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 North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin. Suspended for the entire 2010 season and eventually kicked off the North Carolina team in the school's agent scandal, Austin must now hope that people see enough in his 2009 tape and an impressive combine performance to overlook the controversy.
"It was a tough situation," Austin told the media at the combine. "A lot of guys missed a lot of time playing football so it hurt a lot, having to sit the whole season out. It was just something that made you sit back and think about the opportunity and makes you realize that you have to take every day as if it may be your last, because it possibly could be. Going through that has made me and my teammates grow and I think we'll be better professionals because of it."
In 38 games for the Tar Heels, Austin put up 106 tackles (59 solo), nine sacks (eight solo), 13.5 tackles for loss, 13 quarterback hurries, four passes defensed, and one forced fumble. At the combine, Austin really impressed after the long layoff by running a 4.84 40-yard dash (tied with Auburn's Nick Fairley for the fastest time among all defensive tackles), and his 1.64-second ten-yard split was the fastest of any tackle. He also did 38 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, and places very well in the shuttle and 3-cone drills. Clearly, Austin was out to prove that the year off didn't affect his conditioning, and he passed that test with flying colors. But what kind of player will the NFL be getting in Marvin Austin?
Pros: Austin bounds off the snap pretty quickly for a guy his size (6-foot-2, 309 pounds) and immediately looks to slip off single blocks or split double-teams. Uses a good rip move to help win the leverage battle and is practiced enough with his hand moves to wrestle a blocker to the ground without getting busted for holding. Has an interestingly effective spin move out of the one-tech spot; Austin seems to always be looking to disrupt.
Very effective in college when looping outside and around — this could still be effective against NFL right tackles, though I wonder if he's quick enough to get up to speed to blast through quality left tackles at the next level. Austin's gap discipline could be better, though it's partially the result of a scheme that had him angling to find any open gap right off the snap.
Cons: Austin is not a precise form tackler; it seems at times that he's almost surprised by the speed with which he gets to the ballcarrier, and he has to pause to get his technique together. You see him bumping into opposing players (and his own teammates) trying to make tackles at times — he doesn't really have an eagle eye when it comes to that. Sometimes, that disruptive tendency (which is a positive) will have him lurching out of plays and easily blocked out, especially on run plays when the back switched direction.
Slightly less effective as a three-tech shading or in a 40 front — while he loves to split gaps, he's not as quick in those short areas as your typical NFL three-tech would be. Lateral speed is average at best.
Conclusion: Should Marvin Austin have lost an entire season for taking a few agent-subsidized trips when the UNC football program made millions of dollars in revenue on the backs of Austin and his teammates for years? That's a debate for another time, but I'll put it in this context. Based on my own beliefs, I wouldn't specifically ding a player for "character issues" if his main violation was to skirt the rules and pick up a few extra perks in a system that seems impossibly unfair.
As to the football stuff … there's absolutely no question that Austin could have used that extra year. He is a phenomenally gifted athlete who plays all over the place (and not in a good way). He's not always assignment-correct, he plays too high at times and loses the power he has at the line, his love for the splash play can have him out of position, and his tackling technique leaves a lot to be desired. But those are coaching points that could be negated (if not eradicated) over time, and I was very impressed with Austin's honesty at the combine podium, and the show he put on during his workouts. This is going to be someone's risky pick, but Austin could pay off to an extreme degree with the right kind of coaching and environment.
NFL Comparison: Tank Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals
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