+Awesome, underrated strength
+Really knows how to use his hands
+Deflects passes (and kicks)
+Amazing at splitting double teams
+As experienced as any player in college football
+Can make ridiculous arm tackles
-Always looks really out of shape
It feels like Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short has been on my radar forever. As of now, he’s the only player whom I’ve scouted for 4 seasons. I even watched his redshirt freshman game film during the 2010 off-season when he was a big named redshirt sophomore defensive tackle who many thought may enter the 2011 NFL draft. Either way, there is no player in the NCAA that I know better than Short. After 4 years of study, I am convinced he’s an excellent player who should be very effective at the NFL level.
Short has average measurables. He’s listed at 6’3, 315lbs (but if I was told he was 6’5, 320lbs, I wouldn’t be surprised, especially considering how many kicks he has blocked), and he runs a mediocre 5.28 40 yard dash according to nfldraftscout. On the downside, he always looks fat and out of shape on film (I always got that feeling from Jurrell Casey), yet somehow performs. Short has mediocre measurables (but he is not short).
Short has excellent stats. He might be the most statistically productive defensive tackle in NCAA history (other than Suh). As of today, he has 166 career tackles, 42.5 TFL’s, 16.5 sacks, 15 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, and, as a nice bonus, 8 blocked kicks (4 this season). Again, this guy has started every game since his redshirt freshman year. Statistically, he has hardly improved since his freshman year, expect he’s making more tackles in the backfield and blocking more and more kicks with each passing year, but he’s been a consistent performer for four years.
Short is an exceptional pass rusher because he dominates with his hands. I absolutely love guys who know how to use their hands to shed off blocks. Short is terrific with his hand usage, and that’s why he is the best pass rushing defensive tackle in all of college football. First of all, the guy has long arms. His arms are a lot longer than those of the centers and guards who block him. He uses this to his advantage, absolutely controlling the arms of opposing linemen. Secondly, he has terrific, and I mean terrific, strength. He uses his combination of length and strength to absolutely control the arms of opposing linemen, and it makes him a dominant force as a pass rusher. His active hands result not in him getting good leverage, but his opponents gaining no leverage, because virtually no interior lineman in the Big 10 has arms long enough to reach Kawann Short’s frame. It’s an awesome form of domination. He also splits the double team better than any player I’ve seen in years. It’s like tying to get past two blockers is no different than trying to get past one for him. It’s just fun to watch. Beyond that, he offers very little as a pass rusher, but his hand usage alone makes him the best pass rushing defensive tackle I’ve seen since Ndamukong Suh. It’s pretty awesome.
The other great thing Short does against the pass is deflect passes. And I mean a lot of passes. Again, I don’t buy the idea that he is only 6’3. He could pass for 6’5 on film, plus there really aren’t a lot of guys out there who are 6’3, 315lbs, who can block 8 kicks in their college career (4 this year), simply because you would need an amazing vertical to block so many kicks being that short. Height and blocked kicks go together. This guy is either taller than advertised, or his arms are simply disproportionately long relative to his body. But, back to pass deflections. In 2010, as a sophomore, he deflected an absurd 8 passes. That’s insane. A defensive tackle who led his team in pass breakups. Unbelievable. Plus, think about how valuable pass deflections are. They are just as good as sacks except they don’t involve a loss of yards. However passes tipped at the line of scrimmage end up being interceptions. Overall, I would say that a pass breakup is 75% as valuable as a sack. And, with 3 pass deflections freshman year (two of which he intercepted, somehow), 8 pass deflections sophomore year, 2 pass deflections junior year, and already 2 pass deflections 7 games into his senior year, Kawann Short deflects passes better than any defensive lineman in college football. Undoubtedly.
Short is also very good against the run. Frankly, good hand usage is the basis of his entire game. He incorporates good hand usage into the run better than any defensive tackle in college football. And guys who can use their hands to create penetration against the run are simply invaluable. Why? Because hand usage is the exception to the notion that the low man wins in football. It’s the man with long arms and strength that wins. Kawann Short, like every other player in football that dominates with their hands, can play high and shed blocks. And the great thing about being able to play high and shed blocks is that it’s far easier to see the play happening in front of you if you play high. Guys like Star Lotulelei (who is a good player) need to stay low and get good leverage to create penetration. However, Lotulelei often sheds his block and gets into the backfield only to find out that the ball carrier has already gotten past the line of scrimmage. This has never happened to Kawann Short. Since his head is always up, he always sees the play happening in front of him. Now, because his instincts are mediocre, he will still make mistakes (rarely recognizes a screen), but his on field awareness is still terrific. The other great thing about his hand usage is that, well, he is REALLY good at it. This guy lives in opponents backfields. 42.5 career TFL’s is just unbelievable for a defensive tackle. He got 17 last year and he already has 9 this year. That’s amazing. He also has terrific strength and can make some ridiculous arm tackles. On the downside, he has tight hips which result in him occasionally struggling making open field tackles, his range is mediocre, and he isn’t very good at disengaging from blocks.
Short’s biggest problem is his stamina, or lack thereof. I only see him on the field for 60-70% of snaps on defense. That’s normal for a 330lb nose tackle, bad for a 4-3 defensive tackle. I do think conditioning is a problem for him. The guy has a terrible build, and always looks so out of shape. I’m amazed he is as strong as he is, because he doesn’t look like an athlete, but that bad build catches up to him from a stamina standpoint. Still, when he is on the field, he can dominate, and he does play with solid on field intensity.
I love Short. I’ve always loved guys who know how to use their hands to shed blocks, and Short is no exception. He will dominate in the NFL. I’m just about sure of it.
NFL Comparison: Kevin Williams. Maybe Muhammad Wilkerson but a better pass rusher. Just pick your pro-bowl player. He’s that good.
Grade: 97 (worthy of a top 10 pick)
Projection: 92: (will be a top 25 pick)