Monday, May 13, 2013

Draft Profile: Rd 1 - Travis Frederick - C - Wisconsin

The following is the 1st in a series of draft profiles for the Dallas Cowboys' selected players from April's draft. These profiles are put together after watching significant amounts of game tape from each player, and is an attempt to examine their resumes and play to get an idea of how they might fit in best with Dallas come training camp in Oxnard this summer.

Travis Frederick
6'3, 312
40 time: 5.56, Bench Press: 21
Jan 1, 1991 (22)

If only we could look at football players without attaching baggage to our evaluation.  Perhaps the best example of this is Greg Ellis, who if only judged on his own merits would have been thought of as one of the very best Cowboys of the last 15 years.  However, he spent most of his career carrying around the burden of being "the guy that we took instead of Randy Moss" around here.  That stayed with him despite being an exceptional player his entire career.

That leads us to Frederick who in some ways, is exactly the type of player you would hope the Cowboys could have left the draft with.  A "Day 1 starter" who will instantly be able to handle whatever you throw at him, despite playing one of the most complex positions on the field.

And yet, he will always be attached to another ambitious day in the Cowboys' war-room, as Jerry Jones could not sit still again and pulled the trigger on a trade down and seemed dead set on getting an offensive lineman to protect Tony Romo.  Frederick was, in Jerry's words, "the last of the Mohicans" as the 8 OLmen on that top tier.  Once Frederick was gone, they felt things were going to drop to a next level that would not be ready to start on Day 1.  This caused them to pass on Sharrif Floyd, a defensive tackle from Florida that the Cowboys had rated much higher on their draft board.  And for that piece of information that has been confirmed numerous times, Frederick will always be hitched to Floyd's career.

But, when evaluating a player, you have to get all of that out of your head.  You have to simply say that, now that he is here, there is no reason to spend time in his evaluation on how he got here.  Let's simply look at his film, figure out what he does well and not so well, and then see if he has a spot on this squad.  The other discussions of how the 2013 draft could have gone differently are valid for other discussions, but not on a Travis Frederick evaluation sheet.

I was able to look at a considerable amount of his 2012 season's coaches film and see what he does well against a Big 10 schedule that might not have had great teams, but the conference consistently places strong defensive line prospects into the NFL, so to see Frederick against Purdue's Kawann Short (Panthers), Penn State's Jordan Hill (Seahawks), Ohio State's Jonathan Hankins (Giants), and plenty of others, we know what the center can do against NFL talent.

And for the most part, there is plenty to like.  Wisconsin asks plenty of their offensive line and they are nationally renowned for how they teach the position.  It is based on strength, effort, and intelligence, and Frederick is a study in all 3.  He absolutely can handle himself in situations that require his best.  I admired his play in situations where teams were attempting to "storm the castle" and send everyone to go get the QB.  His best attribute in pass protection seems to be his anchor.  You are not going to go through him, and although this falls under the category of things that should be "givens", we have now seen in 2011 and 2012 that the Cowboys have had too many interior linemen who have been trucked.  That won't happen with Frederick.

He is strong - despite what has been reported.  I also recognize that his combine performance in general and his bench press in specific is disconcerting, but his game tape does not reveal someone who lacks strength.  We have talked about his super-human 730lb squats and his respect in that Wisconsin weight room which speaks very highly of his dedication level given the guys who have come through that program, like Joe Thomas and JJ Watt.

His combine bench press of 21 reps is not very good, but when you dig into what was going on there, you simply have to look at his weight.  He played at nearly 340 and then was obviously told to shed plenty of weight as he weighed in at 312.  Losing nearly 30 pounds in 6 weeks can zap one of strength if it is not done properly, and that would seem to explain that, as again, his game film does not appear to show a lack of physical brute force.

He was seldom given help from either of Wisconsin's guards in the middle and in the NFL, that will change as combo blocks are a huge part of trying to deal with the DTs at this level.  He is proficient at helping get a guy at the snap and then slipping off to the next level.  But this is where we see where he struggles.

Frederick's negative attributes are common amongst most NFL interior linemen who may not have great athleticism in their feet, and that is an issue in dealing with quickness.

One thing that did show up in periodic situations - especially against quick DTs like Hill and Short - was something that will need to get cleaned up.  And that is as they shade over his shoulder to the A gap to one side, he knows he is not getting help from the guard so at the snap he is leaning to that gap.  This works if that is really where the DT is headed, but often times, as Frederick is jumping to his left to stop the gap that his opponent is cheating towards, the opponent switches back against Frederick's lean and takes the opposite A-gap.  And this quickness is what gets Frederick into trouble as he either loses that man or tackles him in a clear hold.

Now, understand that this doesn't happen often, but it does happen, and that propensity to fall for that will make guys attack that move over and over until he shuts it down.

This also rears its head when he goes to the 2nd level, and tries to get to a middle linebacker.  In the Michigan State tape, he had a heck of a time trying to keep Max Bullough from "quicking" around Frederick as the big center was trying to keep him inside his arms.  This also led to issues where you either let him go and blow up your play or you hold him.  Obviously, the Cowboys will need to teach technique that teaches a slower approach so he isn't off balance as he is running to his landmark to get his block.  Easier said than done when a player is slow to begin with.

Basically, if there is a weakness, it is not his ability to stand up to guys.  It is his ability to not hold when he gives up the edge.  And the only way to truly not let that happen is to not give up the edge to begin with.

On pulling plays, I actually like him in space (by center standards) and this is something the Badgers did plenty with their running game.  He can handle himself well and is not the roadblock that you would expect with that 40 time.

In general, he needs to stay on his feet a bit more and minimize holding situations where he loses leverage, but there is a lot to like here.  I can understand why, especially after a few years of weak center play, they had him ranked as the best center in the draft.

Frederick #72 vs Stanford

Frederick #72 vs Ohio State

Summary:  Again, if you can talk yourself into considering the trade down for 2 2nd rounders (Frederick and Terrance Williams) and position Frederick in your head as a 2nd round pick, this might be more appealing to your sensibilities.  That being said, there is plenty to like here.  He can play guard as well, but I think that this will be his best spot and using his intelligence to get line calls right is another reason that he is a proper center in my mind.

He is a Day-1 starter that will be pushed and tested and will battle and claw.  But, in the idea that his principle role is to stop this OL from being bullied from right in front of Romo's face, I have no issues with the player.  I think he will require guard help periodically, but every center needs that.  In a phone booth, he is going to be fine, it is in space where you worry about his match-ing up with someone with Bruce Carter's quickness trying to get around him.  There will be holds, but hopefully, he will get his weight back up to where he is comfortable (325?) and provide a wide foundation to build around.  One plus to his 1st round spot is that he is on a 5-year rookie contract which may prove beneficial down the road, as well.

Now, you can push a guy like Phil Costa or Ryan Cook down the depth chart to a reserve role which suits them much better, too.  I think this is the type of pick that will not sell season tickets, but it might go a long way in making this offense more balanced and versatile, rather than abandoning all game plans and simply switching to shotgun in the 2nd Quarter because your OL has been horrid (see 2012).

If you squint, you can see a bigger Jeff Saturday from back in the late 1990s.  If Frederick gets anywhere close to that, his link to Sharrif Floyd will be forgotten in 5 years.

1 comment:

Dave said...

My hopes for him are more on the cerebral side. I believe that many times, the line just didn't know what to do/who to block. Guys would stunt and come in clean because nobody picked them up. I'm hoping that Frederick at least has everybody getting the right guy. After that, I believe our odds improve. Not coming clean is a big step forward. Hopefully, he can remain healthy enough to learn and grow in the position and not be sidelined like Costa was.