AnalysisCann started 51 consecutive games at left guard for South Carolina, earning high praise from Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier. He graded out at almost 92% and led the SEC in knockdown blocks with 115 in 2014. Cann also had 15 touchdown resulting blocks last season. He’s smart, quick off the ball, has good feet and big hands. Cann can really block well on the move, whether it’s getting to the second level or pulling and trapping. He’s also stout in pass pro. Cann looks like he will have a chance to play in the league for a very long time in the trenches and is one of the top guard prospects in this draft.
Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation
Report from NFL Scouting Services' Dave-Te' Thomas:
A.J. Cann might go down as the most complete offensive lineman ever produced during Steve Spurrier’s college coaching days. The four-year starter at left guard had his finest season to date in 2014, as the two-time team captain and Academic All-Southeastern Conference choice added All-American honors after he delivered 15 touchdown-resulting blocks and 115 knockdowns as a senior.
Even with all of his experience as a guard, his incredible field smarts, enough to have called blocking assignments for the team since his sophomore year, could see him shift inside to center at the next level. He has excellent athletic ability, displaying good initial explosion off the line. He is very nimble in the open field, as he gets out on traps and pulls in a hurry, maintaining balance throughout his stride. With his ability to engage defenders in an instant coming off the snap, he might be a better center candidate at the next level, once he gains experience.
Cann shows impressive agility and balance on the move and has the change of direction flexibility to redirect and clear cut back lanes working into the second level. Cann, just the second player in school history to start at least 50 games for the Gamecocks, is likely to be the first guard selected in the draft. The Patriots are looking for a quality interior blocker and Green Bay and Arizona are also looking for line upgrades early in the draft. He’s a classic bar-room brawler who is light in the hips and can run well when pulling and trapping. Put him in a scheme where he can utilize his raw power and allow him to maul, he will excel. He is just not the type that fits in a finesse-style scheme.
Cann has no trouble getting turned up field and locking on to linebackers in the second level. He is very alert when trapping and can drop his pads and snap hips to unload on a lethargic defender. While his pass protection is solid enough to handle emergency snaps as a tackle, he is much better suited as an interior lineman due to a lack of great arm length and just adequate overall size to play on the edge.
Cann has natural strength and quickness. He shows ease of movement accelerating into the second level and excellent change of direction agility to make plays working down the line. He plays with a very good base, keeping his feet wide and pad level low to generate enough explosiveness coming off the snap. He plays on his feet and has the lateral range to make adjustments in his pass set.
Cann bends his knees with good flexibility and shows that he has the quickness to get out on the edge and seal off the rush, along with getting into the second level to stalk line-backers (made twelve down field blocks). He has the agility to pull and trap with very good effectiveness from the offensive guard position. He shows good hand usage and the redirection skills to mirror on stunts and blitzes.
Cann is a highly intelligent blocker who is quick to pick up defensive schemes, especially stunts and blitzes. He can handle the mental aspect of the game and is not the type who will make the same mistake twice. He has a good classroom work ethic, earning league and school academic honors during his career and takes the plays from the board to the field with only minimal reps.
Cann is best when picking up games and chipping to the second level. He knows all of the assignments of the offensive lineman and has enough savvy to make blocking calls, if needed, along with the exceptional hand quickness that could make him a viable option to play center at the next level.
As a drive blocker, Cann excels working in space, as he shows great explosion getting out in attempts to stalk and neutralize linebackers. He has above average leg drive and lateral movement to be quite effective maintaining rush lane integrity. As a senior, he dominated the action in the trenches when trying to scope, sustain and make reach blocks than in the past. He gets very good hip roll, which lets him be physical and aggressive coming off the snap.
Once Cann locks on to a defender, he will generally win the battle. He can drive with good initial force, but is best when accelerating to get to the second level. In pass protection, few guards possess the speed to mirror and square up with an opponent, like this Tar Heel. He has a very strong anchor, which lets him maintain position when trying to neutralize the pass rush charge.
With his lateral quickness, Cann has no problems when trying to slide and readjust. He plays with good awareness and has the flexibility along with functional lower body strength to anchor. Few offensive guards at the collegiate level demonstrate the hand quickness he has. He comes out of his stance with good urgency and a solid base, opening his hips quickly to pivot and adjust to the speed rush.
A.J. Cann NFL Scouting Combine measurables
32 5/8-inch arm length
10 1.4-inch hands
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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