Categorized | 2014 Draft, Article, Pictures

2014 NFL Draft Player Profiles – Tennessee NT Daniel McCullers


By Alex Kozora

With the regular season over, our focus has shifted to the offseason. For the next few months, I’ll be providing scouting reports on prospects. Some the Pittsburgh Steelers may look at. Other top players that will be off the board before the Steelers select. All to make you as prepared for the 2014 NFL Draft as possible.

We looked at nose tackle Louis Nix III previously. Today, a look at an even bigger player. Tennessee’s Daniel McCullers.

Daniel McCullers/NT Tennessee: 6’6/7 348

The Good

- Mammoth size and incredible length (35/5 arms, 10/5 hands)

- Carries his weight well

- Strong, holds POA well and capable of handling double teams

- Gets his arms extended and keeps lineman at bay

- Understands hand placement

- Plays with surprisingly good leverage for his size though occasionally does pop up, has to work on keeping his butt down

- Can dominate when solo blocked

- Strength creates an effective bull rush, can collapse pocket

- Shows some ability to get off blocks

The Bad

- Lumbering athlete, struggles when moving laterally or down the line against zone blocking schemes

- Slow off the snap

- Limited athlete, easy to cut

- Only has a bull rush, no other moves

- Will get heavy-handed at times and stuck on his blocks

- Question his effort/motor

- Weight concerns will still exist, just like anybody at that size

- Best fit?

The Other

- 19 starts at the D-I level (two seasons at Tennessee)

- Transferred to the Vols after spending first two years at a JUCO (Georgia Military College)

- 72 tackles, 10 TFL, 1.5 sacks in career with Tennessee

- Came into his junior season at 377 pounds

- Reportedly weighed nearly 400 pounds in high school

- Went to JUCO because he did not qualify academically

There’s no questioning McCullers’ pure strength. One of the strongest in the draft. Has no problem holding the point against this double-team versus Georgia.

Not only does he have incredible length, longest arms of the Senior Bowl, but he knows how to use them. Bench presses the left guard and makes the tackle.

A screenshot of his length. Guard can’t even get into his pads. Grabs the wrists and holds on for dear life.

McCullers3_zps6ed54951

Although he doesn’t finish this play, be bullies the right guard forcing quarterback Connor Shaw to scramble.

It’s an extremely impressive skillset but the biggest knock against him is critical – he’s so slow off the ball. Yes, he’s built like a house. But if you’re too slow off the snap, it’s hard to win at the next level. Can’t let lineman get in position and get to you first. Or else you wind up looking like this (McCullers is number 98, lined up as the three tech over the right guard).

Ugly. Shouldn’t happen to a player who has clearly shown how strong he is.

And some stills to illustrate how late out of his stance he can be.

McCullers2_zps696334a1

McCullers1_zpsbb77e779

I’m not asking for McCullers to be Sharrif Floyd. But it could be that he’s so focused on keeping his butt down and not popping that he’s late off the snap. Coachable, yes, but an issue that must be addressed early in his career.

Like almost any nose tackle, weight is a concern. Chiefly for a player that at one point in his life, has come close to four bills. Two factors do work in his favor.

1. He has at least shown the ability to get his weight down. When pressed, he’s dropped the pounds.

2. Attending the military school in junior college. Wasn’t just a run of the mill JUCO. A place where his entire day, from 5:45 AM to 10:45 PM, was scripted. Ideally, it instilled a work ethic in him. If he survived that for two seasons, he has to come out better for it.

McCullers is a rare body type but it’s equally rare to see players of his statue fit as a true nose tackle. So where’s his true fit? He has a bull rush but doesn’t offer much more than that as a pass rusher. 3-4 or 4-3? It’s up for debate.

His size and raw tools will cause some team to fall in love with him. Part of me wants to do the same, but the other is more hesitant. He doesn’t completely know how to use his size. And teams might not know how to either.

