Stephon Tuitt   DT/DE   Notre Dame

TALENT BOARD ROUND 1

STRENGTHS
Stephon is a large, powerful defensive lineman who can play multiple positions in varying styles of defense. He can play in a 1-gap front or 2-gap front and, when motivated, can impact defending against the run and the pass. He has long arms that allow him to shed blocks and make tackles in the hole. He is powerful enough to bull rush an offensive lineman back into the locker room and has enough in-the-box quickness to slip into a gap and make a quarterback’s life miserable. Right now, Stephon is learning how to play at the weight he has gained from last year to this year and when he plays inside he reminds me a lot of Buffalo Bills Marcell Dareus. When he played outside as a Defensive End in a 3-4 alignment and carried less weight, Stephon reminded me of the New Orleans Saints’ Cameron Jordan. Stephon has tremendous potential to impact for the team that selects him, but at this point it is untapped and, unfortunately, overweight potential.

CONCERNS
You expect a player to come back from an injury in excellent shape and stronger than he was when he got injured. This would show a good work ethic and also show that the program was working for him. To be injured and weight about 290 lbs and be considered a rising star at that point, to coming back and weighing in at 320 lbs and being grossly out of shape shows a lack of maturity and respect for his teammates and the coaching staff. Stephon is a much better and more impacting player at 290 lbs than he is at 320 lbs. That’s just a fact that cannot be refuted. He also lacks very good change of direction skills because he is so locked in the hips and has lost agility at 320 lbs. At 290 lbs, he gains more pass rushing agility, foot speed and quickness.

BOTTOM LINE
So what do you do? Stephon improved during the year, but at 320 lbs, there are times he moves like a three legged dog going up a hill. There are other times that he will surprise you with his foot speed and agility and I suspect that’s because some coach uses a cattle prod on the sidelines to get Stephon motivated. Near the end of the season, Stephon started to play better and with more consistency, but I suspect that was because he had made a personal decision to come out in this draft. Stephon is a boom or bust player. If he loses weight and starts to play like he did in his sophomore season, I pity the teams that passed on him in the draft. If he stays a 320 lbs he can still impact, but is more limited when rushing the passer. On the other hand, at 320 lbs or more, he will be a hell of a nose tackle and run stuffer and that in my book is the reason have to think about drafting him in the first round. The more weight he gains, the more you move him inside. Having said that, he still has the potential to impact because any way you look at it, his natural athletic talent is not to be denied.

Drew Boylhart
MAR/2014