Saturday, January 31, 2015

2015 NFL Draft #8 - Danny Shelton, DT, Washington

http://cowboysblog.dallasnews.com/2015/01/sturm-draft-profile-danny-shelton-dt-washington.html/

I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington - 6'2, 343 - Age 22
Washington defensive lineman Danny Shelton cools down while warming up before facing Colorado in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in Boulder, Colo., Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Every couple years, one of those rare birds comes along that we all wonder about.  They are massive, massive humans who still retain quickness and flexibility.  Some, with the proper motors, can weigh nearly 350 pounds and make their share of plays - but, more importantly, they prevent countless others because opponents stop trying to test them up the middle.  They are earth movers, best set in "30" fronts, as the NT in a 3-4.  The best are very established stars in the NFL, Wilfork, Ngata, and Poe.  If you can find one, he is always drafted quickly because unlike WR, CB, or LB, there are not 5 others like him.  In this draft, there is nobody like Danny Shelton from Washington, and that is why he is sure to go in Round 1 at the draft.
The question then, for interested teams, is whether he is one of those chosen ones listed above - along with Casey Hampton, Shaun Rogers, and at times, BJ Raji.  Or, is he more of a Alameda Ta'Amu type, a similar man of great size 6'3, 350, from Washington, that we debated just a few short years ago.  Not every large man of Polynesian descent is Haloti Ngata.  And that is why we are carefully looking at Shelton to decide if he is worthy of the hype. What makes it somewhat difficult is that Shelton is joined on that Washington defense with 3 other defenders who might all be Top 50 players as well.  He was on a loaded defense, to say the least.  We examined the Stanford, California, and Hawaii games to get a feel for his work and of course, watched the Senior Bowl week where he was the talk of the town.

What I liked:  Well, there is so much to really like about Shelton.  He is very athletic for a man of his size.  He also appears to play very hard and generally seems to be in the right condition, although he would "gas out" occasionally.  He is an absolute strength mismatch up the middle against any guard or center he faces, and therefore demands double teams at all times or he is laying on top of your Quarterback.  He also holds up run plays by 1-arming a guard or center and pushes him to the side to make the play with real strong leverage techniques.  He is not going to get out-wrestled at the point of attack and that is why it was interesting to see a team like Stanford (who runs right at everyone) to pretty much shelf their interior runs against Washington.  He splits through gaps and double teams with impressive agility and occasionally reaches from a pile to grab the ball carrier and not let go.  He is a force to be sure.  He also is ending each play in the frame, which is rare amongst men of that size.  That means when the play goes away from him, he is rallying to the ball which is a prerequisite on this defense.
What I did not like:  More than anything, I think we are getting a little carried away with how good he was.  He had 9 sacks this season, for instance, but 6 were in the first 2 weeks against overmatched Hawaii and Eastern Washington.  The rest of the year, he had a more reasonable pace, but this business that he was leading the nation in sacks halfway through the season gives the impression that he will be double-digit sack guy from the interior, and that is not reasonable.  More than anything as we speak from a Dallas point of view, he just doesn't seem to be a scheme fit.  That doesn't mean he can't play in a 4-3, because he can and he would be very good.  But, the value a 4-3 team puts on a guy like this would be well below what a 3-4 team would.  That is why the 3-4 teams are willing to give him a Top 15 pick and run, give that they know the team behind him will do it if they won't.

Summary:  Excellent prospect for sure and as we said at the top, there are just not any others like him.  Either you get Danny Shelton to play nose tackle or you don't.  You don't have a Plan B at this spot, which means that it then becomes a candidate for over drafting just because of his positional rarity.  Odds are low that he has a career like Ngata, but the idea that he could is too much to resist on draft day.  He carries his weight well and looks like a freak of nature when he is on his game, but I don't see how Dallas would value him nearly as highly as a 3-4 team would.  For those teams, this guy might be worth a trade up.

