Arizona St. defensive tackle Will Sutton was perhaps the most celebrated of the Chicago Bears 2014 draft picks, but the odds of him becoming a great player aren’t very good.
Sutton’s story is well known. He was a dominant player in 2012, but gained a lot of weight and had a drastic decrease in production in 2013. The Bears picked Sutton in the third round, hoping for the 2012 version, but even that may not be a productive player.
Like the top two defensive tackles in the draft, Sutton is small. The difference and reason why Sutton dropped to the third round and they were taken in the first is athleticism. The top defensive tackle, Aaron Donald, is a freak athlete who was tremendously productive. Dominique Easley didn’t do athletic testing before the draft because of a knee injury, but the common thought is that he was at least close to Donald athletically.
Sutton is not.
At 303 pounds, Sutton ran the 40-yard dash in 5.36 seconds. Perhaps that doesn’t matter a lot since defensive tackles almost never have to run 40 yards, but his 10-yard split was among the slowest and he didn’t test well in any event.
He dropped six pounds for his pro day and ran a little better, registering a 5.24, but that still isn’t anywhere near what teams look for from pass rushers. Continuing that rate, he would have to weigh below 285 pounds just to crack the five-second mark.
What’s worse is that he doesn’t have the size to be a run-stuffer. He’s just over six-feet tall and under 300 pounds. Not damning in itself, but his arms are also less than 32 inches long, about an inch shorter than both Donald and Easley’s.
If you look at the best defensive tackles in the league, only a couple are similar in terms of size. In Geno Atkins’ case, he tested out significantly better than Sutton. The difference with Jurrell Casey wasn’t as large, but still significant.
So, why even bother with Sutton? His tape.
Sutton’s timed speed is nowhere near what he looks like on tape. He has great anticipation and burst as he had to be double teamed on almost every passing attempt. He has also worked on his technique and hand use.
Sometimes guys are just good football players and the rest of it doesn’t matter. The Bears are hoping that is the case with Sutton. That rarely ends up being the case, however.
If Sutton does end up being a great player for the Bears, he will be one of the very few defensive tackles in the league to do so without size or athleticism, maybe the only one.
This doesn’t mean Sutton can’t become a decent player. It’s very clear that he has ability, but maybe not athleticism. Even if Sutton ends up being a rotational player, he would be worth the third-round pick the Bears used on him.
The question, however, is his ceiling. If Sutton proves to be the rare professional athlete who doesn’t need top athleticism to dominate, the Bears will be getting a steal. Based on the recent history at that position and the players currently in the league, chances are that won’t happen.
For now, fans should temper their enthusiasm, at least until he gets on the field and we can see what kind of player he is.
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