AnalysisShelton was a beast as the anchor in the Huskie defense. He played in 53 games at Washington, starting 42 [39 at nose guard]. He’s clearly the top nose guard in this class and an ideal centerpiece for a 3-4 front. For a player of his size [340-pounds] he’s surprisingly nimbl, light on his feet and displays excellent lateral quickness. Shelton is so strong and shows some explosiveness. He commands a double team and often times can’t be moved off his spot. Shelton has the sheer strength to occupy multiple blockers. Last season he accounted for 94 tackles.
Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation
The Browns improved their dead last run defense with this one pick of nose tackle Danny Shelton. He was a beast as the anchor in the Husky defense. He played in 53 games at Washington, starting 42 [39 at nose guard]. He’s clearly the top nose guard in this class and an ideal centerpiece for a 3-4 front. For a player of his size [340-pounds] he’s surprisingly nimble, light on his feet and displays excellent lateral quickness. Shelton is so strong and shows some explosiveness. He commands a double team and often times can’t be moved off his spot. Shelton has the sheer strength to occupy multiple blockers. Last season he accounted for 94 tackles. Shelton has a chance to make an immediate and enormous impact in Cleveland and fans will love him on the Dawg Pound.
When Curly Culp pioneered the nose guard position for the pro ranks as a member of the Houston Oilers, he quickly became the player all who came after him would be measured against. The “typical” nose guard is one who occupies multiple blockers, but you usually find that player’s name at the bottom of the game-book stats chart. Pull up any Husky game-stats chart and you will find Danny Shelton at the top, as he is perhaps the best game-breaker the position has ever developed. Since the NCAA first began to record quarter-back sacks as official statistics in 2000, no nose guard has ever recorded at least nine sacks in a season, outside of Shelton (2014).
His 93 tackles in 2014 tied Gerrand Johnson of Louisiana-Monroe for the national lead among FBS nose guards/defensive tackles. He is also the first nose guard to lead the nation in fumble recoveries (five). He collected 208 tackles (111 solos) with 11.5 sacks for minus 45 yards, 24.0 stops for losses of 67 yards and 23 quarterback pressures during his career. He’s also recovered six fumbles and blocked three kicks.
Shelton is a quick and explosive run container who plays with non-stop effort. He is a short stepper who does a very good job of using his upper body strength and lower frame power to collapse the offensive line and occupy multiple blockers. He gets into the blockers with good urgency and shows impressive hip flexibility and lower body quickness to make plays moving down the line for a player with such a thick frame.
The Husky plays stout at the point of attack and uses his hands well to keep blockers away from his chest. When he stays low in his pads, he gains leverage and shows above average strength and explosion coming off the snap. When he keeps his large hands within the framework, he has outstanding ability to defeat cut blocks. He uses his change of direction agility well to move along the line, allowing the staff to use him on zero-, one- and two-techniques.
Prior to his senior season, Shelton made 113 tackles in three seasons, including 59 as a junior. For a player of his size, he shows a good first step off the snap. He can gain advantage and shows suddenness getting to the gaps. He is quick with his feet to get a good push into the blocker, and showed marked improvement using his hands to protect his legs from low blocks in 2014.
Shelton is simply a strong inside run defender who can make plays up and down the line of scrimmage, showing in 2014 that he has the long speed to chase in space (eleven touchdown-saving tackles at the opposite side of the field). He is often matched against double teams and when this happens, he can hold ground at the point of attack, thanks to his refined hand shed ability.
When working one-on-one, he will flash the ability to stack and he generates a strong anchor to maintain position. He is very hard to block coming off the ball and even if the blocker gets into his body, he is not the type the offensive guards can hold for long. He has success working underneath to get a piece of the blocker’s pads and is effective stacking and controlling in one-on-one situations.
For a player with his bulk, it is impressive to see that Shelton rarely ever “short arms” on the play. He stays in control vs. multiple blockers due to his natural strength, making sure to shoot his hands immediately from the rise out of his stance to generate the initial strike to create separation from blockers. He shows quick hand technique and an effective arm cross over move in pass rush attempts. He also generates good punch to control and disengage.
For a player that carries so much “real estate” around his midsection, Shelton has excellent lateral quickness and sustained speed to slip through the pile and apply pressure (six of his twelve quarterback hurries in 2014 either caused fumbles, sacks or interceptions). He has above average change of direction agility and is explosive when getting into gear while working in space. He is best at the line of scrimmage, where he can make plays in short pursuit, but you have to be impressed with his motor and ability to chase long distances.
Shelton has the strength and explosiveness to be a punishing tackler. That is evident by his 2014 efforts vs. Hawaii, Eastern Washington, Georgia State, Oregon, Arizona State and Oregon. He has very good change of direction agility for a 340-pound player and as you see on 2014 tape, he’s become a havoc-maker when he penetrates the backfield. He has the strength and explosiveness to be a punishing open field tackler, yet he also excels as delivering explosive hits operating in tight quarters. He has above average strength to lock up and enough quickness to combine with his power to make explosive tackles.
During his wildly successful 2014 season, teams gained only 49 yards on 88 running plays vs. Shelton. He has all the make-up to be a physically dominating player that will demand double teams at the next level. He is a strong inside run defender who can make plays up and down the line of scrimmage. He is often matched against double teams and rarely does he struggle to hold ground at the point of attack, as he uses his hands to protect his legs. With great hand shed ability, he prevents blockers from locking him up. When working one-on-one, he will flash the ability to stack.
With twelve QB pressures in 2014, including three in each of the California and Arizona contests, Shelton has embraced his hidden athletic ability to be the most devastating pocket-pressure presence of any interior defender in the college game. He demonstrates an outstanding burst of speed to close on the quarterback this year, along with showing the foot speed, balance and urgency to chase down ball carriers and receivers outside the box (see Oregon, Arizona State and Colorado games).
He seems just as productive closing on the quarterback when lined over the center’s head as he is when working the gaps (12 pressures in 2014). He is able to close in the short area if he breaks free from the low blocks, thanks to his explosive initial burst. Most of his success as a senior has been the result of adding rip and swim moves to his repertoire. He has a quick initial step to get advantage and also get on the edge of a blocker (see Hawaii, Eastern Washington, Georgia State, Oregon and Arizona games).
Shelton shows effective swim-&-rip ability and good suddenness off the ball. He is more of a power-oriented type than one who would finesse. Because of his hand protection skills, he has had great success staying off the ground and defeating the chop blocks. It is his strength and urgency in his play that allows him to gain penetration.
He is well ahead, recognition wise, when reading and reacting to blocking schemes this year than he ever showed in the past. He puts himself in the proper position to make the plays and keep the action in front of him. He feels the play develop and will fight until the whistle. As soon as he recognizes schemes, he shows quickness and urgency reacting. In 2014, there was not an interior defender who showed better alertness for angle blocks and traps like the Husky warrior.
Danny Shelton NFL Scouting Combine measurables
6-2/339 (5.64 forty)
32-inch arm length
10 1/4-inch hands
30.5-inch vertical jump
95-inch broad jump
7.99 3 cone drill
4.65 20 yard shuttle
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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