Purdue's Kawann Short enjoyed a highly productive collegiate career. After a redshirt year, he started twelve games as a freshman, playing well enough to net Freshman All-American honors. The following season, in 2010, he finished fourth in the Big Ten in both tackles for loss (12.5) and sacks (six). And the best was yet to come: junior and senior campaigns during which he seemingly camped out in the opponents' backfield, collecting 31.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. In both 2011 and '12, he earned first-team All-Big 10 accolades and, even more importantly, was voted team defensive MVP and team captain.
Short boasts legitimate NFL size and surprising athleticism for a big man (6-foot-3 3/8, 303 pounds). Although he was unable to participate in Combine drills due to an injury, he demonstrated his athletic ability at Purdue's pro day, running the 40-yard dash in 5.08 seconds, registering 27-inch vertical and 8'4" broad jumps, and logging 7.55 three-cone drill and 4.65 short shuttle times. He also bench pressed 225 pounds 29 times, an impressive mark for a man with his arm length. On the field, Short uses this terrific upper body strength, long arms and strong hands to shed blocks and make big plays. He shows a good burst to the ball and can convert speed to power, pushing his man into the backfield.
Want to see Short in action. Draft Breakdown to the rescue! Here he is as a senior in Big Ten action against Wisconsin and Iowa, and in a non-conference tilt against Notre Dame. And here's tape from a 2011 contest against Michigan. As the tape demonstrates, Short has the potential to be a disruptive force.
What do our fave draftniks think? Let's take a looksee, shall we?
ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton): 6th-rated DT; 27th overall
Versus Run: Quick enough to shoot gaps and make plays in the backfield. Big and strong enough to hold ground against double teams when teams run right at him but can give ground when he plays too high. Flashes the ability to stack and shed in time to make plays at the line of scrimmage but as is the case with most areas of his game, we'd like to see more consistency. Gets into trouble when he doesn't win with quickness against zone runs. It leads to his pads rising and OL quickly getting him on skates and taking him for a ride.
Pass Rush Skills: Talented and more productive than most DTs, but highly inconsistent in this department. Blows up one play, and then looks like he has a union deal on the next snap. Powerful club move can knock blockers off balance. Flashes effective swim and spin moves. Above average athlete that can shake offensive linemen with lateral moves but relies on straight power too much at times. Can be a powerful bull rusher when he sinks his hips and keeps pads down, but has a bad habit of standing up and losing power base. Also, rarely interested in fighting through a double team as a pass rusher. Closing burst is adequate. Shows adequate awareness getting his hands up in time to affect passing lanes.
Quickness (hands/ feet): Very quick feet for size. Hands aren't as quick but they are strong and he flashes violence in his hands. His combination of foot quickness and hand strength is what separates him from a lot of other talented DTs.
Toughness/ Motor: Inconsistent motor is biggest concern with him as a potential first round pick. Tendency to turn it on and off is frightening. Shows adequate toughness and usually does not back down when teams commit two blockers to him in the run game. Conditioning appears to be an issue. Chases the run and gets after the passer when fresh but wears down quickly and not mentally tough enough to fight through the wall.
Intangibles: Needs more repetitions to grasp concept than your average player. Not a self-motivator. Voted co-captain by his teammates following 2011 and 2012 spring drills. Given name is Kawann Arcell Short Born Feb. 2, 1989. Major at Purdue was organizational leadership and supervision. Son of Yvonne Green.
CBSSports.com (Rob Rang): 5th-rated DT; 28th overall
Short is a large human being with a huge wingspan, using his long arms to bat down passes (11 pass break-ups) and make plays on special teams (4 blocked kicks).
Short can be an immovable object in the middle of the field when he plays disciplined and generates power from his lower body. However, he too often gives streaky effort and doesn't consistently play with leverage.
Short sees a lot of double-teams, but scouts want to see more of a mean streak and less passiveness. He has been productive over his first three seasons in West Lafayette, but there is also some negative game tape out there on him. And while Short will still be an attractive pro prospect because of his natural size and tools, he needs to prove he can be consistently more than just a plugging space-eater to cement his top-50 status.
