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2016 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Su'a Cravens

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Is Cravens the right fit for the Ravens?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens have a dire need for some new blood in the secondary. But with top prospects Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Ramsey potentially out of reach for the Ravens, who can they look to in the later parts of the first for some help? We look and see if Su'a Cravens is the player the Ravens need.

Player in a Paragraph

Su'a has been most often compared to Steelers' legend Troy Polamalu. While that's not exactly the kind of name you want associated with the Baltimore Ravens, I certainly see the similarities between these two USC grads. Like Polamalu, Cravens has versatility, that "all-over-the-field" style, is hard-hitting, and can be a ball hawk when he's thrown into coverage.

Unfortunately for Cravens, the similarities end there. Unlike Polamalu, Cravens is simply not built to be a NFL safety. I see him as a strong WLB in a 4-3 scheme, or ILB in a 3-4 scheme. While Cravens has made some great plays by preying on college quarterbacks in the flat, he can't and won't be able to cover down the field deep. Cravens does however excel in setting the edge and making plays from the outside, despite his small frame for a linebacker. In addition to the run-stopping abilities, he can also cover the slot and flat exceptionally well.

Stats

Defense & Fumbles

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2013 Southern California Pac-12 FR S 13 39 14 53 2.5 0.0 4 54 13.5 0 1 1 2
*2014 Southern California Pac-12 SO S 13 49 19 68 17.0 5.0 3 47 15.7 0 9 0 0
2015 Southern California Pac-12 JR S 13 45 33 78 14.5 5.5 2 32 16.0 0 6 0 2
Career Southern California 133 66 199 34.0 10.5 9 133 14.8 0 16 1 4

sports-reference.com

I wasn't playing around about Cravens being more of a linebacker than anything else. These stats are indicative of an edge rusher, not a safety. Cravens has an exceptional 10.5 sacks in two seasons, and his 34 TFLs are exemplary for any player.

The Tape

I don't take "highlights". This is just raw game footage that is best indicative of the player being evaluated.

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In the tape, we see both the best and worst of Cravens. One play, he's showing his impressive football IQ and ability to set the edge. In the next play, he's absolutely factored out by a much bigger player. This seems to be a common theme when watching the tape of Cravens.

Analysis

It's hard to decide what to grade Cravens as. He plays a truly unique role in USC's defense, and I don't see a NFL team employing him the same way that the Trojans do. While Cravens can set the edge and rush like a linebacker, he's got some coverage skills, but is mostly used on intermediate routes and coverage between the sticks. Since myself and most draft analysts who know far more than I do are projecting him as a linebacker, I'll grade him as such.

The position of linebacker is a tough one to grade. Depending on your defensive scheme and the team's supporting cast, the definition of a "bad" linebacker can vary quite a bit. Sometimes, the linebackers are supposed to be auxiliary to a stellar front line. In other cases, the linebackers are the ones that are looked at to make the big plays. In the Ravens' case, it's a little bit of both.

The Ravens run a 3-4-inspired scheme, and that's good news for Cravens. A linebacker must live up to a lot in this scheme, but Cravens' skill set is up to the task. First and foremost, the idea player has a quick burst off the line of scrimmage. We need someone who rolls off the edge and takes the angle to the quarterback. This isn't about straight-line speed, but rather foot-speed and agility. From what I've seen and already said, Cravens certainly sets the edge quite well, as evidenced by the stats and tape. No one is doubting him here.

Another thing Cravens has going for him is ability to "read and react" to what is going on in front of him. You can see this on display in plays #2 and #3. In play #2, Cravens isn't fooled by the read option, and nails his assignment. Cravens also shows some great patience and locks in on the ball carrier in the next play. I don't want my linebacker on the outside to be an excitable puppy, he needs to be like a good guard dog. Cravens is comparable to the best sheep dogs in that aspect.

In coverage, Cravens seems decidedly decent. There's a reason he isn't a full-time safety. He can be deceptive in the flat, and definitely preys on some foolish quarterbacks. If he did indeed line up at linebacker in the big leagues, with a little help, I think he'd do just fine in the slot against some of the tougher receivers and tight ends in the league.

My main concern lies in Cravens' ability to shed his blocker. As I highlighted in the clips, Cravens was easily offset by the big tackle. It wasn't even a struggle. The big man simply took Cravens out of the play. While the aforementioned blocker was Ronnie Stanley, one of the nation's best, I think my point still stands. At 6'1" and 225 lbs., Cravens may want to put on a little more weight and muscle if he wants contend against some of the league's bigger linemen and tight ends.

Where is he going in the draft?

Su'a confirmed just a few days ago that he will be in this year's draft. No guessing games here. Drafttek has Cravens as the 51st best prospect on their big board, and WalterFootball says he's the 19th best overall prospect this year. Cravens could go anywhere from the first to the third, and there's a decent chance that he'll be on the board in the beginning of the second.

Should the Ravens pick him?

This is a matter of opinion. Depending on how you feel about the Ravens' defense and the direction you want them to go in, you either love or hate the pick. There's no doubting that the Ravens need a true safety who can own the backfield. Cravens is definitely not that. He's an exceptional threat on defense, but not a safety. He could be a suitable replacement for the aging Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, but one could argue that Courtney Upshaw and Za'Darius Smith are the future at the position.

In the end, I see Cravens as a dangerous project player. If developed correctly, he could turn out something like Lavonte David, the safety-turned-linebacker who is currently the league's premier player at the position in my opinion. But then again, is a project player something the team really needs right now?

That's up for Ozzie to decide.