Josh Norris

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The Overvalued Five

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Syracuse DE Chandler Jones 
In February, Jones made my first "overrated" list since many had him as a potential first-round pick at the time. Fast forward a couple of months and apparently Jones is now the hottest pass rushing commodity in the draft and a likely top-25 selection. I find it very hard to believe Jones can contribute immediately. Beyond his ideal frame and length, Jones lacks coordination after his initial extended first step. His lanky style does not bode well in terms of explosion when changing directions or absorbing contact when his opposition gains the leverage and power advantage. Jones has sound hand placement but it is more for technique than authority, only occasionally flashing true strength when extending and forcing the offensive lineman off balance. I see methodical, long strides anytime explosion is necessary. Length can be a great asset and Jones frequently swats down passes with extension but the lack of a consistent anchor, proper body positioning on the edge and overall power to his game is sorely missed. I look at Jones as a left defensive end or five technique in a three man front project with a frame to gain 20 pounds that will add force to his natural length. But even then, other than giving up some length, how different is that from UNC's Quinton Coples who is that player right now. Astoundingly, it appears Jones may be drafted ahead of Coples.

Stanford OT Jonathan Martin 
A late second round talent that is likely to crack the top 32, Martin's game needs plenty of refinement. First, he is a pusher instead of an engager, preferring to keep distance from pass rushers rather than latching on and controlling their movements. Even from his first punch Martin lacks strength and it only gets worse throughout his pass drop. Initially I believed Martin was too athletic to be a waist bender, but he certainly plays like one. His shoulders are frequently over his toes in an unbalanced stance, almost begging a defensive end to pull past him. Martin's anchor is no better, having to take multiple steps when absorbing contact. The combination of stiff and finesse is a terrible one for offensive linemen. He shows quickness at the second level but Martin's tentative nature to react rather than direct is worrying. The Stanford product will struggle to mirror quick edge rushers while power rushers will immediately jolt him off balance.

West Virginia OLB Bruce Irvin 
Irvin played severely out of position in college as a defensive end in a 3-3-5 scheme. A JUCO transfer before his junior year, Irvin relied too much on natural athleticism rather than technique. His best move is a speed rush to an outside dip, blowing by heavier-footed tackles. However, on the field Irvin's get-off is good, not great, and he lacks any kind of counter move after his initial momentum is stopped. In fact, Irvin rarely engages in contact, acting more like a running back avoiding hits than a physical pass rusher. His workout numbers were off the charts at the Combine, but his tentative style when focusing on that first contact affects his burst. This shyness translates to limited success versus the run, where Irvin continuously looks overwhelmed and nearly helpless. I am on board with Irvin as a situational pass rusher in the late third or fourth round, but he will be taken much sooner because of the lack of talent in that role this year.

Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins 
A dynamic personality cannot make up for less than adequate NFL starting caliber arm talent. Between the numbers Cousins is reliable, but that is not a special quality. Cousins understands his limitations downfield and outside the numbers, putting extra mustard on these throws which frequently results in high or off target attempts. More than anything I worry about how Cousins performs in confined spaces. He frequently lowers his eye level to check out incoming pass rushers and drifts back in a clustered pocket. For a quarterback that has questionable velocity to hit timing routes in a clear pocket with confident footwork, Cousins performance when facing pressure is not pretty. After being bailed out regularly downfield by his receivers in college, Cousins could certainly become Captain Checkdown after a few turnovers in the preseason. As Evan Silva pointed out in this piece, the success of second round picks that turn starters is sparse. I would be surprised if the Michigan State product ever becomes more than a quality backup and occasional spot starter that can keep the game going but with limited success.

Memphis DT Dontari Poe 
The Combine fever has cooled down a bit over the last few weeks, but Poe's name is still mentioned in the first fifteen selections. Blessed with an insane combination of quickness and strength, Poe carries the most potential of any defensive player in this class if harnessed and applied. There are certainly flashes of burst, low pad level, and strength to penetrate and disrupt in the backfield. Poe shows an anchor versus the run in terms of holding his ground, but often is sealed away from the running lane without slowing down the runner. His dreadful downfield motor, lack of balance despite his wide base, and inability to consistently get a push inside are very noticeable. However, coaches love these kinds of projects, believing their coaching skills can turn a player like Poe into an all-pro. Unless Poe has been sandbagging the last three seasons, it is a stretch to believe he can contribute as a rookie. But his blend of size, foot quickness, and strength make Poe a project many coaches will pound the table for. Poe's final landing spot is more important than his pre-draft evaluation, only a handful of terms can turn that upside into production.

Check out my latest column on The Devalued Five.

Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Josh Norris

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