"USC Trojans vs Oregon State Beavers "


Su’a Cravens, LB/S, USC 


Introduction

Just think of Cravens as this year’s version of Shaq Thompson without the RB back ground. Some have even compared him to Lavonte David. We like Cravens but that is unrealistically high praise and no human should be burdened with such a label. He is certainly a tweener as he started his college career at strong safety as a true freshman. He was moved to hybrid/WILL linebacker as a sophomore. He was very productive in both roles as he amassed 207 tackles (34.5 TFLs), 10.5 sacks, nine INTs and 16 passes defensed.

He does get a little outsized sometimes but he has enough quickness and burst to win some of those tough battles. Us IDP nerds should be very excited if Cravens is drafted to be a safety. He would not be learning a new position he has shown very good coverage skills, speed and athleticism. His hip-pocket stickiness versus bigger receiver should entice pro scouts as a fine attribute. 


NFL Combine/Pro day Results

Pro Day Results:

40 yard dash – 4.65 seconds 

Vertical Jump – 30.5 inches

Combine Results:

Bench Press – 16 reps

Vertical Jump – 27 inches

Broad Jump – 114 inches

Cravens choose to compete on limited basis at combine. He felt after three years as a starter at two positions for USC (where the majority of their games are nationally televised) what was there left to prove. He also choose not to do individual workouts for teams post-combine. He stilled planned on doing 5-8 teams visits. Rumors have linked as many 14-16 teams wanted him for individual workouts. Cravens also felt it was necessary to keep training rather than strain something doing drills he is not accustomed to doing.



 

For comparison’s sake, here’s how Cravens stacks up against SS (vs OLB above).

Sua Cravens


Analysis

Size: Cravens is currently  6’1″ 226 LBS., which doesn’t scream LB in NFL circles. Yet, his 4.65 40-time seems slow for a safety. Although Cravens has a limited vertical, his longer arms should help on 50/50 balls versus TEs. Those same arms and his instincts should also help against twitched up slot WRs, especially in press man.

Athleticism: Though Cravens appears to whiff on some tackles here and there he is always around the ball no matter what position he is playing. Once he joins the rest of the ultra-humans in the NFL who move the pocket or push the play outside he will act as a thirsty mop. His silky fluid hips and his quick play processing mind will carrying him far early.

Pass Rush: He shown the ability to get the QB while rushing off both edges. Cravens uses a nice full arm extension and his thinner frame to maneuver his way around blockers. His closing speed is fierce once daylight is stricken. He will need to rush lower and torque his body upon engagement to find consistent success in the sack department at the next level.

Run Defense: With 34.5 TFLs in three years at USC you know his capabilities in this avenue are already paved. Especially when you consider all but 2.5 of those TFLs came in his hybrid role. If there is an argument to make him a full-fledged OLB or WLB it is this statistic. Yet, when you consider the success of the Deone Bucannon types of players in the NFL, Cravens certainly has an intriguing value to the right scheme. While some will knock his 40-time his ability to give chase from weakside has hardly ever been in question.

Tackling: This is certainly a gray area that scouts can exploit. Cravens can obviously tackle but he has an unquenchable need to go for the high/flashy hit. Plays like those leak emotion into the crowd and can deflated opponents self-esteem. But, they are not high percentage/economic hits. Cravens will have to abide by the only tackle rule that truly matters “take one of their legs with you.” As soon as he learns this works a majority of the time and he builds his upper body enough to make those plays a vast majority of the time he will be a leg ripping force. 

Versatility: Players like this are the hot ticket item in today’s NFL. How do you combat constant three receiver spreads, pass catching TEs and speciality three-down backs? With Cravens you get an athlete capable of playing strong safety, nickel back, strong side linebacker (in certain situations), weakside linebacker, nickel and dime backer! That’s a trump card you can bring to the war room with certainty of exposure. The sub-package naysayers will attempt to pigeon hole him at one position to further the base defense argument. Yet, why would you continue to watch black and white television in the age of high definition.

Motor: How often to you see a proven pass rusher who is already respected for his coverage skills. Realistically this class has two players with such traits. Besides Cravens who should find a home on day two at the latest, the potential top 6 pick Myles Jack is the only other one. Pass rushing is a passion project the requires balance and precision. Cravens did not stop any leaky damns with his 16 bench press reps. Yet on a play-to-play basis he uses calculated and proven movements. Hybrid players like Cravens must be readily available for all kinds of situations. Cravens has already done this in his preparations for the last two seasons at USC. His motor is greased and though every gear is not functioning in the 90th percentile, he still brings a whole lot to any defense.


NFL Draft Projections

Because of Cravens versatility there are wide range of teams that could use him. A lot depends on how many safeties go in round one. Ultimately Cravens should find a home in rounds two or three. Teams like Miami, Buffalo, Oakland, Baltimore and Chicago could make the best use of his services. 

If selected by Miami, who already have Jelani Jenkins entrenched at WLB Cravens could be a sub-package backer and also rotate with Isa Abdul-Quddus at FS on shorter passing downs. Cravens could also function as a big nickel for the Fins. With SLB Koa Misi approaching 30 years old Miami might consider shifting Jenkins and his lower body power to SLB thus letting Cravens get an opportunity to be WLB. 

In Buffalo he can give both safeties (Aaron Williams & Corey Graham) a rest as well as SLB Manny Lawson. The Bills also have a big gaping need at WLB. With just the inexperienced former sixth round pick Tony Steward and the under achieving free agent addition Zach Brown, who is a natural ILB. Cravens could start a majority of the games for Buffalo in 2016 and beyond. su-2-300x600

With Oakland imagine an eventual rotation with of Cravens, Aldon Smith, Malcolm Smith, Ben Heeney and Bruce Irvin. That’s a whole lot of puzzle pieces without boarders. The Raiders also have a couple of senior citizens at safety so Oakland has a option to crave on.

As a Raven Cravens could let C.J. Mosley focus on continuing his lateral domination. Cravens could play inside on first and second down the shift to a nickel back(er) on third down. Baltimore is in huge need of aggressive coverage players. This situation would create a huge a snap count percentage for Cravens but conversely it be the worst landing spot for his IDP stock.

As a big piece of the deep dish pie in Chicago Cravens could could either replace the expensive/playing out position (3-4 OLB) Lamarr Houston in short-term. Strong safety Antrel Rolle is also the wrong side of 30 (33) so Cravens could have long-term security as a Bear. An interesting shuffle could happen when the Bears realize Jerrell Freeman is not that good. Cravens could certainly slip into Freeman’s role or at the very least steal snaps for him. They could also use Cravens and Christian Jones as speed backers in the nickel. Especially since the other free agent ILB ad Danny Trevathan has endured much damage to his wickets (legs) in his career. 


Fantasy Outlook/Conclusion

Cravens could have a rookie season similar to the aforementioned Shaq Thompson (50 tackles). That would certainly be nothing to complain about. His scheme appeal is broad but do not cling onto hope that he will be a consistent pass rusher. He must amass tackles to continue to be IDP worthy. Depending upon opponent he will have drastic/normal changes in his week to week numbers as rookie. The landing spot as well as the players and their effectiveness around him will be key to his IDP survival. At his peak Cravens should be able to lockdown 80 plus tackles two or three sacks and three to five turnovers per season. If gets the in-the-box safety role or the WLB tag those numbers could be on the conservative side.