Injuries can be a cruel reality for NFL Draft prospects, dropping them farther in the draft order than their talent and on-field performance warrants, which means less up-front cash. For the teams, however, the opposite is true: they can get a steal on a guy, betting on whether that player will make a full recovery and play like they did in college. This is especially true at the top of the draft, where Cornellius 'Tank' Carradine of Florida State finds himself.
Carradine had a fantastic senior season in 2012, one that started as the 3rd DE on the Seminole depth chart behind Bjoern Werner and Brandon Jenkins, but a foot injury to Jenkins opened the door for Carradine, and he never looked back. He had 80 tackles on the season, including 13 for a loss and eleven sacks in 12 starts. He was flying up draft boards with his cohort Werner, but in a bad case of irony Carradine himself suffered a season-ending ACL injury against Florida in their last regular season game (Nov. 24), tempering the high expectations for the April draft.
He started his college career at Butler Community College in Kansas after having some academic issues after signing on at Illinois, and he blew up the CC competition he faced (unsurprisingly). He had 26 sacks in his two seasons, including 16 as a sophomore, which meant every major football program was interested in the pass-rushing specialist. His first season at FSU was successful despite not starting a single game, accumulating 38 tackles with 5.5 sacks, which is pretty productive for a guy who played behind two other top-100 NFL draft picks.
Just as concerning as the rehab from his ACL injury is whether Carradine will be a "one-year wonder", with a good chunk of his production coming at a JUCO and only having one really good season. The guy looks like he could be an excellent pass rusher, likened to Julius Peppers or DeMarcus Ware, but whoever drafts him will be going way out on a limb given the injury and production risks. The further down the draft he goes the more the risk is mitigated, but unfortunately that does not help the Colts.
The Colts need a lot of help at OLB, having not addressed the position with a pass rusher through Free Agency, so we should expect at least one on draft weekend. The question becomes whether the Colts can afford to use pick #24 on a guy with one big year of production, and a guy who is coming off ACL surgery in November. It's one thing to lose a 4th round pick for an entire season (Josh Chapman), but to lose a coveted #1 pick could be really bad for a team looking to avoid the "sophomore slump". If it wasn't for the injury I think Carradine would be a definite possibility for the Colts at #24, and while I've seen mock drafts where he's gone higher than that, I don't think the Colts can afford to take that kind of risk right now, even if he is the best player on the board, based on talent and production. Should be interesting to watch where he ends up.
Carradine flashes explosion off the snap to challenge the lateral agility of right tackles, and can swipe them away with strong hands to slingshot into the pocket. He also plays with the leverage of a shorter player, brings a strong initial punch to bull lesser tackles off the ball, and simply shoves tight ends away like ragdolls in the run game.
Though Carradine shows most all of the physical attributes teams covet in a defensive end, his lack of experience is a negative. And if he isn’t on the field for any extended period of time in 2012, it might be tough for scouts to give him a starter’s grade because they don’t know what his level of stamina against better competition.
Strengths: Good-looking athlete with agile feet and very good closing speed. Natural bend and flexibility around the edge with smooth lateral quickness and redirection skills. Quick in pursuit to force the issue and has the athleticism to recover from a false step. Very good footwork to sidestep blockers to flatten and close on the pocket. Shows fluid movements and short-area burst, but also rangy.
Weaknesses: Still growing at the position and developing his pass rush moves. Didn't become a starter until his senior season with most of his playing experience coming at the JUCO level. Needs to continue adding strength and bulk to his frame, can be overpowered at times in the trenches.
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