Tale of the tape: Morgan vs. Pierre-Paul

Doug Farrar
Yahoo Sports

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Perhaps more than any other, this particular head-to-head is about experience versus potential. In one corner, there's Derrick Morgan, who played in 12 games as a true freshman in 2007 and won ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors with 12½ sacks in 2009. He's a ready-made 4-3 end with all the characteristics you want in a versatile defender. Then, there's Jason Pierre-Paul, whose amazing athleticism is perhaps best featured in this video of his backflips. Primarily a basketball player in high school, Pierre-Paul played at two junior colleges because of academic concerns and has only one season at the major college level. He's got NFL-level raw talent, but how does he compare to the more seasoned Morgan? Let's see what the tape tells us:

Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech

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Morgan

Height: 6-3
Weight: 266
40 time: 4.77
Short shuttle: 4.43
3-cone: 7.12
Vertical: 34"
Broad jump: 9'04"
225lb bench: n/a
Starts: 27
Tackles: 103
Tackles for loss: 29½
Sacks: 19½
QB hurries: 3
Forced fumbles: 2
Fumble recoveries: 3

Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida

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Pierre-Paul

Height: 6-5
Weight: 270
40 time: 4.71
Short shuttle: 4.67
3-cone: 7.18
Vertical: 30.5"
Broad jump: 9'07"
225lb bench: 19 reps
Starts: 7
Tackles: 45
Tackles for loss: 16½
Sacks:
QB hurries: 7
Forced fumbles: 2
Fumble recoveries: 0

Pros: Morgan will push forward in the pass rush from the snap, and he's adept at using his hands to separate from tackles around the edge. Good closing speed once he's made the turn. Times the rip move with his turn inside to gain advantage. Doesn't always rush straight on – he'll fake an inside move and head back outside and has the speed to make that effective. He's familiar enough with twists and stunts to not overthink in-line movement and just rush forward. He'll also rush with effective speed from a tackle-to-guard angle, shooting through blockers. Uses his size and power to stay stable at the point of attack in run situations against guards and centers. Bulls his way through double teams with upper-body explosion. Pursues with speed and effort, but he's an intelligent defender who avoids obviously biting on fakes and pitches – he's able to maintain his base and redirect in space. Shows outstanding side-to-side strength no matter how many blockers are on him when pursuing an outside running back.

Pros: Pierre-Paul comes out of his pre-snap stance like a sprinter off the blocks – quick to the point of going offside at times, and he explodes into the backfield. Strider's stretch out of his crouch – if he gets a quick edge advantage against the blocker, it's almost impossible for the blocker to catch up. Outstanding overall athletic ability, starting with upper-body strength that he will use to drive around the edge against blockers. He isn't a great run defender, but he has developed the ability to slide off blocks and time tackles as running backs go by. Former basketball player who will use his height to go after passes. Will not give up on plays, even after he's blocked out, and will sometimes come back around and make a tackle. Might be a better edge rusher on a team with frequent 5-2-4 sets (like Dallas or San Diego) where he isn't hat-on-hat with a tackle and can build up a head of steam.

Cons: Morgan doesn't have the kind of recovery speed to turn back and attack the pocket if a tackle can get him turned out off an initial block outside. His ability to pressure isn't totally consistent – he'll get washed out at times by higher-level tackles. Not an effective short-area pass defender, which pretty much limits him to a role as a 4-3 defensive end. In an odd way, he'll be debited by some fans for his run-stopping ability; people want pass rushers to look like pass rushers more than anything else.

Cons: Pierre-Paul doesn't have a great deal of strength at the point of attack, and lacks the kind of pass-rush moves needed to stack and shed. Is fairly easily engulfed by power blockers up front. Gets completely washed out on slide protection. Not a good straight-on or peripheral run-stopper. Appears somewhat lost on loops and stunts – he'll move in and then delay his charge while looking for gaps. For all his speed, he will misdirect and get beaten by jukes and other moves.

Conclusion: Morgan won't jump off with a huge splash reel like some ends, but few will show more versatility. His real value lies in his ability to be relatively "plug-and-play" – his NFL team won't have to worry about how he'll defend the run, and he won't fall victim to misdirection in the backfield. The tradeoff is a slightly inconsistent pass rush performance, but a team in need of a do-it-all guy will take that deal and make Morgan the centerpiece of its front four.

Conclusion: At this point, Pierre-Paul is very much a one-trick pony. He's an absolute pass-rusher with limited skills in run support and the fine points of end play, which reflects his relative inexperience at the position. He will struggle if he's asked to shoulder the load as a pure 4-3 end, but could be a star as an "endbacker" in a five-man front. Over time, he may be able to acquire the technique to be a more well-rounded player, but there's a danger in expecting too much too soon.

Pro comparison: Kyle Vanden Bosch(notes), Detroit Lions (circa 2005-2007)

Pro comparison: Jevon Kearse(notes), Tennessee Titans (circa 1999-2003)

Doug Farrar is a regular contributor to Yahoo! Sports' Shutdown Corner