Steelers Film Room: 2014 NFL Draft Scouting Report – Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier

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By Alex Kozora

The Pittsburgh Steelers first pick of the 2014 NFL Draft is in the books and to most, it came as a slight surprise. After watching five games of him, my initial scouting report on the 15th pick of the draft. Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier.

Ryan Shazier/ILB Ohio St: 6’1 237

The Good

– Muscular frame, cut well and looks to have very little body fat

– Plus length for his height (32 3/8 arms) with big hands (10 inches)

– Elite athlete, workout numbers through the roof, a freak

– Fluid, smooth, makes it look effortless

– Explosive first step, acceleration one of the best in his class

– Instinctive, high football IQ and reads plays very well

– Overall, plays in control of himself and not reckless

– Takes proper angles to the football

– Flows exceptionally well, doesn’t get caught up in the trash

– Closing speed and great chasedown, just as much of a threat from the backside, perhaps even moreso

– Quick feet

– Very little stiffness in his hips while in coverage, transitions without issue, looks like a corner

– Packs a punch in his tackles

– Flashes the ability to hand fight and shed

– Wasn’t asked to edge rush much but showed hip/ankle flexibility to bend around the edge and ability to convert speed to power

– Asked to do a lot at Ohio State, multiple assignments

– Tons of experience in coverage

– Extremely productive career, playmaker

– Seemingly high character

The Bad

– Lean build that he may have to fill out, a bit underweight

– Below average upper body strength and can get pushed around

– Looks tentative when he is unable to see the play unfold in front of him

– More prone to getting run out when he has nowhere to go (clean base block, scoop block that doesn’t give him an angle) prefers to go around than go through

– Strength to hold point of attack against TEs but predictably struggles vs OL

– Couple of unnecessary penalties

– Must consistently learn to snap hips and drive through contact, can tackle too high and loses strength

– Occasional missed tackles

– Sometimes a bit overzealous and will run self out of the play

Other

– 28 career starts, left as a true junior

– 2013: 134 tackles, 22.5 TFL, 6 sacks, 4 FF

– Career: 306 tackles, 44.5 TFL, 14 sacks, 9 FF

– 2013 First Team AP All-American

– 2012 and 2013 First Team All-Big Ten

– Received scholarship offers from Alabama, Florida, and LSU out of high school

– 100 tackles, 12 sacks as a senior in high school

– 87 tackles, 19 sacks as a junior

– Suffers from alopecia, autoimmune disease that leads to hair loss

– Last name pronounced “shay-zeer” (rhymes with ear)

Tape Breakdown

If you’ve read my reports, you know I attempt to be as honest and transparent as possible. If I don’t like a guy, I’ll tell you even if it isn’t a popular opinion (see Greg Robinson). And if I like a player, I’ll unabashedly say so (see Chris Borland).

Steelers’ fans, I really like Ryan Shazier.

You can just look at him getting off the bus. Check out this picture of him running at what is presumably his Pro Day. Shazier is cut. Looks to have very little fat and that’s in mid run when pictures aren’t always the most flattering (see Terrence Cody).

His workout numbers pop as much as any player. After not running at the Combine due to a hamstring injury, he turned in a 4.37 at his Pro Day. Jumped 42 inches in the vertical at the Combine. 1.56 ten yard split tied Khalil Mack. 10’10” in the broad jump led all linebackers. All impressive and rare for his position.

First thing you’ll notice on the tape is his explosiveness. One of the best first steps I’ve seen. Truly a zero to sixty type of player. Consistently saw it on his tape.

One of two big plays he made on the final drive against Wisconsin to preserve the win. You can see Shazier read the running back’s release off the snap. Once he sees he’s staying into block and there’s a lane to run through, he attacks it. Shazier is #10 and it’s easy to identify him because of the white towel he uses.

Pressure helps force an incomplete pass. He followed that up with forcing a fumble on the next play. Two plays later, the Buckeyes win.

Going to show this next example in still shots. Against Cal, the tight end attempts to base block Shazier. He gets his hips set and seems to be in decent position.

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And then Shazier shoots through, bypassing the tight end and helping to chip in on the tackle.

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Kevin Colbert was dead on when he said you don’t amass the number of tackles Shazier had by not running to the football. He did a fantastic job rallying to the ball. Chase down and effort was as good as I’ve seen it. Like I noted, that may be where he’s at his best.

