Pollack plays every snap like it's his last
Here is how ESPN.com rates the top eight defensive end prospects in the draft:
|In preparation for the NFL draft (April 23-24, ESPN), Len Pasquarelli and John Clayton will roll out a position-by-position look at draft prospects, along with a breakdown for each position. Click here to see the complete schedule.|
Vital statistics: 6-foot-2 1/8, 265 pounds, 4.75 in the 40.
Numbers game: Started his college career at defensive tackle and played some fullback early on in short-yardage situations. Started in 44 of 50 appearances and finished as the school leader in career sacks, with fourth-most sacks in SEC history. Recorded 283 tackles, including 58½ tackles for loss, with 36 sacks, 108 pressures, seven forced fumbles, three recoveries and four interceptions. Had 14 sacks in 2002 and 12½ in 2004. Joined Herschel Walker as only players in Bulldogs history to be named All-American three times. Twice won the Ted Hendricks Award and was all-SEC on two occasions.
Upside: Huge motor, plays every snap as it if might be the one on which he draws his last breath, always passionate about the game. Great technique, active with his hands to slap away blocks, plays with natural leverage and football instincts. Plays stronger than he looks, stays on his feet, difficult to bounce out of the hole. Excellent flexibility, good change of direction, will chase down plays from the backside. Despite his emotions, almost always under control, takes few missteps or faulty angles. Uncanny knack for making the big play at a critical juncture of the game. Team leader, very vocal and demonstrative on the field, estimable work ethic.
Downside: Doesn't have the great hair-trigger twitch of most big-time pass rushers. Lacks prototype size overall and clearly a bit short armed. Can get enveloped by the big blockers and, despite his power and initial quickness, will get stalled at times. Kind of a tweener who hasn't been asked to play much in space. Can be a hot dog at times.
The dish: There are a lot of buts about him -- but he isn't very big, but he lacks quickness, but where do you play him yet he's too good and, more important, too productive, to ignore. Some teams are now projecting him as a linebacker in a 3-4 scheme and he might be able to do that. Sort of a Tedy Bruschi-style defender who seems to have addressed most of the doubters.
• Marcus Spears (LSU)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-4, 307 pounds, 5.05 in the 40.
Upside: Thickly built, by far the biggest player among the top-shelf end prospects, and probably projects best to playing the strong-side position. Terrific athlete for such a big man, and his basketball skills (was one of the country's top high school players in his senior season) are obvious, most notably in a 34-inch vertical jump. Nice instincts and seems to play within himself. Rarely out of position. Strong enough to take on double-team blocks and anchor against the run. Fluid enough to play a little bit in space, to drop into the flat on zone-blitz calls, and make a play on the ball. Long arms, will swat away a lot of passes. Bends well for a big guy and plays with balance and control.
Downside: Needs to be a bit more active with his hands because there are times when he doesn't disengage very well. Will probably never be a double-digit sacker because he doesn't have natural cornering skills off the edge. For as athletic as he is, doesn't flatten himself out on the pass rush. Needs to rev his motor some more.
The dish: Super prospect for a team seeking a left end. Suffered a minor knee injury this spring while preparing for the combine and required arthroscopic surgery, but that should not be a problem.
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Vital statistics: 6-foot-4 1/8, 266 pounds, 4.81 in the 40.
Numbers game: Played just one year of high school football and sat out his freshman season in Madison as a partial academic qualifier. Despite redshirting in 2003 because of a career-threatening hip injury, still started in 23 of 36 appearances. Totaled 124 tackles, 25½ tackles for loss, 18 sacks, 28 pressures, seven forced fumbles and two recoveries. Named All-American in 2004 and all-Big Ten two times.
Upside: Upfield rusher with explosiveness, edge quickness and closing speed. Corners well when he turns inside toward the pocket. Can recover and change direction and will chase down plays from behind. Not just a speed rusher, because he has worked very hard to diversify his moves, and has added some nifty inside counters. Will come down the line to make stops against the run. Can be disruptive when he's got things rolling. Tough and determined competitor.
Downside: Because of his late start in high school and some injuries, still learning some of the game's finer points and nuances, raw in a lot of ways. Needs a little more strength in his upper body and must learn to use his hands as well against the run as he does when he is rushing the quarterback. Off his feet, especially at the point of attack, a little more than you would like.
The dish: Still a few questions about durability and motor but, with his explosiveness off the edge, will be a first-rounder.
• Dan Cody (Oklahoma)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-5½, 254 pounds, 4.68 in the 40.
Numbers game: In 42 games, including 26 starts, had 117 tackles, 41 tackles for loss, 25 sacks, 42 pressures, two fumbles forced and two recoveries. Posted 10 sacks each in 2003 and 2004. Named to the all-Big 12 team in 2003 and 2004 and was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award in '04.
