Anyone who has been looking at my mocks for the last few years knows that I've been mocking a certain type of player to the Pats. They tend to be closer to 6'6 than 6'0 and closer to 300 than 250 or 350. They possess upside and the ability to play 34DE next to a true NT like Vince Wilfork. Kyle Love, or Sealver Siliga. A lengthy interior-defender that doesn't just occupy blockers, doesn't just push the pocket, but can penetrate. The Pats have tried Haynesworth, Jonathan Fanene, Tommy Kelly, Armond Armstead, and when desperate times called for desperate measure they tried Chris Jones.
The guys I would mock to NE almost never became available. In 2011, I wanted JJ Watt. Oh, how I wanted him to be available with our mid-1st rounder. In 2012 I was a fan of Michael Brockers when he was projected to go around our range but as the draft drew closer he ended up higher on the projection. My last mock of that year had us trading up to 22nd overall for Brockers, with Tennessee at 20th overall taking Chandler Jones. Instead Brockers went in the teens and Tennessee passed on Chandler. When Brockers was getting more and more hype I began to peg Fletcher Cox to NE but he ended up gaining even more hype, all well-deserved. Last year we settled for Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead in FA. Kelly was great until he got injured and Armstead has yet to prove that he is medically-clear for an NFL field.
So here we are, in that same place still lacking that versatile interior-defender that can give Matt Patricia the flexibility to run more 34 looks. This has been the case ever since Richard Seymour was sent to Oakland. What makes the task difficult is where we tend to pick due to NE's tendency of winning games. 27th overall, 29th overall, 31st overall, it makes it a little tough to get one of the bigger names. Ra'shede Hageman is probably the other dude that fits this mold, and even while I project Hageman to go higher, my dude is still Stephon Tuitt. In a community-mock elsewhere I had the choice between the two, and I went with Tuitt over Hageman. While I haven't finalized it, when I post my final 2014 mock it will almost surely have NE taking Tuitt at 29th overall for the third time in a row.
I agree that most teams probably disagree with me and I don't really blame them. After all, Tuitt has that foot, we don't have any lower-body measureables beyond what he tweeted out, and his weight fluctuation between 2012 and 2013 was pretty nuts. So why am I so sold on Tuitt?
Let's look at upper bodies:
Ra'shede Hageman: 32 reps with 34.25 inch arms
Fletcher Cox: 30 reps with 34.5 inch arms
JJ Watt: 34 reps with 34 inch arms
Mohammed Wilkerson: 27 reps with 35.25 inch arms
Stephon Tuitt: 31 reps with 34.75 inch arms
These numbers are comparable. The guy with the shortest arms(Watt) has the most reps, and the guy with the longest arms(Mo Wilk) had the fewest which makes sense because the longer the arms the further the 225 pounds need to be pressed away from the chest. Tuitt's showing is excellent.
Let's look at 40 times:
Ra'shede Hageman: 5.02 40
Fletcher Cox: 4.79 40
JJ Watt: 4.81 40
Mohammed Wilkerson: 4.96 40
10-splits matter more for DL but still, you get the picture. Stephon Tuitt claimed on Twitter that he ran a 4.8 at his Pro Day, which was an event that seemed rushed to happen before his foot surgery. There has been no verification of that reported, but go to the film.
He certainly seems pretty fast for his size and that's with pads on, out-running everyone. 4.8 seems reasonable even on a stress-fracture and while I wish there was some verification for that I got to think if he didn't run a 4.8 that NFL teams would know it.
So besides for drills, why else do I prefer Tuitt over Hageman?
Hageman is a very raw prospect. Tuitt is a less-raw prospect, despite being nearly three years younger. I would expect the older guy to have better technique but in this case that isn't so.
Hageman has played almost entirely Defensive-Tackle in a one-gap scheme. Tuitt has played inside and out, one gap and two gap
Hageman did not manage to out-produce Tuitt despite playing more one-gap, against mostly-younger opponents, and against weaker competition.
The only character-flag on Tuitt based on prior discipline is that he was suspended a game for over-sleeping through a class back when he was a freshman. Hageman has an arrest for getting into a bar fight.
Both have inspirational stories and I wouldn't say one is necessarily say one story is better than the other. Some may bring up that Hageman was a Captain and all, but let's not forget, he was four years older than some of the guys on that team.
So if Stephon Tuitt is so elite then why might the Pats be able to get him at 29? Why is he so commonly mocked in the 2nd round?
Context: Tuitt is widely considered as a Defensive-End prospect. Indeed, he played 43RDE, 43LDE, 34RDE, 34LDE, one-gap and two-gap. However his body type screams 43DT/34DE. That's an interior-defender, not an edge-defender.
The foot: There is some concern about the ability of the stress fracture to heal given where in the foot it is. Personally, I trust modern medicine to fix a broken bone that Tuitt didn't even realize was broken. I'm sure part of Tuitt's visit to Foxboro involved a looksy at the foot.
The lack of measureables: Given the foot injury he was unable to do any lower-body workouts at the Combine. This is a damn shame because of the importance of the 3-cone, which apparently Tuitt didn't do at that personal pro-day. As I understand it this Pro Day did happen and there were some scouts there but details on that Pro Day are hard to come by beyond what Tuitt put out as his 40 time.
Weight fluctuation: Tuitt's playing weight is around 300. However following off-season sports hernia surgery he started the 2013 season just over 320. He got back to his playing weight and, perhaps more importantly, he still produced as a 320 pound Defensive End. That's ridiculous
"Inconsistent": This word is brought up a lot in reference to his 2013 tape vs his 2012. Sure he started the season off sluggish(see; directly above) but as the season went on he clearly got healthy. Just look at how he ended his collegiate career. USC, Stanford, Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl... I've felt for awhile Tuitt would be victim of lazy analysis, and that may be why we have a shot at a guy that I think is a legit top-20 talent.
But didn't Tuitt get embarrassed the only time he faced an NFL OL?
I.E., the BCS Bowl Game between #1 Notre Dame and #2 Alabama. The game that got played after it turned out Manti T'eo's girlfriend was not a girl, not dead, and not someone he's even even gotten to first base with.
Actually if you go back and look at that game, a game in which it's believed Tuitt was injured(see; ensuing off-season sports hernia surgery), Tuitt actually didn't have that bad of a game. Despite seeing a lot of DJ Fluker, Cyrus Kouandijo before his knee became questionable, Chance Warmack, and Anthony Steen, Alabama seemed to run the ball away from Tuitt and send double-teams his way. On passing downs you could have easily mistaken the Notre Dame secondary for the 2011 NE secondary. While many of the Fighting Irish were humiliated that day Tuitt wasn't so bad outside of a few plays, and he continued to play hard even when Notre Dame was down by 4TDs. Not bad for a teenager going against what might have been the best OL college football has seen in some time.
Did I just jinx it so that Stephon Tuitt is not the pick?
Not necessarily. I mocked Aaron Dobson to NE at 59th overall in my final 2013 mock and then picked up Jamie Collins and Logan Ryan as part of the Pats Pulpit team for the big SB-Nation mock at Turf Show Times.
What worries me about Tuitt?
The foot, the weight-fluctuation, how he responds to having a bunch of money drop into his bank account. We're not going to have a shot at a clean prospect with top-15 talent, otherwise they would go top-20.
Other scouting reports on Stephon Tuitt