Breaking Down Will Sutton and His 2014 NFL Draft Prospects

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Breaking Down Will Sutton and His 2014 NFL Draft Prospects
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Arizona State's Will Sutton is the epitome of a high-risk/high-reward prospect. In 2012, Sutton was a dominant defensive tackle with a quick burst and great hands. However in 2013, Sutton was an overweight and often sluggish defensive tackle that wasn't nearly as successful.

During the 2012 season, Sutton was a svelte 280-pound defensive tackle. However, Sutton reportedly gained around 25 pounds and was around 307 pounds for the 2013 season. Sutton revealed at the NFL combine that he gained the weight because he was listening to the media and outside influences too much. Presumably, Sutton thought the weight gain would improve his draft stock and make him more appealing to teams. 

However, Sutton almost certainly did not believe that the weight gain would diminish his skills as much as it did. 

To Sutton's credit he is trying to get his weight back down. At his teammates' pro day, Sutton weighed in at 295 pounds, giving teams hope that he can return to his 2012 form.

 

A Tale of Two Seasons

Will Sutton's Career Statistics
Tackles Tackles for Loss Sacks Forced Fumbles
2009 6 3 1 1
2011 19 5.5 2.5 0
2012 41 23.5 13 3
2013 29 13.5 4 0

Sports-Reference.com

Sutton's 2012 season was one of the most dominant campaigns a defensive tackle can haveThirteen sacks for a defensive tackle is ridiculous. Sutton was not only an elite pass-rusher but he made a myriad of plays in the run game as well. 

However, the 2013 season was a totally different story.

The Field Gulls' Aaron Sims put it perfectly:

The problem is that this is obviously the 2014 Draft and Sutton is not being graded solely off of his 2012 performance -- his 2013 effort was dull. The disparities between the two seasons are almost eerie. In 2012, Sutton was an explosive athlete that used an array of pass rush moves and played a high motor to repeatedly abuse interior offensive linemen. In 2013, he wasn't explosive, played slow, disappeared for long stretches in games and wasn't relentless.

Sutton's 2012 play gives teams hope that he can be a great penetrating one-gap defensive tackle. However, Sutton casted a lot of doubts for teams with his 2013 campaign.

 

Strengths

What separates Sutton from other defensive tackles is his elite hand usage. Sutton's hand usage may be the best out of all the defensive tackle prospects outside of Aaron Donald. 

When Sutton is in shape, his quickness, hand usage and leverage make him one of the best interior pass-rushers in the draft. Sutton also has a wide array of pass-rush moves to blow past offensive linemen. 

Here is an example of Sutton's hand usage (at 2:02):

Jump to 2:02

In this play, Sutton (red box) is lined up across from the guard. Sutton comes off the line and takes a small step inside to set up the guard. He then uses a great swim move to beat the lineman. After beating the guard, Sutton tracks down the quarterback for the sack. 

This is just one of the many instances where Sutton displayed great pass-rushing techniques and hand usage to make an impact play. 

While Sutton can be very impressive rushing the passer, he can be a force against the run as well when he is in shape. 

Jump to 2:35

Here (At 2:35), Sutton is once again lined up across from the guard. Sutton bursts off the ball, gets low and explodes into the center. Sutton uses his superior leverage and strength to blow the center back several steps. Sutton forces the running back to veer around him, which leads to a tackle behind the line of scrimmage by one of Sutton's teammates. 

Sutton shows the traits that are necessary to be a force in the interior of the defensive line. If Sutton has his weight in order, he can make a huge impact for a lot of NFL teams.

 

Weaknesses

Even when Sutton was terrorizing opposing offenses in 2012, he was not without his faults. First off, Sutton does not have great length (31.25" arms) for a defensive tackle. This has led to Sutton not being able to get off blocks once an offensive lineman gets his hands on him. 

Jump to 2:26

Here (at 2:26), Sutton is lined up at the defensive end position. Sutton comes off the line but lets the right tackle get his hands on him. Sutton gets pushed out of the hole and is unable to make a play. 

Sutton's weight gain has brought up some new problems as well. Sutton would wear down much more late in games during the 2013 season, often making him make almost no positive impact on the game. 

In 2013, Sutton was taken out of games way too often by only one blocker. Sutton didn't have the quickness to set up a lot of his pass-rush moves and his production slipped a lot because of it.

Sutton's weight gain has also brought concerns about his work ethic. If Sutton worked hard and added weight the right way then he most likely wouldn't have be as ineffective as he was. 

If Sutton plays like he did in 2013 while he is in the NFL, he will not have a job for long.

 

Conclusion

Judging solely off of Sutton's 2012 tape, Sutton would likely be a mid-to-late first-round pick. However, if you judged him solely off of his 2013 tape, Sutton would likely be a fourth- or fifth-round pick. 

The trouble will be to determine how much weight to put on each year. Some may believe that Sutton's 2012 year is closer to the real Sutton while others may believe the 2013 version is closer. 

However, with Sutton's recent weight loss, it seems as though he has learned from his mistakes. One would assume that with Sutton closer to his 2012 playing weight that he will regain some of the quickness he had lost. 

Matt Miller states in the above video that Sutton compares with the San Diego Chargers' Corey Liuget

At this moment, I would give Sutton a solid second-round grade. If Sutton gets into a one-gap 4-3 defensive scheme, he can become an elite interior defensive lineman. If Sutton returns anywhere close to his 2012 form, he would be a real bargain. However, if he remains like the 2013 version he will end up a bust. 

I believe Sutton will return to his 2012 form and become, at least, a great interior rusher in the NFL. 

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