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Seeing Is Believing: Dustin Keller's Blocking

Certain baggage comes with suboptimal measurables. If you play the line but are short, you can bet scouts will question your ability to "hold the point" or "shed blockers". That's not a knock on scouts, their job, after all, is to project not so much what a player has done, but what they will do. A shorter player has less room to fill out and has a shorter ceiling. Or so is the thinking. The problem is that player evaluation is neither a matter of black and white nor shades of gray, each player is an individual entity in of itself. Some large players can't shed blockers, never learn to, and some shorter players hold the point pretty darn well. Brandon Mebane.

That's why when I read that Dustin Keller can't block, I couldn't help but be a little skeptical. Concerns about Keller's height are practical, after all, it's no minor coincidence that roughly every successful tight end in the NFL is 6'3"+. Alge Crumpler is the only exception I could find, being 6204 - in scout speak. The very nature of the position, the routes they run and the roles they play, puts a premium on height. But that shouldn't be interpreted to mean a player must meet a minimum height to be a successful tight end--only that it matters. It shouldn't matter for a player's blocking, though. If a guard can stick at sub 6'3" (and there's plenty of examples), a tight end shouldn't be unduly handicapped by their stature.

Unfortunately, Keller really is that bad of a blocker. I could tell you that, explain how his blocking is so bad that he's often off the field, but I thought a couple clips might better serve my case. Highlight packages aren't worthless if you know what to look for. Like when a draft eligible player shows up in someone else's highlights. I'm not implying that two clips prove that Keller can't block. Call them exhibits in an otherwise strong case.

The fun starts for Keller (28) at 1:26. Free safety Anderson Russell (21) notched two of his three sacks of 2007 in this game.

One play doesn't define any part of Keller's game, but he certainly gets schooled there. At 3:04 you can see Dan Connor running through Keller.

Connor's a great talent and all, but there's shedding blockers and there's running through a flimsy wicket.

I've mentioned "- -" skills. What I call "The kind of faults that can fell an otherwise top talent." Keller's closest comparison might be Chris Cooley. The 6307 Cooley is a little short and a little slow for a top tight end, but is one nevertheless. Cooley gets it done with skill, determination and because he often plays the recessed tight end or H-back position. Cooley is also a pretty good blocker. Keller could play H-back or slot in many offenses, but, even then, will be expected to block. In Seattle's offense, Keller has two strikes against, being neither a good height for a traditional tight end nor having the blocking prowess to sell run.  All in all, I don't foresee Seattle drafting him. I do think he'll make a productive and sometimes showy receiver, but I also think unless he makes major strides in his blocking, his real production will forever lag behind his statistical production.