The San Francisco 49ers decision to draft Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead has gotten a mix of reactions. Analysts are given them middle of the road to decent grades, a lot of fans are furious, and there are plenty of questions being thrown around about the pick.
Friday morning, NFL Films Senior Producer Greg Cosell made an appearance on KNBR to talk about the pick. You can listen to the full podcast HERE, but I have also transcribed it below. He talked a lot about his potential. He realized people want instant impact, but he likes what Armstead brings to the table. He talked about his violent hands, while also getting into his thoughts on what he did vs. what his stats showed. He acknowledged he is a significant work in progress, but overall he is a fan.
Really liked him. In fact, I get forced at gunpoint to do mock drafts, which I hate to do, and I actually had him going to the 49ers. Of course, I didn't know they'd make a trade, but obviously that was a guy they must have targeted because they traded knowing they could probably get him.
I think that he's a perfect 3-4 D end. I think for Jim Tomsula, he's the perfect kind of player, because I think Jim likes to work with guys that he thinks there is a lot of growth potential. And this kid is just scratching the surface. He's a 3-4 D end. Right now, for sake of comparison, a lot of people will look at him as a Calais Campbell type player. There's a lot of tools to work with. He's big, he's really athletic. He shows the ability to play really powerfully. He's a wow player right now. He has three plays a game guys where you just go, "Wow." He moves offensive linemen. When he plays low and gets underneath the pads of offensive linemen, he literally moves them. It's almost as if he lifts them off the ground.
On concerns over lack of production in college:
You know production, that is one of the most misleading things. I sit here and I watch full games, and production is a very relative term. People are talking about tackles. And first of all, 3-4 D ends don't necessarily make a ton of tackles. It's not actually built into the scheme. But I can show you plays where he physically dominates, and if the play goes away from him, he's not going to make the tackle, because that's not his job on that given play.
That happens a lot when I watch tape. I'll see a great pass rusher win immediately, and it's a 3-step drop and the balls out, so there's no statistic on the stat sheet. But if you're evaluating the player and his traits, you're going to say, wow, that guy just showed great initial quickness off the ball. So, this production stuff, you gotta be careful with that.
Brief interruption talking about Cosell's comments
By the way, he's still a work in progress. This kid, I'm not suggesting the Hall of Fame bust should be gotten ready this morning ... There's very positive traits and attributes to work with. Now, he does have a tendency to play a little high at times, because he's 6'7. And when he does that, he gets locked up at the line of scrimmage. Because, when you play high, no matter how strong you are, by the way, Leonard Williams has this exact same problem of playing high, and when you tend to play high, you get locked up at the line of scrimmage. Then the worst offensive lineman can block you.
So that's something that needs to be worked on. But when he stays low, he's a violent player. And I think that the potential is there. And I think people hate that word, but I don't mean it that way. I just meant that the traits and the attributes are there. There's a lot to work with and coach.
On concerns about his competitive drive and if he can evaluate a guy's motor:
Sure you are, but when I was using the word violent, I was talking more about his violent hands. When he played well, his hands were strong and violent. I wasn't talking about his competitiveness snap-after-snap. But yes, you can...you know, that's another thing that's very difficult to make a comment on, a guy's motor. There are times when guys look like maybe they are not playing with the competitive urgency that you'd like to see snap after snap after snap. I think if you're really looking hard for that you can find that with most guys. Very often if you're a D lineman and the play goes away from you, even great ones who play with a high level of competitiveness don't necessarily chase every play at break-neck speed.
So, I didn't come away from watching the tape, and I watched maybe five or six games of Oregon's defense, I didn't come away thinking, this guy, he's not a competitive player. Could a guy always play harder? Of course, you could say that about any player.
Third DE prospect taken, is that about right:
Well yea, I thought Fowler was the best defensive prospect in the draft, so yea, I was not surprised Jacksonville took him at 3. Obviously, Leonard Williams is a more naturally athletic player than Armstead. He's a different player than Armstead in many ways. But Armstead is truly a 3-4 D end in a base defense. That's his position. He's not a guy you'll move around, although with time, when you line up in your sub package, he will be an inside pass rusher. But that will take some time.
On seeing Armstead as prospect Tomsula can coach up:
I think that's the way Jim sees this stuff. I think he, he's about making guys better. And again, that might sound cliched, but there's a lot of coaches that are into that part of the business. Making individual players better, as opposed to scheme. And Jim's that kind of guy. And I think he's gonna look at Armstead, and say, I have an awful lot to work with here. And I can make this guy into a big time player.