Part of that ability goes beyond the physical. It’s the mental and an area Shazier likely doesn’t get enough credit for. He’s an incredibly intelligent player who can read and react to a play. The explosion just happens to get him there faster than most.

Against Wisconsin, a power scheme he handled extremely well, the tight end starts to work to him on this stretch.

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But Shazier watches the play, sees the running back start to cut, and plants too.

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Able to elude the tight end and winds up making the tackler.

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He does a great job of “avoiding the trash.” Meaning, he doesn’t get caught in the wash of blocks. Isn’t tripped, chipped, cut down, anything like that. Even against a Wisconsin team that can chew linebackers out.

It doesn’t always *look* like he is playing fast, and that could lead some to question his effort, but I attribute it to him diagnosing the play before hitting top speed. It’s a self-check process to keep himself in control. Best example came against Michigan St.

As soon as the pitch occurs and he knows where the ball is going, Shazier turns on the jets. Takes a good angle and delivers a big blow along the sidelines.

He isn’t one of those guys that ran around like a madman, shooting gaps and hoping for the best. He’s a controlled, dynamic athlete that will locate the ball. That’s a huge separation and the difference between a successful player and a bust. If you take away nothing else from this report, understand that.

Asked to do a good bit at Ohio State, one of the more complex schemes in college. Didn’t play as much outside linebacker as most are led to believed, but is capable. Mainly played between the box, dropping into coverage, covering the back out of the flat, or blitzing from the interior. Lot of zone coverage but has the fluidity to play man.

Was most impressed by the Cal game. Buckeyes played almost exclusively in dime, leaving Shazier as the lone linebacker.

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Team asked him to cover a lot of ground and shoulder a ton of responsibility. Handled it well, too.

Can appreciate his character. You might notice in the different games he’s wearing a different number. Switched to #2 for part of the year. That was in for safety Christian Bryant who got hurt during the season. He wore #48 in a game in 2012 to honor a high school teammate that passed away. Urban Meyer has said Shazier has a “heart of gold.” Good article here on him.

On the negative side, he does lack upper body strength. This isn’t a secret. Can get pushed around and run out, especially when he can’t see the play unfold in front of him.

Lined up over the “A” gap in the clip below.

Wearing #2 in the clip below.

Like most rookies, will need to hit the weight room. Have to ensure it is “good weight” that won’t bog him down but looking at his frame, that isn’t an issue. Takes very good care of his body.

Minor complaint but some technique work. Especially with his tackling. Can go a little too high and has to develop the ability to drive through contact. Too tall on Sammy Watkins and gets pushed back a good five yards.

Shazier8_zps862acae6The pick may have been a bit surprising but with Odell Beckham Jr and Kyle Fuller off the board, it had to be a little different. And Colbert continues to stay away from cornerbacks in the first round.

With the Steelers’ running so much subpackage football last year, 60% of the time, having an athletic linebacker will rectify that. A big reason why the team was hurt against the run was a lack of a big front seven. Sure, Troy Polamalu is an enforcer but when you’re having just two down lineman and three linebackers, you’re a small unit that is prone to getting pushed around.

Shazier gives you options. He can play all three downs, no question. You can move him to the edge. Ask him to drop into man or zone. Blitz. Check the back and decide. He’s a freak, a great athlete, with intelligence and good character. What a rare combination.

Games Watched: at Cal, vs Wisconsin, vs Penn St, vs Michigan St (Big Ten Championship), vs Clemson (Bowl)

Adding below something new. My game notes from each one I watched. Hope it offers a bit more insight. Apologize in advance for any misspellings or incomplete thoughts in my game notes. They’re kind of a free flowing thing. Just the way I operate.

9-14-13 at Cal: “Shay-zeer.” Long body and overall, a lean build. But cut really well and has muscle. Body fat likely very low. Super fluid athlete, glides along, makes you think his motor isn’t running but shows how quick/athletic he is. Quick feet and smooth hips in coverage, flips/transitions without an issue. Explosive and when he reads play, closes in a hurry. When head on with a runner, form tackler who snaps his hips and drives through the runner, packing a blow. Great first step. Didn’t rush from the edge very much but did twice, showing fluidity in hips/ankles. Excellent bend and a big issue for OTs, got a sack/FF/OSU recovery that way. Times where he shows strength to shed, might come from using his hands well. Not always seen though. Perhaps too aggressive and a little out of control, will overpursue some, causing him to miss. Difficult but a bit tight in his hips when trying to change on an angle…but hard and understandable to see. Can get moved around when base blocked and block doesn’t come from an angle where he can still read the ball and react. Can get washed when uncertain where to go, can’t read play, lacking upper body strength. Late hit, personal foul. Left briefly in 2nd quarter due to shoulder. Aware, reads the play well most of the time and reacts quickly. Mostly an “ILB” between the box. OSU extensively played in dime/nickel, putting Shazier on an island in the middle of the field. Asked to cover a lot of ground and a lot of trust/responsibility put onto him. Responded to it well. Dropped a ton. Blitzed from interior a few times. Didn’t have to play in a box very much due to Cal’s offense, got to free roam and play in space. Strength to make tackles even at awkward angles, not a head on, roll through.

