For almost anyone who watched D.J. Humphries at Florida this year, his rise in the NFL draft process has been a shock.
I remember getting a pulse on him near the end of the season, debating if he'd declare or not, and the highest I heard was a third round pick. Now, the third round doesn't even seem to be high enough to reach his floor. But it's not like the people I asked were alone; Humphries, as is well-documented, also received a "go back to school" grade from the NFL Draft advisory board, meaning that he was not expected to be a first- or second-round pick.
With such conflicting opinions in mind, let's look at what NFL scouts note about Humphries's abilities and potential going into this weekend.
STRENGTHS: Nasty play demeanor with legitimate toughness to his game. Plays through and past the whistle. Stays cranky. Into it all game long vs. LSU's Danielle Hunter. Flexible hips and knees offer up leverage wins as run blocker. Gets down blocks secured and transitions quickly into second-level stalker with ability to mirror moving linebackers in space. As base-blocker, hustles feet into position and works to wall defender off. Has desired foot quickness combined with proper angles to be effective blocker on play side and back side on stretch plays. Gains good ground with kick slide and takes smart angles to cut off the edge. Rarely narrows base in run or pass game. Uses length to help cut off inside rush moves.
WEAKNESSES: Too often a leaner and lunger. Can fall off balance in run game against moving targets when his feet get complacent at contact. Needs to drive feet through contact as run blocker rather than engaging in upper-body sumo wrestling. Hand placement is a mess, with hands sliding high off of targets. Uses hands to slap, push and spar rather than to snatch and sustain. Tends to lean into pass rusher at point of contact rather than shoot his punch. Leaning "punch" opens him to spin move counters back inside. Eyes trained too high on target and hands follow suit in pass protection. Offensive line coaches taking close look at his functional power to redirect rushers over the arc once they get into his edge.
So we can conclude from the notes that the NFL, though high on Humphries's potential, is still honest about his rawness. What they like is his quick feet, polished lower body technique, and how much they might be able to work with his frame weight wise. What they don't like is how he attempts to translate upper body strength into the slowing-down of pass rushers, often using quick off-balance hits to buy time as opposed to stop an attacker completely.
Let's move on to some concrete statistics of athleticism from the NFL Combine. In the past, draftniks and draft writers would just list off the official measurements and numbers to simply confirm or object scouting notes. But there's a neat new tool called mockdraftable which allows you to not only see how a prospect's numbers stack up against their draftmates, but also gives NFL comparisons to player who posted similar combine numbers at their positions. Let's check out DJ's and see what it spits out.
When we have tools like this, what we want to do is see if what we observed on tape reflect the numbers that popped out. Humphries gets rave reviews for his athleticism and quick feet, so you'd expect him to be in the higher percentile for most of the combine drills. As it turns out, he performs well at the explosive test of a vertical jump, and stays in the 70th percentile for both the 40-yard dash and the 20-yard shuttle.
With a scouting report that checked boxes for most lower body skills, the Combine was sure to be Humphries's friend — and it was, for the most part. What Humphries struggles with isn't tested in Indianapolis, or in the draft process at all (hence the rise, without much recent fall back to earth).
So who are some of the team who might be taking the bait when it comes to Humphries in rounds one or two? The contact list:
- Combine Meeting: Chiefs
- Pro Day Meeting/Workout: Panthers, Browns, Dolphins, Saints, Buccaneers
- Private Workout: Panthers, Bears, Bengals, Browns, Broncos, Lions, Rams
Humphries has certainly been a busy man as of late, but with all that info in front of you, let's see where he might land in this Player Mock Draft.
Round 1, Pick 25, Carolina Panthers
I think the interest matches the need for Carolina. Now, I don't think Humphries is a guy you want to put at either tackle in his first year, but there are some in the NFL who would disagree with me. The Panthers are looking for help on the edge, with Michael Oher and Nate Chandler not as athletic as Humphries could be for the mobile Cam Newton, but they may also may want to pair fellow LSU mates Trai Turner and La'El Collins again.
If you pick a guy round one, you expect him to play in his rookie year. That's where value doesn't match for me and Humphries, but it could happen at No. 25.
Round 2, Pick 38, Washington Somethings
Washington is another team that should consider Humphries if for some reason the negatives are worth more than we're being led on to believe in NFL circles. Washington gave up the second most sacks in the NFL last year, and with the organization picking up Robert Griffin III's contract, they'll likely take the best offensive lineman they can get at No. 38; that might be Humphries.
If he falls out of the first round, I think this is as far as he goes.
Round 1, Pick 19, Cleveland Browns
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I think the highest Humphries could go (for my sanity's sake) is No. 19 to Cleveland -- if they don't use this pick to trade into the top 10, possibly for Marcus Mariota if he falls.
There's documented evidence of the Browns giving Humphries some special attention, but this would be a scenario where D.J. could sit a year to build body weight, or just get better as a player. I don't see him starting this year with the Browns, even if it's with a pick in the 20s.