Ben Gardner   DE   Stanford

TALENT BOARD ROUND 3

STRENGTHS
Ben is a football player. He reminds me a lot of DE Jared Allan with a bit of DE Justin Tuck thrown in for good measure. He is a player who will be able to play multiple positions in any style of defense on your defensive line. He is a pure 2-gap defensive lineman who is stout against the run and with the natural strength and mental toughness to become an impact power pass rusher. He is smart and works well within the defensive scheme to impact. He is always around the ball and in the backfield making tackles or pressuring the quarterback and making sacks. He has the size and strength to play inside or outside, but his impact position for the next level will be as a defensive end over the right tackle in a 4-3 scheme. He plays as a defensive end in a 3-4 defense as well because Stanford uses multiple fronts, but they always look for players who will stop the run first and then rush the passer; Ben is a perfect fit for teams with coaches that are of the same mind set. Ben’s pass rushing techniques are more mature than most coming out in a draft. He drives off the line of scrimmage into his opponent first changing the line of scrimmage and then takes a direct line to the quarterback to make a sack or create a pressure. His injury will scare some NFL coaches so I don’t expect Ben to be selected early in this draft; in fact, he might not be selected at all. But if he gets on the field he will become an impact player.

CONCERNS
Ben lacks the foot speed of a pure pass rusher. He also lacks flexibility and if he gets to work out, those issues will be the excuses used by most teams to downgrade him in this draft. Ben also has options other than just football, which teams may also use to downgrade him.

BOTTOM LINE
Ben has good solid overall talent to play in the NFL, but it’s his instincts, techniques, football intelligence, work ethic and ability to make impact plays at crucial times of a game that draws me to a player like Ben and not so much his athletic talent. Ben does the little things that matter so much on a football field. Jared Allen wasn’t drafted until the 4th round in 2004 draft and Justin Tuck wasn’t drafted until the 3rd round in the 2005 draft. The reason for both players being selected in those rounds and not earlier I guess was because of questionable athletic talent, size and length that just did not fit the “characteristics” of what most teams think defensive lineman have to have to be impact pass rushes at the next level. I see things differently than most when it comes to evaluating defensive ends. I look first at how well they “want” to stop the run and then I look at the pass rushing talent and skills. It seems most teams are interested in pass rushing talent and skills first; run stuffing skills…not so much. I believe that there is a certain mental toughness that is needed to stop the run that most pure pass rushes don’t have and if a defensive lineman doesn’t have that mental toughness, they will not be successful in the NFL. They may be successful fantasy league players with excellent fantasy league stats, but not winning players. I feel that if a player has the athletic talent that you can teach him to rush the passer but you cannot teach a player who does not “want” to stop the run, to stop the run. I don’t care how good a coach you are. It’s not going to happen. Ben is in that group that “wants” to stop the run and he has excellent techniques and natural strength to be an excellent power rusher in the mold of a Justin Tuck. Having speed is not the only way to put pressure on a quarterback. Many players over the years have proven that. Ben has the potential to impact as much as Justin Tuck or Jared Allen. You just have to look past the numbers and watch the film to see it.

Drew Boylhart
APR/2014