Compares To: Domata Peko, DT, Cincinnati Bengals - Like Peko, Short has a stout, wide frame to consistently stuff the run, but also show the foot quickness to penetrate and makes plays away from the line of scrimmage. Although there are questions about Short's consistency, he has potential to be a consistent starter like Peko.
Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki): 5th-rated DT; 24th overall
Positives: Has a strong base and very long arms (83-inch wingspan). Explosive quickness to slice gaps. Very good strength to stack the point. Speed-power combination to win one-on-one battles. Strong personality. Experienced, four-year starter.
Negatives: Weight has fluctuated between 300-325 pounds. Needs to dedicate himself to conditioning (26.5 percent body fat). Marginal pursuit effort - does not flatten down the line or run to the ball. Faulty motor - coasts, takes plays off and disappears for long stretches. Soft playing temperament - needs more glass in his diet. Intermittent intensity. Lacks competitive fire and field energy. Rep guy - could require patience grasping complex concepts.
Summary: Big, strong, athletic, disruptive interior penetrator and career underachiever who has been coddled too much as a person and player. Profiles as a high-risk, high-reward proposition given his first-round talent and frustrating inconsistency. Has impact potential as a movement nose tackle but comes with "buyer beware" tag.
National Football Post (Russ Lande): 7th-rated DT; 62nd overall
Strengths: Deceptively athletic, Short has shocking foot quickness and burst for a DT who is so thick in th lower body. With long arms, he is able to jolt and defeat pass blocks esily when he rushes passer aggressively. When he maintains leverage and uses hands well he has the strength to drive OL backwards on bull rush and can split double team pass block. After he defeats pass block he has an explosive closing burst to the QB to finish the sack. When he takes on OL run block with good leverage and hand use he can anchor, tosses blocker aside and makes tackle on runs at him. Instinctive with good snap anticipation, Short can burst off ball to split gap and gets backfield penetration consistently. Even when he does not make the tackle, he consistently gets into the backfield to make/disrupt plays behind the LOS. He has the speed to chase down ball carriers along the LOS in pursuit. When offenses try to pull the OL over him and "reach block" him, he constantly gets into backfield before blocker can get to him, keeps blocker on back and closes fast to make tackle.
Weaknesses: Short does not consistently play/produce up to his natural talent level. Too often he pops upright after the snap, loses leverage and does not uses his hands aggressively, which leads to him being unproductive too often. He does not consistently stay after pass rush and usually if his initial pass rush attempt is stopped, he stands up and ends up "chicken fighting" with OL. While he flashes ability to split double to get backfield penetration, too often he takes on the double team run block upright/high and without aggressive hand use, which allows them to drive him off the LOS too easily. Very thickly built below the waist and soft/fleshy above waist, I definitely question how hard he works to stay in shape.
Summary: An immensely talented DT, Short is has the skill set to be a Pro Bowl DT, but he needs to play with much better aggressiveness, intensity and hand use to become a consistent NFL player. With his thick build and athleticism, he has the talent to be a versatile DL in the NFL. He could be an effective 34 nose tackle or defensive end and could play defensive tackle in any style 43 defense, but his production level will be completely determined by how much effort he gives. Overall, Short is a frustrating player because he does not compete at a high level all the time. So despite clearly having first round talent and the potential to be a Pro Bowl player, I would not draft him in the first round because most defensive tackles who lack a consistent motor struggle to become consistently productive NFL players.
Want more? Here's Archie's fine take on Short's game.
As these scouting reports suggest, Short is a super-talented and productive player who also presents significant risk. In sum, he has a top-15 skillset but second-day intangibles. As a result, I think teams will shy away from taking him where his production and raw athleticism might slot him, but will be sufficiently swayed by them to take a chance on him in the late first or early second rounds. Our gallery of draftniks (other than Russ Lande, that perpetual iconoclast) have him slotted between picks 24-28. That's where I'll put him on my "little board" at the end of round one.
If that seems like a strange slot for a Cowboys team that picks in the middle of both rounds, you're right. A closer look at their draft board, however, shows several players who will most likely be drafted at "the bend," that fascinating liminal space between picks 25-40. This makes me wonder whether they are hoping a) that some higher-ranked player fall to them at pick number 47 or b) that they are preparing for the possibility of a first round trade-back, should one of their preferred targets not be available. I'll have more on that scenario in a post later this month.
Next up: LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan