With the 2010 NFL season in the books, the draft edging ever closer (and a lockout battle now headed to the courts) it's time to turn our eyes to 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.
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 Penn State center Stefen Wisniewski, who comes to the game of football through the family way. Wisniewski's father, Leo, also played for the Nittany Lions and went on to four years in the NFL with the Baltimore and Indianapolis Colts. More impressively, his uncle Steve garnered eight Pro Bowl nods as a true terror on the offensive lines of the Oakland Raiders after he also starred at Penn State. It's a lot to live up to, but "Wiz" has established a body of work all his own. Playing both guard and center at a very high level, the younger Wisniewski has displayed the functional football intelligence that also runs in the family — Steve Wisniewski is now the Raiders' offensive line coach.
"Definitely a lot," Wisniewski said at the 2011 scouting combine of the pressure to live up to the family name. "They kind of stared me in the face every day. Walking down the hallway my uncle's picture is real big up there on the wall, my dad's up there, so I got constant reminders of what they've done. I used it to motivate me; to match or exceed what they've done."
In 46 games for the Nittany Lions, Wisniewski established himself as a great player and team leader literally from Day One — he was the first Penn State offensive lineman to start as a true freshman in over a decade. He's certainly a young man with all his ducks in a row, but what does the tape say about how it all works at an NFL level?
Pros: As a right guard, gets angular with momentum and drives his man across the line in slide protection. Gets his hands into the defender quickly off the snap and maintains a wide base to contain even when he's stood up or bulled back. Uses punches and leverage after first contact to push defenders out of gaps. Quick, efficient, and accurate with second-level blocks; this is a primary strength of his. Pushes tackles out well in pass-blocking sets, and seals the run edge with authority even against bigger opponents..
Cons: Not a strength blocker per se; will lose leverage battles when he comes up high and delays his drive blocking. Will sometimes slip off blocks when trying to push back. Wisniewski can get enveloped by bigger tackles; one-tech tackles are a problem when they beat him in power and leverage, which a somewhat disturbing fact for his size (6-foot-3, 313 pounds). Will get out of position when heading upfield once in a while, but good technique in space is the norm. Can get dragged around when he takes the first punch off the snap; takes him a second to recover.
Conclusion: Wisniewski's background and family history informs his play; he is a highly intelligent leader who takes responsibility for his performance and will work as hard as he needs to in order to be a success at the NFL level. His lack of core strength makes him a better NFL center prospect unless he's playing guard in a zone system that relies on blockers with quick first steps and assignment-correct play. No matter where he lands, Stefen Wisniewski has the edge for the center position because he gets the game from the neck up.
NFL Comparison: Max Unger, Seattle Seahawks
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 | #50 — Jabbal Sheard, DE, Pitt | #51 — Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa | #52 — Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona | #53 — Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky | #54 -- Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada | #55 — Sam Acho, OLB/DE, Texas | #56 -- Andy Dalton, QB, TCU | #57 — Davon House, CB, New Mexico State | #58 -- Jon Baldwin, WR, Pitt | #59 — Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU | #60 — Drake Nevis, DT, LSU | #61-- Quan Sturdivant, LB, North Carolina | #62 — Orlando Franklin, OT, Miami | #63 — Titus Young, WR, Boise State | #64 — Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia