Now that the 2012 NFL Draft is in the can, it's time to take the Shutdown 50 scouting format forward and take a closer look at some of the surprising and fascinating selections from this year's draft -- the guys we missed in the original 50, but who could be impact players now or down the road. Our first entry: West Virginia OLB/DE Bruce Irvin, selected by the Seattle Seahawks with the 15th overall pick.
Overview: So ... if Irvin was the 15th player taken in the draft, how did we miss him in the original 50? The answer lies in a functional disconnect between media people who evaluate players, and the guys who do it for actual NFL teams. Irvin was given a second-round grade by most of the people on our side of the fence for two reasons -- prior character dings, and the perception that he's a one-trick pony with limited pro potential. NFL teams, however, checked out his checkered past, looked at the tape, and saw how he would work in their defenses - especially after he's coached up on a few things and put in the right place in a defensive front. To put it kindly, the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Irvin was often misplayed at West Virginia. A player who looks like a pass-rushing version of DeSean Jackson should not line up for half his snaps on the tackle's inside shoulder so that he can be nuked by blockers who outweigh him by 80 pounds.
At his first NFL conference call, Irvin spoke to the college coaching issues, and outlined his potential. "I used to play receiver in high school. I feel like I'm a great athlete. Like I said, I got 23 sacks in two years without any pass rushing coaching. So just imagine if I've got a coach that knows what he's talking about to teach me some stuff. I'm going to do great stuff for this organization. The sky is the limit for me. I just need a great group of people around me and get around a great group of pros who are going to show me how to be a pro on and off the field and I think I'll be all right."
The Seahawks weren't the only team looking at Irvin in the first round, but they got him, and general manager John Schneider could not have been happier about a pick that left people scratching their heads at first. "We were extremely excited," Schneider said last Thursday. "We didn't want to get too cute with this. We obviously viewed him as the best pass rusher in the draft. Trying to add that to our team, add to the team speed. There was a certain area we thought we could get to and then we talked about going back again and then we decided to go ahead and lock it down. We had this guy rated as one of the top players in the draft."
So, he's raw clay, formed into the shape of a scud missile? The West Virginia tape does show that potential ... when Irvin is in the right place, and not forced to take double teams in a tight 3-3-5 stack (which I will term the "WTF Defense" in this case).
Strengths: Irvin may be the fastest pass-rusher I have ever seen. As far as pure burn off the line, he's cartoonish. Comes off the ball and gets a couple of steps in before all but the best tackles can get their hands up and feet set to deal with him. Has closing speed to the quarterback or ballcarrier common to the fastest cornerbacks. Made a play against Clemson in 2011 (at the 2:00 mark in the video below) in which he was blocked out by the left tackle, ran across the formation, and got upfield to tackle the quarterback in a play you have to see to believe.