Friday, January 30, 2015

2015 NFL Draft #7 - Malcom Brown, DT, Texas

I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football.  By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better.  It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.)
Malcom Brown, DT, Texas - 6'2, 320 - Age 21
Texas' Malcom Brown sits on the bench during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Baylor, Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, in Austin, Texas.
Now, let's dig into some defensive tackles this week.  Leonard Williams last week is going to be the best DT if you call him that, but he is almost his own category where you would say he can play wherever you want.  This week, we will grab the top several DTs who can join Tyrone Crawford inside and cause all sorts of issues in the middle and up front for the opposing offenses the Cowboys want to slow down.
Brown is a real talent and a fun guy to watch.  He is that perfect combination of size and quickness for a big man that often gets the "dancing bear" label slapped on because he can really move in the trenches when he wishes to do so.  However, he also can stand his ground and wait for a run to come to him.  To study Brown, I watched the BYU, UCLA, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma games.  But, really, I have had my eyes on big #90 all season.
What I liked: Anytime we dig into a player at this position, I am looking for his overall versatility.  For instance, is he very good against the run at plugging or is he a penetrating player who is making plays behind the line of scrimmage?  Is he a pass rusher or is he a roadblock?  Well, if you are going to take a DT in Round 1, he better be able to do both, and I am confident that Brown is that type of guy.  He appears to be the 3-technique, although Texas sure had its share of 3-4 (Oklahoma State) where he was almost the 5-technique.  But, in his true spot, he is playing outside shoulder on a guard and he is more than a handful for anyone across from him.  He stands, sheds, and makes the tackle on a regular basis.  He 2-gaps the run, where he can wait, peek, and still swat the guard off to get to the ball carrier.  But, his real value is that he is quick off the snap and through a gap with great quickness and lots of plays in the backfield.  You absolutely have to love a player who is behind the line of scrimmage this much and although he can get better, the resume already is productive.  He overpowers players with his bullrush and his strong swat, as well, and split a guard and tackle on a stunt against Oklahoma State that was very rare for a man of that size.
What I did not like:  I wish I saw a bit more consistency from his tape in that there are weeks where he is not the unstoppable force, but to be fair, there were games where Texas' defense was being asked to take on a very high amount of leverage because the offense wasn't pulling its weight.  Would love a bit more of a burst at times and maybe the most disconcerting thing on his tape is how many plays he could have made if he could just finish the play.  You don't want to be too tough on him because he beat his man and got to the carrier, but then because of poor technique, the RB spins out of trouble for the moment.  He made 21.5 plays behind the line of scrimmage, but I bet he left 10 more out there.
Summary: I think he is a tremendous talent who seems to really love the game and play hard regardless of the score (his work against BYU was impressive in the 4th Quarter, down 34-7).  It would be interesting to see if he could play along side someone like Crawford for the Cowboys, or if the team thinks they are too redundant.  Is he a 1-technique, and if so, does that lose his appeal if he is always locked down on double teams?  I think he is the type of guy that you better plan on taking with your pick, because guys like him don't last too long.  Rare traits, rare ability and one of the very best inside defenders in this draft.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Offseason Digest - Malcom Brown, Melvin Gordon

http://cowboysblog.dallasnews.com/2015/01/sturms-offseason-digest-no-5-malcom-brown-melvin-gordon.html/

