With all the hoopla about Jadeveon Clowney, it's easy to forget that this year's NFL draft is full of other really good defensive players. One of those guys who should be available when the Green Bay Packers are on the clock is defensive tackle RaShede Hageman from the University of Minnesota. Draft nuts know his name, but casual fans may find it strange and unrecognizable; either way, he's pretty easy to spot when he's on the field.
Glad you asked. It's not that Ra'Shede Hageman is a football player so much as a 6'6", 318-pound mechanical war machine. Look at the picture in the article header one more time. He's terrifying. Even among other very large men, Hageman is as physically imposing as they come. In a lot of ways, he's built like the new breed of defensive tackles in the NFL. Tall but muscular, beefy but athletic, Hageman looks like he was constructed by a government program for the sole purpose of destroying NFL offenses.
Kind of like J.J. Watt, no?
Yes! Almost exactly like J.J. Watt except without any of the NFL-proven production. From a sheer physical standpoint though, the Watt comparisons are legit. Hageman was a former tight end and even had an offer to play basketball for the Gophers at one point, making him not only really beastly, but quick and athletic as well. In fact, Hageman posted some outright silly numbers at this year's combine including a 35.5-inch vertical jump. Although his 40 time was 5.02, he's previously recorded a 10-yard split of 1.57 seconds, which is impressive for someone his size. For comparison, Watt clocked a 1.63 10-yard split and a 37-inch vertical.
Vernon Gholston was impressive in shorts, too.
Ok, that's a fair point. The truth is, Hageman has been pretty inconsistent when it comes to actually making plays on the field. He's also had his work ethic questioned (seemingly like most big guys), he plays with too much finesse for a guy his size, and there's certainly lots of "boom or bust" talk surrounding him leading up to the draft. But it's the plays he does make that make you think with the right coaching and conditioning, he could be special. In fact, NFL Network's (and former scout) Daniel Jeremiah said Hageman's ceiling is, "as high as any defensive tackle in this draft class."
Less talky. More watchy.
Very well. Here's a short little highlight video. First though, I highly recommend you mute your volume or do something less painful to your ears than the music would be to them. Something like, I don't know, sounding an air horn at close range or inserting those corn on the cob spikes into your eardrums.
This is your typical highlight video replete with an awful soundtrack, but it does show off Hageman's skillset. He's got the power to send blockers into oblivion, but he's also light on his feet, making a few nice swim moves, batting down balls like Dikembe, and even making a nifty little one-handed interception at 30 seconds in. But my favorite play of this video is at 1:07. Not only does Hageman own the left guard, but he shrugs off the helpless running back and still has enough speed to get to the edge and make the tackle.
His play looks good, but how's his...
Character? I knew it. It's all about Packer People. I may poke fun at the term, but take one look at the 6 million dollar cap hit the Eagles just willingly accepted to get DeSean Jackson the hell out of the building, and it's clear - this stuff matters to NFL teams. If how someone deals with adversity is any indication of their character, Hageman passes that test with flying colors. As thoroughly detailed in this long form piece by SBNation, Hageman fought through a rough childhood. His father died before he was born. His mother was a drug addict and a prostitute who found herself in prison after authorities found Hageman in a crack house closet when he was 4-years old. Basically, he's overcome a number of difficulties and turned himself into a college grad, a father, and from all other indications, a good guy.
I like this kid. Does he fit the Packers scheme?
Definitely. In fact, he fits it in more ways than one. At 6'6", 318, he's certainly built to play defensive end in the 3-4. But more importantly, he fits what the Packers seem to be leaning toward on defense - versatile, dynamic playmakers. Every team wants those guys to a degree, but players like Datone Jones, Julius Peppers and even Nick Perry give the Packers big bodies that can still fly around and cause all sorts of chaos. Hageman could be another one. Not only that, but he'd benefit hugely from playing with a guy like Peppers. It's no secret that Hageman's technique is a hot mess right now. After all, he just started playing defense not that long ago. With Peppers, Hageman would have a successful veteran to learn pass-rushing skills from, which might give him the tools he needs to realize his full, physical potential.
Sounds promising. Will he be available at #21?
Well, that's the big question right now. By all indications, Hageman should be there not only at #21, but there's a possibility that he's there in Round 2, which could be a nice value pick. Of course, this is the same league that features General Managers like Jerry Jones, Mike Brown and uh, whoever the hell is running the Cleveland Browns these days, (ed. note: apparently their GM's name is Ray Farmer) so anything's possible. Ultimately, Hageman will likely be available to the Packers at some point within the first two rounds. Whether they think he's worth the risk, however, remains to be seen.