Atlanta Falcons' Tyler Starr Will Wind Up Being Their Steal of the 2014 Draft

Scott Carasik@ScottCarasikContributor IIMay 28, 2014

FLOWERY BRANCH, GA - MAY 16:  Rookie linebacker Tyler Starr #49 of the Atlanta Falcons runs drills during rookie minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility on May 16, 2014 in Flowery Branch, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Edge player Tyler Starr will be the most impactful defensive player from the Falcons' 2014 draft class. Yes, even over Ra’Shede Hageman or Prince Shembo. He’s got the best combination of size, speed, power and motor of all of the pass-rushing edge players on the roster.

Starr seemingly stays hungry, as his motor is evident on every single play he makes. When you have someone with the physical attributes that he has and a motor that never quits, it makes you wonder what the weaknesses are. And for Starr, it's that he's so raw he almost completely lacks technique.

When looking at the analytics based on Starr's raw athleticism, he should definitely be one of the top pass-rushers in this year's draft. And when adding in the best possible situation for him to develop long term, Atlanta is easily that situation. 

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Comparing Tyler Starr to Some of the Best Edge Players Athletically

When looking for a late-round steal, you first have to look at the athleticism he shows compared to some of the best at his position. In Tyler Starr, the Falcons have someone who compares favorably to top pass-rushers Brian Orakpo, Robert Quinn and Chandler Jones.

All three of these guys play varied roles within their defenses. Jones is a 4-3 defensive end who plays primarily on the weak side. However, he's also lined up at linebacker in 3-4 looks at times. Quinn is a pure weak-side defensive end in the 4-3. Orakpo is primarily a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Starr can play either role for the Falcons in their defense. He needs to learn better technique in order to get to their level as pass-rushers. Nonetheless, he's got the athletic tools to be great at the position in the NFL. He fits analytically into a mold that would make him a low-risk pass-rusher.

Tyler Starr vs. Three Top Pass Rushers with Similar Builds
DrillTyler StarrChandler JonesBrian OrakpoRobert Quinn
Weight250 lbs266 lbs263 lbs265 lbs
40 yd4.85 sec4.77 sec4.63 sec4.60 sec
10 yd1.63 sec1.66 sec1.56 sec1.64 sec
Shuttle4.15 sec4.38 sec4.45 sec4.31 sec
3Cone6.65 sec7.07 sec7.26 sec6.99 sec
Bench24 reps22 reps31 reps24 reps

Back in 2011, a message board poster on Footballs Future named Waldo developed a formula to find 3-4 pass rushing outside linebackers. The two most important parts of Waldo's analytics were his twitch formula: Twitch = Shuttle time - (2 times 10 yd split) - (1.60 - 10 yd split)—and three-cone time.

Waldo concluded that the best players have Twitch of under 1.10 and a three-cone time under 7.00 seconds. Starr qualifies under both formulas. If he can gain some muscle mass and learn technique without losing his speed, he has the athletic potential to become one of the best pass-rushers in the league.

PAUL BEATY/Associated Press

Starr Film Study: Six Plays From Two Games That Show Top Potential

Some of Starr's film would have yielded better results had South Dakota had better talent around him that could have helped finish plays. Other parts of it make you wonder why the defensive coordinator continually forced Starr into double-teams. 

Draft Breakdown has a pair of video cut-ups for the former South Dakota edge player. In doing a cursory review of that film, six plays stood out as what Starr could do in the pros. In those, he showed potential to be a top pass-rusher for the Falcons if Nolan uses him correctly.

The three plays from the Youngstown State game that stood out are a sack and forced fumble on an outside move at 4:45, a pass deflection at 8:14 and an inside move at 8:44 that forced the quarterback into a delayed blitz from a linebacker. 

Courtesy Draft Breakdown

Here at 4:45, Starr makes sure he doesn't get engaged with the offensive tackle with good hand usage. Then, he loops around the edge quickly and hammers the ball out of the quarterback's hand to force the fumble and register the sack. This is textbook pass-rushing and what the Falcons have missed from their weak-side edge player the past few years. 

Courtesy Draft Breakdown

For this play at 8:14, Starr gets held up by the left tackle and is near the line. However, he does two things well—his holds contain and he makes sure to be ready to deflect a pass. Once he sees the pass coming his way, he gets his hand up and deflects it. It's basic, but it's useful to have a guy who understands to get his hands up if he gets stuffed rushing the passer.

Courtesy Draft Breakdown

On this play at 8:44, Starr lines up against a pair of tight ends off the edge trying to pass-block him. South Dakota rushes just three for most of the play. Starr creates pressure on the quarterback, pushing him to the linebacker, who is stunting around the entire formation. Starr's pressure is what created that sack, as he forced him right into the waiting arms of No. 32 Jet Moreland.

The three plays from the Kansas game include a pair of sacks—one from an inside move at 3:01 and one from an outside move at 1:00. They also include a coverage play at 1:51 that displays what he is in coverage now and how he has potential to be better there.

Courtesy Draft Breakdown

At 1:00, you can see Starr just embarrasses a Big 12 offensive tackle. He uses an outside move to not only force a holding call, but he also gets to the quarterback, takes him down and forces a fumble as he was rolling through the tackle with his leg. Starr's relentless nature shows in this play because he will just not be denied a sack even if he gets held on the way to the quarterback.

Courtesy Draft Breakdown

For the play at 1:51, Starr is dropping into a short flats coverage zone. As a running back crosses into his zone, he breaks toward him and meets him as the ball is in the area. The tailback barely has it in his hands as Starr explodes through him to knock the ball loose. In coordinator Mike Nolan's defense, Starr will be asked to drop into multiple coverage looks. As he develops, the looks will be more complex. 

Courtesy Draft Breakdown

The best depiction of Starr's motor is shown here at 3:01. Starr jumps off the line and gets attacked by both the guard and the tackle. He doesn't quit and continues to force them back and bull-rush them into the quarterback collapsing the pocket. As another player forces a pressure, Starr cleans up and gets the sack from being in the right place at the right time. He wouldn't have been there without his excellent motor.

David Goldman/Associated Press

Bryan Cox and Mike Nolan Will Be Crucial to Starr's Development

When a player has poor technique, coaching plays a huge role in his development. Tyler Starr will be no different. The Falcons will be using him as a down lineman in the 4-3 and as a linebacker in the 3-4, and having him learn new techniques already looks to be paying off.

Specifically, the four-point stance that he is learning from defensive line coach Bryan Cox has really improved his explosion off the line. For a guy who has some of the best explosion off the line in the draft to get even better pop is only going to help his game when he finally sees NFL-caliber competition.

Cox is just one piece of the puzzle, though. Mike Nolan loves having his players show their complete skill sets within his scheme. In the same game that you see guys like Kroy Biermann and Jonathan Massaquoi drop back deep, you’ll also see William Moore and Robert Alford blitz.

The Falcons like to make sure they can confuse offenses with their defensive scheme. They want to have quarterbacks make mistakes because they read one coverage or blitz and saw something different at the snap. Starr will only help with this as he learns how to play both 3-4 linebacker and 4-3 end.

All stats used are from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN.com, CFBStats or NFL.com. All combine and pro-day info is courtesy of NFLDraftScout.com. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.

Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, college football, the NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.


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