Jan 1, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Auburn Tigers Jermaine Whitehead (36) tackles Wisconsin Badgers runningback Melvin Gordon (25) in the 2015 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Auburn Tigers in overtime 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Here we are into Super Bowl week and live from Phoenix, Arizona.
I think this might be a good place to give you an idea on what the first week has revealed about my offseason draft preparations and so forth.
The plan, as it currently stands, is a player profile between 5-6 times a week.  Those will be Monday-Friday with some Saturdays sprinkled in.  Some days I might do more than 1 player, but I also don't want to rush them.  It is important to watch 3 full games or 200 snaps or so to get a full feel for the guy.  Everyone has a bad day and most have a really great day.  We need to figure out what they are normally.
So, I am thinking a profile every day, with 3 "S.O.D.'s" (Sturm Offseason Digests) as well, where we break down the off-season, riff about Cowboys issues, and answer your questions.  Those will most likely be on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Meanwhile, the other days, it will be just the profile of another player.
I have done 6 players already, Malcom Brown of Texas is #7 below, and he starts our march through Defensive Tackles.  We will try to get all the Top 100 players done before draft day, but if we start getting short on time, we will emphasize positions of Dallas Cowboys' needs.  That means that i will spend all sorts of time on the Defensive Front 7 prospects first and foremost, which explains all of my profiles so far being D-Line.  Then, we will get working on the secondary and running back.  I am also willing to take requests.
The Morning News is building a central location for all of the profiles which is evolving as we go as well.  But, perhaps bookmark this location for your needs throughout the spring.
TODAY'S DRAFT PROFILE:
(Each issue of S.O.D., we shall tackle another draft prospect.  No, I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football.  By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better.  It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.)
Malcom Brown, DT, Texas - 6'2, 320 - Age 21
Texas' Malcom Brown sits on the bench during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Baylor, Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, in Austin, Texas.
Now, let's dig into some defensive tackles this week.  Leonard Williams last week is going to be the best DT if you call him that, but he is almost his own category where you would say he can play wherever you want.  This week, we will grab the top several DTs who can join Tyrone Crawford inside and cause all sorts of issues in the middle and up front for the opposing offenses the Cowboys want to slow down.
Brown is a real talent and a fun guy to watch.  He is that perfect combination of size and quickness for a big man that often gets the "dancing bear" label slapped on because he can really move in the trenches when he wishes to do so.  However, he also can stand his ground and wait for a run to come to him.  To study Brown, I watched the BYU, UCLA, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma games.  But, really, I have had my eyes on big #90 all season.
What I liked: Anytime we dig into a player at this position, I am looking for his overall versatility.  For instance, is he very good against the run at plugging or is he a penetrating player who is making plays behind the line of scrimmage?  Is he a pass rusher or is he a roadblock?  Well, if you are going to take a DT in Round 1, he better be able to do both, and I am confident that Brown is that type of guy.  He appears to be the 3-technique, although Texas sure had its share of 3-4 (Oklahoma State) where he was almost the 5-technique.  But, in his true spot, he is playing outside shoulder on a guard and he is more than a handful for anyone across from him.  He stands, sheds, and makes the tackle on a regular basis.  He 2-gaps the run, where he can wait, peek, and still swat the guard off to get to the ball carrier.  But, his real value is that he is quick off the snap and through a gap with great quickness and lots of plays in the backfield.  You absolutely have to love a player who is behind the line of scrimmage this much and although he can get better, the resume already is productive.  He overpowers players with his bullrush and his strong swat, as well, and split a guard and tackle on a stunt against Oklahoma State that was very rare for a man of that size.
What I did not like:  I wish I saw a bit more consistency from his tape in that there are weeks where he is not the unstoppable force, but to be fair, there were games where Texas' defense was being asked to take on a very high amount of leverage because the offense wasn't pulling its weight.  Would love a bit more of a burst at times and maybe the most disconcerting thing on his tape is how many plays he could have made if he could just finish the play.  You don't want to be too tough on him because he beat his man and got to the carrier, but then because of poor technique, the RB spins out of trouble for the moment.  He made 21.5 plays behind the line of scrimmage, but I bet he left 10 more out there.
Summary: I think he is a tremendous talent who seems to really love the game and play hard regardless of the score (his work against BYU was impressive in the 4th Quarter, down 34-7).  It would be interesting to see if he could play along side someone like Crawford for the Cowboys, or if the team thinks they are too redundant.  Is he a 1-technique, and if so, does that lose his appeal if he is always locked down on double teams?  I think he is the type of guy that you better plan on taking with your pick, because guys like him don't last too long.  Rare traits, rare ability and one of the very best inside defenders in this draft.

