Buyer Beware: Offense, Part 2

Longtime personnel analyst Dave-Te Thomas brings Part 2 of a four-part series on boom-or-bust talents who have major flaws in their game or disconcerting character concerns. We conclude the offense with a running back and the offensive line — including harsh words for a Badger.

It happens every year. The team scouts spend every waking minute evaluating talent, attending games, watching film and checking their lists twice, sort of like a football Santa Claus. Then, the Combines roll around, and coaches, scouting directors and general managers are out in full force with stopwatches in hand. The four-day "underwear workout" commences, those out of the scouting loop (coaches and GMs) become enamored with agility figures and march off en mass to pro days. There, they continue their little "love fest" with a player's athletic ability, but along the way, seem to forget that victories are generated by production, by consistent performance and not how good a kid looks running 40 yards on the track.

What all of this leads up to is a totally different draft board than the ones the scouts have prepared. The general manager is the decision maker and all others are there to offer input. Coaches have their "guy" they want the GM to take, despite claims from their scouting department that have spent the better part of the year finding the "warts" not shown on the player's professional resume. With that in mind, here is a look at that one player at each position who will either make a general manager look like a genius, or have that guy on the unemployment line a year later.


John Clay, Wisconsin

You have to wonder what is going on in the heads of Wisconsin running backs in recent years. First, it was Brian Calhoun, followed by P.J. Hill, and then, Clay, making the ill-advised decision to bolt college for the NFL Draft. One look at team rosters at the end of 2010 and neither Calhoun's or Hill's names will be found on any roster.

Clay's numbers took a noticeable drop in 2010, as he had 1,012 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he was coming off a 2009 campaign where he piled up 1,517 yards and found the end zone 18 times. At age 23, his time clock for toting the pigskin was a little high for a college player and with the depth that Wisconsin has at tailback, another erratic season by Clay was sure to cut into his carries (had 287 in 2009, but just 187 last year).

What really put up "red flags" was his less than inspiring work ethic, along with his weight issues. He was "politely" listed at 258 pounds last season, but looked every bit of 280. He showed up at the Combine weighing 230, but then went out and clocked 4.92 and 4.96 in the 40-yard dash (electronic), the worst for any running back at the event. He then cited "injuries," complaining of a right shoulder sprain when declining to lift in the weight room and said he had a right ankle sprain and could not do the three-cone drill. Excuses are not what NFL teams want to hear, especially from a player who will likely end up being a free agent.

Clay is a powerfully built athlete, but tends to dance around the pile and tries to avoid rather than take on contact. He needs to give a better effort to anticipate blocks, but is effective at locating the rush lanes. He has to play with a more consistent effort, as he will throttle down when not involved in the play. He does not take well to hard coaching, but tried to improve his work ethic in 2010, hoping to improve everyone's perceived impression of him. He played through several nagging injuries as a junior, but even though he is blessed with impressive ability, he needs to prove that football is important to him.

Clay tries to dance around too much when getting into the second level, negating some of his initial burst. He does not have the sustained speed to go long distances, but has the loose hips and ability to shift gears and redirect in an instant. He gets through the holes initially with no problem, but can be run down in attempts to break past the second level.

While he likes to redirect and try to get fancy with his moves, Clay is better served just taking the ball up the gut rather than dance around so much. He sort of reminds me of the swordsman in "Indiana Jones" – you know, the guy with the fancy sword moves who Harrison Ford neutralized with a bullet! That's Clay sometimes. A smart defender will just let him dance around, smile and whack the tailback down. If this was "Dancing With the Stars," Clay would go the route of Kenny Mayne – the first one to be eliminated. Seriously, he's not a shake-and-bake type, even though he feels he is.

As a receiver, Clay uses his body too much to absorb the ball in rather than reach and pluck away from his frame. He is decent on swings and dump-offs, but does not have the ability to look the deep throw in over his outside shoulder. Clay doesn't seem to have a taste for blocking. With his weight room strength, he should be blowing up blitzers on a regular basis. He has the vision to recognize the bull rush, but makes only passive attempts to get in the way rather than try to face up.

Compares To…P.J. Hil, ex-New Orleans…Somebody needs to get a running backs guidance counselor to be employed in Madison, as several Badgers ball carriers have made horrible mistakes in recent years by bolting college early for a dream of playing in the NFL. Clay has had injury and consistency issues and you can time this guy with a calendar rather than a stopwatch.


Kristofer O'Dowd, USC

O'Dowd comes with a fine high school and early college career resume, but he might be a medical risk, as his knee woes will scare away a few teams, despite his triumphant return to the gridiron in 2010.

In 2007, he suffered a dislocated right kneecap vs. Washington, missing the next three games. He also had surgery to remove torn cartilage, sitting out three more contests before returning to the lineup vs. Arizona State. In 2009, O'Dowd sat out May camp after undergoing left shoulder surgery in January to repair a torn labrum. He later suffered a dislocated right kneecap during the first series of a mid-August scrimmage, missing the season opener vs. San Jose State. He started the next five games, but lingering knee issues and a shoulder sprain forced him back to the sidelines for three games. He returned to see limited action vs. Stanford before he sat out the next week vs. UCLA.

O'Dowd has above-average foot quickness, but there are concerns about his balance. He has good athletic ability, change-of-direction skills and lateral movement. The thing you notice on film is his acceleration getting into the second level on screens and pulls. However, he frequently falls off the snap and overextends, especially when blocking in space.

