With the Senior Bowl coming up this weekend, I have been looking around to see how some of the players are doing, and today we are going to talk about some of the guys the Cardinals could snare up with their first round Draft Pick if they don't trade down with anyone. So, after the jump, here are some draft profiles that I found while I was reading up on these guys, along with my thoughts at the end.
Robert Quinn: DE/OLB, North Carolina
Pass rush: Inconsistent off the snap. Is often among the last linemen off the ball, though he has such an explosive burst he can still beat the tackle with speed even when late and can leave his opponent grasping at air when he anticipates the snap correctly. Possesses a rare combination of burst and flexibility to dip under the reach of the tackle. Good agility and balance to turn the corner and has very good closing speed. Possesses a good rip move and the footwork to jab-step outside and cut back inside to split the gap; otherwise shows surprisingly little technique.
Run defense: Too light to hold up at the point of attack on rushing plays designed to go directly at him. Possesses good upper-body strength and explosive hands to shed blocks, but can be engulfed and driven off the ball. Doesn't do a good enough job keeping contain, too often slicing inside and losing his gap integrity when he incorrectly judges the speed of the ballcarrier. Good lateral agility, flexibility and balance to change direction and pursue. Good straight-line speed and effort to pursue.
Explosion: Perhaps his best asset. Can explode off the snap and fly by offensive tackles. Opponents have to gameplan around his burst off the edge. Good use of hands to pop the offensive lineman and shed the block. Arrives with a bang as a tackler. Forced eight fumbles in only two seasons.
Strength: Improving in this area and has the frame to handle an additional 10-15 pounds of muscle without a significant loss in quickness or speed. Good, not great strength at the point of attack. Lacks the sand in his pants to hold up against the run, though he does wrench himself free when he has space to operate. Good strength to drag down the ballcarrier.
Tackling: Good lateral agility and balance to break down in space and make the open-field tackle. Generally wraps up, though he'll go for the strip and miss tackles. Only average instincts but gets to the football quickly when he locates it.
Intangibles: Fluid athlete who appears capable of handling the transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Was occasionally asked to drop into coverage while at UNC. Suspended for the entire 2010 season after an NCAA investigation found that he had accepted benefits from a player agent. Despite the suspension, those close to the UNC program describe Quinn as a quality person and teammate and are endorsing him to NFL teams. Had his senior season at Ft. Dorchester High School shortened due to brain surgery to remove a benign tumor. Was originally told that the tumor and resulting surgery could end his football career. Has had no known complications following the surgery. Didn't start his first career game but did start the other 25 in his two seasons.
Von Miller: OLB, Texas A&M
Read & React: Overall instincts for the position, particularly containment and run responsibility and reaction, are questionable since he is primarily used in a "sic 'em" role. Still getting a feel for coverage but reacts quickly when the ball is thrown to the flat. Good feel for pass rush. He sniffs out indecision in the passer and senses weakness in an offensive tackle. Knows when to go for the ball or big hit on to create turnovers.
Run defense: Improving against the run, but must be more consistent to become an elite all-around player. Plays with more strength than expected; is adequate grounding his hold on the move when engaged but does lose his balance. Willing to lower his shoulder against pulling guards to fill inside gaps. Teams take advantage of his continual edge rushing to get a running lane outside. Overruns plays with aggressive angles and a lack of focus on the ball. Crashes down on plays if he senses an inside run, but lacks the explosive punch to knock back fullback or tackle blocks. Inconsistent chaser on the back side, could increase his tackle production with more effort.
Pass defense: Could excel in this part of the game because of his fluidity and quickness, but is still raw in coverage. Mirrors running backs and tight ends off the line into the flat and downfield. Athletic enough to drop deep, keeps one eye on the running back and the other on the quarterback. Is not aware of receivers behind him. Needs to get his hands up to clog passing lanes more consistently when unable to reach the passer. Must improve his hands for the interception.
