Rich Eisen is one of the best TV men in the business. He's quick-witted, knowledgeable, and a host of the highest order.
And yet the Minnesota Vikings' fourth round pick left him in a puddle, forcing him to cut to a commercial.
The Vikings took Willie Beavers, a left tackle out of Western Michigan, with the 121st overall pick of the 2016. For people with more sophomoric senses of humor (like myself...and probably most of you), that name alone will launch thousands of off-color jokes for months to come.
But then three picks later, the Chicago Bears took Deon Bush.
Beavers and Bush.
And that was it for Eisen. Too much laughing. Cut to commercial.
While Beavers' name is sure to make people giggle, the Vikings selecting him had the opposite effect on a lot of fans. Willie was rather low on a lot of boards compared to other tackles and guards that were still available. Beavers was named to the All-MAC First Team and played in the Senior Bowl after the season. He played decent in the game itself but didn't exactly get rave reviews in the drills leading up to it.
According to the Pro Football Focus Draft Guide:
Willie Beavers might have the movement skills of a tackle, but unfortunately it never translated to performance in college.
Of all the tackles at the Senior Bowl, PFF had Beavers dead last or second to last in all their drills.
Of course PFF gets mixed reviews in the accuracy of their assessments, so I figured I would give the tape a preliminary view of my own.
I didn't comb through Beavers' film archives but I did watch a good chunk of a couple games, including Western MIchigan's game against Michigan State this past season.
What I saw from Beavers was...not great.
Sparty's defense makes lots of players look bad. Beavers was no exception. Willie is a big dude: 6'4", 325 pounds. But the rest of his physical measurements don't exactly jump off the page compared to other tackles in the draft:
From the chunk of film I saw on Beavers, his footwork is OK but he tends to get his hands too far out and loses initial leverage a lot.
In this example, Beavers doesn't get his hands set again which causes him to get beat around the outside edge:
It isn't all negative though. If Beavers does get set and win the initial battle, he was really good at maintaining blocks for an extended time. He kept his feet moving well and bought time for his quarterback. His run blocking looks solid as well--he makes good decisions and gets to the second level.
When Beavers finishes a block, he really finishes a block. Plays like this are probably what made him so appealing to Rick Spielman.
Vikings College Scouting Director Jamaal Stephenson was at the game that I created these gifs from. Obviously he liked Beavers' performance more than I did, saying that they liked his size and physicality. Stephenson said he still needs work on his strength but was still high on the Vikings draft board.
I'm all for adding offensive line depth, but there may have been better options for the Vikings with this pick. Beavers has the tools to succeed in the NFL, so hopefully new Offensive Line Coach Tony Sparano can develop him into a productive player. It sounds like the team wants to try him out at guard, which might be a better fit. With the news that T.J Clemmings will move to left tackle and the right tackle battle between Andre Smith and Phil Loadholt already underway, hopefully the Vikings can afford to stash Beavers away on the bench and let him develop. (While we continue to make silly jokes based on his name.)
While the Vikings' fourth round pick has the size but still might need the technique, their fifth round might be the opposite. Linebacker Kentrell Brothers was incredibly productive at Missouri, leading the nation in tackles with 152. He has incredibly good instincts, incredible drive, and a great football IQ. But his physical measurements are what made him slide into the 5th round:
His smaller size didn't prevent him from blocking THREE kicks last year. Brothers explained that his penchant for blocking kicks is all about the hustle.
Blocking field goals and blocking punts is really all determination. Being on field goal block is all heart. All you have to do is go in there and get as much push as you can and get your hands up to try to block the kick. I was able to do that three times this year. Really that takes heart and determination, knowing you're going to go in and get that block.
That kind of motor will get you a long way in a Mike Zimmer defense. Studying film certainly doesn't hurt either. Brothers is proud of his reputation as a film junkie.
Film I think is one of the most underrated tools being used in football. I think film is what set me apart from a lot of players. I was able to be in positions that people didn't think I could be in because of film. Just game planning and learning new techniques from other players, and getting little bitty tendencies from teams, is a great way to get an advantage over your opponent. That's what film does for you, it helps you get to the ball.
Brothers wasn't kidding. The film on him shows him getting to the ball over and over and over.
From what I have seen on film, Brothers usually didn't do anything flashy but he was always in position to make a play. He rarely powered through blockers but was incredibly efficient at getting around them. To use the old cliché, he might not be fast but he's incredibly quick.
And when he uses that quickness to put himself into position to make the tackle, he's going to make that tackle much more often than not.
I think Brothers will be Michael Mauti 2.0 without all the knee issues. Stephenson says that they'll start Brothers out as a Mike linebacker. He has already shown that he can be a special teams ace and has the motor and smarts to make an impact on this roster. Brothers isn't the prototypical Mike Zimmer defensive player but his attitude will make him an excellent fit.
Of course both of these players were immediately overshadowed by the Vikings' next draft pick, Moritz Boehringer, but don't overlook the potential impact of Beavers and Brothers.
(Hopefully Beavers' impact will be more than a punchline. In every sense of the word.)