With the 2010 NFL season in the books, the draft edging ever closer (and a lockout battle now headed to the courts) it's time to turn our eyes to the pre-draft evaluation process. We've already done scouting reports of the top 40 players on our board, and you can read all the details on the first Shutdown 40 here. For the second Shutdown 40, players 41-80, we have the advantage of combine performances and that much more evaluation material.
Over the next few weeks, we'll also be adding Pro Day data when relevant. But we're always going mostly on game tape; the proper evaluation formula seems to be about 80 percent tape, 20 percent Senior Bowl/combine/Pro Day. If you see what you expect in drills, you go back to the tape to confirm. If what you see in drills surprises you in a positive or negative sense, you go back to the tape to catch where the anomalies may be.
We continue the second Shutdown 40 with North Carolina linebacker Quan Sturdivant. Stranded by the year-long suspensions of defensive teammates Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin and waylaid by a hamstring injury that cost him five games, Sturdivant nonetheless performed admirably, finishing third on the team in tackles with 61, including 8.5 for loss. In 2008, he led the nation in unassisted tackles with 87, and switched between outside and inside linebacker with aplomb in 2009. In 45 games with the Tar Heels, Sturdivant racked up an amazing 297 tackles (186 solo), 22 solo tackles for loss, six sacks, three interceptions, eight passes defensed, two forced fumbles, seven quarterback hurries, and one blocked kick.
Sturdivant impressed as much with his ability to transcend injury and a marked decline in talent around him in 2010 as he did with anything before. Can he take that inner strength and make a way for himself as an NFL standout? Only the tape knows for sure…
Pros: Assignment-correct in tight gaps, but what makes Sturdivant stand out among inside linebackers is his ability to use his speed and break off the original lane and redirect if the play goes away from him (this is different than the misdirection issue we'll talk about soon). Former quarterback and safety with the speed and agility to drop back into coverage either at middle depth of from the line — could be an interesting zone blitz player because of this. Excellent understanding of zones and coverages; he will pass off one receiver and head to another assignment like a really big safety.
Good enough in mid-zone (8-15 yards) to force quarterbacks to throw away from him. Rangy in nickel sets; can cover a lot of ground laterally. Versatility makes him an every-down linebacker. Ferocious and aggressive when hitting the line, which can be good and bad. Not always as sure downhill as he is in space; will lose battles to play action and misdirection at times.
Cons: Sturdivant tends to get stiff and limited when he has to redirect after firing off the ball; he's so intent on going 110 miles per hour that he could be prone to some spectacular whiffs when facing elite NFL running backs. At 6-foot 1 and 241 pounds, doesn't have the size or thumping tackling style to take on NFL offenses as a true middle linebacker; will tend to break down when trying to man up with bigger backs. Has the speed to rush the passer more (he wasn't asked to all that often at UNC), but he'd need to develop a wider array of hand moves and foot fakes before he'd be an effective NFL edge rusher.
Conclusion: The best thing I can say about Quan Sturdivant is that even when he lost a lot of the line flexibility in front of him due to the Quinn and Austin suspensions, he maintained his game and adjusted to seeing more ballcarriers in his kitchen as opposed to when they were heading outside to get away from Austin. His adaptability would serve him well in a defense that needs a rebuild, but he'd be best off in a system that allows him to play inside nickel and outside 4-3. He could play specialist in a 3-4 ILB role if his relative lack of tackling power wasn't a problem, and he might see some time with the right team as a pass rusher in a five-man front. Like Peterson, Sturdivant has enough of a skill set to become the face of a linebacker corps — as long as he's put in the right place.
NFL Comparison: Mike Peterson, Jacksonville Jaguars (2003-2005)
More Second Shutdown 40
#41 — Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia | #42 — Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple | #43 — Aaron Williams, DB, Texas | #44 — Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech | #45 — Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA | #46 — Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois | #47 — D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas | #48 -- Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina | #49 — Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy | #50 — Jabbal Sheard, DE, Pitt | #51 — Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa | #52 — Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona | #53 — Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky | #54 -- Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada | #55 — Sam Acho, OLB/DE, Texas | #56 -- Andy Dalton, QB, TCU | #57 — Davon House, CB, New Mexico State | #58 -- Jon Baldwin, WR, Pitt | #59 — Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU | #60 — Drake Nevis, DT, LSU