Lion End ~ Jihad Ward ~ Illinois Fighting Illini
For that reason, and in order to offer NomenClature that speaks not to archaic, obsolete "Positions", but rather to Skill Sets that accurately reflect the dynamic Changes of the 21st Century Game and the Roles they have spawned, I have undertaken to craft Terminology that is designed to break Skill Sets down as they really are.
Defensive Coordinators have, since Time Immemorial, employed highly creative terminology in devising Defenses and in designating Assignments. In that Spirit, I have admittedly indulged myself considerably in devising the following NomenClature. It is undeniably colorful, but I like to think that there's an underlying Logic, as well:
Lions ~ This is my term for Defensive Linemen with the Size of a smaller and faster Defensive Tackle and the WingSpan of a Defensive End. Like the Grizzlies, they can line up at End in a 34 or at Tackle in a 43, or just about anywhere in either Formation, and conceivably play either 1 Gap or 2 Gap. The Prototype would be about 6050/300 or less.
Of course, where and how any given Coach chooses to deploy his Players is his Business. Players that I characterize as Lions may often or even routinely line up anywhere, on any given Down. My only purpose is simply to identify what I perceive as Skill Sets, to distinguish types, if you will, and perhaps create a universal Point of Reference.
When evaluating Lions, this is how I break down the Attributes to which I pay most particular attention:
Power: Above all: Core Power. Torso Power 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 Defensive Lineman to project Power in the Passing Game and to reject Power in the Running Game.
Agility: Launch 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: Paw Power, Mechanics ~ Hand Speed & Positioning ~ and of course: Frame.
Intangibles: Processing Speed and Motor. Processing Speed or Diagnostic Velocity is about how quickly and effectively one Reads & Reacts to how the Rapidly Roiling Tactical LandScape effects Blocking Schemes, and Motor is about Endurance and Drive: How much Work has been put into Conditioning, and how it manifests itself.
Run Defense: Power, Agility, Combat Skills, and Processing Speed.
Pass Rush: Power, Agility, and Combat Skills.
Broken down into SubCategories, it'd go something like this:
* Core Power ~ lower body Power. Core Power trumps Torso Power. Tyrannosaurus Rex had exceptional Core Power.
* Torso Power ~ upper Body Power. Important, but not crucial. T Rex had lousy Torso Power...yet was King.
* Anchoring Strength against the Run.
* Drive Power in the Pass Rush.
* Fluidity, above all things: Core Agility & Flexibility makes everything possible.
* Launch Velocity ~ Speed into Contact off the Snap.
* Acceleration ~ Short Speed or Quickness.
* Frame ~ Arms, Hands, and above all: WingSpan.
* Field Vision ~ Reacting to the Tactical LandScape: It's all about Angles & Leverage.
* Paw Positioning ~ It's all about Angles & Leverage.
* Paw Persistence ~ RPMs: Activity & Persistence.
* FootWork ~ RPMs: Activity & Persistence.
* Processing Speed ~ Field Vision. Rapidly Reading & Reacting to the Offense.
* Motor ~ Intensity and Duration.
* Combat Skills
* Processing Speed
* Combat Skills
Agility: Impressive. Mediocre Launch Velocity and Acceleration, but tremendous Fluidity.
Combat Skills: Moderate but with tremendous Potential. Ward's Mechanics are still raw, and he has a marginal Pass Rush Repertoire, but his Hands are incredibly active, and his WingSpan is exceptional.
Intangibles: Impressive, and potentially outstanding. Ward's Field Vision is marginal, but I make Allowances for that, as he's only been playing FootBall since 10th Grade, and didn't switch from Safety to Defensive End until he was a Senior!! His Motor is tremendous, and I have every faith that he will, in time, develop the Field Vision he'll need.
Run Defense: Exceptional and potentially outstanding at The Point of Attack, as he develops his Combat Skills and Field Vision in the Years to come, and while he lacks the Speed to become dominant in Pursuit or Attacking the BackField, I believe that if he develops his Combat Skills and Field Vision, he's got the Motor and the Fluidity to succeed.
Pass Rush: He hasn't done much at all, here, and seems generally to be lacking in much Potential, but I believe that the Potential is most definitely there: Power, Fluidity, and WingSpan equal Pass Rush Potential.
Such Prospects often go far later than they ought ~ at least in my opinion ~ thus allowing me to cackle with glee as I craft a Scouting Report extolling said Prospect's Virtues while sneering gleefully at the cowardly NFL Front Offices.
Alas, the Raiders snatched'm at #44 ~ yeah, I peeked.
Even so, I proceed with Pleasure...
Another thing I love about Ward is that he posted a marginal 40 Time and a lousy Vertical Leap, thus flopping both with the traditional idiotic perceptions of Athleticism and the more modern SPARQ Score.
I myself value the Vertical Leap as a Measure, but prefer the Tape.
Prospects like Ward are more challenging to project, precisely because the prospective Arc of Ascent is far steeper for them than that of most Prospects, who, having played their Position ~ or a near approximate of it ~ since Grade School, are far closer to being what they might potentially become than guys who just took it up a few Years ago.
Even so, I love to write them up, as I am a Speculator at heart. And Jihad Ward brings exceptional Power, tremendous Fluidity, and impressive WingSpan, and a tremendous Motor to the Field of Battle.
"Trajectory > A mercurial Formula that blends Talent, Speed of Improvement, and the Probability of continuing that Speed of Improvement, based on perceived Intelligence, Passion, and Work Ethic: Talent x Intelligence x Drive."
Ward had to go the Junior College Route because of Grades, mind you, but he certainly appears quite intellectually quick and acute during his Interviews, he's got lots of Talent, and his Motor is relentless.
I've read nonsense about his alleged lack of Killer Instinct or Fire...Give me a guy who plays his Ass off on every Snap over a guy whose Motor is adequate but who frequently gets nasty or even ugly every day of the Week.
And especially on Sundays.
Ward's got the Heart of a Lion...And that's why he doesn't need to prove it.
He's got Work to do, but I have very strong Confidence that he'll do it. It may very well take him a bit longer to develop his full Potential, but that Potential is tremendous not only as a Run Defender, but equally so, I believe, as a Pass Rusher.
Time isn't truly Money, but it's certainly intensely valuable, especially in a League constraining itself with The Infernal Salary Cap, so there is a very real Cost, considering the Bargain Values that most Rookie Contracts constitute, to drafting a guy like Ward who might very well take longer to develop to his full capacity than a similar Talent might.
But there is also considerable additional Value to drafting a guy with a disproportionately large Probability of Success, even though it might take longer to attain, and that, too, I believe Ward brings to the table.
I believe that the Raiders made a commendable Decision.
Grateful Thanks, as always, for the crucial Work done by the folks at Draft BreakDown!!
None of this is even remotely a Complaint, mind you, but rather a Warning!! Caveat Emptor!