Nov 17, 2012; Eugene, OR, USA; Stanford Cardinal linebacker Shayne Skov (11) during pre game warm up against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown - Shayne Skov, ILB Stanford


Jan 1, 2013; Pasadena, CA, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Montee Ball (28) is tackled by Stanford Cardinal linebacker Shayne Skov (11) in the first half during the 2013 Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of his sophomore season, Stanford’s Shayne Skov was one of the most talented and exciting inside linebackers in the country and was highly ranked among those NFL Draft community.  He suffered an ACL injury that cost him the majority of the 2011 season and while he did fight back to play during 2012, he was a shell of his former self.  Skov simply was not himself and looked incredibly slow because his knee was nowhere near 100% and while he did his best, he struggled much of the year.  By the end of the season, he got back to looking more like he did in 2010, but was not all the way back.  Entering the 2013 season, Skov should be healthy and ready to get back to being himself, so he can finish his Cardinal career on a high note and reestablish his draft stock in the NFL.

Skov will come back to fill a hole in the middle of the defense and should be able to bring an impact presence back to the middle of one of the more talented front sevens in all of college football as well as a vocal leader in the locker room.  The knee will be something to keep an eye on, but he did also have a DUI in February of 2012 that caused him to be suspended for part of Stanford’s spring ball this year.  Assuming that Skov will be back to himself entering this season, he enters the draft process as a top 100 pick but there is reason to expect he could move up if he can prove to being back to the player expect and continue developing with the possibility of getting as high as the top 50.

Vitals & Build

Skov is listed at 6’3” 242lbs with an impressive build and barrel chest.  Before the knee injury, Skov was extremely explosive with terrific acceleration and a good first step.  His speed was fine for his size but he is not overly fast.  The key is that he is so quick in short areas and has great burst.  Skov is also strong and the combination of his explosiveness and strength result in momentum that can move offensive linemen off of their spots.  There might still be some physical potential going forward beyond just regaining the athleticism that was compromised with the injury and depending on the scheme, Skov could end up closer to 250lbs or even as high as 255lbs at the next level.

The recovery from his ACL injury is crucial and the improvement from the beginning of the season to the end of the year was both important and encouraging.  With a full offseason to continue his recovery, the expectation is that he will be able to come back and be Shayne Skov, the All-American caliber linebacker.  Nevertheless, this will be a flag that is looked at closely when he undergoes his physical at the scouting combine, so the hope is that he has recovered well from the injury and that there is no lingering concern over it.

Tackling

For the most part, Skov is a good, form tackler.  He does a good job of consistently wrapping up and continuing to drive his legs through contact and once he gets his arms on a guy, they are going to go down.  The bad habit that Skov has run into is that he tackles high and is wrapping opponents up around the shoulders, so he is not getting the benefit of all of his strength or his balance as a tackler.  He is strong enough to get away with it, especially against college competition, but he will run into problems in the NFL.

Skov is still going to make the tackles, but rather than making an impact tackle where he can drive the opponent back and into the ground, he will be forced to do a lot more twisting and dragging them down as well as having ball carriers drag him.  He needs to do a better job of getting low and aiming down at the belt buckle of the opponent consistently and he will have many more of those big time impact tackles he has had in his career at Stanford.  He will also be a much more effective tackler in the NFL with the ability to drive ball carriers back as well.  While tackling high is something that needs to be corrected, it does mean that Skov is not diving or lunging at his opponents.  He keeps his legs under him and uses them in the tackle, which is extremely important, especially for someone playing inside linebacker.  Skov is making the tackles; he can improve how he makes them and their impact, but he is making them;  players who lunge miss some of them.

Run Support

This is definitely where Skov shines as he not only demonstrates terrific instincts for a linebacker, but he also has the aggressive mentality that teams want in their inside linebacker and a leader of the defense.  Skov does not wait around to make tackles, but goes to get them.

Skov is a guy who can take on and shed blocks, though he can improve how he does it and the angles that are taken in the process of it, but he is able to do it and there is no reason to think he will struggle in this area at the next level.  He is strong enough and aggressive enough to take on offensive linemen and hold his ground in the process as well as taking on and winning against the boss block.  Skov will occasionally come off of blocks at awkward angles, but that is something he can improve upon by finding better angles for when guys are attempting to block him.

Occasionally, Skov will take bad angles that get him in trouble as he is not great when it comes to turning around the edge or cornering, so if he is unable to cut off the running angle, he is not going to make the play.  Considering his size and strength, his range is pretty good, but he is ideally not going any wider than the B gap.  Skov can occasionally make plays on the outside, but he is far more effective, far more comfortable making plays and patrolling in between the tackles.  Not having sideline to sideline range is a knock against players for some but as long as Skov can shut down the middle of the field between the tackles, there are more than a few coaches who will take a guy like him and be happy.

There is no question that Skov shows he can be an effective run defender with the potential to be an impact run defender at the next level.  He is a consistent tackler, he demonstrates good instincts, and he can take on blocks.  Skoy is more of an old school, blue collar linebacker in that respect, but he is a guy who enables teams to have a dominate pass rush as he is a player who can help put teams in obvious passing situations.

Coverage

Skov tends to struggle in coverage, but not because he is a big, lumbering linebacker.  That does hurt his ability to contribute in man coverage, but Skov has the quickness to contribute in zone.  He is able to get into his drops extremely quickly and he is able to move around in zone coverage easily.  This mostly comes down to a lack of experience and comfort as Skov just tends to look like a fish out of water and it seems to be hit or miss whether he is going to be able to make the play or not.