He used to show ease of movement redirecting in either direction, but after his 2007 knee injury, he did not look athletic (appeared stiff) when changing direction. He is effective locating the safeties and linebackers working in space, but has only adequate slide.

O'Dowd will get textbook fits at the X's and does a good job of getting into position. He needs to add more lower body strength (has excellent upper body power, though, as his knees will buckle and he will lose his ability to sustain vs. the bull rush. When he needs to extend to make blocks, he loses balance and falls to the ground. He is prone to off-side penalties and false starts, mostly due to poor weight distribution (seems to be worse with a defender playing over his head).

Compares To…Eric Ghiacius, Miami…Ghiaciuc's athletic deficiencies have seen him play for seven teams since entering the NFL in 2005. Unless O'Dowd is fully recovered from knee woes and learns to sink his pads and move quicker laterally, he faces the same travels during his professional life. He also shows the ability to come off double teams and get to his blocks and sustain, but will revert to bending at the waist rather than his hips. He has a good pass set and quick hands to get on the defenders with proper hand placement, but will catch rather than punch most of the time.


James Brewer, Indiana

Brewer has a tall frame (6-foot-6, 323) that makes him look leaner than he actually is. He has a big upper body frame with good muscle definition in his arms. He has a big waist, good bubble, thick thighs, knotted calves and solid muscle tone in his lower frame. His tall frame could add more bulk with no loss in speed. He is also high-cut with narrow hips. With his strength, he can be explosive coming off the snap, but sometimes negates his anchor because he will stand too tall and appear erect in his stance. His stiffness prevents him from dropping his hips properly to anchor.

James Brewer
Ned Dishman/Getty Images
Brewer has just adequate explosion coming off the ball in the passing game, and can be shocked and rocked back on his heels vs. a strong bull rush. He has some foot speed and agility to gain advantage when he stays low in his stance, but he needs to work on his footwork, as at times, he will skip a step coming out of his stance, causing some balance issues. He has marginal lateral movement and feet to move on pulls and get up field. He is sluggish to redirect and must learn how to play at a lower pad level.

On running plays, Brewer comes off the snap with his back flat, but needs to do a better job of rolling his hips. With his strength, you would think that his hand punch can dominate and drive the defender off the line of scrimmage, but he will revert to grabbing in attempts to steer the defender. He may overextend some and lacks the balance to recover when he gets too erect coming off the line of scrimmage.

You can see on game film that Brewer has marginal flexibility and will get sloppy with his footwork at times. But, when he uses his hands, he can stun the pass rusher with his punch. He has long arms, but sometimes is not quick to reset his hands. He's like a dancing bear moving back in pass protection, playing too high to redirect. But, when he keeps a wide stance with a good base, he can adjust to the speed rush.

Compares To…Khalif Barnes, Oakland… Brewer will overextend and lunge some on run plays, lacking the balance (fails to open hips) to quickly recover. He has good feet on contact in the running game, but gets too narrow with his hips, causing him to look slow-footed when he attempts to get up to the second level and cut off from the backside. It is rare to see him flash aggression, as he prefers to grab rather than use his hands with force to stun with his punch. In pass protection, Brewer shows a decent kick slide, but at times, he will pivot to recover and miss blocks when he plays straight-legged. He uses his size to his advantage in pass protection, as he has the long arms needed to lock out, but must work on getting proper hand placement to ride out the wide rusher.


DeMarcus Love, Arkansas

Love is a big, strong body type that does not always play to his weight room strength. Love (6-4, 315) lacks good agility and is limited by poor hand placement and a slow rise off the snap. Because of his lack of suddenness, I doubt if he can be an effective pro tackle, as he is too stiff and erect in his stance to effectively redirect. He struggles when having to change direction, and despite decent foot speed, he lacks quickness and urgency to get into the second level and attack linebackers on sweeps.

While Love has good weight room power, he looks too top-heavy (most of his weight is held in his chest) and this makes him appear a bit sluggish getting off the snap. He gets too erect in his stance to gain leverage off the snap, but does use his massive body to gain position and sustain. He is limited in space, and cannot redirect and recover. When he stays low in his pads, he can adjust and drop his weight to gain movement. though.

Love struggles with lateral movement and the speed rush as his body stiffness prevents him from getting a good anchor. When he gets erect in his stance, he will overextend and lose body control. He does show good intent to finish, but he does not have the feet to get to his drop point in pass protection.

The Razorback will sometimes delivers a strong hand punch, but he lacks consistency and aggression when shooting his hands, preventing him from getting total impact behind those hits. When focused, he shows some power in his play and looks to finish, doing a very good job of using his size to lean in and push the defender off the ball, but fails to generate anything more than a marginal burst off the snap due to being a slow-twitch type.

Compares To…Tony Ugoh, Detroit…Love is a big-framed lineman whose struggles with speed and lateral agility will force him to shift inside to guard at the pro level. Off the snap, he shows enough quickness with his hands (just doesn't shoot them with consistency), but lacks foot speed. When he manages to get his pad level down, he can drive block. His feet go dead when he has to pull or work to the second level. He gets too erect in his stance to gain proper leverage. One thing you notice on film is that when he has to move up field, not only does he appear slow-twitched getting off the snap, but labors to gain acceleration and gets his head down, which prevents him from spotting targets to hit. He can anchor down in pass protection, but is slow to get to his drop point and has no agility to get to the edge, making him a liability at left tackle.

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