Until the DL situation is fixed, no Colts draft preview could ever be complete without continuously evaluating the DT talent which may be on the Colts radar. If Baker and Walker are both available in the 5th Round, which player would be a better pick for the Colts? (Per usual, assume these are the only two players on the Colts board at the pick)
Chris Baker - Hampton
6'2", 326 lbs.
4.94 40 Yard Dash, 4.90 20 Yard Shuttle, 8.06 3-Cone Drill
35.5 Inch Vertical Jump, 24 Bench Reps
SENIOR SEASON STATS:
69 Tackles, 37 Assists, 16.5 TFL, 8.5 Sacks, 13 QBH, 1 BK
Strengths: Adequate build in the upper and lower body. Good quickness off the snap. Gets his hands into his man's jersey quickly, attacks a shoulder and constantly works to the quarterback. Can also extend his arms inside the numbers to get leverage and push into the backfield. Also able to stand up his man on run plays, use his upper-body strength to move him to either side and make a play on the ball. Uses arm-over move and violent hands to shoot the gap inside. Will split double-team blocks to pressure the passer. At end, he held his ground against the run and used his strength, hands and quickness to get by offensive tackles one-on-one. Shows fairly quick feet, can stay off cut blocks, chase down the line and hustle downfield to get to the ball. Doesn't back down from anyone.
Athletic defensive lineman with the ability to be used at several spots upfront. Plays with good pad level, leverage, and is explosive at the point. Possesses good first-step quickness, covers a lot of area on the field, and rarely off his feet. Instinctive, quickly locates the ball, and effectively uses his hands to protect himself. Powerful, gets a lot of push up the field, and is tough to handle. Chases hard to get involved in the action, and plays with a great degree of suddenness, flashing on the scene. Effectively uses his hands, jolts opponents with good punch to get off blocks. Forces the issue, collapsing the pocket or sliding down the line to make plays. Fluid moving about the field. Lined up over right tackle in Hampton's 3-4 alignment last year.
Chris Baker is one of the most intriguing DTs in this draft for me. I think athletically is his a beast, his speed, strength and ability to play both the pass and run makes those who know a lot about him, his size, his production at Hampton and legitimacy by moving to Hampton from a team like Penn State will draw a lot of attention. Baker can stand up and man-handle a lot of OL, does a good job controlling the line of scrimmage and has the burst through the line to create pressure. Any man who is 6'2" tall and weighs 326 lbs. but can still run a 4.94 40 Yard Dash, 35.5 Inch Vertical leap and can play both DT and DE and be effective, is someone who deserves a very close look.
Weaknesses: Could work harder against double teams inside and too often stands around after initial contact. Must improve his awareness on misdirections and screens. Stamina is an issue, will be best as part of a rotation. Showed potential in Happy Valley, but his senior season production came against a lower level of competition at a position he might not play in the NFL. Character issues abound based on his record at Penn State.
Dismissed from the Penn State program after off-the-field issues. Built more like a natural defensive tackle.
Now here's the downside and while he will likely, or SHOULD drop deep into this draft, this man has about as dirty of a character history as any in the draft. He had to leave Penn State because of off-the-field issues. Another Penn State player who had a character-history recently played for the Colts, Ed Johnson, and we all know how that turned out. I'm just not sure the Colts would pull the trigger on a guy with the DIRTY character history that Baker has as they did with Johnson. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...
Vance Walker - Georgia Tech
6'2", 304 lbs.
5.32 40 Yard Dash, 33 Inch Vertical Jump, 29 Bench Reps
SENIOR SEASON STATS:
33 Tackles, 15 Assists, 8.5 TFL, 3 Sacks, 1 PD, 1 QBH, 1 FF, 1 Safety
2008: Left the Virginia Tech game after suffering a head injury. Did not play against Miami in November and saw minimal action later that month against Georgia and Louisiana State in December.
2009: Could not complete agility tests at the NFL Combine or participated in Tech's Pro Day in March due to a right hamstring pull.
Strengths: Flashes initial quickness off the snap. Locates the football quickly and has the short-area burst to close. Has the upper-body strength and is effective enough with his hands to rip off his man and pressure the quarterback or corral backs in the hole. Short, squatty build with long arms that helps him hold up against double-team blocks and in short-yardage situations due to his natural leverage advantage. Good lower-body strength to push the pocket. Uses his hands to get off blocks up front to get to the ball. Hustles downfield and chases down the line to help his teammates.
Short, explosive defensive tackle who moves well on his feet. Plays with a good degree of quickness, slides off blocks and defends the run. Bends his knees, gets leverage on opponents, and works his hands throughout the play. Moves well laterally and rarely off his feet.
