Thursday, 11 February 2010

POTD: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

By Kip Earlywine

Height: 5'11"
Weight: 195
Unofficial 40: 4.36


-Fast, recovers quickly
-Good in coverage
-Very good running instincts with the ball in his hands
-Has a very special knack for finding the ball and breaking on it
-Good hands
-Shows very impressive athleticism
-Highly productive
-Seems like a leader on the field, no character issues
-Plays through pain well
-Plays hard- sometimes can lay big hits


-Left shoulder held up in '09 but still needs to be looked into
-Was a lot less effective in Kiffin's zone coverage system
-Has a bad habit of dive tackling too much
-Occasionally has mental lapses against the run
-Inconsistent tackler
-Sometimes goes for the big hit instead of a solid tackle

Sound Bites:

"Safeties typically aren't top-10 picks. They're rare. The question is, is Berry rare? He probably is."

-Mike Mayock

"Berry is one of those few individuals where it just seems like this is what he was born to do. He is a natural on the football field with the intangibles to boot."
-Matt McGuire (Walter Football)

My thoughts:

Berry was a fun player to watch, and is a deserving college megastar. Safeties tend to make the jump to the NFL as well as any position, which explains why it has one of the lowest bust rates.

The issue then, is Berry worth drafting in the top 10, or at #6 specifically? Many people, including pretty much every big shot draft analyst, has called Berry the next Ed Reed. The only problem is, he'd need to be as good as Ed Reed to justify the pick. Ed Reed is one of the highest paid safeties in the league, currently on a 6 year, $40 million contract. If the Seahawks drafted Berry #6, you could expect him to get a contract for 5-6 years at $40-$45 million (the last #6 pick signed for 6/42 and the guy before him signed for 5/40). If the Seahawks draft Berry, they'll be paying him for an Ed Reed level performance, maybe even a little more. Sure, anyone they draft at #6 will get a $40-$50 million contract, but certain positions, like DE, DT, CB, or QB, would have a higher likelihood of becoming a good value contract as those positions can be very valuable.

Then you have to ask if a team with as many needs as Seattle can afford to take a low impact position player with such a rare pick.

I do think Berry could make sense as a top 10 pick if a team with fewer needs trades up. For example, the Giants won the Superbowl only a couple years ago and don't have a lot of holes. They pick 15th and badly need a safety. I could see them at least potentially trading up for Berry. But I have a hard time justifying giving Berry such a big contract to any "needy" team, which is pretty much everyone in the top 10.

As far as what I saw of Berry on tape; it was a little inconclusive and I actually left out some highlight videos because they gave me a vibe of "cherry picking" even more than usual. All of these POTD's should be taken with a grain of salt, but this one probably deserves an extra portion.

What I noticed is that Berry is a very fun player to watch (he plays very hard) and the hype about his ball hawking ability is 100% justified. He really does have the "aura" of a future NFL star. I get why some pundits even have him in the top 3. He is a real natural in man coverage and has a wily tendency to allow his WR a cushion to bait the QB, then burst on the ball forcing interceptions. Most interceptions are simply mistakes that a defender capitalizes on. Berry deceives QBs and forces mistakes. Its pretty awesome to watch. Not many guys can do that.

Berry is also special with the ball in his hands. He's a huge pick-6 threat, and could probably make a good returner in the NFL. I don't know if he got the record or not, but late in the '09 season, he was very close to breaking the all time interception return yardage record.

I value pass defense much higher than run stopping, but I'd say that the ability to stop the run is not a strength for Berry. He sometimes has mental lapses and shows poor run stopping instincts. He has a bad habit of diving for runners when he doesn't need to- and this usually results in a missed tackle. Without sounding too critical, it was downright Brian Russell like at times. Like Russell, Berry will sometimes sacrifice a sound defensive strategy in favor of a high risk, high effort attempt to make a play in the run game. Also like Russell, Berry loves laying out big hits instead of wrapping up (I like big hits, but they are situational, like trying to lay a big hit right as the ball arrives. Big hits aren't as smart vs. the run in an open field). And like Russell, Berry will sometimes dive late on a pile just because he's so amped. Of course, Russell was awful in coverage so that's mercifully where the similarities end. Berry does sometimes make nice tackles and he's always giving 110% effort. I just wish that like Aaron Curry, he'd tone it down a tad and try to play a little smarter instead. From what I saw, I'd judge Berry below average in run support with the potential to improve to the point where he could be above average if he is well coached.

Perhaps the biggest issue with Berry as a potential Seahawk is that Berry suffered from Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2/zone system in 2009. Once Berry was limited to a certain section of the field, opposing QBs just avoided his zone and that really hurt Berry's numbers. Of course, there is something to be said about a defender who never gets challenged. One other problem is that Seattle's pass rush is so crappy that Berry won't get a lot of hurried throws to turn into picks.

