Just like the Offensive line, I love to review and talk about the trench players. They don’t always get the credit they deserve, especially if they aren’t making splash plays, but maybe just taking on double teams every snap! As I talked about in my DT Summary post, we lack talented depth on our Defensive line. I took us on a walk through the Ravens and Steelers depth and how they stack quality players on the roster to ensure they can lose high performing starters in Free Agency or to injury during the season and not miss a beat in terms of play on the field. We are several years away from that type of roster.
This particular group of DT’s offer versatility in the roles they can play, which is something Dorsey loves. We have a draft class this year that is VERY top heavy and offers only a handful of potential starting-quality players in the mid-rounds. Quite disappointing frankly that there are not more choices after Round 2. It is going to take a bold and expensive move up into at least the middle of Round 1 to nab one of the elite guys. This will cost us several high picks (next year’s 1st and likely 2nd, plus maybe also a 3rd this year).
Another strategy would be to wait until Day 1 is over and try to trade up into the first 3 picks of Round 2. Maybe Dremont Jones or Dexter Lawrence slides (you can find both of these player evals in my next couple of posts)? Again, a very expensive proposition but it would net you a very high quality player who potentially would play immediately in a rotation.
Our third choice is to take one of the mid-round players like Wren or Watts who have starter traits but need some pro weight room work and lots of coaching to earn some playing time. But no matter what the approach, Dorsey and our DC Steve Wilkes are going to value DT penetration and run stoppage in order to cover up the sub-package schemes Wilkes will want to run. He is going to be using Safeties and possibly Corners as Linebackers in Nickel and Dime packages frequently. We will need excellent DT pressure to allow those guys to flow and not get hung up on blocks.
Watch for my BOLD Prediction posts for some very specific scenarios I will propose in how I think Dorsey might make a play back into the 1st Round!
GOOD: Prototype in almost every way to be a 3-Tech or 1-Tech lineman. Has natural strength that has been refined with excellent weight room work. Tree trunk legs and good power bubble to anchor. Has shown advanced hand usage and swim moves to gain leverage and penetration. Some bendy skills which allows him to get skinny in gaps. Takes on double teams all day long, rarely comes out. Has shown the ability to get penetration and make tackles, but not many sacks.
BAD: Left school early and was just getting into the kind of production that would wow scouts. May lack the needed speed outside the box to be a consistent penetrator for sacks and QB hits. Gives away his excellent natural leverage by standing up and giving his pads up immediately. Lacks range outside of the box for pursuit. Huge medical concerns with his torn ACL, and major character flags with his past transgressions…
BOTTOM LINE: Simmons is a phenomenal player who is just scratching the surface of his potential. He probably would have been a better pro by staying one more year, but it would not change his draft stock enough to matter. His prototype size may trick you into thinking he’s going to be a highly valuable 5-Tech penetrator on passing downs, but that’s not likely where this is headed. He is going to be more suited as a 1-Tech who absorbs doubles all day and frees up his boys on the outside. He will make splash plays against the run every game, but won’t be collapsing that pocket or shooting many gaps.
You can see in his stats that he was just starting to burst onto the scene and was showing up as a penetrator in the run game. He is absolutely worth a high 1st Round pick, but his best value starts in the 20’s. If he falls into the bottom of the first round, you better be looking for a trade partner. This scenario is pretty likely as he tore his ACL, apparently beat up a woman and also is not looking like the next great 5-Tech which lowers his value. Good news is he is the more modern physical structure for that role, versus someone like Dexter Lawrence who is the old school big fatty…
GOOD: Here is your franchise-type 3-Tech defender. Starts with brains and personality out the wazoo. Got his degree in 2.5 years! Highly productive player in all regards, with highly sought after numbers each year in tackles, TFL’s, Sacks and even Passes Defensed! Brings low pad leverage, strength and unreal contact balance for his size. Agile, quick and violent. A missle off the line and fires his hands into his opponent with speed and power. Extremely high football IQ. Elite efficiency of movement.
BAD: Has trouble getting off blocks due to lack of NFL quality strength. Gets stuck on his man as he does not have follow up moves after his initial punch. Double teams will wreck him every time. Doesn’t have the length to slide off and into a gap for pass down penetration.
BOTTOM LINE: Wilkins is going to be a highly productive long-term starter type NFL player, there is no doubt. Question is will he be a star? He has a high enough ceiling that I would argue he could be better than Quinnen Williams if he takes coaching and becomes obsessed with his craft. He needs to add functional strength, which he will, and the issues with hand usage and counter moves will be coached away if he wants it bad enough.
His upside is based on not giving up his natural leverage and being able to convert speed to power off the line and into the backfield. He has good speed outside the box for pressure and pursuit, he just needs to use better technique to unlock it and use it properly by situation. He sure seems like the kind of kid who wants to be great and wants to lead.
Absolutely a 1st Round talent, if he falls into the late 20’s I would be burning down the house to trade up for him!