He has not gotten his hands on many passes and has not had much opportunity to prove he has good ball skills.  Skov tends to either be in position to make the quarterback avoid throwing at him at all or the receiver is open and he can hit them without too much difficulty.  There is reason to believe that Skov can be a contributor in zone coverage even if he does not appear to offer much in man, but he needs to just get as much experience as possible, so he can be more comfortable there and be a better player in coverage.

Pass Rush & Blitz ability

Part of the reason that Skov is not all that comfortable in coverage is that Stanford loves to send him on the blitz.  Healthy, Skov is extremely good at timing the snap and explosive, so he is able to shoot gaps at times and get to the quarterback in short order.  Because of his size and strength, he is also able to come down hill full speed and knock an interior lineman back into the backfield, collapsing the pocket at times.

Skov can contribute with his speed and strength as a pass rusher, but he has not really shown to be a nuanced pass rusher at this point.  He is not a guy showing much in terms of moves or ways to beat the opponent.  Skov is using his speed and quickness to get to the quarterback or he is just attacking as a blunt instrument that stacks and sheds like a running play.   To Skov’s credit, he has had a ton of success because of his ability and the Cardinal defensive scheme, but he can do more in terms of pass rush moves.  He can definitely help a team as an interior blitzing presence who can get to the quarterback himself or cause enough havoc that it can open up opportunities for opponents.

System Fit

The best fit for Skov is exactly what he is doing in Stanford’s scheme; playing as a 3-4 inside linebacker who can be a thumper and run stopper.  He can also help when it comes to helping in blitz packages and Skov appears to have ability when he is in coverage, but he needs more experience and more comfort in that aspect of his game.  Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Green Bay, Baltimore, and the New York Jets are a few of the teams that could use Skov in their respective schemes.  The San Francisco 49ers could be an intriguing wildcard with this because while they have no need whatsoever at inside linebacker, Skov is one of the original Jim Harbaugh players, so it would not be a shock if the 49ers found a way to bring him into the fold.

Skov is not quite as good of a fit in the 4-3, but he could play as a middle linebacker or even as a strong side linebacker in certain situations.  His ability to take on and shed blocks and be an effective run defender make him able to contribute at both spots.  Certainly, his ability to take on and cover tight ends  is the big question when it comes to the strong side spot, but for teams that want a little more range at the middle linebacker, Skov could be a run defending specialist in that scenario while he works to see if he can contribute on all three downs.  The New York Giants tend to love that type of middle linebacker and the Minnesota Vikings could like him as well.

Schedule

Sat, Sept. 7 vs. San Jose State
Sat, Sept. 14 at Army
Sat, Sept. 21 vs. Arizona State
Sat, Sept. 28 at Washington State
Sat, Oct. 5 vs. Washington
Sat, Oct. 12 at Utah
Sat, Oct. 19 vs. UCLA
Sat, Oct. 26 at Oregon State
Thu, Nov. 7 vs. Oregon
Sat, Nov. 16 at USC
Sat, Nov. 23 vs. Cal
Sat, Nov. 30 vs. Notre Dame

Notable Games

They are obviously going to have a talent advantage but Army is an opportunity for Skov to show off why he is so skilled as a run defender between his ability to locate, diagnose, and attack in addition to taking on and shedding blocks could enable him to put on a show.  The games that could put stress on Skov to show that his knee is healthy and what the limits are to his range include UCLA, Oregon and USC, which all happen in a four game period.  Skov was at his healthiest for the UCLA games but he not himself, so getting to see the Bruins again and a shot at redeeming himself could be a good watch and extremely satisfying.  The Oregon game is basically the ultimate game of speed versus strength, but it is a tough matchup for Skov and could put significant stress on his ability in coverage and attacking all over the field.  And while USC runs a more pro-style offense, they have a ton of guys who can do damage in space and a guy like Silas Redd could be a fun matchup to watch as that could go back and forth.  Lastly, the regular season finale against Notre Dame is another spread out offensive team, but a game that features two strong defenses that tend to be low scoring and a slugfest in the front seven in addition to the fact that Stanford lost last year in a controversial overtime finish.

NFL Comparison

Skov could end up resembling Dannell Ellerbe of the Miami Dolphins in terms of what he brings in the NFL.  Ellerbe is a player who has developed into a good run defender but can also bring an added element on the blitz.  Like Skov, Ellerbe is not a huge asset in the coverage unit yet.  Skov could come into the NFL equipped with a skillset that it has taken Ellerbe a few years to develop since coming out of Georgia and be able to hit the ground running a little quicker.

Draft Projection

Everything is going to come down to Skov’s knee and it getting back to full health, but he can also improve in getting more comfortable playing in zone coverage, tackling lower, working on how he takes on and sheds blocks as well as adding more in terms of moves as a pass rusher.  The fact is that Skov was a terrific linebacker prospect before the knee injury and there is no reason to think he will not be again as long as he is free to be himself and play how he is capable.  Skov is fantastic as a run defender but if people do not see him as a three down option, it could put cap the height his draft stock can reach.  Skov looks like a top 100 pick but when he gets healthy and gets back to being himself, his stock will increase and he could get as high as the top 50; higher if he can make himself into a no doubt three down linebacker.

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Tags: 2014 Mock Draft 2014 NFL Draft Inside Linebackers Middle Linebackers Shayne Skov Stanford Cardinal Football