Shutdown Corner - NFL

With the 2010 NFL season in the books (and a lockout battle now in the courts) it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and 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 Pitt defensive end Jabaal Sheard. In a defensive end class of obvious bigger hybrid guys and obvious 3-4 outside pass rushers, Sheard looks to be a bit more "traditional" in build at 6-3 and 267 pounds. The Big East Defensive Player of the Year broke out as a sack artist in 2010, picking up nine quarterback takedowns, as well as 14.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. He really stepped up when Greg Romeus got hurt, but the signs were there in previous years, as he amassed 10.5 tackles for loss in the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

From a character perspective, Sheard has dramatic résumé points on both sides. He helped an elderly woman escape from a burning building and received a bravery award, but he was also involved in an altercation last July in which he was charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest. The charges were later reduced. "My mom has always been there for me, and it was the worst feeling in the world having to make that call," Sheard told The Sports Xchange of having to tell his mother what happened. "But she said to me, 'It isn't the mistake you make, it is how you respond,' and that really just became the way I viewed it I needed from that point on to make sure I worked hard to regain the respect from my teammates and coaches and let people see that wasn't the kind of person I am."

From an on-field perspective, Sheard finished his Pitt career with 142 tackles (80 solo) in 45 games. He also racked up 19.5 sacks (18 solo), 35.5 tackles for loss, 16 passes defensed, five forced fumbles, and 38 quarterback hurries. Generally speaking, I look at players with low but ascending sack totals and high pressure totals as potential breakouts in the area of quarterback disruption. Is Sheard such a player?

Pros: Sheard has impressive speed in every direction — he's obviously quick around the edge in pass rush situations, but what makes him a complete end is his lateral agility and ability to back off into coverage and to catch up to downfield runners. Especially quick after he turns past the tackle and is closing in on the ballcarrier. Uses well-developed inside-out and outside-in moves at the line to gain the edge at the start of the play. Closes in well out of a wide set and doesn't take too long getting around the edge; there isn't a lot of wasted motion in his game. Has a decent rip move to help him disrupt, though he could be more consistent with this. Determined player who plays from snap to whistle, even when he's originally boxed out by a block.

Cons: As with most fast ends, Sheard's all-systems-go approach can lead to his getting blocked out of plays as opponents can use his momentum against him. This is true in side-to-side movement as it is when he tries to get around a tackle fanning out in pass pro — he can be easily handled out of the play if he doesn't get the inside advantage once he's in the backfield. Doesn't always bring optimal functional strength to the play; there are times when he gets bulled out when you'd expect more from a guy with his build.

Conclusion: Sheard undoubtedly got a lot of questions at the combine and in any interviews with teams about the July 2010 incident, but the word seems to be that it was an isolated incident in the life of a good guy. The concerns on the field center more around Sheard's root strength — if he can match it to his speed and intensity, he could be a dominant all-purpose defender just as adept at run-stopping as he is when he's chasing down a quarterback. Early on in his NFL career, Sheard may get shut out at the next level, and the extent to which he finds that to be a learning experience will decide how well he does.

NFL Comparison: Anthony Spencer(notes), Dallas Cowboys

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

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