While there may not be a Ndamukong Suh in the draft this year, the draft pool of talent might be deepest on the defensive line. At least, so says Doug Farrar in his latest article for Football Outsiders, who has identified seven "near-certainties" to be picked in the first round. However, his article focuses on two players -- Corey Liuget, who we discussed yesterday, and Stephen Paea -- that are fringe first-rounders whose stock may swing heavily on their performance in next week's Combine.
While both receive positive scouting reports, I asked Farrar which he might prefer on the Rams, if he were standing in Coach Spagnuolo's shoes.
@RamsHerd Probably Liuget if Robbins was younger, but I like Paea as a guy to play 1-tech or over center as Robbins replacement.
@RamsHerd Robbins had a completely amazing season, but DT + mid-30s + microfracture a while back = yikes.
The Rams signed both Fred Robbins and Chris Hovan in the offseason, hoping for an injection of veteran savvy and leadership, and praying against the ravaging effects of age and injury. While Hovan fell in the first week of training camp, Robbins was lucky enough to stay upright and effective all year, logging almost 700 snaps. Can we expect a repeat performance in 2011? Clearly, the Rams have to be thinking long term when they draft at the position.
So what's to like with Paea? Here is a snapshot of the takes provided by Farrar and fellow analyst Rob Rang.
Farrar: On tape, the first thing that stands out about Paea is that the freakish strength he shows in the weight room (600-pound squat/500-pound bench/44 reps of 225 pounds on bench) transfers very obviously to the field. When we talk about "stack-and-shed" players, we refer to players who can stand blockers up and get by them quickly with their hands. No problem there. Paea's hand use is effectively violent, and he gets off to a good start by consistently using low pad level to win the leverage battle.
Rang: Stephen Paea's lack of prototypical height will force NFL teams to get creative in how they use him. His naturally low center of gravity and excellent upper body strength make him difficult to move and therefore an intriguing option as a run-stuffing nose guard.
By comparison, their take on Liuget describes a more versatile 3-technique player in line with the more positive scouting reports we talked about yesterday, but with some concerns about the lack of "disruption" in his play.
The full scouting report is well worth a read, but the question remains whether either player is strong enough to justify using the #14 pick on. Billy Devaney isn't known to "fall in love" with players at the combine, but a strong showing might solidify either's standing on the Rams' draft board.
@RamsHerd @FO_DougFarrar I like both of these DT's too but would prefer the Rams move down to draft them.
This is where the depth at the position might play right into Devaney's hands. All he'd need is a trade partner...
Note: Rams fans who'd like to discuss the matter further should check out this wekend's Turf Show Radio, which features Farrar as a special guest.