The Cleveland Browns Made a Hefty Blunder With Danny Shelton
I've been told often that I "have a song for every situation." The NFL Draft is no different, nor is the fact that anytime I think of a particular University of Washington defensive tackle, I hear this song in my head.
I have never heard a more appropriate team mascot than the one for Danny Shelton, the nose tackle for the Washington Huskies. Seriously, this man stands 6'2'', weighing in at almost 340 pounds, and his hobby is gobbling up opposing running backs and spitting them back out like some sort of grumpy fairytale giant. "Big Poppa" Shelton made a career of wrecking offensive lines in the Pac-12, but will NFL teams think he can muster that kind of impact in the pros too?
Honestly, though his career was pretty impressive at Washington (92 total tackles, 9 sacks in just 14 games this year from the nose tackle position), I haven't seen the real impact from Shelton on tape. His major knocks do seem fairly relevant, as his lack of athleticism leads to low and inconsistent effort on each play. Due to his girth, he has what we in the business would call a "high-maintenance body" -- he will have to work to maintain muscle and his conditioning and not let himself get soft. That said, if he gets a mental edge on a center, he will continue to dominate him throughout games, and has good hands to shed blocks and toss around lesser competition. The one problem: in the NFL, there is no lesser competition.
His spider-graph of his NFL Combine performance is provided to us by MockDraftable. How does "Big Poppa" measure up?
This is perhaps more damning than his tape concerns. Not only does Shelton not show great effort, but if not for his technique there would be almost no question that he is not worth a high first-round pick. With measurable percentiles below the 15th percentile for every drill excepting the 20-yard short shuttle, the bench press, and the vertical jump, Shelton is clearly unexplosive with very little agility. Folks have compared his style to Vince Wilfork; I think this is wholly inaccurate in every way except for size. If an opposing offensive line reduces his ability to use his power and leverage, Shelton will be much more like "Little Poppa" and will fade away throughout the game. I would not spend a top-ten pick on largely a gap-plugger and space-eater at defensive tackle.
How Does He Fit with Cleveland?
In my humble opinion, he barely squeezes in. I'm glad he didn't go to a team in the top 10 of the draft, but 12th overall is just as bad. If he can be coached up there is some physical potential with him, but the effort and athleticism just don't show up on tape. A big positive for Shelton is his intelligence and football IQ, as he seems to diagnose plays well, but far too often he is caught flat-footed and double-teams take him out of the game. Unfortunately, with the Browns, he will be a large focus of opposing blocking schemes, with his supporting cast a motley crew of Phil Taylor, Desmond Bryant, and Randy Starks. That said, with Taylor's possible release due to injury concerns in his right knee, and because of the general thinness of impact talent at the top of the Browns' depth chart (they finished 25th against the run last year, per our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric), Shelton should see plenty of playing time early.
Danny Shelton does plug a hole for the Dawg Pound, but this may still be a bigger hole than even he can fill.