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Drafting for a 3-4 defense

Pat Kirwan over at has a nice article on drafting for a 3-4 defense. He categorizes NFL 3-4 defenses into two camps, the Chargers 3-4 (re-named the Phillips 34 on this blog) and the Patriots 3-4 (which is what we ran under Bill Parcells). The basic difference being the one-gap, overly aggressive scheme vs. the two-gap, moderate-blitzing scheme.

Now, that news shouldn't be surprising to anybody who reads the blog regularly, because I did the exact same thing over two months ago. I covered this in a post I wrote in January that was a film review of the Chargers vs. the Patriots playoff game. You can review that post here if so inclined.

What Kirwan also did was get some NFL insiders to help him create a draft board of players the fit a 3-4 defense. One of his arguments in the article is that because up to seven teams now run the 3-4 defense as their base, it's harder to get the hybrid-type players that perform well in the 3-4. Previously, when only a couple of teams ran the 3-4, it was easier to pick up these players in later rounds. Now, you have to jump on them when you can, you can't delay until later rounds hoping that the 4-3 teams will all pass on the player, because other 3-4 teams will snatch them up.  

Below are the players who are on his 3-4 draft board.


ALAN BRANCH, MICHIGAN (Round 1) -- He could play in any front, but at 6-foot-5, 324 pounds and 33 bench presses, he could force that double team the coaches desperately want from the nose, and he can run.

TANK TYLER, N.C. STATE (Round 2) -- Not the same size as Branch (6-2, 306) but with 42 reps on the bench, he has the power to do the job.

PAUL SOLARI, UTAH (Round 3) -- A 6-foot-4 344-pound space eater who should force that all-important extra blocker to move him, and that frees up an inside backer.


ADAM CARRIKER, NEBRASKA (Round 1) -- A big player (6-6, 296) who can control the line of scrimmage with his long arms and that all-important height like Seymour.

JUSTIN HARRELL, TENNESSEE (Round 2) -- He has medical issues but did well at the Combine and could be a factor (6-4, 300) at any of the three defensive-line spots.

RYAN McBEAN, OKLAHOMA STATE (Round 3) -- He can move for a big man (6-4, 286) and showed the quickness at the Senior Bowl to play in the Charger style of 3-4.


DAVID HARRIS, MICHIGAN (Round 2) -- Big and thick (6-2, 243) to take on a guard, and at the Combine, he ran the 40 in 4.62, but more important -- a 4.29 short shuttle, which suggests he can change direction and get off blocks.

ANTHONY WATERS, CLEMSON (Round 4) -- Medical questions but a late workout could resolve the issue. As one scout said, "Go back and look at his junior game against N.C. State. This guy (6-2, 245) is ideal for the strong inside backer spot."

DESMOND BISHOP, CALIFORNIA (Round 5) -- A few years ago, this is the kind of guy (6-2, 239) a 3-4 team would pick up in Round 7 or as an undrafted free agent. One coach said, "Today, he could go a little higher with the 3-4 teams all looking."


ANTHONY SPENCER, PURDUE (Round 1) -- A defensive end (6-3, 261) who can run 4.7 and a 4.4 short shuttle with 27 tackles for a loss last season and 21 career sacks is a prime candidate.

LAMAR WOODLEY, MICHIGAN (Round 2) -- He's short for a defensive end (6-1, 266) but 52½ tackles for a loss and 24 sacks in his career make him a prime OLB candidate.

TIM SHAW, PENN STATE (Round 4) -- Shaw has played defensive end and linebacker (6-1, 236) and if you study the Belichick package, he loves guys who did both in college. Tedy Bruschi, Rosevelt Colvin and Mike Vrabel all had those kind of backgrounds.

ZAK DeOSSIE, BROWN (Round 4) -- I don't care that Zak played in the Ivy League; he is perfect for the 3-4 OLB spot. He runs 4.6 in the 40 and an outstanding 4.2 in the short shuttle. He's strong (6-4, 250) and productive. He has long-snapping skills like his father Steve (former NFL player) and he knows the game.

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