Seattle could use an upgrade at safety, but Berry is a bit of a luxury pick given the needs at QB, WR, RB, OL, DT, DE, and CB. I probably wouldn't take Berry at #6, although his presence there might entice a trade. At #14, I'd probably consider Berry though. He'd be at a much better contract there and is a safe, pro-bowl caliber talent.


Anonymous said...

Hey Kip, how's it going? I will always believe that Taylor Mays will blow the critics out of their minds once he enters the NFL. I like Berry and what I've seen, but Taylor Mays is a freak'n hitter and that's what I love about him and that's what Coach Carroll loves about him. We are the NFC WEST! We have huge WR's in this league and there is no one in our secondary that has been able to shut down Fitzgerald, Boldin, Josh Morgan, and soon to be explosive Michael Crabtree. Our secondary even has a hard time with TE's Vernon Davis and Anthony Becht. If we pick Berry then our coaching staff obviously sees the hype. Now, if our coaching staff picks Mays then Pete Carroll has confidence that Mays will overcome all the negativity. Fantastic write ups Kip! I'm enjoying them immensely!

c-hawker said...

When the Saints realized the couldn't cover Dallas Clark with a LB, they put Mark Roman on him. That was big in shutting down Manning.
You could ask Berry to do a lot. As i think he could also play some corner. He is also a very good tackler, open field, back field or whatever. Fantastic instincts, pass and run. he is a game changer.
Safety, in my opinion is and has been a weakness on our team for a long time. Definitely not a luxury pick. Not anymore than WR,DE and CB. Look at the investment at those positions.
In my opinion Taylor Mays is not worth a first rounder. Not even in the ballpark.
I can't express how much a big time safety helps a defense. Easly,Lott,Reed,Polamalu,sharper,Talor,Adrian Wilson and the list goes on.
I appreciate yours and everyone else's articles Kip, keep up the good work...

Charles said...

As mentioned earlier, I know Berry played a decent amount as a corner or lined up on the slot receiver. What are the chances he would end up as a good corner instead of a safety? I know people consider Haden the best corner, but if Berry was playing corner would that still be the case?

CLanterman said...

I loved the write-up, and love the risky but honest Russell comparison. To be honest, I'm not sure I'd take Berry with the 14 either. Safeties are a bit like Tight Ends, and you don't see many Tight Ends being taken with the 6th pick, let alone the 14th pick.
I liken Berry to Aaron Curry to be honest. The seemingly do everything great guy with a great personality at a position of questionable impact. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay are saying that if safety were more important, they'd have Berry #1. But like Curry, I think Berry definitely has some question marks to make me think that he isn't nearly as safe of a pick as everyone thinks he is.
As for Taylor Mays, I'll take him in the 4th if he's available, but he's just a small incredibly fast LB.

CLanterman said...

Oh, I almost forgot, one thing that doesn't get talked about enough is that if Berry were selected at 6, he'd already be up there for the highest paid safety in the league. I'm glad you mentioned it because that seems ludicrous to me. I don't see how he'll be the 3rd pick, it just doesn't make sense to pay a rookie, with a chance of busting (even if we were really high on him, 20% would be conservative), more than Ed Reed.

Chris (Seattle) said...

i know Rob isn't a huge Eric Berry fan...but it appears you're reaching a bit by seemingly breaking up one "negative" into three. Has a bad habit of dive tackling too much, inconsistent tackler, and sometimes goes for the big hit instead of a solid tackle, are relatively all the same thing. I agree with the rest of the evaluation as a whole, but I can't see why you and Rob are so against him, when Berry is universally praised elsewhere (although Todd McShay recently lost a lot of credit with me after his latest mock draft had Seattle taking Baluga with both Bradford and Berry still on the board...not sure what he's on, but if Carroll & Schneider make that move it may cause a riot in Seattle).

Anyways, I would certainly take Berry at 6 if he's there. Yes, he doesn't consistently use textbook tackling mechanics, but honestly, not many smaller DBs do these days. I don't think it's enough to overshadow his tremendous upside. A playmaking safety can instantly raise the play of the entire defensive unit (see Pittsburgs D without Polamalu this year, or how much the Colts used to dip whenever Bob Sanders got hurt). If Berry can become anywhere near the player Ed Reed is, you can't pass him up at 6 (unless Bradford is there, anyone else worth taking over Berry will certainly be gone by then). Any rookie you take will be risky to pay that much (hence the big fuss over a rookie pay scale), so you just have to take the best player available. Looking at this years class, only Bradford appears to have the ability to impact the team more than Berry (and that's mainly based on his position).

