|Michael Brockers touts his upside: 'I can only get better from now on.' (US Presswire)|
INDIANAPOLIS -- If this season's playoffs told us anything it's that defense still matters in the NFL. In fact, it was defense that won a second Super Bowl in five years for the New York Giants, and consider that a lesson for everyone at this weekend's annual scouting combine.
Granted, the Giants won because they had Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, but they won also because they had Jason Pierre-Paul. And Osi Umenyiora. And Justin Tuck, Chris Canty and Dave Tollefson.
I think you get the idea. They won for the same reason they won Super Bowl XLII -- because they had the pass rush to pressure Tom Brady. So follow the bread crumbs, people. The NFL is a copycat league, and if you want to copy the Giants you start with the defensive line and look for pass rushers.
"You want guys who are big and long and fast and powerful," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. "You want everything, but if a guy is big and has got long arms that helps. If he has speed off the end, that helps. [Or] power up the middle.
"Your pass rushers are different breeds, good athletes. We like pass rushers, and we look for them."
Well, then, someone should start looking at LSU's Michael Brockers. After watching what happened to the Giants and their defense this season, I can't imagine clubs aren't here trying to find the next JPP. If Manning wasn't the team MVP last season, Pierre-Paul was -- producing sacks, deflections, pressures and forced fumbles that put the Giants in the playoffs, then carried them through.
|2012 scouting combine coverage|
|Draft prospect rankings|
|Latest mock drafts|
Brockers isn't JPP, but he's in the same neighborhood. He has a limited résumé. He's coming off a productive season. He has a huge upside. And his wingspan is so enormous that when he was introduced on NFL Network on Saturday afternoon, he was asked to spread his 35-inch arms.
They spanned almost 84 inches -- or three inches more than Pierre-Paul.
With his arms, Pierre-Paul frazzled Brady. Brockers could do the same. Pierre-Paul had only one year of stardom at South Florida. Brockers had the same at LSU. Pierre-Paul was considered a boom-or-bust pick, and Brockers has a little of that going for him, too. Brockers plays inside and Pierre-Paul is outside, but he just might become the disruptive force that Jason Pierre-Paul is today.
"But he's a little more of a project than Pierre-Paul," said draft analyst Gil Brandt, former personnel director of the Dallas Cowboys. "Pierre-Paul just seemed to have so much unbelievable natural ability."
That's not to sell Brockers short. At 6-feet-5, 322 pounds, he has the size you want in a defensive tackle. He changes direction well for a big man. He flashes quickness off the snap. He's a big hitter. And he has a world of potential ... kind of like you know who. But where Pierre-Paul was the 15th choice of the 2010 draft, most people expect Brockers to be gone by then.
When you look at the Giants you can see why.
"I can see the comparison a little bit," Brockers said of JPP. "He came into the league as a little bit of an unknown. But he had his mindset that he was going to be a great player playing behind veterans like Justin Tuck. I feel I could be like that.
"But I like comparing myself more to Canty. He's a big guy, who's quick, tall and up in the 320s."
Canty, Pierre-Paul, it doesn't matter. Brockers is an impact player waiting to happen.
So he isn't the best defensive tackle in this year's draft. Penn State's Devon Still is, and he was quick to remind people of that Saturday, declaring himself numero uno at the position "beyond question." But there's not the room for Still to grow as there is Brockers -- and I'm not talking about his height or weight, though Brockers added 16 pounds in the past month-and-a-half.
With Still, you know what you're getting; with Brockers you can project ... and isn't that what the Giants did two years ago? Pierre-Paul was labeled as a one-year wonder by critics, but, as Reese later said, if the Giants believed he was a risk they wouldn't have drafted him. They knew what they were getting.
Brockers thinks people should know what they're getting, too, and what they're getting is someone who may turn out to be the best defensive tackle in this draft.
Maybe not now. But some day.
"I feel like I can't get any worse," he said. "I can only get better from now on. That's really my mindset. I can only get better."