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Who the hell will the Colts draft 2008: Virginia Tech DT Carlton Powell

Carlton Powell could be a serious diamond in the rough-type DT if drafted by the Colts.
The last DT we covered in this series was the first player we covered in this series: Trevor Laws. Recently, in the SB Nation Mock Draft, Laws was selected in the first round (which should give you a general impression of just how much Laws' stock has risen since we did our initial Who the hell will they draft 2008). It's now highly unlikely the Colts will get a crack at Laws, but unlike previous years the DT position for the Colts is now one of the deepest on the roster. Ed Johnson, Quinn Pitcock, Keyunta Dawson, Darrell Reid, and Raheem Brock are all excellent DTs, and performed exceptionally well in 2007. Still, that doesn't mean a DT won't get drafted by Indy, especially in later rounds, and the DT I think they are looking at is Virginia Tech's Carlton Powell.

Now, we all know I don't have the same kind of insider info available as the guys at Coltpower do. In all seriousness, I could go and ask them if Indy has worked out (or inquired about) Carlton Powell, but if I did I could not write up what I was told because it would violate trust. As annoying as it is, Coltpower makes its money off paid subscriptions to their content. If I took that content and posted it here, I'd be in big trouble. So, knowing that, it is more my instinct that the Colts are looking at Powell rather than my insider knowledge.

So, why Powell?

Well, for starters, he doesn't seem to have the same kinds of serious character flaws guys like Lionel Dotson and Letroy Guion have. DTs tend to slide in drafts more because of character flaws than any other position player. Look at Ed Johnson. He was, arguably, one of the best rookies of 2007 overall. Guys like Alan Branch (second round) did not perform as well as Big Ed, who went undrafted in 2007 mainly because of character issues (issues that have seemingly been sorted out). But unlike Big Ed, guys like Guion (guilty of academic cheating) have about as much a chance of making the Colts roster in 2008 as I do. A guy like Powell, who experienced the after affects of the Virginia Tech shootings last season, character concerns are not the reason he will likely slide to the late rounds or go under drafted entirely.

Carlton Powell strikes me as another Ed Johnson-type of guy. He seems to do everything "well" but is not AMAZING at any one particular aspect of the game. He isn't lightening quick as a DT. He isn't a gigantic space-eater, able to engulf five o-linemen. He isn't a sack artists, ala Warren Sapp in 1995. He's just a guy with a very long list of good things from his NFL Combine appearance. Yet, despite this long list of good things (and a short list of negatives) he will likely get drafted in rounds 4-7, if at all.

Indeed, it's a real head scratcher.  

Now again, I'm basing this off my reading various mock draft sites, and even though many of them are great, they are not an accurate reflection of what actual teams are thinking. The most accurate one is New Era Scouting, and no I'm not saying that because they work with SB Nation. Last season, New Era was the only site I saw that had Quinn Pitcock and Tony Ugoh going to the Colts. They also said Gonzalez would get drafted by Indy. Matt Miller is pretty sharp when it comes to evaluating who likes whom, and I'm not betting against him this year. Matt's most recent mock draft has Powell going in round 6, and he ranks him near the bottom of the DTs available in this draft. Yet, for the life of me, I cannot understand why people do not think more highly of this guy, because all I read are gushing reviews:

Shows good straight-line speed and explosion off the snap and does a solid job of keeping his hands inside his frame to lock on and control the blockers... Displays the lower-leg drive to split double teams and the short-area burst to close on the pocket...When he hits the gaps with his pad level down and is very good at slipping off blocks to plug the rush lanes...When he stays low in his pads, he consistently gains leverage (4.35 20-yard shuttle), as he has the flexibility and change-of-direction agility to generate good acceleration in his short-area burst...
Again, the more I read about him, the more I get the sense that this guy would excel in a Tampa 2-style defense.
Can gain an advantage and shows suddenness getting to the gaps due to his savvy play and anticipation skills (see 2007 Ohio University, Clemson, Boston College and 2006 North Carolina, Southern Mississippi and Virginia games)...Disruptive force in the gaps, excelling at pushing the lead blocker back to clog the rushing lanes (held opponents to minus-13 yards rushing on 106 running plays)...Strong inside run stuffer who can make plays up and down the line due to his lateral movement...Knows how to get underneath to get a piece of the blocker's pads and is very effective stacking and controlling in one-on-one situations...