9-28-13 vs Wisconsin: Handled self well vs power scheme. Reads the play very well, smart, high IQ. Flows to the ball and stayed out of the trash, didn’t get tripped/chipped/washed. Uncanny explosiveness, light switch. Rallies to the ball really well. Tremdous athlete with a lot of speed. Smarts + speed. Slightly more traditional role, MIKE and SAM but still good deal of nickel. Dropped and blitzed. Flashes quick hands. Looks lost when he can’t see action/play, tentative. Still not that strong, can hold POA vs TEs but will predictably struggle some vs OL. Moved around a tiny bit but handled it well. Solid game. Big plays late, pressure/smack on QB and read/react/FF on Badgers’ final drive to help preserve victory.

10-26-13 vs Penn St: Patient player who can read play and chase it down or let it come to him. Super smooth and good chasedown ability. Explosive first step, indicates lower half strength. Had a sack. Dropped into coverage a lot, apt there. Acceleration is top notch. Will have to get stronger, Urschel (NFL type talent) had his way with him a few times. May also have to learn how to roll his hips and drive through contact, little stiff and upright. Not much edge rushing.

12-7-13 vs Michigan St (Big Ten Championship): Great game. Combines recognition and athleticism to make him a potent defender. Flies to the ball and always around it. Great chase. 2nd gear once he recognizes the play. Instinctive, calculated, doesn’t just run around shooting gaps and blowing plays up. Good tackler with force. More traditional LB, rarely from the edge, usually MIKE. Lacks strength and can get blown out. Struggles once locked on and there’s nowhere for him to go, needs a “fire escape.” Dictate where he gets to go. Comes up when scoop blocked. Penalty for PI after unneeded hit on RB in coverage. Punt deflection on ST. Tipped a pass. Wore #2 instead of #10 to honor injured teammate. Switched numbers in previous seasons.

1-3-14 vs Clemson (Bowl): Flows to the ball as well as anyone could expect. Effortless. Takes proper angles to the football, saw it in every game. Knows when/how to control speed and overall, does stay in control of himself. Times where he looks “slow” isn’t because of effort, he’s reading the play. Fun athlete to watch who hung with Watkins when Shazier had the angle. Locates the ball carrier and can stick him in the hole. Fluid hips. Can be a forceful tackler in the open field. ILB and a little more work off the edge. Glimpses of speed to power in his rush but hard to get a good read on. Can get moved around, below average strength, on the ground a little more than you’d like. Trouble holding POA when OL get clean blocks on him. Enough hand fighting to shed, makes you think he has the ability, Barr like in that regard. Will tackle too high when on the move and has trouble sinking, trucked by Watkins. Missed another tackler. Lean towards him going for the knockout blow at times though not terribly reckless.

Senior in college, blogging from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • Nolrog

    Reading some reports on him, he’s fast and people say he has a nose for the ball. I’m looking forward to seeing him play.

  • Paddy

    His weight is fine, needs to get stronger. You can’t teach speed.

  • DoctorNoah

    How long will it take him to get up to speed?

  • Alex Kozora

    Impossible to say but given his intelligence, relatively quickly.

  • scott2443

    my question is will this guy get into practice and ota`s or have to sit out because classes again ….

  • Bill Eltringham

    My lord. What a breakdown. Outstanding job.

  • Steelers12328882

    Regardless of where Shazier fits in immediately, do you think Timmons will eventually take over the Buck position, or does Shazier’s football IQ give him the advantage at that position?

  • Steel Paul

    Shazier four game stint towards the end of the year:

    • 16 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss vs. Illinois
    • 20 total tackles, five tackles for loss vs. Indiana
    • 14 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss vs. Michigan
    • 12 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss vs. Michigan State

  • Alex Kozora

    Meant to mention this in my writeup but 10 career games of 15+ tackles. Speed to get to the ball, physicality/desire to make tackles. Love the combination.

