Such is the case with Defensive Ends. NFL Defenses have become more'r less evenly divided between "43" Teams and "34" Teams. Far more importantly, though, the line between "43" and "34" is rapidly becoming a very fuzzy one.
Teams are increasingly going with Hybrid Theory Concepts, and the result is that many "Positions" are becoming Hybrids.
Defensive Ends are at the very crux of this changing LandScape. Traditional "34" Ends are just as likely to be employed as 3 Tech Tackles, traditional "43" Ends are just as likely to be deployed as "34" Flank Defenders ~ "OutSide LineBacker", to you Earthlings ~ and both are increasingly being asked to morph between Roles.
As such, I consider the old notion of pretending that these guys all go into one "Defensive End" Category to be silly.
And I also find the idea of sub-categorizing them as "34" Ends and "43" Ends, while a step in the right direction, to be ridiculously inadequate: It ignores the fact that half these guys won't even be deployed that way, and it ignores the fact that a rapidly increasing number of Defenses are going to ask them to morph between Roles.
Lion is going to be my term for the 280 Pound Plus Defensive Ends who could project to Tackle.
Dragon is going to be my term for the 270 Pounders or less.
Within the 270's or in any unusual cases, it'll be a Judgement Call.
Lions will get drafted either to play "34" End, "43" Tackle...or both.
Dragons will get drafted either to play "34" Flanker, "43" End...or both!!
I should also add that some Prospects generally considered to be Defensive Tackles will fall under my definition of a Lion. Indeed, the way the Strategic & Tactical LandScape is evolving these days, it is of course not uncommon for an erstwhile Tackle to get kicked out to Defensive End. But of course what each Coach does with his Personnel is his Business.
My Purpose here is to try to categorize Prospects by Type, and I believe that there is substantial difference between Prospects who could play both End and Tackle and Prospects whose Skills Sets suggest that they do.
These latter are genuine Hybrids ~ Lions ~ and it is my Hope that those of you who honor my Site with your Visits will find my efforts to distinguish the one type from the other ~ wrought with Peril though it be!! ~ to be useful to your Purposes.
When evaluating Lions, these are the Attributes to which I pay most particular attention:
Power. Above all: Core Power. Upper body Strength is important, but Core Power, from the Knees to the Ribs, is absolutely crucial. All the upper body strength in the world still fails if you can't dig in your heels. But Core Power enables a Lineman to project Power in the Running Game and to reject Power in the Passing Game. And those Players who invest the time and effort to develop superior Core Power are far likelier to enjoy sustained good Health and stay on the Field.
Agility. Lateral Velocity, Acceleration, and above all: Fluidity or Core Agility. Core Agility is even more essential to sustained good Health ~ and to sustained good FootBall ~ than Core Power. The ability to react with Serpentine smoothness is a tremendous asset in all Aspects of the Game, and certainly in the Hand to Hand Combat that characterizes Trench Warfare. All the Power in the World goes only so far if you're stiff and lumbering out there.
Combat Skills. Mechanics. Launch Velocity, Paw Power, and Technique.
Intangibles. Diagnostic Capacity, Processing Speed, and Motor. How effectively he masters Spatial Diagnostics & Angles, how rapidly he recognizes and implements Blocking Schemes based on changing Defensive Tactics, and of course: Drive. How badly he wants it. These are of course difficult things to assess, but it's crucial to at least try to.
Agility. Exceptional. Explosive Launch Velocity off the Snap, though he's not timely as often as you might like. Moderate Fluidity, but tremendous Acceleration and outstanding Closing Speed. Makes Plays all over the Field.
Combat Skills. Deficient. Very active Hands, tremendous Paw Power, and an outstanding WingSpan, but exceedingly raw.
Intangibles. Strong Motor, but marginal Field Vision. Often a step slow to read the Tactical LandScape or get off the Snap.
As a result, I wonder how effective he's going to be against Offensive Tackles and Tight Ends at The Next Level. On the other hand, it seems to me that that combination of sprawling WingSpan and explosive Launch Velocity, while perhaps not enough, in light of those concerns, to defeat all but the weakest Edge Blockers at The Next Level, might afford him enough of a Advantage, matched up with the less Agile Offensive Guards and Centers, to make an Impact on Passing Downs.
I believe that Ealy has the Potential to fulfill the lofty 1st Round Valuation currently accorded'm. He's put on 45 Pounds at Missouri, so a lot of his difficulties projecting Power in the Pass Rush and thwarting Power in Run Defense may be attributable to his still being in the process of getting used to the dramatic Growth in'is Frame.
Likewise, that which I perceive as deficient Processing Speed ~ he's often slow off the Snap ~ and deficient Field Vision might very well be overcome in time, with enough dedication to Tape Study and Training.
That goes as well for his deficient Mechanics. They've been improving, and may indeed improve far more.
I would also note that his fit as a Passing Down 3 Tech or even 1 Tech ~ hence my decision to tag him "Rook" rather than "Knight" ~ has a very strong chance of producing his greatest Impact, and it may very well be a substantial one.
Considering all Aspects of Risk and Reward, though, I don't currently roll with the overwhelming majority opinion on this one: I believe his Potential Impact is that of a 1st Rounder, but feel that his Risk Factor is elevated.
Thanks, as always, to the extraordinary Work by the men of Draft BreakDown!!
Consensus Market Value