Projection: 4th round

Games Watched: at Florida, vs Georgia, vs South Carolina

Previous Scouting Reports:
Buffalo LB Khalil Mack
Illinois State T/G Josh Aladenoye
Penn State WR Allen Robinson
ILB Shayne Skov
Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin
North Carolina TE Eric Ebron
Auburn T Greg Robinson
Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman
Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III
Auburn LB Dee Ford
Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro
North Dakota State T Billy Turner
Boston College RB Andre Williams
South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
BYU OLB Kyle Van Noy
Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald

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  • RedCarpetDefense

    Seems to many negatives outweigh the positives. If he’s there in the 6th rd sure pick him up and develop him. Just seems we have quite a few of those developmental type of players already. Wonder how he is in short yardage/goal line situations being slow out of his stance. Looks like the best coaching he needs now is with his weight. If he doesn’t/didn’t lose 25-30lbs from that 350lb frame when he shows up at the combine that screams work ethic issues. Boggles the mind how one could cost themselves millions of $$ for some cheeseburgers and deep fried twinkies.

  • SFIC

    I watched McCullers a couple of times this year as well as the Senior Bowl practices and game. He played reasonably well…I agree, probably a 4th rd pick. He does lack explosion which is obviously more important playing the 3 techinique. But as a NT, it’s more important to hold point which he does well. Believe it or not there is not much of a difference between Nix and McCullers. Even Justin Ellis, who probably will be a 4th or 5th rd pick would suffice. I would much rather use a 4th rd pick on a NT than our 1st pick. If the Steelers target the 4th rd to get either McCullers or Ellis, I would be totally fine with that.

  • CW

    Generally not sure McCullers or Nix are the right guys to draft at nose tackle anywhere early or midway through the draft. Nix has multiple injury red flags on the same knee which is usually a death sentence on a big guy having a long career which makes a 1st round or even a 2nd round pick on him a potential disaster if that knee goes bad fast and McCullers has so many question marks that anything prior to 5th round is asking for another bust at nose tackle.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Shows some great strengths but you can’t overlook his lack of explosion. Just seems like he doesn’t move those feet well. Not sure if that something that can be coached but like the article pointed out he does hold the double team well. Possibly one of compensatory 4th rounders for this guy?

  • LayDownTheHammer

    Terrence Cody 2.0 – will never be a star but can be serviceable depending on work ethic and commitment.

  • Gerald Brown

    Hey Alex,

    I know you probably get a lot of request, but I’m really interested in seeing your take on RB Storm Johnson from UCF & WR Martavis Bryant from Clemson. Im thinking they both could be mid round steals.

  • Alex Kozora

    Gerald,

    I can try with Johnson. Doesn’t seem to be a lot of tape on him, however. Wide receivers are tough for my to evaluate with confidence. Same with the secondary. Guys that fall out of screen too often to get a good feel for. I think Dave does a better job evaluating those positions than I.

  • Gerald Brown

    I appreciate all the work you and Dave do. Thank you

  • steeltown

    Got him in the 6th!

  • pittsburghjoe

    Did Colbert go to the sports bar after round 4? It seems like they really checked out and went home.

  • dave

    Yeah, I think at 215th overall it’s a little hard to complain too much about him. If he develops into Terrance Cody 2.0 that’s a pretty good pick.

  • shawn

    for once i agree with u … checked completely out after 4th round … disappointing late round picks

  • Rod Hedrick

    This guy was worth the 6th round pick,

  • Ike Evans

    Big man …..check, love it

  • Steve

    We ask for a guy who can hold the line of scrimmage and two blockers, well this guy can do it. Coach Mitchell got his work cut out for him. This is one hugh young man.

  • Steve

    Loved the last play in the South Carolina game. How’d you like to have this Mammoth of 350 lbs tackling you? McCullers is a lot like Big Snack. Maybe we need to call him “Baby Snack”.

  • joed32

    Maybe, but it would be hard to call him baby anything at that size.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    McCullers is my favorite pick in this draft. He is certainly not the best player. But for the round he was selected in, he provides tremendous value.

    He is a situational player. 4th down and 1, 3rd down and 2, Goal line. When you know the other team is running up the middle. Man on man. Power on power. No trickery. Here it comes. Can you stop it?

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Also it’s about identity. Attitude. Steeler football.

    Heyward – McCullers – Tuitt

    Just their appearance deters teams from THINKING about running up the middle. It’s intimidating to know you can’t move these guys out of the way. You can’t drive block them.