Tackling: Strong upper body and closing speed make him an explosive tackler who is tough to elude in the backfield. Loads up on ballcarriers -- sometimes even leaving his feet -- to force fumbles. Chase effort is mixed; will stop four or five steps from a play if he thinks his teammate will take care of the play instead of adding himself to the pile. Makes a number of shoe-string tackles when facing elusive runners, gives full effort to bring the man down. Doesn't disengage often enough to make tackles against the run but will crash down to close a gap.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Greatest area of strength of this stand-up defensive end. Extremely quick around the corner. Gets skinny to penetrate when shooting the inside gap. Elite closing speed to the quarterback, explodes to drive them into the ground or uses his length to wrap up even the most mobile passers. Dips shoulder to get under the pads of taller tackles, shortening the pocket. Feels cut blocks and uses his hands and quickness to beat them. Good arm-over, spin and outside-in change-up moves to get his man off-balance after turning the corner on previous plays. Average strength and hand usage to free himself after initial contact. Might push man off-balance once getting him moving up the field, but too often stopped after his first move when facing opponents with good lateral movement. Capable of leveraging tackles back into the pocket, but lacks great length or bulk to take on massive NFL tackles.
Intangibles: Maturing as a leader and person throughout his career at A&M. Has no major character or off-field issues. Given one of three team Weightlifter of the Year awards in April 2010. Sprained right ankle hampered him early in 2010, limiting the explosion around which his game is keyed.
Patrick Peterson: CB, LSU
Read & React: Possesses good instincts for the position. Reads his man and will sneak a peek at the quarterback, showing the anticipation necessary to make the big play. Can get over-aggressive and bite on double-moves, though he shows good straight-line speed to recover and possesses excellent ball skills. Could come up more aggressively when he reads run, as he's content with allowing teammates to make the tackle, but isn't afraid to come up in run support when he has to.
Man Coverage: Rare fluidity and straight-line speed for a defender of his size. Quick feet and balance when backpedaling and when he switches to a side shuffle technique. Rarely uses his hands to jam the receiver, opting instead simply to turn and run with his opponent. Will occasionally misjudge the speed of his opponent when in off-man coverage, allowing the receiver to eat up too much of the cushion. Easily flips his hips and shows very good burst out of his breaks (especially considering his size) to mirror the receiver. Good acceleration and has a burst to close. Good route-recognition. Good body lean and use of the sideline to ride wideouts out of bounds. Excellent size, overall physicality and competitiveness for jump-ball situations. Times his leaps well and can high-point the ball due to excellent hand-eye coordination.
Zone Coverage: Good recognition for zone coverage, but will drift out of position when he's reading the eyes of quarterbacks, resulting in some big-play interceptions, but also in allowing receptions when savvy passers bait him. Quick feet and balance to change directions. Good route anticipation. Switches off his target quickly when he sees the quarterback throwing elsewhere. Closes on the ball quickly.
Closing/Recovery: Some concern over what his time in the 40-yard dash will be, but shows very good field speed and possesses a second gear of acceleration to close on the ball. Locates the ball quickly and has the long arms to break up passes (or even make the interception) when it appears that he is beaten. Has good, but not elite burst to break downhill out of his cuts, making him susceptible to comeback routes against bigger receivers who challenge him vertically (see Alabama, Texas A&M). Among best attributes is his size, leaping ability and ball skills on fade and go-routes against bigger receivers. Matches up well in jump-ball situations. Isn't afraid to get physical in these confrontations, but because he's going for the ball, doesn't draw the flag. Very good ball skills. Times his leap well, showing a good vertical and possesses the long arms and soft, strong hands to pluck the ball out of the air. Excellent return skills once he has the ball in his hands.
Run Support: When not in press coverage, reads run quickly and either provides the contain to push the runner back inside or makes the tackle himself. Focuses on his primary target - the receiver - when he's in press coverage and can be a step slower to recognize run. Trusts his teammates to make the play, showing good strength and toughness to fight through blocks, but not always the sense of urgency scouts would prefer. Good effort in pursuit. Takes good angles to the ball and has the speed to run down the ballcarrier.
Tackling: Reliable open-field tackler. Breaks down well in space to make the stop against elusive athletes. Willing to take on the bigger ballcarrier and does a nice of wrapping his arms securely around the legs to make the effective stop. Good effort in pursuit. Not an explosive hitter, but plays his size, strength and long arms help him knock down ballcarriers quickly.
Intangibles: Confident, almost cocky demeanor on the field. Possesses the short memory of all great cornerbacks. Extremely competitive. Seems to relish the battles against top receivers in man coverage. Campaigned to be used on special teams and even offense while at LSU due to his natural playmaking skills. Good bloodlines. Cousins of NFL cornerback Bryant McFadden and wide receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss. Characterized as "freak" athlete.