If Walker's 2008 injury struggles are behind him, he could be a steal in the 5th Round of the draft. Without the injuries in 2008 he would probably be a 3rd Round prospect. He does a good job of using his leverage to his advantage and makes it difficult to move him off of the line. He also displays the quickness to pressure the QB and the ability to push the pocket when not double-teamed. Walker is bigger than most of the Colts current interior defenders and shown the skills to be an upgrade at NT, at the very least depth at the position in his rookie season.
Weaknesses: Too short and lacks the girth to fit some defensive systems. Must prove himself quick enough to beat NFL interior linemen one-on-one. Impressive statistics inflated by the aggressive blitzing and stunting Georgia Tech defensive philosophy. Seems to guess at the snap count often, leading to instances when he's the first lineman off the ball, and others where he's the last. Lacks a variety of moves as a pass rusher.
Does not show great intensity for 60 minutes. Easily controlled at the point by a single blocker. Possesses more of a short area burst of speed versus a lineman who can effectively pursue the action.
Walker may not be a great lateral mover and is probably not going to wow people making a lot of downfield tackles. He'll excel more in a role where he is expected to fill running lanes and occasionally push the pocket to pressure the QB. From the NT position for the Colts, that is approximately what he would be asked to do. The only too short or too small the Colts know used to be a rapper so that negative is really a non-issue. Could definitely benefit from NFL-level coaching but seems to already posses the athletic ability to be an effective player as a professional.
PROFESSIONAL SCOUTING REPORT - Dave-Te' Thomas, CBSSports.com
Body Structure: Has a thick frame with good lower-body muscle definition, very thick thighs and calves, wide hips, thick chest and an outstanding wingspan with very large hands.
Athletic Ability: Shows decent quickness off the snap, but is not sudden in his moves. Has good balance and keeps his feet, but struggles when having to move laterally. Flashes enough quickness in the short area to stack, but might be better suited for a one-gap system.
Football Sense: Needs to do a better job of recognizing blocking schemes. Gets tied up quite a bit in one-on-one battles when he fails to keep his weight down and use his hands inside his frame. Gets caught out of position when he over-commits. Shows a good understanding of the playbook and is a good student, but needs to make good reads at the line, as he sometimes will not react quickly enough due to marginal lateral agility.
Character: Coaches like the quiet kid, saying he is compliant, responsible and has never been a problem off the field. Close to his teammates and follows rules. Very serious about pursuing a pro football career and will work hard to improve.
Competitiveness: A tough, highly competitive player who gives consistent effort and plays with solid intensity. Enough strength to stack and shed and gets very physical trying to shoot the gaps. Reminds some observers a lot of Baltimore's Kelly Gregg because he realizes -- but is not held back by -- his athletic limitations.
Work Habits: Has been called the hardest worker on the team. Motivates others with his work ethic and is a "take charge" type in the trenches. Very good self motivation, but is limited with his lateral agility and change of direction. Does the little extras to improve and has excellent lower-body strength, but with marginal explosion and lateral movement, he is more of a stay-at-the-line type.
ATHLETIC REPORT GRADE: 5.84
Explosion/Pursuit: Lacks timed speed, but he can generate suddenness off the ball. Quick to gain an edge on a blocker and works his hands hard. Will flash some explosion and gain movement coming off the ball. Has the ability to snatch and stack, but gets his best production working along the line and vs. plays directed at him.
Strength at Point: A bull on the line. Demands double team coverage and if he stays low in his pads, he's difficult to move out. Has the lower leg drive and powerful anchor to hold ground firmly and is the type that will settle down and fight in the trenches.
Use of Hands: Has a punishing punch, but must maintain them inside his frame and keep them active. Does do a lot of short-arming on the move, but can control blockers with his hand strength. When working down the line, he becomes too inconsistent delivering a jolt. Needs to generate more quickness getting his hands into the blocker on the move, but he uses them more efficiently to get underneath to attain inside leverage.
Lateral Pursuit/Effort: While he shows intent, Walker has marginal lateral quickness and ability to work over trash. Still manages to get good separation, despite a lack of a sudden closing burst, but is not the type that will pressure the pocket. Just can't run down plays working down the line or giving chase in the backfield.
Tackling Ability: Hunkers down, extends his arms, wraps and secures the ballcarrier on plays directed at him. Seems more comfortable playing the gaps and lining up over the center's head, where his hand punch can generate more power. When he locks on to an opponent, he drives hard with his legs and generates a push to drive the ballcarrier back. Simply put, if he hits you, he will stop you. Playing in the open field, he does not have the quickness, change-of-direction agility nor does he take good angles to face up and hit in the second level.
