Shutdown Corner - NFL

With the 2010 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Before the 2011 scouting combine begins on February 24, we'll be taking a closer look at the 40 draft-eligible players who may be the biggest difference-makers when all is said and done.

We continue our series with Florida lineman Mike Pouncey. The brother of Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice took over the Gators' center position for his brother after 28 starts at right guard (Pouncey also played defensive tackle as a true freshman). After misfiring three snaps in the season opener against Miami of Ohio, Pouncey changed his stance (putting his right foot back a bit) and his grip and that seemed to solve the problem over time.

In his Florida career, Pouncey amassed eight tackles, a tackle for loss, and one interception as a defensive tackle (the pick came against Chad Henne(notes) and Michigan in the Capital One Bowl). Though he's noted for his versatility, he's projected as a guard in the NFL, and that's the focus of this scouting report.

Pros: Very good and quick with his feet off the snap; gets into position to block without a lot of wasted movement. Pouncey is able to drive his opponent back once he engages - he's technical enough, but he really likes to bowl a guy over. Flashes power with his hands at the line and at the second level; can engage his hands under pads and force the action even after he's standing.

Pouncey excels at forcing a defender to one side or the other to create gaps. Pulls and traps with authority and agility and can easily angle back inside to cut off a defender on slide protection. Shows very good form in straight-back pass protection; keeps his hands busy and maintains consistent leverage through his dropback. Nasty streak really shows up in short-yardage and power situations when Pouncey seems to especially enjoy bending his defender back.

Cons: Despite solving the errant snap issue, Pouncey is seen by most as a guard at the next level, and this could affect his draft position, especially with a host of very solid guards in the 2011 draft class. Will occasionally get "jumpy" with his feet and give up ground to defenders to either side if he doesn't have his feet planted. Not always functional when chipping and then going to the next level; he'll need some technique help to avoid just mauling when he's in the NFL, because he'll get abused if he tries that stuff in the pros. Not a developed second-level blocker at this time, though he certainly has the athleticism to gain this attribute.

Conclusion: Brother Maurkice went to an NFL team that prefers straight man-on-man power blocking to advanced zone schemes, and Mike Pouncey seems, at this point, to be a best fit for the same type of team. What he does bring to the table is an inordinate amount of functional strength - when you see him get legally violent with guys who are now in the NFL, it's sufficiently impressive.

The obvious NFL comparison is with his brother, but I don't see it - I think Mike is just that much more physical and would be best-served by not having to worry about the intricacies of the center position. While he could certainly get the coaching points over time, true piledriver guards don't grow on trees. That's where Mike Pouncey's true value lies.

NFL Comparison: Ben Grubbs(notes), Baltimore Ravens

More Shutdown 40
#40 -- Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State | #39 - Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee
 | #38 - Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor | #37 - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas | #36 -- Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami | #35 -- Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor | #34 - Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State | #33 -- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State

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