  • Tim

    Great work. Thanks for the read. I was very surprised about this pick. Hopefully he can be a stud at the next level.

  • Ben Saluri

    Love the pick..takes away pass catching tight ends will also create turnovers. Living in Iowa saw him play a lot..EXPLOSIVE.

  • steeltown

    I think they may actually have Timmons play BUCK and make the play calls since he has so much experience in the D

  • Alex Kozora
  • steeltown

    He also had 3sacks and 3PDs during that 4game span

  • Steel Paul

    Great article Alex – really nice work.

    This is just the thing a hard-core Steelers fan wants to read the following morning. Thank you.

  • chris ward

    Great breakdown, I was surprised by the pick, but I think it was a nice pick for the Steelers. Shazier has outstanding speed and his tackles for losses in college were impressive. Can play on all 3 downs, fly’s to the football, could see LeBeau disguising a lot of nice blitzes with Shazier.

  • Putter

    Great job, Alex.

    Top 10 things I like about Ryan Shazier

    1. Will allow Polamalu to play Safety again

    2. Will be a great cover guy against TE or RB (or
    zone against WR)

    3. I remember watching 92 run 100 yards for a TD vs Cards. That play was made by Timmons. Shazier will deliver that hit for us.

    4. What a linebacker room! (JJones, Timmons,
    Shazier, Worilds, Spence, VWilliams, Garvin – Porter!)

    5. The flexibility to cover the middle of the field
    is awesome – Mitchell, Shamarko, Gay in the slot, Shazier, (maybe) Spence

    6. Timmons isn’t as fast as he used to be. Now he won’t
    have to be.

    7. Remember the end of Farrior’s career, chasing RB’s
    from behind? (umm….hopefully that memory will fade)

    8. Backs on Backers in Latrobe – Shazier vs Bell –
    Big10 rematch!

    9. Followed Meyer to OSU (was going to go to Fla) –
    loyalty matters!

    10. Kick coverage team just got wayyyy better

    Bonus #11 – perhaps we can stop hearing about Sean
    Lee. We got the LB the ‘boys wanted this time

  • Farnsworth

    Is he going to sit like Timmons? Or play like Williams, granted Foote’s injury helped Williams.

  • steeltown

    I sure hope we add another stout DE/OLB to that LB room

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Looking at tape, I think intellectually and physically he is very gifted. I think he is flat out a playmaker. I have one major area of concern, strength. It is obvious and you hear it time and again, he is great in space. Well, I worry more when he is covered up or being physically targeted. Does he have the physical strength to do what he needs to do at that position? Can he stop the team when some team determines they are going to run it down our throat?

  • Putter

    You’re so right….slim pickings at OLB.

  • steeltown

    Its going to be interesting, he is obviously the most athletic of the bunch, he should see playing time, even if it’s initially in subpackages

  • steeltown

    I definitely think this selection means they see Moats as an OLB

  • blackandgoldBullion

    This guy sounds so impressive that he may be able to play offense as well. LOL!

  • http://www.nyob.com/ Dr. Doom

    Now if they can just get Hagemen/Tuitt lets roll

  • Superdriller316

    Howard Jones

  • Jacque Strappe

    I agree 100%.

  • shawn

    Is it just me or does he not look like a Safety when wearing #2 … so lean … weird !

  • shawn

    I have to agree with everything u said … no doubt he is gifted and a freak .. but he looks sooo lean i have to worry about his strength when not in space … i think he might get pushed around no matter how strong he gets … his build just looks too lean to me … hard to believe he is almost 240 at a modest 6.1 … just doesnt look that bulky !

  • WilliamSekinger

    I really want to see a lot more sub package football with Cam and McLendon on the line 5 LBs, and 4 DBs. Can you imagine Jones, Timmons, Shazier, Worilds, and Spence on the field together with Troy and Mitchell behind them? Very scary.

  • dkoy85

    I gotta say I was definitely thrown off with this pick- when in reality it was an obvious pick. I let my love for Fuller/Dennard and how much I like V. Williams character and drive cloud my judgement. The reality of it is, the”need” as Tomlin said was for a defensive play maker. This kid comes in and makes this defense better, and maybe a whole lot better. He is our Vontaze Burfict, but better, in my eyes.

    The front 7 is critical to our success. Here’s to hoping Tuitt or Nix are on the board tonight at our pick. This D needs to get back to its play making ability and it starts up front.