  • wdhammer

    e
    me

  • Steve

    Maybe Baby Huey! (HA)

  • Brendon Glad

    He expresses several things that I like from a NT in the Steelers 3-4. A) Should be difficult to move. B) When breaking free, has closing speed to get an unexpected tackle or TFL here and there. The fact that he doesn’t make a ton of plays is fairly irrelevant to me….because that’s not what the Steelers ask. The defense is set up for the DL to sacrifice themselves without losing gap-integrity…try to occupy 2 guys at once for as long as possible…and let the LB’s be clean so they can do the rest. I happened to be a guy who was pretty high on another mammoth with similar athletic ability but similar worries…Cody (Balt NT from Alabama, a couple years previous). To me, with John mitchell teaching him, I think mcCullers can be, at worst, a low pick who fails….at moderate, a guy who is immovable on first down, and isn’t a threat to actually make plays, but at least forces the other team to either run and fail….or pass every time he’s in, if they want success. Or C) A guy who works at his craft and becomes immovable on running downs….but can also collapse a pocket via bull rush or close quickly on a QB if he gets free. The fact that he only has “one pass-rush move”, should not be a problem for a NT in Pitt, since that move is a bull-rush. I like the pick, quite a bit.

  • Brendon Glad

    And i’m not saying I was right on Cody, because he has underperformed…but what I HOPE happens is that mcCullers becomes effective. If we want to compare him to Casey Hampton, then on the negative side, Hampton had similar weight but better leverage for getting under pads. And also was a more accomplished football player coming out…For mcCullers, his height will probably make him easier to push back on running plays. So he will always fight that. BUT…where on passing plays, Casey Hampton winning a stalemate still failed to affect throwing lanes down the middle (since Hampton was 6’1″ with short arms), if mcCullers can win stalemates on passing plays (ie not getting controlled)…then his 6’6.5″ frame and long arms should be VERY bothersome. And every time he wins with a bull rush (even with 1 yard push), it will completely eliminate all short and intermediate routes down the middle.

  • joed32

    There you go! I read an article on Yahoo this morning where he suggested “The biggest snack”, says he was a fan of Casey.

  • cencalsteeler

    The biggest thing I took from this article is that he can dominate when solo blocked. Soooo….that should require a double teaming, correct? Then, he is doing his job allowing someone to free up, right?! Like this late round pick!!

  • dkoy85

    That’s a good thought on pass plays thrown down the middle. I think knocking down passes is something we are getting better at. With the speed and athleticism at LB any ball tipped at the line of scrimmage could result in an interception.

  • Toddy Bravo

    I loved Tomlin’s reaction when a reporter said big guys like Hampton and McCullers are hard to find and asked him to describe the similarities/differences between the two. Tomlin said “Casey was a first round pick” and basically had to bite his lip to refrain from calling the reporter a moron.

  • srdan

    true, but some teams will be salivating to cut McCullers at his feet since he lacks athleticism. With that said, I am thrilled with this pick!

  • srdan

    Along with the training staff. Humans that big get injured more often. They have to keep his weight at a manageable level. I’m not sure what that means lol

  • srdan

    Situational football. We gave up touchdowns on running plays with a yard or less to go. This is an immediate upgrade to that situation. At a price of a 6th round pick and a helmet (as tomlin puts it), great value for those situations. Of course he should be expected to offer more.

  • Toddy Bravo

    I was thinking the same thing about the potential of him getting in pass lanes and tipping balls, but was disappointed when I saw he didn’t have many in college. Maybe it can be taught. I’m pretty sure you can’t teach 6’7″, so that’s a good starting point if you want to be proficient at it.

  • Toddy Bravo

    Big Mac?

  • Toddy Bravo

    After watching his combine tape, I think he’s put together much better than Cody. I recall seeing Cody’s gut swaying back and forth as he was running the 40. Don’t see that with McCullers. He’s a mountain of a man, but appears to have broad shoulders, some musculature and only a modest gut.

  • colingrant

    Sasquatch

  • Steve

    Would hate to buy his meal at a nice expensive restaraunt. You have a steak while McCullers is asking “Where’s the Beef”?

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    That’s a good thing if we’re in goal line situations. We want them to try and cut McCullers. Make a giant pile of bodies.

    No running back is going to run straight into a mountain of bodies to try and gain 2 yards. They’re going to weave into a one of the gaps. (Where our LB’s are waiting.)

    Having said that, part of teaching McCullers “technique” is getting him to shoot his 36″ arms toward the OL quickly, to keep the opposition off his legs.

  • colingrant

    Draft evaluations have to be read like a mystery. One has to reduce the obvious stuff “football speak” and notate the profile data to get a real read on these prospects.. A couple of years ago, I read a hilariously awful scouting profile on Kelvin Beachum. It was horrific. I was with a friend of mine watching the draft, scoured the internet for a scouting report(s) and I literally howled at each one. …………

    UNTIL ….I read a 5 sentence commentary that began with him starting EVERY game at SMU during his career,(52) games and ended with him presenting the commencement address in his senior year. In between those facts, was a litany of extremely high personal,academic and athletic achievements. NFL people aren’t interested in nice stories though. They’re looking for players, good, bad and indifferent. So, this told me that despite his so called weaknesses, the Steelers had identified that he had enough talent to at least spend a draft choice on him. CHECK!

    Marginal Multi-Positional Talent + extraordinary character and work ethic = a final roster spot. Coupled with the fact that Trai Essex and frustrated the staff with his weight and non-commitment issues for years, it was clear as day he was going to stick for minimally a year with hopes he could replace Essex who was highly valued as a player who could play every position on the line, but who was also highly unmotivated and proven unreliable.

    REGARDING McCullers the key info on him are few things.

    1) His highest weight was 4 years ago. Typically, guys big guys like him are reported to have “issues” with weight fluctuation. It’s not been reported of any setback in his weight conditioning since high school.

    translation: It takes discipline for a giant teenager, early 20 year old of his size to not regain weight…….Men like Max Starks, Snack and Essex had difficulty in this area and they had the means the motivation (and sometimes weight bonus’) to ward against this.

    2) He enrolled into a military prep school to get his grades right. Translation.. This might reveal more character. He didn’t have to go to a military school and wake up 5am each morning to get his grades right. There are lots of options that aren’t that stringent. Especially for athletes going to an SEC school, where academic excellence is not required ,minus Vanderbilt. He and his parents chose the hard way.

    These might seem small and insignificant, but if you look back at failed draft choices, aside from talent, a great majority revealed clues which reach far beyond the canned scouting mumbo jumbo. You got to dig and think though. Keep in mind, these are educated guesses and presumptions, not factual conclusions.

  • srdan

    I see your point and agree with it somewhat. But 6th round picks (bad example of a late RD pick) haven’t been making it on the field due to an experienced team in front of them. But that is no longer the case. The other things that has happened with the hurry up throwing offenses. It’s mostly situational football now. A 6th round pick is usually very good at something, but lacks in other places. Situational football lets them take advantage of their skillset. Even if he is dressed for 10 short yardage plays a game. His size alone maybe makes him the best option to pile up bodies. I think Fangupo is more of his competition. But with all that said unless he totally falls on his face, its hard to imagine someone else not taking a shot at him before he makes it to the PS.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Fantastic post, Colingrant. I look forward to reading your future insights.

    Very keen observation on the decreasing weight numbers. Even multi millionaire all pro NFL professionals have trouble controlling their diets when they have all the support in the world. The fact that McCullers did it on his own as a college kid is impressive.

    And I agree the choice of going to a military academy speaks volumes about his desire to accept coaching and follow rules. Take Ta’Amu for example. Think of how productive he might’ve been if he had “followed instructions” on and off the field.

  • Dan

    Classic.

  • Dan

    Yep, if one of our guys forces the opponent to occupy two of their guys, then that’s plus one for the home team.

  • Dan

    However, his 20″ vertical was the lowest I saw in the combine results. Admittedly it must be hard to get 350lbs very far off the ground. But perhaps we have our next fullback. His brute force in the bull rush, might get the job done when we just need a yard.

  • colingrant

    Ta’Amu’s a great example. The exact opposite of him was Ziggy who impressed players and coaches alike from day one, simply because of his dedication, and taking to coaching and instruction from the staff and senior players.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Finally someone mentions the only valid comp. How does he compare to Fangoupo? Who has more potential to become a starter?

    I can easily see him in goal line packages this year. I don’t see him making it to the practice squad.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I wonder if the 60+ percent sub package usage allows a player like McCullers to fit by being a low enough pick at a low enough price who does well enough in a very limited number of snaps to make them much better in running situations.

    Maybe 20-25% of snaps? Maybe McClendon for 10% and the rest with 2 linemen. This wouldn’t start this year of course.

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