=====
Today's Email/Tweet Of The Day:
Thanks, Roger.  Let's get started.
Recently, I did a chat for the DMN (Every Wednesday!) and here is what happened to cause the above email:
Question: Assuming we don’t resign Murray, how do you feel about Melvin Gordon as a possible replacement?
Bob Sturm: I really think Melvin Gordon is a perfect scheme fit here. If they could get him, I think the production would not drop off considerable. Todd Gurley may be better, but I think the zone running experience of Gordon is phenomenal. That said, I am not sure #27 will work for Dallas to get Gordon.
This caused all sorts of feedback about the Gordon idea.  First, I have been on record a number of times saying I want to keep DeMarco Murray at the right cost.  Here, I make the case for the franchise tag.  In other places, I see the wisdom in a 4 year/$24m deal with most of it guaranteed.  I like DeMarco Murray a lot and I don't see it as a major mistake to put $18m in guaranteed money in his pocket to keep him through 2018.  He is young and talented and the Cowboys became a power in 2014 and he had his fingerprints all over it.
That said, my Melvin Gordon beliefs are strong.  I think he is fantastic and I don't believe in holding him responsible for previous Wisconsin running backs not taking over the NFL.  Ron Dayne and Gordon went to the same college.  Big deal.  It doesn't matter.  If you have ever seen Gordon play, then you know he is no Ron Dayne.
He is electric and has breakaway speed.  There are many who think that a guy with that extra gear takes Murray's 30 yard runs and makes them touchdowns.  But, he also is a guy who loves bouncing runs outside and I admit those aren't as easy to get in the NFL.
Gordon is not half the receiver that Murray was out of college, but Oklahoma runs a wildly different offense from Wisconsin.  Wisconsin hasn't really had a QB since Russell Wilson left, and their passing is almost non-existent (if you watched the LSU game, you saw this clearly).  But, a major key is that Wisconsin's zone running scheme and Dallas's run offense both have Bill Callahan's designs and follow many of the exact same concept.  If you believe the whole point to taking a running back high is that they are cheap and can step right in, then Gordon is your guy.  He would not cost much for 4 years and he already runs your plays.  Would he be Murray in blitz pickup?  I doubt it.  Almost nobody is.  Including the RBs currently on the board.  Like I said, I like Todd Gurley more, but I am not sure he is physically ready to step in with his injury.  Gordon is and he is a perfect scheme fit and he is the real deal.  He will not get exposed in the NFL.  He is a special talent.
Fumbles?  Yes.  Ball security is going to be an issue he knows he has to deal with.  He is not a horrible fumbler, but as the season went on and his insane workload continued, the ball did come loose on occasion.  But, to me, when a guy has a 2,500 yard season with almost no QB and people keying on him all day long, you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
I will break him down much more thoroughly in the days and weeks to come, but I doubt my feelings about this will change dramatically.  I want to keep Murray, even if it is with the franchise tag.  But, I keep hearing the Cowboys have a price for him and it isn't high enough to keep him.  They like him, but they are already prepared to let him walk is what I hear from my sources.  I may disagree, but that doesn't much matter.
If Murray is done here, I think Gordon would be perfect.  However, this is a great Running Back draft with about 6-8 top end runners to consider in Rounds 1-3 and I will study them all as we go.
Next Draft Profile: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington

2015 NFL Draft #6 - Eli Harold, DE, Virginia

http://cowboysblog.dallasnews.com/2015/01/sturms-draft-profile-eli-harold-deolb-virginia.html/

(I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.)
Eli Harold, DE/OLB, Virginia - 6'4, 250 
Virginia defensive end Eli Harold (7) picks up a fumble then scores a touchdown during an NCAA college football game Saturday Sept. 6, 2014 at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va.. Virginia defeated Richmond 45-13.
This is the year for the edge rusher and for a team like the Cowboys who need pass "rushmen", we better get familiar with the whole bunch if we can.  Eli Harold is yet another player who is highly regarded for being an athletically-inclined talent who you can clearly see flashes of everything you look for on Sundays.  When you read his background, it all seems to make sense as he is an exceptional track star in high school with the events that require explosion and speed.  To study his work, I watched the following Virginia games from 2014: UCLA, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, and Louisville.

What I liked:  He has top level quickness and explodes out of his stance at times and if you dare run the zone read at him (UCLA) and decide to leave him as the unblocked man to read off, you will quickly see that he is athletic enough to stay home and wait you out before pouncing.  His pass rush at its best is elite.  He also can chase down a QB or a RB who is headed to the opposite sideline in a blur that dazzles.  Very impressive ability to squeeze between gaps as well and not lose his balance or his momentum.

