In this segment, Steve Keim discusses with Scott Bordow of The Athletic why the Cardinals selected CB Byron Murphy, WR Andy Isabella, DE Zach Allen, WR Hakeem Butler and FS Deionte Thompson. Here is the link (for those of you who subscribe to The Athletic):
Here are some of the things Steve Keim said to Scott Bordow:
Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
“This guy has natural anticipation and quick feet,” Keim said. “He’s not the biggest, he’s not the straight-line fastest but he’s got great anticipation and feel and he has terrific transition quickness in coming out of his breaks.
“One of the hardest things to me for cornerbacks to do is to be able to play off coverage and watch both the quarterback and the receiver. This guy’s natural feel and instincts for it to me are what set him apart from a lot of corners. You watch his feet and his movement skills, there no wasted steps. He’s very precise.
“His toughness for being a corner … a lot of those guys are not great tacklers as we know,” Keim said. “He’s a solid wrap tackler who isn’t afraid to put his face in there. That’s so important. Nowadays the way NFL teams are running the football they’re forcing your corners to tackle. You’re going to make a guy tackle all day and eventually they’re either going to get tired or scared or not want to tackle and you’re going to break some big runs.”
The Play that Keim analyzed---Murphy jumping an “in” route and breaking up the pass versus Stanford.
My Comment: Interesting how Steve Keim lauds Byron Murphy’s versatility, quickness, ball skills and tackling (“NFL teams are forcing your corners to tackle”---hmmm---what could this mean for Patrick Peterson’s future in Arizona?).
Andy Isabella, WR, UMass
“I think it’s his attention to detail, how a guy like this to me is someone who works on his craft,” Keim said. “It’s not just the fact he can go out and run fast (Isabella ran a 4.3 40.) It’s the little details of the head nod or shifting his weight and disguising routes.
“A lot of times guys on a double move, they’ll stop, shuffle their feet, drop their weight. He does that but this little head nod is another thing he’s perfected to throw defenders off.”
Keim’s reactions to the two plays versus Georgia that he analyzed:
“They fooled the defense (with the run fake) but what it shows you is how talented he is and what he does after the catch,” Keim said.
“These guys all catch up because the ball is underthrown but his ability to make them miss … he turns on the jets and the guys with angles he outruns them. You know those people in Georgia were going, ‘Who the hell is this kid?’”
The Plays: (1) Isabella catching a deep corner route for a TD versus Georgia with 3 defenders trailing the play. (2) A flea flicker versus Georgia where Isabella has beaten the deep coverage by 5-7 yards, and even though the pass is under thrown, Isabella comes back for the football and then wiggles his way through three defenders for the TD.
My Comment: Interesting that Keim likens Isabella’s talent more to Brandon Cooks’ than Julian Edelman or Danny Amendola. This is a tribute to Isabella’s 4.3 speed and ability to beat coverage deep.
Zach Allen, DE, Boston College
“You see the way he’s built but he plays so much more athletic than you would think,” Keim said. “But the great thing about him is he plays with perfect technique and he has great instincts. And he plays extremely hard.
“A lot of times in scouting you go out and watch the tape and you’re like, ‘This guy is a really good football player.’ And then in the spring, he didn’t quite run the 40 that everybody wanted to run. He didn’t jump as high. He didn’t do well in all the bells and whistle events at the combine. This is a guy that if you just watch the film and graded him on the film he ranked way up there.
“I don’t care what position you play in the NFL. To me the really great ones are able to bend their knees,” Keim said. “I don’t care if you’re a corner, an offensive lineman or a defensive lineman. If you play straight-legged you don’t play with any power in your hips.”
The Play: Allen rushes the right edge versus Syracuse, gets a jump on the RT and swims over him to sack the QB.
My Comment: Keim is very high on Allen’s versatility and believe that Allen plays faster than his 5.0 40 time at the Combine. Keim is so high on Allen’s strength and athleticism that he believes he can play 34DE, rush DE, rush DT and even OLB, depending on the situation.
Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
“The one thing that stood out to me the first time I watched him is his stride length,” Keim said. “He takes three steps and it’s almost like he’s five yards already. Not only that but the kind of target he is, his catching radius and how he can box out smaller defenders. I don’t care what the coverage is. What corner is going to be able to stop him if he’s walling him off and using his body to his advantage?”
“This guy’s stride length and size and ability to catch the ball away from his body … it’s so tough on defenders because it’s hard to gauge how fast he’s moving,” Keim said. “For as big as he is, to run a 4.48, it’s one of those deals where defensive backs get in their pedal and it’s, ‘Oh, shit,’ and the guy is on top of them in two seconds.”
The Plays: (1) Butler catches an “in” route in a crowd of defenders versus Oklahoma and breaks 3 tackles for a TD. (2) Butler makes a superb one handed catch on a deep crossing pattern while being tightly guarded versus Washington St.
My Comment: Keim conceded that Butler will be “predominantly a one-cut runner” because of his size, but is sky high on Butler’s ability to use his speed, size and toughness to pull down 50/50 balls as an intermediate to deep threat.
Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
“The thing I love about him is you see here his range, his ability to cover ground. And you see his closing speed right there,” Keim said. “He recognizes what’s going on and has the ability to get over the top and knock the ball down. That second little gear for safeties is huge.”
“The thing about DBs from Alabama, you know they’re coached well because of (Nick) Saban,” Keim said. “Basically when you go to an Alabama practice Saban is working with the defensive backs. Certain programs when they come out they’re NFL ready.”.
“He’s a good tackler, he’s smart, we felt like he really did everything well.”
The Play: Thompson makes a super quick break from his high safety spot to break up a look right, throwback left “wheel” route versus Arkansas.
My Comment: Keim lauds the coaching that Alabama DBs get from Nick Saban---which shows up big-time on this play because of how disciplined Thompson is not to get fooled my the flow to the right---and then to make such a blazing break on the ball. The next step for Thompson is to pick off passes like this, as he was in great position to make the catch.
What is very impressive about these draft picks is how battle-tested these players are against top level Division 1A competition---plus in each case how well coached they are (adding #1 pick Kyler Murray):
Kyler Murray---Lincoln Riley
Byron Murphy---Jimmy Lake
Andy Isabella---Mark Whipple
Zach Allen---Paul Pasqualoni* (defensive line coach as a junior, now the DL coach with the Lions)
Hakeem Butler---Matt Campbell
Deionte Thompson---Nick Saban
Man, that’s an All-Star lineup of coaches, among the very best to coach at their positions.