elite offensive guard. His strong play last season is welcome, but five games, playing on fresh legs against defensive tackles without such a luxury, is not more important than the four years in college that preceded it. Walter Jones needs a partner in crime to be at his best, a player strong enough to force back the opponents nose tackle and savvy enough to adjust for stunts and blitzing linebackers. Too often last season Jones was forced to work double duty compensating for the screen door that was the Hawks left guard while Chris Spencer and Floyd Womack started. Sims does not have the agility to be an elite blocker on the second level and he'll need to to continue to compensate with technique when facing speed rushers. Still, what Sims can do well gives him the potential to be a Pro Bowl caliber guard. His second season in the NFL may be a little too early to expect that, but at his very least, his play and presence will be a huge upgrade from the potpourri of out of position linemen and (I assume) soon to be waiver fodder that soaked up the snaps at left guard in 2006.