With the 2012 NFL season in the books, and the scouting combine in the rear-view, it's time to take a closer look at the 50 players we think will be the biggest difference-makers at the next level from this draft class. To that end, we're happy to start this year's Shutdown 50 scouting reports (Hint: There may actually be more than 50). You can read last year's group here. The final 50 players listed were chosen and ranked based on game tape, combine results, overall positional value, and attributes and liabilities on and off the field.
48. Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, DE, Florida State
We continue this year's series with Florida State defensive end Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, who has a couple of red flags around some pretty amazing game tape. The first issue teams will have to deal with is that Carradine has just one full year as a starter at the BCS level -- he transferred to Florida State from Butler Community College in Kansas after spending two seasons there due to academic issues. After getting up to speed in 2011, Carradine used an injury to Brandon Jenkins as his opportunity to shine last season, and that's exactly what he did, amassing 47 solo tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 11.0 sacks in just 11 games.
The second issue is what stopped his 2012 season short -- late in the Seminoles' 37-26 loss to the Florida Gators on November 24, Carradine tore his right ACL on a non-contact injury. That ended his season and put his draft position in serious question. While there's no doubt that the game tape alone screams "Top-10 pick," the medical issues will obviously have NFL teams looking sideways for a while.
"I am two months and three weeks into rehab," Carradine said at the scouting combine about a process that should allow him to do all the necessary drills before the draft. "I’m more than healthy. I actually have been doing a little bit of running -- not that much, but I’m really going to start running this Monday, February 25. My knee feels good. I’m like a month ahead of schedule, actually -- rehab five days a week, two times a day from 10:00-12:00 and 4:00-6:00, so I’m like a month ahead of schedule with all the rehab I’m doing."
Let's hope so, because Tank Carradine is an epic disruptor on tape -- the kind of pass-rusher who can make all the difference on a defense. And the scary thing is, he can be even better once he shores up a few very coachable rough spots.
Pros: Carradine comes off the ball consistently with great burst, and a good low bend most of the time. If the edge rush isn't happening, he's got estimable upper-body strength and an effective, if raw, rip move to set tackles and tight ends straight. Has a pretty ferocious inside stunt move that could be developed even more -- this is where he shows impressive straight-line speed to the quarterback, especially for his size. Has no problem with mixing it up in a physical style with larger, more aggressive offensive linemen. Excellent sideline-to-sideline speed and agility to help with crashing through run plays -- he will also use this to flush quarterbacks out of the pocket.
Can stop running backs in the backfield when he pinches inside and knifes through the guard and center -- he's that quick and strong. Can bull-rush with consistency; occasionally just drives blockers back. Fast enough downfield to catch up to running backs and rushing quarterbacks. Doesn't get foot-faked a lot when he's closing in -- targets his man well and wraps up with authority as a pure tackler.
Has the right physical characteristics to drop into coverage on zone drops and blitzes, though he didn't do that too often at Florida State -- more or a straight-ahead weapon. Redirects well in space and will take down a back even after that back has effectively juked him out of the play. Took more than his share of double-teams even with Bjoern Werner on the other side of the defensive line. High-character person who has won scholastic and humanitarian awards. Legitimate every-down player who doesn't have to be taken off the field for any schematic reason. Played end and LEO but has the size to slip inside on passing downs. Has legitimate 4.7 speed that shows up on the field.
Cons: Carradine is clearly still learning how to diagnose backfield action; he may be vulnerable to play-action and read-option plays at the NFL level as a result. Will occasionally raise his pad level too high, losing leverage and getting blocked out of the play, especially on rushing downs. Once in a while, he'll just get bulled right out of the octagon to an embarrassing degree, and that's always a pad level problem. Needs to develop an inside counter and spin -- Carradine could make even more plays if he could avoid getting pushed away from the pocket when he turns the corner as an edge rusher. Occasionally gets too caught up in wrestling with blockers and fails to disengage at times. A decent stack-and-shed player who has the ability to be much more consistent in slipping off blocks.
Conclusion: It's a real shame that Carradine was hurt in the 2012 season, because I'm pretty sure he would have been my #1 pass-rusher in this draft class had he stayed healthy and played at this level all the way through. Unlike some of the smaller speed ends, there are no strength issues here, and he doesn't have a risk of long-term health issues like Georgia's Jarvis Jones does with the spinal stenosis diagnosis. Carradine's linemate Werner may have a better ability to read and diagnose plays before they happen, but Carradine is by far the better pass-rusher, and given his improvement in diagnosing stuff at the line, I have little doubt that he'll be fine in this area as well. Put simply, had Carradine stayed healthy, it would be his name, and not Werner's, you'd see at or near the top of a lot of boards at the defensive end position.
Now, in an era when ACL injuries are not the career-killers they once were (just ask Adrian Peterson about that), the question is what Carradine will be able to show before the draft. If he's anywhere near 100 percent before then, he will easily vault up a full round in our rankings, and I could see him taken in the first half of the first round with no problem.
"They’re going to get a great person, a guy that’s passionate about the game of football, a guy that’s a team player, cares about his team, loves to win, just a great guy overall," Carradine said at the combine about what kind of player he'd be in the NFL. "A guy that’s got a motor, a guy that is physical against the run, disruptive against the pass, and a guy that can shoot through gaps, and a guy that’s just all over the field, and a guy that you’ll want on your team that will come in and make impact plays on your defense."
All that stuff did show up on tape. If it does again, Tank Carradine has the potential to be an unholy terror in the NFL.
NFL Comparison: Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers (if healthy).