Backwards Draft Day Strategy: Round 5

The Cardinals defensive philosophy has always started with undersized, quick players, and that has not always worked, but as Associate Editor Brad Keller talks about, in the late rounds those players are plentiful, and can be productive.

Round 5:


Linebackers:  Brandon Johnson, Louisville, Keith Ellison, Oregon State.


Johnson is a run-and-cover guy that's surprisingly lanky (6'5", 228) for a linebacker, but also surprisingly fast (4.47).  I'm a big proponent of the adage that, "fast guys get tired, big guys don't shrink," but that's not really the type of philosophy the Cardinals have on defense.  In their derivation of the Cover 2, guys need to hustle and find the ball as opposed to shedding blocks or holding at the point of attack.  If Johnson can be shown the way to the weight room and the local Sizzler, thereby packing on about 15 pounds without losing too much of his speed, he could be an exceptionally good pick in Round 5.  After all, he grades out as low as he does because he's so skinny and doesn't particularly relish the idea of contact.  If he can bulk up a bit and be trained to hit people every now and again, he might be a steal at this point.  Then again, that's a lot of "ifs."  Which is why he has a 5th round grade…


Ellison is on the other side of the spectrum.  He's bigger (235 pounds, but only 6'1"), slower, and has a nose for the ball (by going through people rather than around them).  While he'll never be an electric playmaker or a great cover guy (at 4.86 in the 40, he's a lot slower than Johnson), he won't often be out of position, he will take on blockers, he'll hit the weight room and the buffet table, and he'll definitely be an asset on special teams.  So, he's the safer pick, but he's lean on upside.


Other Possibilities:  Omar Gaither, Tennessee, Spencer Havner, UCLA.


Guards:  Rob Sims, Ohio State, Jahri Evans, Bloomsburg.


Sims is more of a safe selection, but he's not all that safe.  He played tackle in college and not for very long, since he declared for the draft as a Junior and didn't start every year since coming to Columbus.  But… on the other side of that, he's got plenty of athletic ability, excellent footwork from his days as a tackle, and plenty of size to play guard (6'4", 307), but not quite enough to play tackle.  I still find it amazing that NFL prospects can be bigger and taller than a guy we called "Ogre" in High School and be considered "undersized," but that's neither here nor there.  The important thing to remember is that with Sims, you get a better than average athlete (in terms of agility and footwork), who's the right size, has experience against Big 10 competition, and you get him in Round 5.  There are a lot of positives to outweigh the negatives.  All that having been said, it's still going to take time to develop him into a pro-level guard.


Evans may actually take more time to develop, but he has considerably more potential.  How many people out there know where Bloomsburg University is?  I only know because I friend of mine got her Undergraduate there.  Bloomsburg is small enough that Evans actually worked out for NFL scouts at Temple University.  The thing to keep in mind about Evans when you watch film on him or look at him in a pair of boxers (good size, good definition), is that he played against Division II and III schools for his entire career.  He certainly has the athletic ability, strength, and stamina to make it in the NFL, but the game might be too fast for him at the next level.  Again, it's only a fifth round pick, but declaring for a draft is just like any other job search for a college graduate.  As an employer, do want someone with a bunch of relevant internships and great references, or someone that has a really good GPA and some nice extracurricular activities?


Other Possibilities:  Mark Setterstrom, Minnesota, Adam Stenavich, Michigan.


Defensive Tackles:  Le Kevin Smith, Nebraska, Barry Cofield, Northwestern.


Smith is actually a Day 1 talent.  With the depth of DT talent in this year's class, combined with some other issues that Smith has, he may fall to Round 5.  Smith has the strength, size, and explosiveness that you look for in a defensive tackle in a scheme like the Cardinals'.  He's played against a high level of competition (even if Oklahoma took a step back last year) and he has all the measurables.  The only problem is that he tore his ACL and was red shirted as a Freshman and he doesn't try hard on every play.  With his natural ability, he could be taken in the second or third round.  With his attitude, he might drop to the Cardinals in the 5th, or further.  As a 5th round prospect, he's worth a shot as a situational player and a guy that might excel on special teams.


Cofield, on the other hand, gets more of an "A" for effort than athletic ability.  He's a little too tall (6'4") and a little too light (300) for his build.  He just doesn't "look" right.  He's not particularly fast, not particularly agile, and not particularly explosive.  He is, though, particularly passionate about the game of football.  And, given the fact that Northwestern has higher academic standards than most schools, likely possesses the intelligence to grasp a more complicated scheme at the NFL level.  Given the fact that the NFL doesn't tend to hand out very high grades for extra effort, he may be available in the 6th round.  Then again, the Cardinals may be best served to grab him here in the 5th and figure out a way to best utilize him later.


Other Possibilities:  Tommy Jackson, Auburn, Titus Adams, Nebraska.

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