The 2013 NFL Draft class isn’t as top-heavy with generationally-elite talents like the 2011 and 2012 classes were. For that reason, many people have called it a weak class. That’s hardly the case, though. While there isn’t a handful prospects I can point to as clear top ten talents, the depth from 20 to 100 is just crazy. Teams will find legitimate starters well into the third day of the draft, particularly on the defensive line and in the wide receiver and tight end classes.
One of the defensive line prospects who hasn’t received as much hype as he should is Florida State senior Cornellius “Tank” Carradine. Most prospect rankings have him as the ninth or tenth defensive end and in the 65-70 range overall. There’s a good reason for that: in the Seminoles’ twelfth game of the year, against Florida in November, he tore his ACL. It was away from the play, so it wasn’t because of any type of violent contact. He just planted funny and dropped like he’d been shot.
It was a real shame. Through twelve games, he’d racked up an eye-popping stat-line for a 4-3 defensive end: 80 total tackles, 11 sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, and a forced fumble. If not for the injury, he’d be a sure top ten pick in April. However, his draft status is a big question mark at this point. Let’s take a look at his strengths and weaknesses, and see where he might end up on draft day.
| Ht || Wt || Class || Ranking || Projection |
| 6'4" || 276 || Senior || 108th || Late First-Early Second |
* Ranking prior to reports that Carradine will workout at Florida State's Pro Day. Updated eDraft Top 200 Rankings to be released after all pro days have been completed.
Technique: Carradine is perhaps the most technically sound defensive line prospect in the draft. He consistently wins the leverage battle with good burst off the snap and strong, powerful hands. He drives off the snap with his pads low and naturally bends around the edge, and his footwork is precise, rarely chopping his steps or wasting movement. He uses his quick feet and strong hands to keep blockers out of his body, and he has great balance as he bends or sets the edge.
He has advanced pass rush technique, utilizing rips, clubs, and swims, and setting tackles up several snaps in advance. He flashes a spin move on a few occasions, and regularly combos moves together. His favorite (or most commonly-used) move is an arm-over swim move that rarely fails him.
He’s not just a pass-rusher, either. Because he uses sound fundamentals to keep himself clean from blockers, he has great vision into the backfield and contains the run exceptionally well. He’s a sound tackler with long arms and big hands (34 ¾” and 10 ¼”, respectively).
Strength: As he explodes off the snap, he uses a strong punch into the chest of the tackle that often knocks the blocker onto his heels. He then uses his great leverage to walk the tackle back into the pocket, often affecting the pass by bull-rushing his blocker rather than flashing around him. He shows great strength as he rips and tears through arm blocks. On several occasions, he made one-armed tackles and sacks with one or two blockers hanging onto him.
Effort: When you first start watching him, he often appears slow and methodical; but he’s deceptively quick, and relentless in pursuit. As the regular left defensive end for Florida State, he typically faced much better offensive tackles than his oft-hyped cohort, Bjoern Werner. Teams routinely chipped him with a running back or tight end, or outright double-teamed him, but he’s strong and aggressive in fighting through both blockers to impact the pocket. In games watched, he never takes snaps off and constantly pursues from start to finish of every play of every game.
While some people credit his sack totals to playing opposite Werner, I’m almost inclined to say the opposite: I think Werner benefitted from playing opposite Carradine. Teams double-teamed him more, and several of Werner’s sacks were of the clean-up variety as the quarterback attempted to evade a Tank.
Health: The health of his knee will obviously be his biggest question mark. A few years ago, an ACL tear would sound the death knell for his draft stock. However, modern medicine has been kind to athletes of late, and he is extremely motivated to recover to full health. He has his own pro day scheduled for the week before the draft, and he stated in interviews during the Combine that he plans to work out fully on that date. He will take a while longer than that to recover fully, and he may not be able to play at full strength for the majority of his rookie year.
Experience: He was a JUCO transfer between the 2010 and 2011 season (Butler Community College in Kansas), and he didn’t even start until Brandon Jenkins went down with an injury at the beginning of the 2012 season. Despite how polished his game already is, he can improve his play recognition and snap anticipation, and an NFL training regimen can add strength and power to his already prototypical 6’4”, 276-pound frame.
If he’d not been injured, he very likely wouldn’t survive the top ten picks in April. As it is, if he can work out fully before the Draft and prove he is on the fast track to full recovery, I’m sure a team will bet on his upside and take him early. If he runs into any snags, though, or for some reason falls short of expectations, he may drop into the second round. If that happens, some team is going to get themselves a screaming deal. His upside is through the roof, and he may end up as the best defensive lineman from this draft class.