Prince Amukamara: CB, Nebraska
Read & React: Strong instincts with very quick reactions. Reads the quarterback's eyes and anticipates routes, closing quickly to jump underneath routes. Gets into the flat in a hurry to attack screen plays and outside runs. Inconsistent biting on double moves and pump fakes, will get overly aggressive during the course of a game and give up the deep ball.
Man Coverage: Perfect NFL press-cover corner with his combination of size, strength and speed. Is patient in man coverage, reading the receiver's move and reacting quickly. Quick feet and smooth hips to turn and run, maintains contact with most any receiver down the sideline. Closes well when playing off the line, attacks midsection and wraps to tackle. Capable of playing very physically, especially in the five-yard area. Has the lateral movement to shadow jerk routes. Maintains cushion in his backpedal.
Zone Coverage: Owns the prototypical man-press build but has the closing speed and physicality to excel in zone coverage. Excellent anticipation of underneath throws, cuts under receivers to make a play on the ball with exceptional hand-eye coordination. Comes off deep routes to support shorter patterns to his side. Secure tackler who rarely gives up yards after the catch. Has dropped interceptions not thrown in his breadbasket. Fair foot speed in his backpedal, but needs to stay over his feet instead of leaning backward.
Closing/Recovery: Excellent closing speed for his size. Changes from pedal to forward motion quickly, plants hard and has a burst to the ball. Inconsistent recovery speed if frozen by double move, can get back into the play (and make a play on the ball) but quicker receivers seem to maintain separation.
Run Support: Has the size and aggressive nature to excel in run support. Willing cut tackler, gets into the thigh of the running back. Good strength to rip off receiver blocks, could be more consistent using his hands to disengage. Sticks his nose into piles and can stand up running backs coming with a head of steam.
Tackling: Excellent strength for the position, effective wrapping up receivers after the catch or cutting down backs in run support. Breaks down in space to avoid missed tackles. Will attack the shoulder pads of running backs to bring them down or force them out of bounds. Very effective cut tackler whether attacking the thighs of running backs or violently taking out the legs of receivers in the open field. Even when he does not bring down the ballcarrier, he gets enough to slow him down giving help time to arrive. Helps teammates finish off tackles in space. Could be more consistent getting off receiver blocks.
Intangibles: Spiritual man, involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Has matured greatly since arriving on campus, applying himself on the practice field and the film room more diligently since 2009. Parents are from Nigeria.
Derek Sherrod: OT, Mississippi State
Pass blocking: Good initial quickness. Eases out of his stance and has the lateral agility and balance to mirror the defender. Good hand strength and has long arms that he uses to latch onto and control his opponent. Generally plays with good knee-bend and leverage, but can lose his anchor when he tires. Can become fundamentally lazy and lean into the defender; gets knocked off-balance and gives up the inside lane. Should improve in this area with greater focus on his technique, but has an upside-down triangle build due to broad shoulders and relatively narrow hips, making him top-heavy and susceptible to being overpowered. Among his better attributes is his recognition. Recognizes the blitz coming and gets a good initial pop on his primary target (defensive end) before passing him off to the guard and working his way outside to catch the rushing linebacker or stunting defensive tackle.
Run blocking: Comes off the ball too high and lacks the pad level and power to consistently knock defenders off the line. Good quickness and hand strength to turn and seal off defenders from the play. Good recognition to release from double-team and get out to the second level. Scouts would like to see him finish blocks with more authority before releasing.
Pulling/trapping: Good initial quickness to release to the second level, but has only average agility to re-direct in the open field. Locates his target, but has to do a better job of anticipating where the defender is going. Isn't fluid enough to change direction and hit the moving target. Too often extends his arms, "catching" the linebacker, which could result in penalty flags when playing against NFL-caliber athletes. Good trap blocker due to his initial quickness, big frame and recognition.
Initial Quickness: Good, though not elite, initial quickness off the snap. Has the agility and long arms to handle most right defensive ends (and thus remain at left tackle), but due to the fact that he is a bit top-heavy and lacks elite balance, is susceptible to quick jab-steps outside and spin or counter moves back to the inside. Is quick enough in the running game to turn and seal off the defender, creating a wall from which the running back can bounce off from.
Downfield: Gives good effort to block downfield. Above-average straight-line speed, though his average balance keeps him from being as effective at the second level as his speed and size would indicate. Gets in the way of defenders and has the wingspan to alter their path, but struggles re-directing his charge.
