Numbers: 6007/208, 4.47 forty, 2.53 twenty, 1.49 ten, 24 reps, 43 vertical, 11'3 long, 4.10 shuttle, 6.94 cone
2006 stats: 86 tackles, 12 assists, 7-31 tackle for loss, 1-1 sack, 2-0-0 interceptions, 10 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble, 1-0-0 fumble recovery
The Player: Most fans probably remember Brannon Condren for the huge hit he put on Lorenzo Booker in Florida State's hard-fought 24-17 win over Troy back in September. Scouts remember it too, and a lot of other things Condren's done as well. But what really stands out, what dazzles, happened at his pro day workout. Condren put up a lot of very good — cornerback-like — speed and agility numbers that day, but he blew them away when he jumped. Somehow, Condren suspended the laws of physics long enough to move 208 pounds 43 inches straight up and then 11'3 across. That's some pretty impressive leg drive. That's offensive tackle leg drive.
But he is no mere workout warrior. The unquestioned leader of Troy's punishing defense, Condren has an intensity that fires his teammates up. Condren always seemed to play his best against the toughest competition and when the game was on the line. He's a solid player who uses his excellent fluidity, great speed and surprising strength to lay lots of highlight hits. He's a powerful blitzer who has gradually learned to use his hands to efficiently shed blockers. He is a genuine weapon against the running game.
But against the pass, he still has a lot to learn. Condren is smoother in transition than he gets credit for and has a quick backpedal. That said, he is sometimes slow to read on certain patterns and will commit too quickly on others, falling prey to double-moves. While he shows a good understanding of zones and is eager to help the men in front of him, he can be exposed in man coverage, especially deep. Condren has the tools and the intelligence to improve, but his best quality in coverage will probably always be the intimidation factor. He has relied on his rare closing speed to make up for coverage mistakes for a long time, so he may be in for a big surprise in the NFL.
Condren lacks the natural hands of a regular interceptor and does not always time his jumps well, but is adept at swatting the ball out a receiver's hands.
Like most things about Condren's game, he's a much better tackler closer to the line of scrimmage where he can square up against a ballcarrier.
Reminds me of: At this point, I'd have to say Condren looks a lot like Tebucky Jones, a first-round pick by the Patriots in 1998. Big, fast and a lights-out hitter, Jones was a instant success on run downs and special teams, but had serious problems in deep coverage. Teams kept giving him chances and big contracts, but he never really got to where teams expected him to be.
I'm not saying that Condren will never get better in coverage, just that, at this point, he looks a lot like Jones did in 1998. But while Jones was a first-rounder expected to start right away and eventually be a star, there's less stress on Condren.
How he fits: I know what you're thinking. Condren is so strong, so good against the run and something of a liability in deep coverage, so why not make him a linebacker? He shares many of the same attributes as Cato June and is about the same size, somewhat stronger and much faster. It made June a Pro Bowl player, so it should help Condren as well, right?
While such a move would appear to make sense, I don't think it's going to happen. When the Colts drafted June, a safety out of Michigan, they referred to him as a linebacker on draft day and in all of their media afterwards. Conversely, Condren has never been called anything other than a defensive back. In fact, according to an interview with Condren after the draft, when the Colts called to tell him that he was their pick, they also told him that he was going to be their fourth safety.
And that's where he'll begin his NFL career. Condren played both free and strong safety in college, but there's not much difference in the Colts' scheme, so he'll be the fallback option at both behind Bob Sanders, Antoine Bethea and Matt Giordano. Condren is talented enough that he may be too hard to keep off the field, so expect to see him in various sub and blitz packages, especially in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Of course, a player in Condren's position will have to earn his pay on special teams before he makes an impact on defense. But he has the speed, intensity, fearlessness and tackling ability to make a real difference there right away.