  • dkoy85

    Even if Shark replaces Spence on the field(5db’s rather than 4) that’s still a mean crew. The four you mentioned, Troy, Mitchell and Shark. That’s just a fast fast fast group of players.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    is van noy olb

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I see fans are finally coming around after the shock and awe guess they had to sleep on it hoe can you not like a guy that plays like tp43 in his lb positions

  • steeltown

    Yep

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    He is another guy i would love to have after someone on this site mentioned him i watched his highlight video and was very impressed

  • Madi

    Play. LeBeau doesn’t have an attachment to Williams/Garvin/Spence the way he had one to Foote. Shazier is too good to sit. I expect him to see playing time immediately, and be starting by week 6.

  • Madi

    Not sure what you mean by #3. Timmons drew a penalty and made a good block, but there were 9 or 10 Steelers that made good blocks on that play. Also, I think Timmons is exactly as fast as he used to be. What is he, like 27?

    Totally agree though – love the pick and the impact will be huge.

  • RMSteeler

    Alex, how did Shazier fly (mostly) under the radar? When I read the Good from your tape breakdown, combined with his unbelievable measurables and college production, if his name wasn’t involved, I would have sworn I was reading about Luke Kuechly a couple of years ago. Can you take a look and if it’s close, show a comparison of the two?

  • steeltown

    Don’t know much about the guy, I know he’s pretty quick for his size and can drop into coverage. I think he goes early tonight.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Watch some of his highlights im thinking your right about him going early the only knock on him to me any way is he might be to small to play olb at the next level but may be able to add weight and muscle

  • Putter

    I love Timmons – he’s the one that shot the gap and made Warner throw off the wrong foot. Warner probably never saw 92 drop into coverage and step in front of his receiver. You’re so right, it took the whole team to get him to the end zone

  • Alex Kozora

    This first point is probably obvious, but it’s clear he didn’t fly under the radar in league circles. Everyone knew the talent he had.

    Why did he fall under the radar in Steelers’ circles? Because fans, and I don’t mean to be overly critical because everyone does it, gets so caught up in position instead of player. I mentioned it the other day. You’re not drafting a position. You’re drafting a player. Meaning, don’t pass up on talented players. Even if it isn’t the biggest need, give me the most talented starting 22. Talent wins out.

    So that’s what happens. It’s odd that the blinders come on during a time where they shouldn’t – when every option *should* be explored. But because we get locked into the “CB or WR” idea (I did too) we tune everything else out. Human nature.

  • Xclewsive

    AK, sometimes reading your articles is like seeing the light. I was waiting for this write-up! Do you think Shazier is a Kendrell Bell clone?

  • steelster

    He added 10 pounds right before the combine so he played at OSU around 225lbs.

  • shawn

    ya hoping he looks a little filled out … but i think he should gain about another 5 plus pounds …. which he could easily do with his frame

  • steelster

    yes I hope he puts on some muscle so he can shed blocks. Remember James Farrior played around 225-230lbs.

  • Brendon Glad

    I like what I’m seeing and hearing. A) When you read OLB….first instinct was to get a little worried about how we felt about Jones/Worilds. But then when you see the plan they have to move him to mack ILB and Timmons to Buck ILB, then that satisfies a “need”. Then he looks good on tape. Granted, I gotta admit he looked a little more like Ryan Clark in some of the clips I saw, and a little less like some of our mack ILB’s of the past…based on his frame, and the way he comes from deep and goes hard charging downhill. but the 25 reps at 225 with those long arms suggests that his strength should be solid. And his bulk probably can be created once he knows that he needs a little more. His character appears to be high-level. He played on major winners, so he’s been the leader of a great locker room…but he’s been a youngin’ on an underachiever…I consider that a GOOD thing. He probably has learned the difference already. I’m fully on-board with both feet on the pick, and am excited to see him play in black-and-gold.

  • http://batman-news.com MC

    I loved Kendrell Bell but i think Bell was heavier and more of a thumper. If we can get the same production out of Shazier that we got out of Bell in his rookie season i’ll be most happy.

  • shawn

    its weird … its not always about weight … usually has more to do with their build and centre of gravity, strength etc …

  • shawn

    Completely agree … it almost seems like they all get a lot stronger and bigger once committed to a full time job and around all the professionals ..

    I thought as much, but was just surprised that he said he didnt think he needed to add any … i think one of the reasons he looks leaner than his weight is that he is all muscle with next to no fat, and of course muscle weighs more !