Intangibles: Was one of 16 players to win the storied National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame (NFF) Award, which includes a post-graduate $18,000 scholarship. Earned his degree in business with a 3.54 GPA. Is the third Bulldog to win the award and the first since 1989. Team leader voted a captain in 2010. A four-year member of the M-Club, MSU's student-athlete community service organization, he has spent considerable time with the youth of Mississippi. He has served breakfast at Sudduth Elementary School, participated in Sudduth's Kids Fair and read to local students to promote literacy. He has also organized a Thanksgiving food drive.
Blaine Gabbert: QB, Missouri
Accuracy: Regularly shows the ability to place the ball on his target's numbers, though most of his best throws came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage because of the Missouri spread offense. Throws darts to either side of the field on short timing routes and passes between the hashes. Gives his receivers a chance to make a play after the catch on crossing routes, leading them perfectly when he's comfortable in the pocket. Inconsistent throwing outside the hashes, however, making some fantastic throws on out routes and sailing many others above the head of open receivers or coming up short on touch throws over the top. Also inconsistent on short throws when under pressure.
Arm Strength: Has a solid NFL arm and throws a tight spiral, giving him the capability to stretch the field horizontally and vertically. Threads the ball between the corner and safety against cover-two and needles the ball through tight windows over the middle. Flashes nice touch on seam throws to the tight end. Needs to throttle down a bit more consistently; will overthrow passes in close proximity and sail sideline patterns.
Setup/Release: Looks the part of a pocket passer, standing tall in the pocket. Usually has a quick release, almost whipping the ball out. Winds up and double-clutches on occasion, but still releases the ball quickly. Completes downfield passes with traffic around him, but will short-arm throws and panic with pressure coming straight at him. Generally balanced, sometimes throwing from his back foot. Pats the ball to keep rhythm on long throws. Does not feel backside pressure well. Can get happy feet against a strong defense, though he will re-set his feet and deliver at times. Almost always in the shotgun formation, must master the traditional snap from center. When not taking one step back and firing a short throw, gets a bit long with his final drop step making it difficult to transition back forward and leaving him susceptible to pass rush.
Reading Defenses: Will take time to transition to the NFL because he runs the typical spread offense. Only reads one receiver on many plays, or even half of one side of the field. Stares down receivers and defenders read him easily. Does not look for secondary receivers, tends to take off instead. Fails to see blitzes coming consistently, even when they aren't disguised.
On the Move: Nice athlete for a quarterback his size, makes plays outside the pocket and able to pick up more than a first down on the run. Shows some elusiveness in the pocket, but chooses to run outside rather than step up to find a receiver. Falls forward for first downs, but must learn how to push the pile on sneaks. Willing to throw the ball away if nothing is available. Good mobility outside the pocket, but gets inconsistent in his accuracy and makes some poor decisions because he gets impatient. Is not overly elusive, will not escape NFL pockets and tackles as easily as he is able to do in college. Needs to learn how to slide.
Intangibles: Respected leader in the locker room. Has the confidence to win over the huddle. Willing to put in the time in the film room to master the offense. Very competitive, gives full effort on the field. Played only five games as a high school senior because of foot and shoulder injuries.
Overall, I'm leaning towards Miller or Quinn with the first pick, and Peterson should also be considered and I think he can be an elite Cornerback wherever he goes. Right now, I would say that Miller has the edge though because he would be a more natural conversion to a 3-4 Outside Linebacker, and after Cody Brown wound up being released before this season started I am a little weary about trying to convert Quinn to a 3-4 OLB even though it looks like he can make the conversion. I also wonder how much of an impact missing the entire season after being suspended made on Quinn, but it says a lot about his talent that he is still projected as a guy who will be a top 5 or top 10 draft pick.
Either of these guys would be a huge boost to the pass rush though if they can contribute right away, if they can play well as rookies it will help the entire Defense, especially Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Greg Toler because they will not have to hold up in coverage as long and they can get more chances for Interceptions if Quinn or Miller force some errant throws. OLB is definitely a position that has to be addressed, there is not really a lot of depth in that area right now, and with the age of Clark Haggans and Joey Porter some depth is needed if a quality Free Agent can't be picked up.
I also don't see the Cardinals taking a Quarterback in the first round, Gabbert is the only guy I could see them taking but he would be a reach with the fifth overall Draft Pick. I wouldn't be surprised if they took Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, or Pat Devlin in one of the later rounds though.
So, is there anyone I didn't mention that should be considered? And who do you think the Cardinals should draft with the 5th pick in the NFL Draft.