Russ Lande and his team of former pro scouts evaluate NFL Draft prospects for Sporting News’ Pro Football War Room. Here is their evaluation of Jeff Owens, who SN’s NFL Mock Draft sees as a first-round pick, at No. 31 to the Indianapolis Colts.
Height: 6-1 1/4
40 time: 5.05
Strengths: Is thick and well-built, with the strength to be a force at the point of attack. He showed his strength at the Combine, putting up 44 reps in the 225-pound bench press — the most among defensive linemen. Is consistently quick out of his stance and off the ball, which helps him take on run blocks quickly and be strong at the point of attack. Stacks blockers at the point, flashes quick shed ability and makes tackles on inside runs at him. Can jolt and drive opponents backward into the quarterback’s lap. Shows the ability to free himself and pressure the quarterback. Can drive through reach blocks to get into the backfield and blow up plays. Flashes the hands, quickness and agility to beat one-on-one pass blocks with quick moves. Looks bigger and plays stronger than his listed height and weight.
Weaknesses: Is shorter than ideal and looks somewhat soft-bodied, which is not a good combination. Does not consistently shed and get free from blocks as quickly as he is capable of, which allows running backs to run by him on inside runs that he should stop. Does not have the speed to chase down plays outside of the offensive tackles and lacks the closing burst to consistently finish sacks after he beats pass blockers. Lacks explosiveness to shoot gaps and blow up plays in the backfield consistently against straight-up blocking schemes.
Bottom line: Owens was on his way to being one of the first defensive tackles drafted in 2009 before blowing out a knee in Georgia’s 2008 opener. He had surgery and missed the rest of the 2008 season before returning in 2009. Though he was not as consistent last season, he flashed the ability to produce at the same level and still showed the athleticism and competitiveness that made him productive before the injury. Owens is a true two-gap defensive tackle who does not fit every scheme. But if he gets all the way back to his pre-injury form, which he should by 2010, he will be a productive NFL starter.