Run Defense: Uses his low center of gravity to leverage and hold ground at the point of attack, where he does a good job of stacking. Keeps his feet free in the short area and has some two-gap potential. When he operates vs. double teams, he struggles to shed and work across blocks when he short arms.
Pass Rush: Can get some push, but is not as quick as you like to see him in attempts to get an edge. Will arrive in the backfield with good intent, but gets out of control at times and will miss in space. Not to be considered a pass rusher, but more of a bull rusher whose success comes when he gets under the blocker's pads and generates a surge through the gap.
Instincts/Recognition: Lacks a good feel for blocking pressure, but shows aggression taking on the guards and centers. Plays with adequate instincts, and is slow to recognize the play developing, especially blocking schemes and play action. Best when kept in run containment along the line rather than recognition, reactions and awareness.
Compares To: TANK TYLER, Kansas City -- Walker will work in the trenches and has a good bull rush, but does struggle to recognize blocking schemes and locate the ball on the move. When he stays low in his pads, he shows enough power in the lower body to stack and defeat the one-on-one blocks. There is no question that he plays with good effort and desire, but outside of the short area, his lack of speed prevents him from making plays in long pursuit.
Again, Walker's scouting report suggests that he could bring to the Colts defensive line exactly what I believe the Colts are looking for; a gap filling, run defending, bull-rushing NT. It is okay that he is not a lateral play-making threat. In the Colts system, the DTs job first is to fill their gap and draw the attention of OL, allowing their speedy, athletic LBs to make plays. If Walker has the ability to demand a double-team as this scouting report has suggested, he will do all the Colts want from their NT and more. He will allow LBs to flow more freely to the ball when teams try to push it up the gut, he will draw attention away from the pass-rushing, pocket collapsing, sack-generating DE bookends and he will hopefully help generate enough push to get the QB back on extra step (creating a feast for Freeney/Mathis). Our defensive line would greatly improve with a player like Walker.
SENIOR BOWL PRACTICE RECAP - TFYDraft.com
Monday Practice Notes: Had very little success getting penetration or getting off blocks consistently.
Tuesday Practice Notes: Fired off the ball with authority most of the day. He showed a good bull rush. Drove a few blockers into the backfield. Struggled some when asked to be a little more athletic and move down the line or taking on double teams.
Wednesday Practice Notes: Tends to be rather low key in his play, but he played with good leverage and looked strong at the point of attack. Unfortunately, he really seemed to have troubles getting of blocks to finish plays.
Thursday Practice Notes: None.
Analysis: Playing on arguably the most talented defensive lines in the country, Walker had the opportunity to come to Mobile and possibly distinguish himself. In which he was not able to do so. Walker is strong at the point of attack and continues to work hard in both his pass rush and against the run. Unfortunately he could not get off many blocks and was never able to stand out as a one of the week's top performers. A marginal defensive tackle prospect who will look to catch on as a late round possibility.
Again, Walker is not a "flashy" guy on the field most of the time. The Colts don't need "flashy" at NT. The Colts need a guy who can stay in his gap, forces the OL to account for him and frees up the LBs to make plays. I believe Walker brings all that and more. The intangible that makes a world of difference for me is that Walker will not quit working until he becomes the player or is able to perform the function his team asks of him. Physical/athletic limitations might keep him from being a future Pro Bowler but he has the potential to be a solid starter at NT in a 4-3 defense for a long time. The only question mark, and the only thing that really deserves a close look is his medical report to be sure his injury issues are not chronic. Not having any issues until 2008, his third year as a starter, makes it seem like it was a lingering injury he had to play through to achieve his goal of being a professional football player. But there is no doubt that injuries or other disasters on the interior DL have left a bad taste in this writer's mouth.
Let's be frank. The prospect with the greatest level of physical and athletic ability is Chris Baker. Baker has the ability, potentially, to do it at as a NT for the Colts. Baker can move laterally better than Walker, generate pressure on the QB better than Walker, and is bigger than Walker. However, Baker is a red-flag in the character department and the Colts almost never play with character risks and when they have (most recently) they've been burnt by it. Walker may be a better true run defender and potentially more difficult to move off the line because he better than Baker at using leverage to his advantage. What sells Walker to me is that he is a no-nonsense hard worker who will do all that is asked of him to become the player his team wants. Add to that he will not be an off-the-field distraction for the team and I'm sold. But who knows, maybe Baker's off-the-field, character, immaturity issues are behind him.