The NFL Draft is approaching rapidly, with the first round beginning April 30. Washington has several early-day prospects that have had scouts buzzing. I got in touch with Hank Jones, a guy so popular on Twitter that he has earned himself a fake account! He is a really good follow who knows his stuff. His handle is at the bottom.
First, you get to read through his thoughts on the Washington prospects.
BK: Danny Shelton is the consensus top prospect from UW, falling somewhere in the 10-20 range. How much did his plodding 40-yard dash at the combine hurt him, if at all? What are his strengths/weaknesses exclusive to his role as a 3-4 NT? The majority of criticisms of him involve knocks on skills that are not essential to an anchor nose tackle.
HJ: First off, I don't think Shelton's 40 yard dash should factor into his evaluation at all. How many times do you see NT's run >5 yards, let alone 40? It just isn't something that tells you anything about his talent.
Most of the critiques I see on Shelton are, like you said, kind of redundant because they are knocks that you expect from every NT. "He isn't a good pass rusher." Well, yeah. Obviously. But you aren't gonna draft Shelton to rush the passer. For strengths, I think it is pretty clear where Shelton wins. He is a true 2 gapping NT who is best stuffing blocks at the POA and opening up things for the rest of the defense. I thought he was inconsistent with his ability to anchor vs double teams, but he has the ideal/size strength, just needs coaching on how to approach blocks with leverage/hands. His weight is a bit of a concern, but is something he has been seen to work on since the season ended. Ultimately, if you can draw up the stereotypical NT strengths/weaknesses, I think it accurately paints a picture of what Shelton can do. Big, Strong, defends the run. Kinda slow, kinda fat.
BK: After Shelton, who do you see as the next-best prospect from the Huskies and why?
Can we still count Marcus Peters? Because if so, he's probably one of the 5-6 best prospects in the class. He has every trait you look for in a press corner, and showed up vs big competition. His off field has seemed like less and less of an issue as the process has gone on, too.
BK: Where could Marcus Peters be drafted if he never had his behavioral issues? What are the main on-the-field knocks on him?
HJ: I've only scouted players for 3 years, but I will say that Peters is hands down the best CB prospect I've seen. I think he could have gone as high as #5 to Washington without the red flags, and ultimately shouldn't have made it out of the top 10. As for on the field issues, most of them stem from his off coverage technique and awareness. He likes to give up on matching the route often to try to break and make plays on the ball, which is great when it works, but disastrous when it doesn't. But when he presses? I don't have a single issue with him. He is the complete package in my eyes.
BK: A three-parter about Hau'oli Kikaha: are Kikaha's sacks "hustle" or "effort" sacks that hide his lack of elite athleticism, or is it his technique (such as his hand usage) and upper body shining through in a way that translates to the NFL? You see him exclusively as a hand-in-the-dirt DE, why is that? Also, what are your thoughts on technique vs. athleticism regarding pass rushers as a whole?
HJ: I think Kikaha is a weird case. He isn't a very good athlete, and this is due to a combo of a natural lack of athleticism and prior knee injuries, but he moved quicker in 2014 than I thought he did prior. Ultimately though, he is going to live and die as a pass rusher by using his technique and motor.
I ultimately see him as a DE because despite a OLB body, he just can't function when he isn't moving forward. He's stiff in space and just looks unnatural. I think if a team commits to him as a true rush OLB it could work out, but I wouldn't have him doing anything other than attacking the LOS.
Most of the top pass rushers in the NFL have top tier athleticism (Miller, Quinn, Houston) and athleticism is typically the first thing I look for in pass rushers, and there is a certain threshold where if a has the best technique in the world but is just a horrid athlete, I can't get on board with him. Technique can be taught, but athleticism is more of a you have it or you don't.
BK: How do you see Shaq Thompson profiling in an NFL defense? Can he fit as a peg in any defense or does he have to be in a specific scheme to utilize his unique and wide-ranging skill-set?
HJ: Thompson is a player I haven't really figured out yet. With most LB types that people want to convert to safety, I tend to think they should just stay at LB where their speed is better utilized (Telvin Smith.) But Thompson is a unique player. I didn't see a lot of LB traits, as he watches plays and goes waits to go in to make an impact at the last second, is inconsistent in coverage, and struggles with blocks. But he just makes plays. As @JoeGoodberry has said, he is kind like the Honey Badger of linebackers. He is a ball magnet, and that is hard to ignore. Ultimately, I think he should stick at LB in a 4-3 as a WLB that just lets him run.
BK: What will you be looking for from the UW pro day? Who has the most work cut out for them?
The only Husky whose Pro Day I am overly interested in is Thompsons. I know what Peters can do, and I know who Shelton/Kihaka are as athletes. But Thompson is a peculiar case, as he looks like the best athlete on the field during games but he had a very average combine performance. (Plugs @zjwhitman's site on SPARQ athletes http://3sigmaathlete.com/) BK NOTE: read that website
BK: Josh Shirley is an ex-Husky that you (and UW Dawg Pound Czar Gekko Landon) were formerly high on. After his season at UNLV and an impressive pro day, where do you stand on him?
HJ: Ugh. I had such high hopes for Shirley. Ultimately, I don't see how he is anything but an UDFA at this point, but I'd be fairly interested in him as a tryout player just because of his athletic makeup. Now leave me to wallow in my sadness.
BK: In addition to the four main UW prospects, there are several fringe-NFL guys that finished up their UW careers this season in DL Andrew Hudson, LB John Timu and OL Micah Hatchie. What do you think of these guys and their draftability?
HJ: Hudson is a guy I am a big fan of. He doesn't have any special traits, but he has a solid all around skillset, and plays the run hard. I think he is draftable as a 4-3 DE. Timu was a fun player to watch because of his energy, but his lack of athleticism probably keeps him as a depth player at best. And for Micah Hatchie, I have truly zero take on as my first time seeing his name was when I opened up this email. But it is a hell of a name.
Thanks a whole bunch for doing this Hank. Again, you can find him on Twitter @HankJoness and also at SB Nation's Big Cat Country.