Under the Microscope: Brandon Scherff


Heading into the 2014 college football season, there was a lot of excitement about what the 2015 offensive tackle draft class could become. Unfortunately, almost every “top tier” tackle going into the year failed to progress, including Iowa’s Brandon Scherff. In fact, a right knee injury (followed by surgery) has lead to the regression of Scherff as a tackle. Despite that, it does not make Scherff any less dominant of a prospect.

Prior to the injury, Scherff’s lateral movement, balance and first step were all average. Scherff was serviceable on the edge, no doubt, but he was nothing more. Not good, not bad, but serviceable. Since the injury, Scherff has looked slower getting off the line and when changing his lateral direction, making getting in front of defenders and staying in front of them much more difficult.

On top of that, Scherff has a tendency to stop his feet and waist bend in pass protection. Again, this is something that has been seen more since the injury, but nonetheless, it is an issue. Stopping his feet and bending like he does will allow any defensive end with decent change of direction ability to abuse him on the edge.

Middling lateral movement aside, Scherff sustained success on the edge for as long as he did because of his strength. Scherff’s aggressive demeanor and jolting punch enable him to win a lot of pass protection snaps almost immediately. The combination of his aggressive nature and his power often stops rusher in their tracks, forcing them to get their feet going again and somehow generate power without momentum.

Every now and then, Scherff will absolutely manhandle a rusher after stopping them. He will grab their frame, throw them to the ground and fall on top of them. Unless the quarterback holds on to the ball for far longer than he should, Scherff’s rusher is completely washed out of the play.

If Scherff can recover to full health and get his original movement skills back, he can survive on the edge. If not, and I am much more comfortable with assuming that he does not return to form considering knee injuries are devastating, then Scherff is more fit to play guard.

Now, many will think that if he has to move to guard, he is a subpar player, but that is far from the case. To disprove that notion, look at Zack Martin and Joel Bitonio this season. Both were tackles in college, but have thrived at guard in their NFL rookie seasons. Much like those two, Scherff can make the transition and be an absolute stud.

Why can Scherff so smoothly make the switch and dominate? His run blocking ability is well-rounded and, especially in certain areas, spectacular. To be a top level run blocker in the NFL, one must possess strength, swiftness, awareness and aggression. Scherff excels in every area.

More so than any of his other traits, Scherff’s quickness to the 2nd level is unrivaled. At 6’5″, 315 pounds, Scherff should not be able to fire off the line and get to his man in the 2nd level as fast as Scherff does.

Scherff comes flying off the line to wash this Ohio State linebacker completely out of the play. Granted, this play was prior to the injury, and although he took a very minor step back in the area in 2014, Scherff will be able to sustain the same amount of success that he would have regardless.

In that play, one can also note Scherff’s aggression and power. He punches the linebacker and grinds his legs to push the linebacker out of the play entirely. That blend of swiftness, violence and raw strength is going to keep Scherff employed for a long time.

The swiftness is so critical for Schreff, or any lineman run blocking, because it generates momentum. Essentially, if 315~ pounds of lineman is barreling down a rushing lane at a 235~ pound linebacker who is standing still or not moving, physics lets the lineman win every single time. For Scherff, that is the case.

As violent and nasty as Scherff is, he also displays a graceful awareness for where defenders are and who the most efficient block is. When moving to the second level, Scherff is a headhunter. He quickly identifies a linebacker in space and guns straight at them. Nine times out of ten, Scherff both makes the right call and annihilates the defender. In many of the “other” times, Scherff still does one or the other.

In his entirety as a run blocker, Scherff is as efficient as he is brutalizing. He can clear run lanes on his own, both at the line of scrimmage and when operating at the second level.

If moved to guard (which he should be), Scherff’s responsibility in pass protection changes, but for the better. Being as strong as he is, Scherff has a much better chance to thrive in a phone-booth as opposed to on the edge, where his lateral ability will be able to be exposed.

To go back to an earlier point, Brandon Scherff compares favorably to players like Zack Martin and Joel Bitonio, who went 16th and 35th overall respectively in the 2014 NFL Draft. Scherff fits somewhere in the middle, meaning that a team selecting him in the mid-20’s would be appropriately valuing the Iowa lineman. He is not an “elite” player, but he is a “where he wins” player that will make a run-heavy team immensely happy.

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