There are a number of mocks around right now that have Star tipped to the Eagles with the fourth overall pick. Whilst he's undoubtedly a good player, I'd be disappointed if he ended up in Philly without a considerable trade down. I'm of the opinion that he's poor value in the top-10 and the reason can be summed up in two words. Johnathan Hankins.
My personal opinion (and one that is shared by Mr Klausner) is that Hankins is better than Star. I know that's not the most popular opinion and this post is not intended to convince you that I'm right. What I want to do is show that, even if you think Star is better, the drop-off in talent from Star to Hankins is minimal and, yet, Star is repeatedly projected to be a top-10 pick, Hankins is frequently allowed to fall out of the first round completely (in Tommy Lawlor's latest mock at Scouts Notebook, Hankins lasted into the third round).
Instead of just writing a standard draft profile, I decided to put together some tape to illustrate my points. It's about 15 minutes long, but hopefully it can be a good primer for those that don't have the time or inclination to watch a whole bunch of college games.
- Hankins is a big guy and he plays even bigger. He has the strength to overwhelm linemen and anchors very well against double teams.
- Excellent at shedding blocks. When two-gapping he can drive his man into the backfield before tossing him aside and making the tackle when a running back chooses a gap.
- Surprisingly athletic for a man this size. Can make plays laterally along the line of scrimmage and closes quickly on the QB/RB once he slips his blocker. - He ran a 7.59 3-cone and a 4.61 shuttle (compared to Star's 7.76 and 4.65 whilst also being 10 lbs lighter)
- Gets good push up the middle to collapse the pocket and make quarterbacks feel uncomfortable.
- Wasn't asked to play 1-gap very often in college, but on those occasions he showed he can get good penetration into the backfield.
- Fantastic motor. Will chase a ballcarrier downfield until a tackle is made even when it's obvious he won't be the first man to get there.
- Keeps his eyes in the backfield at all times. Is quick to disengage and follow the ballcarrier on runs to the opposite side. Gets his hands up into passing lanes on occasion.
- Played on a hybrid defense that used multiple schemes and techniques. Has experience of just about every defensive line position (even lined up in a Wide-9 on a few occasions).
- Despite all of his dominant ability, Hankins wears down towards the end of games. As he tires, he'll lose power, he'll slow down, his pad level will rise and he'll be blocked much more easily.
- Due to limited experience playing 1-gap schemes, will probably need to work on some more pass rush moves at the next level.
Now, those weaknesses are gonna sound pretty bad until you think about why Hankins wore down towards the end of games. Firstly, he played a lot of snaps. He averaged 61 snaps per game (to put that in context Floyd only played 40 snaps per game) which is a long time to run around carrying 320 lbs. Secondly, he's not very well conditioned. He has had issues with his weight throughout his career and carries too much weight in his gut and butt.
Many have mistaken his fatigue for a lack of effort toward the end of games, but that's simply untrue. Hankins plays hard for every snap that he's on the field and his teammates speak very highly of his work ethic. He's also never missed a game; he used a brace to help him play through a sprained knee.
What this tells me is that his problems can be overcome at the next level. Firstly he won't be asked to play anywhere near as many snaps in the NFL. Secondly, with an NFL weight room and conditioning program (maybe one that gives its players personalized smoothies after practice) he should be able to get his fitness up to a level where he can play more consistently at a high level.
If you ask Big John who he aspires to be like, he'll tell you Vince Wilfork. That might be easy to laugh off when considering his dominance in New England, until you remember what was said about Vince before the 2004 draft:
Powerful, game-controlling defensive player that can be an unstoppable force. Top athlete that displays explosion off the snap, plays with leverage and bull rushes opponents up the field. Quickly closes to the action, immediately alters his angle of attack and chases the action from behind. Squares and wraps tackling bringing ball carriers down on initial contact.
Looked overweight and out of shape as a junior and as though he was playing not to get hurt. Lackadaisical off the ball and inconsistent at times.
Displaying flashes of dominance, Wilfork is an explosive defender in the middle of the line. Had a lot of inconsistency issues last season which is dropping him down draft boards but a good prospect at a priority position.
If I were the Eagles, I would take an impact player at a different position with pick #4 and make Hankins a priority target with their second round pick; maybe even trading into the late first to grab him. This seems to me to be a more efficient way of improving multiple positions than drafting Star in the top-5.