Sometimes when you're picking at the end of the first round, you're looking more for value than unearthing the next superstar. The Falcons sit at No. 30 in this year's draft and there's no shortage of directions they can go in making their first selection. If value is the option in play this year, the Falcons could do a lot worse than Purdue's DT Kawann Short. Matt Miller from Bleacher Report (@NFLDraftScout) is back with us this week to explain why Short isn't a bad selection for Thomas Dimitroff and his staff on the first night of the draft.
On Miller's rankings of draft-eligible prospects, Short is No. 33 and to show how deep this year's defensive tackle class is, Miller ranks the six-foot-three, 299-pound tackle as the fifth best DT in the draft. Miller thinks teams picking with late picks in the first round have to always consider the value of a player against the need he can potentially fill on the roster. The closer that value and need meet, the better the selection, theoretically, should be.
"Short, using that theory, is a fit schematically, a need based on the current roster and a value at that pick number," Miller said.
It's not a stretch to say the Falcons could look to improve their pass rush this season on defense and while many mock drafters believe the selection will be a defensive end, a defensive tackle that can also pressure the QB isn't a bad secondary option. Short could step into the D-line rotation and provide solid pressure, but don't expect him to be a great run defender out of the gate, another area the Falcons could improve.
"Short is primarily a three-technique pass rusher as a prospect," Miller said. "He doesn't have great strength to hold up at the point of attack in the run game, especially as an interior player. If Short is lined up between guard and tackle, as projected, he'll struggle to work down the line and get to the ball."
Miller adds that Short is disciplined at maintaining his gap, but asking him to generate much push off the snap isn't likely.
"He's not a pursuit player unless it's on a play where he's penetrated the offensive line and then made the play from behind."
Short redshirted as a true freshman in 2008, but in 2009 he immediately became a starter for the Boilermakers and never relinquished that role. In total he had 33.5 tackles for loss. As a junior he had 17 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. An injury kept him from working out at the NFL Combine, but his measurables were impressive. He weighed in at 299 pounds, the first time the big guy has been under 300 pounds since middle school and he hopes it improves his quickness. His wingspan is also enormous and with the kind of season that Houston's J.J. Watt had batting down passes, wingspan is looked at closely.
Miller says scouts look at players that can impact the game any way possible and Short's ability to use his wingspan to knock away passes is a plus. In his career at Purdue he broke up 11 passes and blocked four kicks on special teams. Miller points out that Watt has the art of abandoning the rush to get his hands in passing lanes down to a science and it may be tricky trying to teach a young pass rusher to be aggressive and pursue while also considering using his hands to knock away passes.
Attacking the QB from the inside of the line is considered the best way to contain a mobile QB and with the emergence of that style of signal caller in the NFL, DTs are gaining in value. Miller thinks Short can step in and help the Falcons in this area, though his inconsistencies in college have to be a concern.
"Short can be that guy to get penetration and push the line of scrimmage back," Miller said. "He's erratic, though, so you have to hope that coaching takes effect and he reaches his ceiling."
That inconsistency as a junior hurt Short some, but a strong week at the Senior Bowl has helped him rebound. Coaching him up will be a focus for whatever teams gets Short, but the two-time team captain doesn't appear immune to hard work. Miller compares Short to San Diego's Corey Liuget.
"Liuget has done well in a 3-4 defense, but his ideal position coming out of Illinois was as a pass rusher in a 4-3," Miller said. "Like Liuget, Short needs coaching up to reach his potential, but as a first-round level player with high upside and good versatility."