There might not be more of testament to technique, hard work, and just straight will than Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton. He brings an element of raw passion to the football game and he just never seems to get tired on the football field. He brings it with all effort, goes back to the defensive huddle with his hands on his hips and then comes back with everything he has again, from the first play of the game until the last play of the game. Sutton is relentless and despite his size or lack thereof, whoever faces him has their hands full all game long. Likely because he is undersized, Sutton knows the way for him to be effective is being relentless, quick, and using good technique. Sutton had a break out year producing 23.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and deflected 5 passes during his junior year as one of the most dominant players in all of college football. The Sun Devils do not hesitate to move him around on the defensive line or using different fronts, going from odd fronts to even fronts, moving Sutton from defensive tackle to defensive end and just letting him attack nonstop and wreak havoc on opponents.
There is going to be an ongoing debate during the entire year in regards to where he will go in the draft and debating his technique, motor, and production against NFL measurables. At this point, Sutton looks to be a Top 100 pick, but he could move up substantially if he just continues to win people over with his style of play and results and move up in the draft; if he is able to get more weight without losing his quickness and motor, he has a chance to find himself in the first round of next year’s draft.
Vitals & Build
Listed at 6’2” 270lbs, Sutton is undersized and he does not look all that good at 270lbs either. This is going to be an issue that is scrutinized all the way up to the draft. He could substantially help himself in solidifying his draft stock if he can find a way to add more quality weight and not lose what makes him special. Sutton could have one of the most talked about official measurements of any non-quarterback in this year’s draft.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
Sutton reacts incredibly well to when the offense snaps the enabling him to get a jump on the guy he is facing off against. This is not something he does occasionally, but he does it consistently as he has such an impressive motor, he is coming on every play.
His first step is pretty average; not great but it is consistent and when combined with his ability to anticipate the snap, it makes him look that much faster than he actually is and it keeps opponents off balance against him. He is not doing anything extraordinary in how he does it. He just makes a typical step up the field but he does it consistently.
Sutton’s ability to shed blocks is in his ability to avoid being blocked in the first place. Sutton displays tremendous hand use to keep opponents from being able to get into his body and block him in the first place. Opposing linemen are unable to get a hand on him cleanly often, so he keeps them out of his body and gives himself enough space to continue moving with speed towards his target. When he does get blocked, he can get engulfed and beaten or if opponents are able to turn him, they are able to get him on the ground without too much trouble. Incidentally, getting Sutton on the ground and laying on him is really the only way to stop him as even when he is blocked; he keeps working to try to get to the play to the whistle.
Sutton’s quickness and ability to penetrate into the backfield enables him to disrupt running plays with regularity and he has the tackles for loss to prove it. He does a fantastic job with his pad level and gets every bit of power out of his strength because of quality technique both in terms of leverage and taking full advantage of his strength. Because he stays unblocked for the most part because of his tremendous ability to hand fight, he is able to continue working towards the ball carrier and if he is in range, he can wrap them up and make the play.
Sutton has a bad habit of diving and lunging at ball carriers especially from behind and it results in some ugly missed tackles that are inexcusable and unnecessary. Had he just kept running, he would have tracked down the play and made a good tackle. For the incredible amount of plays Sutton has made, it is remarkable how many more he still could have made.
When it comes to going after the passer, Sutton does several things well. First, he varies up his attack depending on where he is lined up on a given play. For example, if he lines up as at the 3-technique, he will shoot the gap, slant inside, slant outside, or just go straight at the either the guard or tackle. As a result, the offensive line is never sure what to expect from Sutton and they are kept off balance. In addition, his hand use, pad level, and relentless effort make him difficult to block. He just keeps working and ends up with a full head of steam aimed at the quarterback and often times gets there with a full head of steam to deliver a powerful blow.
As a result of getting that full head of steam, quarterbacks are able to side step the rush and watch as he flies past them on the rush like a matador dodging a bull. Going into the quarterback like a bull has a devastating effect but if he would break down and flatten out to the quarterback and secured the play, he would have had even more than the 12 sacks he got this past year.
Sutton does a better job when he works from the outside against a block and works around the edge and flattens out to get to the quarterback with a blocker working on him, so he clearly shows he can do it and if he makes the adjustment, he might have had 15-20 sacks last year and could put up those kind of numbers as a senior.
Sutton has shown remarkable impact in this area and if his size does not hold him back, his relentless style could result in consistent pressure on the quarterback with the opportunity to pile up numbers. He ability to be disruptive seemingly nonstop forces teams to slant their protection to try and stop him creating favorable match ups for his teammates and there are numerous examples where his near misses result in big plays for fellow defenders.
Much is going to depend on the size Sutton finally ends up at going into the draft but he has shown the ability to play as a 3-technique defensive tackle in certain schemes as a 5-tech end in the 3-4 and even a power end in a 4-3. In the end, the team that drafts him may just find as many possible ways to get him on the field as he can. His best fit will probably come in a 3-4 scheme as a defensive end that allows him to kick inside as a rush tackle in obvious passing situations which would put less of a premium on his weight. He should have enough weight to play a 5-tech on run downs and when it comes to passing downs, it no longer matters how much he weighs.
|Thu, Sept. 5||vs. Sacramento State|
|Sat, Sept. 14||vs. Wisconsin|
|Sat, Sept. 21||at Stanford|
|Sat, Sept 28||vs. USC|
|Sat, Oct. 5||vs. Notre Dame|
|Sat, Oct. 12||vs. Colorado|
|Sat, Oct. 19||vs. Washington|
|Thu, Oct. 31||at Washington State|
|Sat, Nov. 9||at Utah|
|Sat, Nov. 16||vs. Oregon State|
|Sat, Nov. 23||at UCLA|
|Sat, Nov. 30||vs. Arizona|
The four game stretch that starts in week two and could end up being a buzz saw for the Sun Devils this season should be fantastic for evaluating Sutton. It starts with Wisconsin, followed by Stanford, USC, and finishing up with Notre Dame. Every one of these schools should have NFL caliber offensive linemen that can put Sutton to the test as far as his technique and effort as opposed to triangle numbers.
Sutton’s play style is reminiscent of Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Sapp was much bigger and fit the mold of what the NFL is looking for in defensive tackles, but in terms of how they both operate and how they are effective with incredibly active hands, quickness, and being able to just keep coming, they have a great deal in common. To borrow a phrase from Sapp, Sutton is a bowling ball of butcher knives. He does all of this in a frumpy looking body that is reminiscent of Jerel Worthy, the former Michigan State Spartan and current Packer, who was also a great player in college. The worst case scenario for Sutton could be as a player like Mike Daniels, who also plays for the Packers but came into the league undersized and predominately as a pass rusher and is developing in their system.
Beyond saying that Sutton is a likely top 100 pick at this point, it is tough to project where he will end up. If he has another season like he did this past year, even at his current size, some team could fall in love with him and take him earlier than expected. If he is able to put on the weight to fit the mold NFL teams want and maintain his level of play, it is difficult to see how he could escape the first round. Sutton is a great player and one that is fun to watch operate on the football field and it is easy to imagine him using him as a defensive coordinator but the lingering question that Sutton needs to answer to solidify himself as a top prospect is how he is going to operate against NFL offensive linemen who have better hand use or go as high as 330lbs with quick feet and power.