With the 2010 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Before the 2011 scouting combine begins on Feb. 24, we'll be taking a closer look at the 40 draft-eligible players who may be the biggest difference-makers when all is said and done. We begin our series with Florida State guard Rodney Hudson.
Pros: Unless he starts sucking back the protein drinks, Hudson will weigh in at the scouting combine at around 290 pounds, which is very light for any guard in a blocking scheme that isn't traditional zone. But Hudson plays with an impact about 30 pounds heavier than his listed weight, because he lines up very low in his stance and absolutely explodes into the defender's pads. Major nasty streak off the snap; he's very happy to bull defenders back, and he did it often enough at the Senior Bowl to eradicate any questions about his ability to be physical at the next level. Gets a decent side-to-side push and is able to redirect opponents.
Hudson doesn't quit on a play -- he'll cut-block, hit the ground, get back up, and try to block 10 yards downfield. Good technician in short spaces and has the ability to play in any pulling/trapping scheme and chips off to the second level quickly. Fluid dropback in pass protection, and once he's got both hands on a defender as he's backing up, the show is over. Actually, his agility in pass pro is among his greatest attributes -- Hudson fans out to the side like an above-average tackle. Tremendous upper-body strength. Excellent awareness of what's going on around him -- will shift a block inside or outside to redirect around an outside run play. Works well in tandem with tackles -- looked great with Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod in the Senior Bowl.
Cons: Hudson's relatively light weight is a specific concern more because of where's it's distributed -- he doesn't have a wide base (i.e., big butt) -- he's a bit more angular and lean as you might expect a center to be. He's as agile downfield as you'd think for his size, but he's not always on the bull's-eye downfield; he'll occasionally lunge and lurch and miss blocks. In fact, his tendency to drop blocks downfield seems to be a major technical issue -- he's really not dynamic at the second level. He's a much better side-to-side than up-and-down blocker in space. This affects his ability to block consistently on screens and second-level zone slides.
Conclusion: While Hudson has a lot going for him from a pure physical perspective, and he helped himself with an outstanding week at the Senior Bowl, he may be better off kicking inside to center at the next level unless he can get with a zone team that has the kind of line coach willing and able to work out the kinks. Right now, he's a bit of an undefined hybrid -- great strength in certain areas, but not the brute force required of an elite NFL guard. Good interior agility, but all over the place at the second level.
The team willing to do a bit of construction work will be rewarded with a player who started 47 games at a major college, won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy (best lineman in the ACC) in 2009 and 2010, and drew just two penalties in his collegiate career. The question is how -- and where -- he takes his skill set to the NFL. The smart play would seem to be to move him inside instead of toying with his weight at the guard position.