DE Update #3

Tully Banta-Cain (California) wasn't a player I remember noticing last year when I watched Cal play but he has created a lot of interest recently with his performance at the East-West Shrine Bowl

By all accounts, the performance by Terrell Suggs (Arizona State) at his long-awaited workout was disappointing but though likely to cost him some money (certainly, I'd say he was now out of the running to be the first pick overall), I don't believe that it will effect his status as a premier prospect, though it may change the thinking on how teams view him. Coming in at 257lb's, he ran a lot slower than anticipated running in the high 4.8's – very slow for a smaller DE type – was sluggish in his change of direction, strained a leg muscle slightly during the session and admitted afterwards that his body was still adjusting to the ‘new weight' having played at no more than 245lb's during his career. For a team like Houston, he's now a better fit as he projects as a pass-rushing ROLB in their 3-4 system rather than a down lineman.

Calvin Pace (Wake Forest) appears to be amongst the ‘fastest risers' on NFL teams draft boards following his workout a few weeks back. He's now considered a potential 1st round choice but as I haven't seen him I can't vouch for his abilities. I'll let you know what the consensus view on his abilities is in a few days.

Tully Banta-Cain (California) wasn't a player I remember noticing last year when I watched Cal play but he has created a lot of interest recently with his performance at the East-West Shrine Bowl and I believe also his play in the Senior Bowl (where he was brought in as an injury-replacement late in the practice week). Statistically, he is interesting as his career appears to be on the up having nabbed 27 sacks the last 3 years, an impressive 13 of them coming this past season so has shown the big leap in production I like to see in a player's senior year. At 6'2" and 261lb's, he appears to be a ‘tweener, lacking the size for full-time duties with his hand down but a lot bigger than your average OLB, suited more to the 3-4 rush position which appears to be coming back in vogue. However, I haven't seen any confirmation of workout numbers so don't know for sure whether he has the size/athleticism to play OLB in the pro ranks.

I haven't got around to watching either All-Star game yet and, as is my preference, I'd prefer to see a guy playing for his college team anyway because that should show what they can produce in the comfort of their own scheme. As such, I watched him intently recently in a partial broadcast (don't ask, it's a Pontel thing!) of the game against Washington State and their pass happy offense. With QB Jason Gesser injured going into the game (rib cartilage torn away from the bone – ouch!), I'd expected a lot of heat to be generated from the Cal front line – led by Banta-Cain – but that wasn't the case at all despite the ball being put in the air near 50 times. Rather than being pointed at the passer from the QB's blindside at RDE, he popped up frequently on the left and was used as both a down lineman and also standing up as an OLB either side of the alignment (looked like a flex system as Cal went to some 3 DL looks), dropping out into the flat frequently in coverage – he certainly looked like an LB prospect due to his smoothness in reverse – before reacting quickly and running to the ball when thrown underneath near his zone.

In truth, he had very little success getting off of blocks with his hand down either in the pass rush or against the run but he flashed around the corner from his stand-up role on a few occasions - though he never really hit the QB too often due to the quick passing rhythm of the Cougars offense – but got in late on one sack putting his helmet into the QB's ribs as he was in the grasp of another defender. From this viewing, though I have seen him projected being taken at the top end of the 2nd round, I don't see him as quite that good a prospect but his pass rush skills, fact he looks so comfortable playing in space, has good change-of-direction and appears ‘on the up' may get him drafted that high. With the fact the Giants were eyeing up pass-rushing SLB Roosevelt Colvin in free agency, it is not out of the question that they may like what Banta-Cain has to offer also and could make him a surprise ‘value' selection in the late 2nd round (though I'd prefer Cincinnati's Antwan Peek if we were to add a pass-rushing OLB with that choice).

A second viewing of Alonzo Jackson (Florida State) in the Bowl game against Georgia left me convinced that he won't be a starter at the next level. Smaller DE's are expected to have trouble getting off of blocks at the point of attack against the run but they usually show a lot of athleticism and up the field pass rushing skills against OT's in their play. The Georgia linemen are well versed in pass protection but he didn't really manage to beat any of them with any degree of consistency. To me, though he may get drafted in the 3rd round, he's not a player I'd consider until the 2nd day as his lack of ideal athletic tools combined with his size deficiencies make him a bad size/speed guy and those types don't have as much success in the NFL as the pro ranks.

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