Has effective swim-and-rip ability and good suddenness off the ball and he is more of a power-oriented type than one who would finesse...Does a good job of keeping eye contact on the quarterback to provide containment (see 2007 Clemson, Florida State and Miami and 2006 Cincinnati, Southern Mississippi and Kent State games) and has developed efficient spin moves to counter and pull away from double-team activity...Plays with good instincts, awareness and recognition, as it is rare to see him bite on play action or misdirection...Has a good feel for blocks and when he plants his feet in the ground, even double teams struggle to contain him.'s Combine Report (via The Sports Xchange) sums up my feelings about Powell's potential in a Dungy defense, where the DTs are not big (over 300 pounds) and rely more on penetrating into the backfield and causing disruption:
Powell is a dominant run stuffer who does a fine job of handling double-team blocks. He needs to improve his lateral range to be more effective when chasing down plays and must use his hands better to protect himself from low blocks. But when he locks on to a blocker, he will quickly shed. Where he excels is clogging the rush lanes, as when he keeps his pads down, lead blockers are soon to be pushed back through the hole. For a team using the "under tackle" position, Powell is the perfect fit.
Just so you know, the "under tackle" position is the one Booger McFarland played in 2006, and Ed Johnson played in 2007. While I still hold out the hope that Booger will get re-signed by Indy, that might be a pipe dream. More likely, the Colts are looking at a player like Powell, a guy who sheds blocks well and gets after the ball carrier.

Powell's other strengths are his motor, instincts, and awareness. It's one thing to be smart. It's another to be football smart, and Powell seems to have those smarts. At 6'2, 300 pounds he is ideally suited for the Tampa 2 DT position. If you want to know why guys like Shaun Rogers suck playing in a Tampa 2 scheme (other than the fact that he's a lazy punk), it's because he's too big to play in it. Teams that use a Cover 2 (or Tampa 2 or Dungy 2 or whatever they like to call it) scheme usually require their DTs to shed weight and bulk rather than gain. As dominant as the Williams guys are in Minnesota, it's no secret that they wear down during the season, and because they are so big they rarely, if ever, generate a pass rush. They dominate against the run, but if you spread the Vikings out (as the Patriots did in 2006), they are helpless because the Williams guys cannot penetrate through the o-line and pressure the QB.

Powell seems to have the tools to do this. As a run stuffer he receives high marks, but I was surprised when I read that he has impressive pass rushing skills:

More of a pocket-pressure type than a pass rusher, as he plays in a system that relies on him providing containment rather than generate pressure, but once he clears the lane, he shows good urgency and the ability to take angles in attempts to close...Could surprise as a pass rusher, as he shows the quick initial step to get advantage and also get on the edge of a blocker...
So, with all these wonderful, positive things to say about Powell, what are his weaknesses?
Does not have great bulk...Plays with poor leverage...Is not very mobile and lacks great range...Does not use his hands well...Is not real tough or physical...Not very explosive...Lacks a burst to close..Gets manhandled at times..Average production.
It's funny because whereas one site speaks well of Powell's range, another says it is a weakness. One site says he has a good burst; another doesn't. offers the best analysis of his negatives:
Needs to be more consistent shooting his hands, as he tends to lean and give a shoulder rather than extending to play off the blocks, causing him to get washed out some vs. the more active and bigger blockers...Has the timed speed to slip through the pile and apply pressure, but his adequate change-of-direction agility sees him labor at times when he has to get in gear when working in space..Must show better hip flexibility and lateral movement in his backside pursuit before he can be given more opportunities to rush the passer.
These mostly strike me as technique flaws rather than a lack of talent, and if you team Powell up with a coach like John Teerlick, some good things could happen. Of all the DTs in the later rounds, I think Powell offers the most potential for the Colts, and I'm a bit surprised he hasn't appeared on New Era's team interest list. I'm not even sure if Indy attended his Virginia Tech Pro Day. I hope they did, because Powell could do some damn good things in a Cover 2 style defense.

Update [2008-4-10 15:23:40 by BigBlueShoe]: Ok, we have confirmation from Carlton Powell himself that the Colts have indeed expressed interest in him. Can I pick'em or WHAT!