What I did not like: Unfortunately, there were too many times when we did not see his elite ability and this is a good lesson, perhaps, in watching enough of his tape that you aren't completely mesmerized by the 10 best plays of his season.  Like some others we have profiled, we wonder why in some games he looks like a 1st rounder and in others he looks like just another guy on the field.  In the UCLA and Pitt games, he really never troubled the Left tackle and made them uncomfortable.  He doesn't seem to have much of a plan if the quickness doesn't get him past his man.  He seems to have none of that functional power that makes edge rushers who can convert from speed to power and back so dangerous.  If you only have quick, then the offensive lineman across from you can quickly learn and react for the remainder of the day.  This doesn't mean that a young player like Harold can't get stronger and figure out a better arsenal of moves, but at the present, he isn't close.  He also gets stuck on blocks and when a tackle gets a hand on him, he is eliminated from the play way too often - relative to some of the others we have studied.  I wish there was just more production.  He had 7 sacks in 2014, with 5.5 of them in September.  That means there was 1.5 sacks in the final 7 games for a guy who is going against college left tackles.  I need more.
Summary:  To me, this is another case of a player who has incredible natural talents that a coaching staff might see and be confident that they can work him into a stud.  But, in the case of this exercise where the number #1 rule is to "trust your eyes", I must tell you that I wanted to see much more consistency in his game and power to use when needed.  He does look like you would expect a track guy to look when he plays football.  Very "toolsy", but not physical enough when the play is right at him and not enough power to be feared and schemed around.  I definitely see what people like, but there wasn't enough to say that he belongs as a 1st rounder for me.  I would say, depending on the game you grab, that he is a Top 30 guy on many occasions (Louisville), but unfortunately, just a Top 100 guy just as often.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

2015 NFL Draft #5 - Leonard Williams, DT, USC

I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football.  By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better.  It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.)
Leonard Williams, DE, USC - 6'5, 300 - Age 20
Defensive end Leonard Williams #94 of the USC Trojans sits on the sidelines during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
There are players that come along that get you very excited to know you are looking at a guy who people will most likely talk about for the next decade.  There are no guarantees, but once in a while a prospect arrives and has almost nothing to complain about.  Welcome to that guy in this draft.  There may be someone who we examine that will be on his level, but I highly doubt there is anyone who will exceed his level of excellence in the 2015 draft.  I watched the Nebraska, California, and Stanford games to review his work.
Williams is just 20 years old.  He played at USC (very well) as a true freshman, and now, just 3 seasons into his college career he has turned pro and shot to the top of everyone's board.  He was a "Top 5" guy in the spring, the summer, the fall, and now the winter.  He is as versatile as they come and that is why it doesn't seem that he is scheme dependent.
What I liked: In short, just about everything.  He is versatile in every aspect, meaning he can beat you with cat-like quickness that is uncommon for a player of that size or he can beat you with strength.  He can beat you inside or outside.  He can play DT, NT, RDE, or LDE.  He can play the 5-technique in a 3-4 or the inside.  He can even stand up as a OLB on the outside if you wish, although that doesn't seem to be as natural.  The point is, you don't have to worry about how he fits.  His hands are quick and powerful, he swims right past his man in a blur, and the best attribute may be his ability to contort and squeeze through tight areas to split gaps wide open.  He gets off blocks, but he also holds them up with 1-arm until the ball carrier gets close, then pushes the OL away to make the stop.  His motor is great and he is as disruptive as they come.  You constantly see offenses scheme their entire day around him so as not to mess with him if possible.  In short, he is the best up front at what he does since Ndamukong Suh was at Nebraska.  In fact, if you needed a clone, there you go.  He plays the run very well and he has really impressive pass rush for a 300-pound hulk.  I could go on about him for quite a while.
What I did not like:  In short, almost nothing.  If there is anything that gives you brief pause, it is that he seemed to always be dealing with a nagging issue or injury.  It never appeared overly serious, but he had to gut through a shoulder and ankle issue in both 2013 and 2014.  Otherwise, he is a plug-and-play difference maker.
Summary: Every year, those of us who study prospects see plenty of players we think could go either way and end up making us look silly.  But, there are a few you are willing to guarantee their stardom moving forward, so much so that you realize he won't fall to your spot in the draft - which means now you just hope he goes somewhere in the league where he won't destroy your team very often.  In other words, Washington at #5 would not be a preferred destination for Mr Williams.  I am pretty sure he is going to be a force in the trenches for a long, long time.  And he is 20!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Offseason Digest - Leonard Williams, DeMarco Murray

http://cowboysblog.dallasnews.com/2015/01/sturms-offseason-digest-no-4-more-on-demarco-and-leonard-williams.html/

