Notes on 1st Round DE, OT

by Tommy Lawlor  –

Quick post today.  I watched some Colorado tape recently.  I wanted to take a better look at LT Nate Solder.  Great size, athleticism, and potential, but not a great player.  Doesn’t dominate the way you expect from a guy with his ability/potential.  Nate plays too high.  He has got to play with better pad level in the NFL.  He’s been a LT for 3 years.  Prior to that he was a big TE.  Solder is still raw.  If he is coachable, the issues he have can be corrected.  Too often he doesn’t lock onto his guy and control him.  You’ll see Solder get pushed back more than he should.  It isn’t a clean win if you block a rusher, but he’s moved you back into the QB’s space.   Solder needs to get stronger to help with that.  Playing with better pad level will also help a lot.  Solder is susceptible to inside moves.  That is something he can be coached on.

Solder doesn’t look like a Top 20 pick on game tape or at the Senior Bowl.  He absolutely does at the Combine.  That’s him in a nutshell.  Great talent and potential, but inconsistent play.  He’s definitely worth a 1st round pick because of the upside, but Solder does need a lot of work.     *  Mizzou DE Aldon Smith is a weird player to watch.  He is very herky jerky.  You watch him on some plays and think that he’s being tazed with the strange stuff his body is doing.  He doesn’t have a great motor like most top level pass rushers.  He’s not lazy, but you wouldn’t use the word relentless to describe his style of play either.

In case you think I’m totally down on Smith, I’m not.  He is a good prospect.  He has very long arms.  He can be explosively quick off the ball.  He’s got a long, lanky build, but is deceptively strong.  Smith uses his hands well.  He will jolt blockers when he gets his hands on them cleanly.  That helps him to shed well, or at least get them off balance.  Smith plays both RDE and DT.  He’s equally comfortable rushing from the inside or outside. He made a very athletic play vs Oklahoma.  Smith didn’t rush, but just held his ground.  The QB threw a pass, not expecting him there.  Smith plucked the ball (impressively) and took off upfield for 58 yards.  He might have scored a TD if he hadn’t stumbled early.

Smith reminds me of a lesser version of Jason Pierre-Paul.  He’s not as big as JPP.  He’s not as natural of an athlete.  He is a talented young player with a lot of natural ability.  Smith only got on the field for the Tigers for 2 years.  He is raw.

Smith is worth a pick in the 16-32 range.  He’s got the potential to become a good starting DE.  He needs work on technique and must play stronger.  This isn’t a guy you want setting the edge right now.  A good NFL OT would move him off the ball with ease.   Smith battled injuries in 2010.  I’m hoping to study some 2009 tape and see if he’s a different looking player.   His numbers were certainly better (11.5 sacks to only 6).

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