Biomechanical Re-Review: Denver Draft 2020

Below is a collection of unedited draft review comments, originally posted spring/ summer of 2020 (as well as links to the original comments/ discussions). Jeudy and Hamler were written up separately in the 2020 draft preview, while Muti, Cleveland, Agim, and Tuszka were never studied enough to build profiles (from a combination of lack of film, time, and in Muti’s case due to the need for post-surgical footage). The comments are posted in reverse chronological order

“Hi guys, I thought I’d give an update on my analysis of Kendall Hinton. If doesn’t look like it’s going to be possible for me to build a full profile for him in the near future (both from time constraints and also from lack of available film on Youtube). Nevertheless, there’s still quite a bit to discuss

Before I get to his (still somewhat incomplete) profile, let me share a few facts about Hinton that makes him uniquely difficult to analyze/ project. For most of his 5 year career at Wake Forest, Hinton was a QB. He made the switch to WR during the 2018 season, finishing with only 63 receiving yards. Then, in his 5th and final season (and the only one in which he was prepared to play WR from the start) Hinton exploded for 1001 yds and 4 TDs in only 11 games (missing two due to injury). He enters the NFL at age 23.

Hinton shows extremely high levels of lateral posterior efficiency (both lumbar and thoracic). This translates as fast powerful cuts, powerful running, and very quick acceleration (both horizontally and vertically). In addition, Hinton shows high levels of thoracic efficiency overall (unsurprising for a former QB), which translates as soft/ powerful hands and good contested catch ability. From a pure athletic perspective, Hinton shows all the tools of a top flight WR (albeit one who is not a speed demon).

However, due to Hinton’s very late start at WR, his technique is still very raw. While on some routes he makes DBs look foolish with his fast powerful cuts breaking him wide open (and breaking a few ankles along the way), other times he telegraphs his breaks by showing far too much upper body movement. It may take time for him to develop the subtler elements of route running, to go along with his supreme raw athleticism.

However, even in this still-raw state, Hinton looks likely to be an asset on certain types of plays/ routes (and on punt returns) right out of the gate. His combination of cutting ability, acceleration, tackle-breaking, and strong hands/ contested catch ability is both rare and likely to prove very effective at the NFL level. Hinton was snubbed from the combine, and his pro day was canceled due to the virus– I’m fairly certain that if Hinton had been able to show his athleticism in drills/ workouts, he would’ve wowed some scouts and risen quickly up draft boards. Instead, he fell out of the draft entirely and was signed by the Denver Broncos. With time, and if he can improve his technique, Hinton may end up being remembered as one of the top WRs from this deep talented class. The challenge will be to refine his technique at a relatively advanced age, and without much time to biomechanically grow into the position before he turns 25. Personally, I’m guessing that he’s up to the challenge.”

Orange Overview: July 10, 2020

“From a biomechanical standpoint, Justin Strnad (lateral oriented posterior dominant) is very Jekyll and Hyde– where Strnad’s thoracic areas are very efficient and well developed, his lumbar areas are considerably less efficient and (in his anterior areas) notably underdeveloped. From the waist up, Strand has the look of a top tier coverage LB– someone with excellent wrap-up ability, a powerful upper body (considering his somewhat lean frame), ability to knife through blockers, and long arms to disrupt passes. Unfortunately, his subpar lumbar efficiency/ development compromises his ability to quickly change direction– while he can move quite fast in a straight line, his ability to quickly pivot or change directions is notably lacking.

On the field, he often plays like a heat-seeking missile– once he starts closing for a tackle he gains speed and explodes into the other player, hitting with force and velocity. However, like a heat-seeking missile, if the target changes direction quickly, he will miss wide. He shows excellent ability to tackle/ sack QBs given their somewhat lacking lateral agility, and will likely be a strong asset on blitzes. But he can be juked by shiftier players when he closes for the boom tackle. Nevertheless, he is a hard hitter with great closing speed and ability to knife through blockers (as long as he doesn’t get juked in the process).

Strnad’s undeveloped lumbar areas are a major red flag for continued injury issues. Given how strongly Strnad favors his thoracic areas over his lumbar ones, it seems unlikely that Strnad will be able to fully overcome these issues even with continued development over the next few years. Therefore, despite showing tremendous athletic gifts in thoracic areas, Strnad may be best suited to a rotational role, playing in sub packages where he can blitz/ sit in zones. Overall an excellent fit in Fangio’s scheme as an off-ball nickel/ dime LB, albeit one who may struggle with lower body injuries over the course of his career”

Orange Overview: June 26, 2020

“Hi guys, although when I first wrote about Lloyd Cushenberry III I stated that he was lateral oriented posterior dominant, on closer inspection, he is actually medial centric posterior dominant. My confusion however points to how well balanced he appears to be in his posterior thoracic areas– Cushenberry appears to be highly efficient in both medial and lateral posterior thoracic areas, with very little apparent borrowing. His lumbar areas do not appear to be as well developed or efficient as his thoracic areas, however he also shows little apparent borrowing in these areas as well (except from lumbar to thoracic areas).

On the field, Cushenberry was asked to block 1 on 1 very often (more so than appears to be the norm for college center), with LSU’s spread scheme and lack of TE involvement on the line leaving the offensive lineman to handle their duties with little help. Cushenberry mostly held his own, rarely knocking defensive lineman off the ball, but also rarely losing balance or being pushed aside.

From a pure football perspective, Cushenberry would appear to need to add functional strength, particularly in his base (lumbar areas). What makes me very bullish about Cushenberry’s long term potential however is his apparent biomechanical slack and room to grow. Cushenberry shows very little borrowing system-wide (except from lumbar to thoracic areas), and would appear to have tremendous room to improve his skills/ strength once he hits the NFL. To my eyes, someone who is going to be an effective if not exemplary starter on day one, with room to grow into a top tier center over time.”

