I've just finished watching the tape of last night's Nebraska at Missouri game. Ndamukong Suh (DT, Nebraska) was quite frankly outstanding. Click here to read my full write up and don't forget to check out resident scout Kyle Rota's thoughts on Suh.
Click here to read the full article.
Let me start by expressing my general disappointment at the majority of the 'big names' we'll be seeing in either the 2010 or 2011 drafts. I had big expectations for the likes of Eric Berry, Taylor Mays, Trent Williams and Russell Okung and to say they've not lived up to the hype is something of an under statement.
From what I'd seen of Ndamukong Suh last year, I was quite frankly blown away by his quality. Heading into the 2009 season, he was NFL Draft Scout's top rated senior and my expectations were suitably high when I sat down to watch the 305lbs Oregon-born tackle this morning.
For once, a prospect lived up to the hype. The guy is far and away better than any other senior prospect I've seen to date. Any underclassmen that declare for 2010 will have a job bettering Suh. Of course, that doesn't mean he's going to go first overall. This is a quarterback driven league and as such, there's always a chance to top signal callers we go at the very top of the draft.
However, I'm confident enough to say at this stage he should be a lock for the top ten and will have a big shout at going first overall. So what was so good?
It was a defensive battle for the most part, with the Huskers offense creating very little and forcing their defense onto the field for a heavy workload on the night. Suh was always involved. His first big play came with 8:17 left in the first quarter with Mizzou on 2nd and 20 from the 37 yard line. The QB takes the snap in the shotgun and Suh immediately forces his blocker back 3-4 yards. He shakes him off and stalks a scrambling QB before wrapping up and throwing him to the turf. He lays a giant paw around the ball and punches it loose, forcing the turnover.
One sack... one forced fumble.
As the game progresses, Suh is relentless on every play. He has a great motor and attitude, combining raw athleticism and supreme upper body power with instinct and an ability to read the play as it develops. He hits hard, regularly collapses the pocket and is happy to take on two blockers and still find a way to break through.
Later in the game Suh was asked to occasionally drop into coverage. Part of the credit has to go to the Nebraska coaching staff, who have created a superb defense (possibly the best in the country), but the decision was a master stroke and essentially won them the game. Expecting the continued relentless pass rush, Suh just dropped off, catching the offensive line off guard. The Mizzou QB didn't expect nor recognise this, so when he threw a pass down the center of the field with 13:51 left in the game, Suh was perfectly placed to make a leaping interception.
Be honest here, how many defensive tackles do you see making plays like that? The guy had two interceptions for touchdowns last year. This was his first pick of the season and he missed a similar opportunity to make an interception late in the third. Gifting Nebraska superb field position, they punched in a touchdown to give them the lead for the first time - a lead from which they eventually won.
Suh finished the game with six tackles, one sack, one interception and one forced fumble. It would have been two sacks but for a poor call against Suh for a horse collar in the fourth quarter.
So what would Ndamukong Suh offer to the Seahawks?
Since Jim Mora took control of the team's defense, almost entire responsibility has been placed on the defensive line to create pressure. The idea is that this frees up the linebackers to play coverage or let the play develop, react and get to the ball carrier. Occasionally Aaron Curry has put his hand down on third down, but they want the defensive line to make the pass rush and get to the QB. So far in 2009, it hasn't really happened.
Nebraska used a very similar system last year. Again, the focus was almost entirely on the four man front to get to the QB. The two defensive tackles - Suh and the also impressive Jared Crick - were constantly threatening. With Suh taking two blockers this often left Crick in one-on-one battles, something he thrived on. Imagine trying to block a DT partnership of Suh and Brandon Mebane?
On a few occasions they lined up in a 3-4, with Suh playing DE. As Kyle testifies in his report, he's equally adept in that role. It may even be his best position. However, I strongly believe such is the quality of Ndamukong Suh, he'll be targeted by both 3-4 and 4-3 teams.
The interesting subject Kyle also touched on is the amount Seattle rotate their defensive lineman. They have many situational packages and also like to keep their guys fresh. If the Seahawks were in position at the top of the draft to take a guy like Ndamukong Suh, they'd have to justify a $60m outlay for a guy who may only play 35 snaps a game.
However, I also don't think we're ever going to see a top defense in Seattle (in this system anyway) without an elite presence on the defensive line. Some like Suh can be that guy. Put him alongside Mebane and watch them attack the offensive line. You've still go Colin Cole to act as a run stuffer for the situational plays.
It may be a redundant debate because quite frankly, Seattle would have to be 'three or four wins' bad to have any chance of drafting Suh. With the Broncos at 4-0 and the Rams, Buccs and Browns all struggling badly, there's a pretty good chance Suh won't have a chance to return to his native North West.
However, in what has been a year of hype and under achievement, Ndamukong Suh lit up the draft board last night. Suh-perb? Most definitely. He should be top of every big board around the country and when I see 'experts' like Mel Kiper placing him behind Sam Bradford and Eric Berry - I have to ask what else Suh needs to do to reach the top?
Don't just take it from me. Rob Rang thinks Suh should be a Heisman candidate.