Let's see if I can get through this one without making anymore obvious errors, like stating Terrance Taylor was a 4th rounder in the '09 draft.
Keeping with the theme that offensive line is probably THE biggest need that the Colts have in 2011, especially if they want to ink a 35-year-old QB to a deal which makes him the richest player in the game, we do another profile on an offensive tackle. This time, it's Derek Sherrod of Mississippi State.
Of all the tackles we've covered so far, it's my personal belief that Sherrod is the best tackle the Colts will have sitting there at pick No. 22. I think guys like Gabe Carimi and Anthony Castonzo will be gone by the time the Colts are on the clock in the first round. This will leave them with the choice of picking someone like Sherrod, or Nate Solder, or possibly moving on to the sometimes dreaded 'best available player' that's on the Colts infamous draft board.
The case for Sherrod is the case some of us (i.e., ME!) made last year for USC offensive tackle Charles Brown. While Sherrod might not bulldoze a defender off-tackle, he has the tools necessary to lock-up one-on-one on another team's best pass rusher, and then shut that dude down for the entirety of the game.
At 6'5, 321 pounds, Sherrod reminds me an awful lot of a young Tarik Glenn. He's big, long-armed, and has quick feet. But not just quick feet in that he can move is feet really fast. He's also light on his feet, like a dancer. For premiere tackles, so much of what we sometimes incorrectly call 'shutting someone down' is them being able to, essentially, dance with the speed rusher. We've all seen how Dwight Freeney spins and shakes left tackles almost into a panic. It's like watching Gene Kelly tap dance around a man whose feet are encased in concrete. Now, imagine that tap dancer weighting about 270 pounds, and coming at you with the force of an elephant shot out of a Howitzer.
To stop or slow down something like that, you need a player who can, in essence, 'dance with the devil.'
When the rusher comes off the end, either down in a stance or standing up, so much of what it takes to stop that rusher is moving one's feet. Arm reach and large hands also play a part, acting as tools to push, slide, or deflect the rusher away from his target (a.k.a., the goofy-looking quarterback with the Louisiana drawl). It's about using the rusher's momentum against him, blocking him out of the play, or frustrating him to the point where he makes a mistake or becomes predictable.
All of these traits Sherrod seems to have.
Wes Bunting at National Football Post:
Does a nice job working to stay engaged, is playing with better leverage this season and can get under defenders while keeping his frame clean through pass pro.
However, does exhibit good body control and footwork on the move when trying to mirror on slide-down blocks or get around and reach.
• Ideal height and good bulk with large hands
• Quick and agile with above average athleticism
• Light on feet. Able to slide and mirror laterally
• Good footwork, balance and body control
• Technically sound and uses his hands well
• Understands positioning and angles
• Great pass blocker and can protect the edge
Agility: Is a very good athlete for the position. Can move around with ease and doesn't have heavy feet. Very fluid. Is decent on the move.
Pass blocking: Is exceptionally light on his feet with great quickness and agility. Has a very good first move to beat speed rushers to the outside. Against power rushers, Sherrod gets good knee bend to absorb and redirect.
Coveted height and size Able to play left tackle Skilled pass blocker Protects edge rushers well Can mirror defenders in space
Now, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that many of these traits were ones shared by the before-mentioned former Colts draft bust Tony Ugoh. Like Sherrod, Ugoh was tall, agile, had great feet, big hands, and a long arm reach. Ugoh was built to play left tackle. But, despite his talent, Tony just didn't have what it took to play the position. Talent is important, but it takes brains to play left tackle in the man's league.
It's in this department that Sherrod and Ugoh differ.
Sherrod was a team captain at Mississippi State, and draft profiles I've read mark him as an intelligent, mature player who understands his craft well. So much of what it takes to block well in this league is understanding angles, positioning, the placement of hands, footwork, etc. It's also about understanding the tendencies of the opponent, and not getting discouraged when he beats you.
It was this that killed Ugoh's career in Indianapolis.
Tony was a nice guy (interviewed him at the Super Bowl in 2010) but he would just get way to down on himself whenever he'd screw up. Sherrod seems to be above this (at least, we hope he is if Indy drafts him). He also had had a ton of experience playing against (and getting beat by) top competition. The Bulldogs were 9-4 during the regular season last year, but were 4-4 in the SEC. It's also worth noting that Pernell McPhee was Sherrod's practice dummy at Miss. State. McPhee is viewed by some as a Top Ten pick at defensive end. So, I think it's fair to say Sherrod knows what it is like to get beat, but is mature enough to not let it rattle him.
But, despite the glowing reviews, like all players, Sherrod has weaknesses. Pay close attention to one weakness I emphasize in each quote.
Allows defenders to work their way off his blocks and doesn't have the type of power or mental makeup to simply lock out and drive opposing linebackers into the dirt. Needs to do a better job with his hand placement on contact in the run game as well. Too often keeps his hands too low when asked to engage and can be easily swatted on at the point. However, does exhibit good body control and footwork on the move when trying to mirror on slide-down blocks or get around and reach.
Hand usage needs refinement. Gets his arms too wide instead of keeping them in the defender's chest. Will struggle at times to pick up stunts.
He doesn't drive block especially well and can be moved around by power rushers. It would also be nice to see Sherrod play with more of a mean streak and finish off more blocks.
• Just average strength and overall power
• Doesn't have real long arms but adequate
• Will get tall and lose leverage at times
• Not overly stout at the point of attack
• Has some trouble anchoring and sustaining
• Isn't a dominant road grading run blocker
• Not overly aggressive and may lack a killer instinct
Must get stronger and add bulk Tends to lunge Balance issues Run blocking needs work Mild demeanor; has to finish blocks
That's four separate profiles from four completely different people who all saw the same thing when they watched Derek Sherrod: He doesn't finish blocks and seems to lack a 'I'm gonna kick your fookin arse!' type of attitude. This is a red flag because (gulp!) Tony Ugoh had this knock on him when he played. Tony Ugoh also played his college ball in the SEC, just like Sherrod.
The other knock on Sherrod is his run blocking. It's not bad, but it isn't good. And with draft reports telling me that he lacks a 'killer instinct,' most of the time players like that are poor run blockers. And we've all heard how Bill Polian likes offensive linemen with a mean streak in them. With an offense that has consistently ranked in the bottom of the league in rushing the last three years, drafting a tackle that is 'just a pass blocker' doesn't cut the mustard anymore. This doesn't mean Sherrod can't do the job, but it is a red flag that should give the Colts pause on draft day.
That said, Sherrod is truly an excellent tackle prospect. If drafted, he's pretty much solely as left tackle. Maybe they could start him out at right, but his skill set and abilities have him penciled in as a Week One starter at LT. If not, he really doesn't seem like someone who can play another position. Having Sherrod would likely mean Charlie Johnson sliding over to either left guard or right tackle, which would immediately improve the offensive line by simply removing Mike Pollak or Ryan Diem from the equation.
Despite his weaknesses, taking Sherrod at No. 22 is a good value pick. It addresses a key need and improves a weak area. As we often say, give Peyton Manning an extra second to scan the field, and VERY good things usually happen for the Colts.
Other tackles profiled: