One of the best feelings in the world for a scout in any sport or level of competition is finding that diamond in the rough player that no one else recognizes for what they can truly become at the next level. Redshirt, senior, defensive tackle, Zach Kerr of Delaware comes to mind as one of those players.
I came in expecting a day 3 nose tackle and came away seeing a prospect who deserves a lot more exposure than he’s currently getting now. But to justify my thoughts on Kerr, why don’t I explain some of the reasons he sticks out as one of the top defensive tackles in the 2014 draft class.
The first place to start is of course size. He’s 6’1, 322 pounds and has a short squatty build, which is as close to the prototypical size for defensive tackles in the NFL, if not for missing a couple of inches on his height.
However, what makes Kerr stand out from all the other prototypical defensive tackles in this class is his quickness, flexibility, power, closing speed, pursuit, tackling, recognition skills, consistency, football IQ and leadership. With the only knocks on him thus far, is he plays high at times and gives up leverage at the point of attack that he makes up for with his size/athletic ability, but he is more than just a nose tackle.
Zach Kerr has advanced pass rush moves with active hands to implement them. Whether it’s a bull rush, club move, swim move, dip and rip, or club and spin, he uses these moves with great efficiency by varying them and adjusting to the quarterback’s drop.
Most defensive tackles in college will use a swim move when the quarterback does a two-step drop, but Kerr shows the awareness to save his moves when they will have the best impact. A thinking man’s pass rusher with great physical skills is hard to find, but Kerr has flashed those qualities.
And this is a defensive tackle that can bend the edge on the outside. He’s more effective creating havoc on the inside, but the flexibility he displays for a man his size is above average to say the least.
He’s not a lumbering nose tackle prospect. This is a player who would be a waste to not use as a pass rusher at the next level.
Block and Play Recognition
This is probably where Kerr impressed me the most. He gets off blocks quickly and is incredibly powerful at the point of attack when he keeps his pad level low.
Drive, hook, angle, scoop, double team, trap and influence blocks are no match for Kerr. He’s discipline and disengages or neutralizes blocks quickly and consistently.
He also reads and reacts to plays very well. Especially screens, and he reads and reacts to screens so quickly that he can make the play on the ball carrier.
All he has to do is get into a habit of playing lower consistently and he can make a living in the NFL.
One of the knocks on a lot of defensive tackles is remaining active after their pass rush, but Kerr is active until the whistle blows consistently. He hustles around the field, and I’ve seen his hustle pay off in tackling the ball carrier on screens.
That’s a mark of a player who doesn’t take plays off and should help to separate him from most of the competition.
Kerr is quick, athletic and decisive enough to make open field tackles. An uncommon ability with defensive tackles his size. Add on top of that with great shed and tackle technique, and you have a solid, if not great tackler for a defensive tackle.
I know this doesn’t come up with defensive tackle prospects, but Kerr is a leader on the Delaware defense. And I don’t have to interview his teammates to find out, because it shows up on film.
Kerr is constantly hyping up and encouraging his teammates on the field. If you make a tackle on the Delaware defense, Kerr will meet you to congratulate you and get you ready for the next play. I haven’t seen that level of leadership from defensive tackles this year, and it’s something of note.
Obviously the first concern is the competition he faces in the CAA. There is a chance he may look like a superstar at Delaware, but a average player on a NFL team.
And that’s why his performance at either the East-West Shrine game, Senior Bowl or the Scouting Combine at the end of this season will be where he needs to be at his best. If he shows the talent I’ve saw at those events, then Kerr is the real deal.
There is also a concern due to Kerr transferring from Maryland to Delaware due to academic issues. Kerr looks like a smart football player on the field, but teams may downgrade him if they don’t believe he’s smart enough to comprehend NFL concepts.
With the last concern pertaining to playing too high at times, which reduces his leverage. Kerr has all the potential in the world, but can’t reach it if he doesn’t get his pad level lower on every snap.
Louis Nix is a highly touted player in this draft class with the same issue, but Kerr will not win over coaches with his reputation like Nix. Coming from a lower division of college football means you have to be almost perfect to make noise, but I believe Kerr has a chance to do it.
So, I highly recommend you get a chance to see Zach Kerr this season, and hopefully enjoy him as much as I have so far.
James Cobern is the lead writer for All Pro Football Source and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @Jmcobern1