Orange Overview: June 11, 2020

“Hi guys, the more I study Michael Ojemudia, the more convinced I become that he’s going to be an excellent zone corner in Vic Fangio’s scheme. His main asset from a biomechanical standpoint is his extremely efficient posterior thoracic areas, which translate as an ability to use his hands to interrupt pass catchers and to make plays on the ball (and to quickly/ effectively wrap up receivers after the catch). His lumbar efficiency is good (albeit with a bit of lateral hip tightness), but not exemplary– he lacks the speed/ burst to stay with speedier receivers in man coverage. However, he shows excellent awareness of zone spacing and coverage assignments– he is rarely caught out of position, knows how/ when to keep a cushion, and closes quickly/ effectively when the ball is thrown (and shows good ability to intercept balls thrown through his zones). As such, while he might not pass muster as a man coverage CB, playing zone in a scheme like Fangio’s will likely hide his weaknesses and highlight his strengths.

The video below is of Ojemudia’s bowl game matchup against Michael Pittman Jr– if you’ve read my draft preview, you know that I think Pittman is likely going to be an excellent pro WR (although to be fair he is still a bit raw). Pittman was the clear #1 WR for USC, and finished the game with 6 catches for 53 yards, with two of his longest catches on rare occasions where Pittman was not matched up against Ojemudia (one where Ojemudia correctly passed him off to the safety on a slant, and the other where Pittman was lined up in the slot against a different player). Ojemudia also successfully defended a deep pass (breaking it up with his long efficient arms), and mostly held Pittman to short underneath passes (tackling him quickly and effectively each time). Iowa’s defensive line mostly dominated USC’s oline in this game, but Ojemudia’s play still stands out. I think Denver’s deep 2020 draft class will have added another quality starter with Ojemudia, very likely as early as this upcoming season”

Orange Overview: June 5, 2020

“Hi guys, although Noah Fant shows the athletic potential to become a top-tier TE, there are certain things not in his biomechanical wheelhouse. Specifically, his catch radius is not terribly large and he doesn’t show comfort or aptitude with over the shoulder grabs. These liabilities specifically limit his effectiveness in the red zone, where his superlative speed and excellent route running are contained by the crowded defense– he’s not going to be catching many end-zone fades, or leaping over too many DBs and highpointing TD passes.

Enter Albert O. Although when I originally wrote about Okwuegbunam I stated that he didn’t show any areas of particularly high efficiency, on closer study, his medial posterior thoracic areas appear to be notably efficient. This translates as a relatively wide catch radius (particularly for someone his size), strong reliable hands, and comfort with over the shoulder grabs. It’s no surprise then that Okwuegbunam caught 17 TDs from Drew Lock in only 2 college seasons. Although Fant is a far better route runner and better overall TE, these two are perfect stylistic complements– Fant as the space-eating matchup nightmare between the 20s, and Albert O as the red zone catch-anything-near-his-body closer. The Broncos added a ton of offensive firepower this offseason. Albert O would seem to have been added specifically to address Denver’s recent red zone struggles.

Orange Overview: May 28, 2020

“I definitely agree that [Albert O has] the potential to be more than just a red zone threat– he shows tremendous room for continued growth and mechanical tightening. Here’s hoping he maximizes his upside and becomes an all-around quality player”

Orange Overview: May 28, 2020

“Hi guys, a few thoughts on the priority UDFAs. Studying these players is very difficult (and in a few cases impossible), due to my reliance on film that’s available on Youtube. If anyone knows a way to access college All-22 film, I’m all ears– from what I’ve seen so far, the only way is to contact the schools directly (and pay a large fee). So currently, if there isn’t useable film on YouTube, I’m out of luck. I was specifically hoping to study Zimari Manning and Douglass Coleman III (on Yahmule’s recommendation), but Manning only has shaky-cam highlight footage available (which is totally unusable for my purposes), and Coleman, as a safety, starts every snap offscreen– I rely on seeing a player transition from pre-snap (mostly slack) to post-snap (mostly engaged). The most I can say about these two players is that they appear to be posterior dominant. And that the snippets I’ve seen of Coleman look promising

Levante Bellamy (medial centric posterior dominant) appears to fit an archetype currently missing from Denver’s roster– a speedy pass-catching back. Bellamy generally favors thoracic efficiency over lumbar efficiency (for an RB), which means he shows good strong hands and a relatively wide catch radius (again for an RB). His lumbar efficiency is not terribly high– although he is very fast in a straight line (due to strong medial posterior mechanics), he shows somewhat stiff lateral hips and generally goes down on first contact. To my eyes, Bellamy lacks the lumbar efficiency/ independence to be a major weapon and does not appear to be very elusive. But as a speedy pass-catcher, he certainly fits the Shurmur archetype as someone who can gain chunk yardage when isolated in space.

Speaking of archetypes, Essang Bassey (lateral oriented posterior dominant), clearly fits what is increasingly becoming appparent as the Fangio coverage archetype–
lateral oriented posterior dominant players who favor thoracic efficiency over lumbar efficiency, showing long efficient arms, good tackling, and the ability to close quickly in zones. Bassey shows somewhat underdeveloped anterior lumbar areas, but otherwise appears to be a good fit for Fangio’s scheme and someone with the requisite thoracic efficiency to play well. Assuming he can further develop his lumbar areas, Bassey may become an asset in Denver– if not this year then perhaps after a bit of development time.”

Orange Overview: May 12, 2020