Upside: Gritty, mean-streak type of defender, very productive despite lack of bulk. Very competitive, will make plays all over the place, and plays to the whistle. Instinctive and aware, finds the ball, uses his short-area quickness and solid hand strength to cut through the trash and get into the action. Strong hands and upper body and, combined with his use of leverage, can grab and redirect people. Really rolls his hips to get explosion on his initial step into the backfield. Nice closing speed.
Downside: Speed is mostly straight line, doesn't always change direction well, might have to play in a system similar to the one Oklahoma deployed. Lacks bulk and will get rag-dolled around sometimes. Has to keep his feet moving a little better. Not agile or lithe enough to be effective in space.
The dish: Still some questions about his size and stamina but worked out well for scouts and, given his consistent productivity and lack of pass rushers in this draft, still figures to be selected in the first round.
• Justin Tuck (Notre Dame)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, 4.71 in the 40.
Numbers game: High school player of the year in Alabama, and recruited as a linebacker and tight end prospect. Moved to defensive end in 2002. Appeared in 36 games, starting in 22 of them, and had 164 tackles, 43 tackles for loss, 24½ sacks, 40 pressures and four forced fumbles. Posted 13½ sacks in 2003. His 24½ sacks are a school record. Voted the team's most valuable player for the '04 season.
Upside: Agile and athletic, nice long physique, certainly looks the part for the position. Aggressive and energetic, surprisingly powerful. Will hold his ground versus the run and, if he doesn't make the play, will redirect the flow back to the inside. Takes good angles to the ball and plays under control. Has developed a good repertoire of pass-rush moves.
Downside: Doesn't exhibit great burst out of his stance. Seems a hair tardy at times and, given his lack of natural strength, he can't afford to have blockers getting into him. Will get run out of some plays and doesn't always redirect back to the ball.
The dish: Will need some work, and definitely plenty of time in the weight room, but still has first-round ability.
• Matt Roth (Iowa)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-3¾, 278 pounds, 4.81 in the 40.
Numbers game: Began his college career at middle linebacker before bulking up and moving to end. Played in 50 games, with 26 starts, and registered 167 tackles, including 43 tackles for loss, with 30 sacks, 23 pressures, eight forced fumbles and a recovery. Had 10 sacks in 2002 and 12 sacks in 2003. Was all-Big Ten in junior and senior seasons.
Upside: Great natural strength and always plays from a terrific base. Very aggressive and ultra-competitive, and his motor is always revving high. While he isn't big or physically imposing, can stack blockers up, doesn't get knocked out of the hole. Really superb at moving down the line and using leverage and sudden strength to get inside blockers. Able to steer and redirect blockers. Tough to handle one-on-one.
Downside: Not a natural upfield rusher. An anomaly in that most of his sacks come off bull-rush and inside counter moves. Plays a bit tall and a little tight. Probably has to play in a system where he can just one-gap, go after the ball, and not sit and read plays and flow of action.
The dish: Lack of quickness might mean he has to play left end. Scouts love his hustle and desire and it's hard to ignore how consistently productive he has been and how many big, game-altering plays he has authored.
• George Gause (South Carolina)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-4 7/8, 275 pounds, 4.68 in the 40.
Numbers game: A high school All-American and considered the state's premier prospect as a senior. Played some linebacker early in his career before settling in at end during his sophomore season. In 43 games and 30 starts, had 156 tackles, 21½ tackles for loss, 13 sacks, three forced fumbles and three recoveries.
Upside: Possesses the long, lean frame teams like at the weak-side end spot. Versatile, has played enough snaps at linebacker that he can drop and cover a little, doesn't embarrass himself when hung out in space. Gets off the ball quickly. Able to find the ball, when he can play off the block, and get into the frame.
Downside: Not a natural-burst edge defender, will often get too high and lose surge, occasionally looks awkward. A player who flashes solid enough skills but hasn't been able to sustain strong performances. Has to get off blocks better, use his hands, and also protect his legs.
The dish: Was always going to be a first-day player but might sneak into the second round because of strong workouts the past few weeks. An intriguing player who will need to be coached up and who has to crank the motor more.
• Jovan Haye (Vanderbilt)
Vital statistics: 6-foot-2, 284 pounds, 4.74 in the 40.
Numbers game: Did not play high school football until his junior season and starred at offensive guard. Moved to defense as college freshman, started in all but one of his 35 appearances, posting 149 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 10½ sacks, 14 pressures, and four fumble recoveries. Was twice a team captain.
Upside: Decent bulk and seems naturally strong through the upper body. Anchors well enough against the run and flashes some pass-rush skill. A better athlete than many felt he might be. Wants to be a good player.
Downside: Shorter than ideal for the end position but not stout enough to move inside and play tackle. Lacks power and doesn't play from a sound base. Not especially quick or elusive, hesitates at times, will get engulfed when he lets blockers into his body.
The dish: Very raw but there are some qualities than can be enhanced. Probably should have stayed in school for his senior season but enough of a tease that some team will take him on the first day.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.