When the Cardinals step up to the podium with the 20th pick in the draft this year, they'll have some intriguing options to choose from, but one that keeps popping up, one that I have even brought up on occasion is that of Ryan Shazier.
What does Shazier bring to the table?
Can he be an impact player?
How could he fit into the Cardinals scheme?
- Explosive, rare athleticism for the linebacker position.
- Is a true sideline-to-sideline athlete, who can make plays all over the field.
- Closes on ball carriers exceptionally quickly.
- Fantastic blitzer with the ability to shoot gaps, and an ability to close quickly on the quarterback.
- Excellent in coverage, with the ability to drop, turn and get to his spot quickly.
- Reads quarterbacks well when in coverage.
- Has a nose for the ball, sniffs out the ball carrier on run plays.
- Can deliver a pop to blockers when he plays downhill.
- Excellent bend and dip ability around the edge when rushing the passer, shows the ability to do so on a more consistent basis.
- Doesn't play under control nearly enough, overrunning the ball, and peeking into the backfield too often.
- Better in zone than in man coverage.
- Can get washed down or out on blocks.
- Plays upright and doesn't use his arms nearly enough to fend off blockers.
- Too often lunges and dives trying to deliver the knock out blow instead of wrapping up and bringing a player down.
- Can he add wait?
- Close to dirty at times with his play and can be goaded into cheap penalties.
A dynamic, athletic player who can too often get out of control, and doesn't always play with natural instincts, Shazier is an exciting, raw, and impactful linebacker prospect.
When he plays downhill without thinking, but just reacting, he's one of the best linebackers in this draft, but when he is asked to stay within the confines of the defensive scheme and make plays by diagnosing, following his keys, and fighting through the trash, he can have problems.
The key to Shazier becoming successful is filling out his frame, learning to take on blocks with his arms instead of trying to fight through it with his body, and learning to slow down, play under control and understand the intricacies of the game.
There are questions and concerns about Shazier's fit within the Cardinals 3-4 scheme, but with a player like Shazier, with his ability to run sideline to sideline, drop into coverage, and rush the passer, Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles would find a way to get him on the field, and help him be successful.
Where Shazier could fit with the Cardinals is as an outside linebacker in their base packages, and moving inside as a coverage linebacker in their nickel defense, which they spend more than half their time in.
Shazier would be an answer to the question, who is going to cover the tight ends, as well as offering similar athleticism to Washington as a blitzer.
There are things that Shazier does that you just can't teach.
Ability to react and close:
Blitz the quarterback from the A-Gap:
Drop into zone coverage:
Shazier will be a first round pick, the question becomes how high can he go, and will he be in play for the Cardinals when they are on the clock at 20?
If he is, his abilities may be hard to pass up, because he offers the Cardinals something they seem to love, versatility within their defensive scheme.
Note: I had GIF's of Shazier lining up at defensive end and rushing the passer, but I can't get them to load correctly, but if you want to check them out he does so against Indiana, California, Michigan and Illinois to name a few.
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