Team Irvin running back DeMarco Murray (29) of the Dallas Cowboys speaks during the Pro Bowl Kickoff Press Conference at The Arizona Biltmore on January 20, 2015. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
When talking about DeMarco Murray's 2014, we will always start with the massive workload.  In the history of the NFL, Murray's 2014 ranks tied for 7th all time for most carries in a regular season with 392.  In other words, in the history of the sport, only 9 guys have ever done what he did.
Add in 57 catches, and the 449 touches are 6th all time for a season in the NFL.  Unfortunately, we do not know the actual workload of a guy like DeMarco Murray, because as I preach constantly in this space, one of Murray's real values is his ability to handle any and all blitz-pickup duty when he is on the field.  He is amongst the league's best at diagnosing and addressing any blitzing linebackers and defensive backs and protecting Tony Romo's health.  That adds on the wear and tear of dozens of more collisions that do not end up in the boxscore, but are vital to team success.
Add to that 2 additional playoff games and his carries zoom to 436 (7th all time in a season), his touches to 497 (6th all time!), and add another bunch of blitz collisions.  What a season for a workhorse.
He really gave the Cowboys absurd amounts of value in 2014 for what he was compensated - about $1.5m.
So now, as we consider options on how to keep the band together and how arguably the Cowboys MVP might factor into their 2015 plans, let us consider the other 8 players who have had at least 392 carries in a year.  What did their next year look like?  Most of this information will be as irrelevant as it gets, but for historical context, let's just take a look at the other men on that list.
RBAgeYearAttsYds
Larry Johnson *2720064161789
Larry Johnson282007158559
#1 all time for carries in a 16 game season is Larry Johnson of the Chiefs in 2006.  He was a machine that year, so what happened in 2007?  Well, it started with a Hard Knocks-aired contract holdout in camp and a season-ending foot injury in Week 9.  It was a dropoff of over 1200 yards of production and he never came close to another 1,000 yard season.  Once he got paid, he disappeared.
RBAgeYearAttsYds
Jamal Anderson *2619984101846
Jamal Anderson2719991959
Jamal had his massive 1998 season, but in 1999 in a Week 2 game against the Cowboys on Monday Night at Texas Stadium, he tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season.  He returned for 1,000 yards in 2000, but that was it for his career.
=
RBAgeYearAttsYds
James Wilder2619844071544
James Wilder2719853651300
The Tampa Bay workhorse in the mid-1980's had a good news/bad news follow-up season in 1985.  The good news was it was for 1300 yards.  The bad news was that in his final 7 years, his production declined each year after 1984 and he dropped severely to 700 yards in 1986 and was done as a full-time back.
RBAgeYearAttsYds
Eric Dickerson *2619864041821
Eric Dickerson2719872831288
Eric Dickerson was amazing in 1986 and pretty much every year from 1983 to 1989.  He was a spectacular rusher who did see his production drop in 1987, but only because it was a NFL strike year and he was traded to the Colts.  Other than that, he was good as new.
RBAgeYearAttsYds
Eddie George *2720004031509
Eddie George282001315939
Eddie George is what inspired (along with Shaun Alexander) the Football Outsiders "370 carries Curse" barrier, it seems.  He ended up with less than 3 yards per carry in 2001 and the tread on his tires were closely examined.  He did regain some form after 2001 and his Madden Cover actually coincided with the 2000 season, but he is the name people look at when this topic is disconcerting.
RBAgeYearAttsYds
Gerald Riggs2519853971719
Gerald Riggs2619863431327
Gerald Riggs pretty much kept being a Pro Bowl running back the following year.  Yards per carry fell a bit, but that requires so much more analysis than simply looking at workload, so I hesitate to discuss without examining Falcons game tape (which I am fresh out of from 1986).
RBAgeYearAttsYds
Terrell Davis *2619983922008
Terrell Davis27199967211
Here is another famous one.  Terrell Davis had a 4 year span that was unlike anything we ever saw from 1995-1998.  Of course, it helped John Elway end with 2 Super Bowls, and in 1999, the Broncos would soldier on without the QB.  Brian Griese would at least have Davis, right?  Wrong. In Week 4, Davis would blow out his ACL, ironically, trying to tackle a defender who had intercepted a Griese pass.  Davis would never be an elite runner again.
RBAgeYearAttsYds
Ricky Williams2620033921372
Ricky Williams27200400
Then, we have Texas' Ricky Williams.  2003 was pretty impressive, so you can remember the confusion when he then retired.  There was a marijuana suspension mixed in and Ricky was far from a normal player, but he did not play at all in 2004.  It should also be noted that in 2002, Williams had 383 carries for 1853 yards.  So his 2003 was technically his follow-up season, which went pretty well.  But, he is a curious case for sure.
