With nearly all the Pro Days completed, most teams are beginning their final Draft meetings within the next week, so for the next four weeks we are going to compare and contrast two players who play the same position. This will give you the insight into the small things that can separate top prospects. Today we compare two of the top defensive tackles, Star Lotulelei and Sharrif Floyd, in the Draft. While we believe that there will be four or five defensive tackles, Sharrif Floyd, Star Lotulelei, Sylvester Williams, Sheldon Richardson and possibly Jesse Williams, taken in the first round, we are focusing on Floyd and Lotulelei here as they are generally viewed as the top two in this class.
US PRESSWIREFlorida DT Sharrif Floyd makes tackle against Louisville.
Before we get to the breakdown of their skill sets based off film evaluation, just the body type comparison is interesting. Floyd is a muscular, well-built man with more of a body builder’s type “v” physique from shoulders to waist, while Star is a thickly built player from top to bottom and has a thicker lower body than Floyd. Although measurements are not the sole determining factor in a prospect’s ability to translate to the NFL, the difference in arm length is surprising as Floyd’s measured 31 ¾ at the Combine, while Star’s were 33 5/8, which some NFL teams view as critical for offensive and defensive linemen.
On the field, Floyd and Star are highly regarded of because they are players with the skill set to excel in a variety of positions, which makes them both versatile prospects. Neither one of them is a dynamic pass rusher and they are different in their pass rush approach. Floyd has good, not elite, initial quickness to threaten the gap and uses hands well to jolt the offensive linemen. He then relies upon either quick hands to defeat the pass block or just effort and strength to work to the quarterback. He has a tendency to get upright and lose leverage as he comes off the ball, which hinders his ability to consistently free up from the pass blocker and finish the sack.
Despite being a bigger man, Star’s initial quickness is better than Floyd’s and combined with his ability to maintain leverage and incredible playing strength, he can jolt and drive the pass blocker back into the quarterback’s lap. However, he does not have any real pass rush moves other than a bull rush, so if his initial charge is stopped, he struggles to pressure the quarterback. The one big difference I notice as pass rushers is that while Floyd can be quicker to defeat blocks because of hand-use/pass rush moves, he does disrupt the pocket as consistently as Star who is able to push man into the pocket to ruin the “pocket integrity” even though he does not always free up from the blocker.
As a run defender, Floyd can get into the gap fast because of his initial quickness off the ball, but he struggles to consistently get all the way through it because he gets high and loses leverage too often. His success making/disrupting plays when he attacks gaps is dependent on how well he uses his hands and maintains good pad level. When he does not attack a gap and plays more of a two-gap role he has the strength to be a force at the POA. However, once again his tendency to get upright and give up leverage at the snap allows run blockers to be more effective pinning and shielding him to the side of the play then should be the case for a player with Floyd’s natural strength. When he keeps his knees bent and hips low to maintain leverage, he can anchor against any run blocker, can shed and make the tackle on running plays at him, but he needs to do this more consistently. On outside running plays, he has the quickness to get into the gap, can keep blocker on back shoulder and has the speed to chase down the play along the LOS in pursuit.
US PRESSWIREUtah DT Star Lotulelei makes a point after making a big play against USC.
While Star is never going to be regarded as a premier gap shooter, for such a big man it is impressive how consistently he can get into the gap to disrupt the play behind the LOS, even when he cannot shed block to make the tackle. I was amazed at Star’s ability to jolt the run blocker upright with a strong punch, get arm extension, toss blocker aside and explode to the ball carrier to make the tackle. He can dominate as a “two-gapper” when he was aggressive with his hands, but at times he was late getting his hands on man and therefore not as quick shedding as he needs to be. In the gams evaluated, Star showed the ability to sink his hips and anchor against double team run blocks, which clogged the middle to shut down the inside run. Incredibly, for a player who played in the 320 to 330 range, Star’s ability to chase down ball carriers in pursuit along the LOS was rare for such a big man and proved to me he can play any position on the defensive line in a 34 scheme.
When I was done breaking down the film on Floyd and Star, I was very impressed by both players and have no doubt they will become quality starters in the NFL. However, I feel that Star is clearly the better of the two as he has better initial quickness, plays with good leverage more consistently, which allows him to play stronger at the POA and can excel in any defensive line role. Floyd is a bit of a “scheme tweener” in that he has the body type of a one gap defensive tackle, but is often most effective playing as a two gap defender. However, his ability to be as effective as a two gap defensive tackle in the NFL is a concern because of his tendency to lose leverage combined with his lack of ideal bulk/weight and arm length.
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