A number of you may remember Superhorn's post on the top rated quarterback in this year's draft that ultimately labelled him a bust. He cited an obligation to post his thoughts on Blaine Gabbert, and now I feel obligated to post my thoughts on one of this year's top rated defensive ends, Robert Quinn.
Also, like Superhorn, I'd like to say that I'm a big fan of Quinn. My closet UNC fandom has grown out of my hatred for Duke, my love for Ty Lawson, and the fact that they look fresh to death in anything they wear. I like Robert Quinn the college player. However, Robert Quinn the Titan gives me nightmares. It seems like his top-10 status is surviving on reputation alone without a whole lot of substance.
Like Gabbert, my main concern with Quinn is his relative lack of production against a very weak field
A lot of guys here have been enamored with this guy. He's the super-talented animal that comes off the edge and finished his career with a total of...13 sacks. Here's something else; in a total of eight games against ranked opponents, Quinn has one measly sack. This disappearing act suggests to me that his speed-rushing abilities are vastly overrated. If he can't do it against the best offensive linemen in the ACC, what makes anyone think he could've done it against the SEC's, let alone the NFL's? Well, those 13 sacks had to come from somewhere, right? Yeah, eleven of them came against Duke, Virginia (a 3-9 finisher in 2009) and various D-1AA squads. So what exactly am I looking at here; a potential second or third round pick who has to get a bi-yearly MRI for a brain tumor that may or may not kill him one day and hasn't played football in 18 months. Anything else? (Edit: please don't misinterpret my words as insensitivity, I am very much aware of the consequences that cancer can have on a family. It was merely meant to show that there are some very large and very real dangers in drafting a player with such a condition.)
Let's look at arguably my favorite player in the NFL, Brian Orakpo. He's a shining example of everything you want in an outside linebacker in the NFL; he rushes the quarterback, plays strong against the run, and has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons. His college resume is about as impressive as they come. In 2008, his senior season, Orakpo nearly equaled Quinn's career sack total in half the time with 11 sacks. I know Quinn missed a significant amount of time, but I doubt he would've been able to match Orakpo's career total of 38 tackles for loss and 22 sacks. He was a unanimous All-American, the winner of the Nagurski Trophy, and the Big 12's defensive player of the year. He put up huge numbers at the combine, had no injury history, and came with a shining record record of character. All this garnered him the thirteenth overall pick. Maybe 2009 was a deeper draft, maybe different teams needed different areas of assistance, (although I've yet to find a team that isn't looking for more ways to attack the quarterback) I don't really know for sure, there are tons of variables, but in my opinion, Orakpo was far and away the better prospect, yet wasn't even picked in the top ten.
I'll throw out another example, our very own Derrick Morgan. He recorded 18 sacks in two years and was the conference player of the year in the same conference that Quinn failed to dominate. In his senior season, Morgan was the only player on that defensive line worth blocking and yet he still put up monster numbers. Quinn had the benefit of playing with Bruce Carter and Marv Austin, two top NFL prospects to take pressure off of him on the weak side and inside. In two years, Carlos Dunlap racked up 18 sacks in the nation's best conference and didn't even come off the board until the second round. Production doesn't set off an alarm in defensive ends like it does in quarterbacks, but can you honestly say that Quinn has higher upside than Morgan or Dunlap, both of who were picked outside of the top 15? Both had small concerns, for Dunlap it was character, for Morgan it was a lack of experience, but Quinn has a whole laundry list of problems that scream trouble.
As a second round pick, I love Quinn, but let's not kid ourselves, Tennessee needs to absolutely kill it on this pick. A crummy section at eight overall could mean the difference between competing next year or the year after and blowing it all up again.