And that brings us to DeMarco.  I don't buy that he looked tired in the 2nd half of the season.  I thought he was pretty awesome all the way through the playoffs.  I think, if they choose to keep him, he will be pretty salty in 2015 as well.  But, as we can see above, and as the financial commercials reminds us constantly, past performance is not indicative of future success.
RBAgeYearAttsYds
DeMarco Murray *2620143921845
DeMarco Murray272015??????
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TODAY'S DRAFT PROFILE:
(Each issue of S.O.D., we shall tackle another draft prospect.  No, I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football.  By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better.  It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.)
Leonard Williams, DE, USC - 6'5, 300 - Age 20
Defensive end Leonard Williams #94 of the USC Trojans sits on the sidelines during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
There are players that come along that get you very excited to know you are looking at a guy who people will most likely talk about for the next decade.  There are no guarantees, but once in a while a prospect arrives and has almost nothing to complain about.  Welcome to that guy in this draft.  There may be someone who we examine that will be on his level, but I highly doubt there is anyone who will exceed his level of excellence in the 2015 draft.  I watched the Nebraska, California, and Stanford games to review his work.
Williams is just 20 years old.  He played at USC (very well) as a true freshman, and now, just 3 seasons into his college career he has turned pro and shot to the top of everyone's board.  He was a "Top 5" guy in the spring, the summer, the fall, and now the winter.  He is as versatile as they come and that is why it doesn't seem that he is scheme dependent.
What I liked: In short, just about everything.  He is versatile in every aspect, meaning he can beat you with cat-like quickness that is uncommon for a player of that size or he can beat you with strength.  He can beat you inside or outside.  He can play DT, NT, RDE, or LDE.  He can play the 5-technique in a 3-4 or the inside.  He can even stand up as a OLB on the outside if you wish, although that doesn't seem to be as natural.  The point is, you don't have to worry about how he fits.  His hands are quick and powerful, he swims right past his man in a blur, and the best attribute may be his ability to contort and squeeze through tight areas to split gaps wide open.  He gets off blocks, but he also holds them up with 1-arm until the ball carrier gets close, then pushes the OL away to make the stop.  His motor is great and he is as disruptive as they come.  You constantly see offenses scheme their entire day around him so as not to mess with him if possible.  In short, he is the best up front at what he does since Ndamukong Suh was at Nebraska.  In fact, if you needed a clone, there you go.  He plays the run very well and he has really impressive pass rush for a 300-pound hulk.  I could go on about him for quite a while.
What I did not like:  In short, almost nothing.  If there is anything that gives you brief pause, it is that he seemed to always be dealing with a nagging issue or injury.  It never appeared overly serious, but he had to gut through a shoulder and ankle issue in both 2013 and 2014.  Otherwise, he is a plug-and-play difference maker.
Summary: Every year, those of us who study prospects see plenty of players we think could go either way and end up making us look silly.  But, there are a few you are willing to guarantee their stardom moving forward, so much so that you realize he won't fall to your spot in the draft - which means now you just hope he goes somewhere in the league where he won't destroy your team very often.  In other words, Washington at #5 would not be a preferred destination for Mr Williams.  I am pretty sure he is going to be a force in the trenches for a long, long time.  And he is 20!
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Today's Email/Tweet Of The Day:
I will work on this.  The guy I missed on most in 2014 would certainly be Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin.  I thought he was too big and headed to tight end.  Then, he had a spectacular rookie season in Carolina.
I have missed on plenty of guys over the years and have a few wins as well.  I will try to put some lists together.  My favorite argument with Norm Hitzges was about DeSean Jackson out of California.  I thought he was going to be an electric pro who would make plays and be awesome.  Norm thought he was too small and had a personality who would be problematic.  Who won that one?
Next time, let's start diving into Washington DT Danny Shelton.  Have a good weekend.