NFL defensive schemes and roles are changing to accommodate more versatile, explosive players like Arizona’s hybrid Deone Bucannon and LA’s Mark Barron. Likewise in the 2016 NFL Draft, there is an exciting play maker with NFL blood lines (related to Jordan Cameron, Manti Te’o, and former Bengals great David Fulcher) that has some similarities to those hybrid players, former Trojan defender Su’a Cravens. I reviewed his 2015 games against Washington, Stanford, California, Notre Dame, and his 2014 game against Nebraska to get a better idea of the skills and attributes this young man will bring to the next level. Here are my thoughts:
S/LB-Su’a Cravens, USC 6′ 1″ 226 lbs.
Cons: Unfortunately if measured athletic events are any indication, Cravens isn’t in the same ball park with Bucannon and Barron when you compare 40-yard dashes and jumps. The former USC hybrid ran a dismal 4.69 40-yard dash with a 30.5″ vertical jump. He could struggle in coverage against bigger tight ends and doesn’t have the quickness to stay in with many NFL runners on routes either. There are serious doubts the former Trojan has the physicality/power to play linebacker in the NFL. If Cravens doesn’t strike early with his hands, the defender tends to get swallowed up by bigger, more physical blockers at the point of attack. When he chooses to run around everyone in his way, the former USC play maker will most likely get taken out of the play as he won’t be able to make it up with his speed.
Pros: Cravens is very instinctive (crashes the line of scrimmage without regard), watches a lot of film (great route recognition), and loves to gamble (can be a good thing or a bad one). His versatility makes him unpredictable to offenses as he can rush the quarterback one play, cover the slot the next, and fill the gap at the line of scrimmage the play after. The former Trojan is a fluid, relentless athlete with bouncy feet, who works sideline to sideline with his motor always running. The hybrid defender is a great open field wrap-up tackler and had 17 tackles for loss in 2015. Cravens sneaks peaks at the quarterback, times his jumps well to disrupt throws closing quickly on the pigskin, and has soft enough hands to snare a few passes for his own.
Overall impact: Cravens will need an imaginative defensive coordinator to make an impact in your dynasty league. He might start as a special teamer and third down package specialist until he can understand the pro game. When his football intelligence grows (and it will), the young defender will be able to use his instincts more efficiently to be disruptive. It just might take a season or two, so I would not draft the former Trojan will intentions of using him much in year one.
Thanks for reading!
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