Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports
Previewing the first of two potential first round LSU defensive ends. Is Sam Montgomery worth a first round pick?
In the coming months many of the MCM writers will be unveiling some individual prospect reviews and I figured I'd get the ball rolling this week. Now I was fairly high on Sam Montgomery before I started doing this profile, but tried to dig into it with an open mind. At the end I hope you'll see why that became important.
We'll start with the positives.
Montgomery is extremely strong and he easily overpowered some of the weaker tackles he faced. The strength is evident as a straight-line bullrusher. He slams into the tackles in one-on-one situations and can drive him backwards to collapse the pocket. This move has worked well for him in college, particularly against weaker opponents. In the 2012 Auburn game there were times I thought he manhandled the linemen.
He combines his raw strength with an NFL-ready body and the common theme of this review will be that a lot of his success comes as a result of that combination. He's just flat out bigger than some of those linemen.
I thought his awareness was pretty good as well. He got his hands up on screens early. He showed some anticipation in the run game.
Effort should be considered mandatory in all of these prospects and Montgomery certainly met this requirement. He's consistently fighting and moving around. You're going to see the effort clichés repeated when his name comes up.
Unfortunately for Montgomery I was left wanting more. I really thought he'd flash more on tape and that wasn't the case. On the side of my notes I have scribbled "Where are the plays?" His stats are good (more on that below) but I was surprised that he didn't seem to standout. That has to be considered a bit of a warning sign for a potentially high first round pick.
Montgomery is fast when unimpeded, but lacks explosion off the line and quick acceleration. The best analogy I can think of is that his play reminds me of a train starting. The ball's snapped and he's slow to get moving. When he's left alone (for instance on rollouts away from him) you can see his massive body starting to pick up speed, eventually reaching a point where you'd consider him fast (at least for someone that big). That trait should help in the Combine but not so much in a game. The times when he's not met with contact are rare. When he does meet the tackle, he hasn't reached a good speed yet and as a result is left with his sole move of manipulating the linemen. That leads to my next point.
He doesn't have a variety of moves. He's a one-trick pony right now (although in fairness he's good at what he does). I saw a spin move in the 2012 Alabama game and jotted that down with an exclamation point since it seemed so unusual. Occasionally he would muster up enough explosion to beat the tackle around the edge but I would have liked to have seen him try that move more. That way we'd at least have more information on whether it's a possible option for him as a pro. I should point out as well that without much knowledge of the LSU defensive scheme, Montgomery may simply be doing what he's told. It's certainly far from the wide-nine arrangement we've seen in Tennessee that aids pass rushers.
Another issue I saw: against better tackles his strength wasn't enough to get the job done. Particularly in the Alabama games, he was matched up against very good tackles and couldn't find consistent success. He still managed to drive the tackle backwards but it didn't have much impact. You have to be concerned that when he goes up against even stronger tackles in the NFL that his success will be reduced further.
In his three years at LSU he notched seasons of 2, 9 and 8 sacks. One thing I want to point out here is that some of the success seemed to come from great schemes and properly timed blitz calls. I certainly expected more 'wow' moments considering his solid sack numbers. In 2011 and 2012 he had 13.5 and 13 tackles for loss, respectively.
As you can see, I had a lot more to say about his negatives than positives. Montgomery is still a good prospect, but definitely not one the Titans should consider at 10. He's more of a late first round talent at best. In my opinion I'd stick a second round grade on him but he'll likely go a little higher because of his measurables. I'd bet his Combine performance will be strong too. If for some reason he's still available when our second round pick rolls around then the Titans should definitely consider him.