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A closer look: Michael Griffin

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I'd like to thank Peter from Burnt Orange Nation, our SBN Texas blog, for answering a few short questions on Texas Safety Michael Griffin, who in early mock drafts, has shown up as a possible Eagles first round pick more than other player. He's got some very interesting answers to say the least...

BGN Here in Philly we've had one of, in my opinion, best safeties to ever play the game in Brian Dawkins. He's 33 now and probably nearing the end of his career. He's one of the rare safeties that makes plays both in the pass game and the run game. So many safeties(ie Sean Taylor and Roy Williams) are great run stoppers but are exposed in coverage or vice versa. How effective is Griffin as a two way safety? Is he stronger against the run or pass?

BON -  Michael Griffin had a very solid year in 2005 as Texas' free safety, playing an outstanding complementary part to star strong safety Michael Huff. In 2006, with Huff gone to the NFL, Griffin moved over to the strong safety roll Huff had occupied and the Texas secondary had its worst season in ages. The Longhorns ranked something like 110th out of 119 teams in Division 1 football in passing yards allowed in 2006, and the secondary's meltdowns were the #1 reason why Texas did not win the Big 12.

The big question, though, is how much blame to assess to Griffin. Obviously, he's got to assume part of the blame, but the real culprit was defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, who asked Griffin to do -way- too much. Griffin is one of, if not the, best run support safeties in the entire country. After some early injuries, Texas' linebackers this year were a well below average group, which prompted Chizik to ask Griffin to come up in run support too often, leaving him out of position to make the kinds of plays in pass defense that you need your strong safety to make.

Still, I think you have to view Michael as a really, really strong run support safety and only an average cover guy. He won't exactly be a liability as a pass defending safety, but I think it would be a mistake to think you'd be getting someone like Baltimore's Ed Reed. Griffin's best value is in his sure tackling, hard hitting, and nose for the football. As a pure cover safety, he's only average.

Hmmm worries me that he could be another Michael Lewis... It's interesting that Peter's assessment on Griffin's coverage ability differs greatly from some draft sites who described him as "Exceptional in coverage and has fluid hips." No draft guru has seen as many UT games as Peter.

BGN Is there a pro right now or in the past that you think compares favorably to Griffin? As far as UT safeties go, how do you think he compares to the cream of last year's crop, Michael Huff?

BON - Griffin is not as good as Huff for the reasons outlined above. Huff was that ideal run/pass support guy that you were talking about in your second question. Griffin's more of a playmaking run support guy with mid-grade pass coverage abilities. If I'm wrong and Griffin is a better pass defender than I'm crediting him for, his upside is something like Troy Polomalu - he's definitely got some of that same instinct for big plays and being around the ball. But I think that's wishcasting. More realistically, Griffin's role would be as a good complementary free safety for a team with a really, really good strong safety who can work sideline to sideline in pass coverage. As far as comps go, I'd say the best pro I can think of for Griffin is Pittsburgh's Ryan Clark, who played his college ball at LSU.

Well, "mid-grade pass coverage abilities" is probably better than what I'd describe Michael Lewis as having... Also, again Peter differs from some scouting reports that said of Griffin "The next in a long line of great Texas defensive backs...A great all-around player and pro prospect."

BGN I'll be honest, Michael Griffin is the guy I want. I had my eye since the season ended and I've been pretty excited to see several mock drafts that have him falling to the Eagles. Is there anything about Griffin that could indicate maybe he won't be a great pro? Any attitude issues?

BON -  Depends what you mean by "great," Jason. Can he be a starter in the NFL? I think he will be in his prime. Will he be an All Pro at safety? I seriously doubt it. I'd like to be wrong, as Michael Griffin's a great guy and was a very strong collegiate player, but I think, value wise, that he's a second or third round talent. I think it's a reach to take him in the first round, though I definitely understand his appeal.

I'll add just one caveat. The Texas defensive coaching staff didn't have a great year in 2006, so there's certainly some chance that his '06 struggles may not be a reflection of his ceiling as a pro, and may be masking his upside. I think it's more likely, however, that he's a useful, solid, strong player in the NFL. I don't think he's a star.

To say Peter knows more than me about college football players, especially those from the University of Texas, is an understatement... I still like Griffin as a prospect, but I have to wonder now whether some of the scouting reports I've been reading haven't overrated him a bit. It seems like the plan is for Sean Considine to slide over to FS when Dawkins retires. Could Griffin be the guy to take over at SS? Would he just be another Michael Lewis?

Huge thanks to Peter from Burnt Orange Nation for taking the time to help us out. Who knows? If the Birds end up grabbing taking a player from Texas this April, we just may be able to get Peter back!

Anyone have any thoughts on Griffin? Eagles fans, visiting UT fans? Is the guy worth the #26 pick?