Ben said...

How is Mays going to "shut down" Crabtree, VD and Fitz if he's good crappy ball skills? Being a big hitter isn't going to help his coverage unless he frightens WRs into having alligator arms or keeps them off the field by injuring them. He's like a more athletic Roy Williams/Ken Hamlin.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ben, I never said that Taylor Mays was going to shut anyone down. He is one of the pieces I would have in my secondary for the NFC WEST. Our secondary SUCKS! I like the fact that or GM likes tall, big, strong, and fast corners and safties. I won't be surprised what-so-ever if we see a huge change in our secondary this season. It's time to make some changes!

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that at various times I've heard that with the #6 pick we shouldn't take a S, LB, TE or other low positional value player, while at the same time RB, WR, DT and OT can be had in later rounds (OT due in part to our zone blocking scheme). So let's see, what does that leave? QB, CB and DE. I wouldn't spend the #6 pick on either Bradford or Clausen, and they may be gone anyway, so that leaves Haden and either Morgan or Pierre-Paul. Hmmm... I'd prefer Haden or Berry (if he is viewed as potential CB at least part-time). Frankly, I see Berry as having the most upside. I get the salary issue and agree we'd be sinking a lot of dough into an unproven rookie, but I don't see any better options, other than trading down, so that's my 1st choice, trade down from 6 if possible. Take Berry or Haden if not possible.

Anonymous said...

It may be ridiculous but I can't stop thinking about the possibility of Berry & Curry turning out like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. Find a way to put some pressure on the QB and our defense would be flat out scary for years to come.

It definitely neglects the offense but we could probably win our division with a top 5 defense and a mediocre offense now that Warner is gone. The trick is making our offense mediocre as opposed to what it is now...terrible.

Ben said...


Sorry I misunderstood you. I'm still not exactly sure what you're trying to say but it sounds like you're pretty excited about Mays and a little down on Berry.


Not only is Warner leaving, but the Cards will probably lose Dansby, Rolle, Berry and a few other guys. The 2010 Cardinals are going to look a lot different from the 2009 version.

Thmaso said...

Can you do one on Taylor Mays? In my opinion Mays is the better player due to what i have seen but if you can compare them that would be great!

Kip Earlywine said...

I think Berry will probably be used in the same role in the pros. Safety most of the time but could occasionally be used as a corner in certain situations. I don't think he'll be a full time corner, although I'm sure he'd make a good one. 6'0" and 4.36/40 is nothing to snuff at, and he's good in man coverage.

Chris, I'm not sure which glasses you were wearing when you read my article, but I am not a critic of Berry like Rob is. As I said I think he deserves consideration at #14. I might even consider him at #6 if not for the stupid contract. I think he's a special guy. Its too bad he's a safety and we have much bigger needs. As far as breaking down his tackling issues, each one of those is a unique problem, so I felt it was important to mention them all. I even said that if Berry is well coached he has the potential to be an above average tackler. The slant is imagined. Trust me, I've admitted to being biased on other POTDs, if I was biased here I'd admit it.

Taylor Mays scares the bejeesus out of me at #6 or #14, but I'd be lying if I said his potential wasn't jaw-dropping. He's kind of like JPP the safety. Amazing athlete but doesn't know what he's doing out there. I prefer to avoid such extreme risks until much later, personally.

I do think the Seahawks could use an upgrade at safety but its not a pressing issue either. Babs and Grant are adequate starters and good safeties can be found deep in the draft. That's why I consider safety at #6 or #14 to be a luxury pick. DE or CB is not a luxury as much because they are emerging needs. Jackson is (charitably) unproven as a pass rusher after 2 years and the Tampa 2 puts an enormous emphasis on getting pressure from the front 4. CB is also a need because Lucas looked worn down last year, Trufant's future is in doubt (30 years old, back to back tough seasons), and Jennings is not a starter. Even Wilson, who's been pretty good for us, is probably best as a nickle CB. The Seahawks need to add at least 1 starting corner this offseason, IMO. And even if Trufant bounces back and Lucas has 1 year left, you can never have too many corners. Lucas and Trufant are short term options at this point anyway (not to mention, Lucas is a FA).

Anonymous said...

Not to many safties can run a 4.36 40 thats top WR and Corner speed. I think he might be a big play guy after he gets a pick or a recovery and could help out on special teams. at 14 sure at 6 dont know. Mays is an interesting case as well granted his ball skills are not great but if you go 8 in the box this guy is like having another linebacker. Mays could also punish QB's on blitz packages. At 14 he is worth a look unique player.