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 in the 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. After a down year that had him show some signs of life at the end of the year, Skov came back healthier and looking far more like the incredible talent he was as a sophomore. He regained his status as being a big time player at the linebacker position and really giving the defense more options in what they could do as well his range.
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 scrutinized when he is at the combine and its status, 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. Healthy and presuming there are no setbacks, Skov is a top 75 player that could push closer to the top 50 with an impressive set of workouts. He is an impressive player and a dream fit for certain schemes at the next level.
Vitals & Build
Skov is listed at 6’3” 245lbs with an impressive build and barrel chest. With the knee injury almost two years behind him, Skov has returned to being an 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, particularly with his lateral quickness.
There will be questions about his ACL when he gets to the scouting combine. How team doctors evaluate his recovery from his knee injury, it could have a dramatic impact on his draft stock.
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.
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. The one issue that seems to give Skov trouble is when opponents go low. He can have a tough time protecting his legs and continuing his momentum going forward, often going to the ground.
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. 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. Skov does not have sideline to sideline range but his explosiveness and acceleration make it so he covers far more ground than people might expect. His top end speed is relatively average but he reads, reacts, and gains speed quickly to close down on defenders. The issue he can run into is breaking down and having a tough time changing directions quickly to make the tackle. The result is that he will occasionally have opponents cut underneath him and get past him.
In part due to his health, Skov has been able to improve his ability in coverage as well as get far more comfortable. For the most part, Skov is most effectively utilized in short zones and does a good job of reading the quarterback’s eyes. He has a pretty good sense of where things are around him and can make plays on the football. Skov has shown the ability to break on the ball and break up pass plays.
Part of what makes Skov effective is that he is a dangerous threat on the blitz and he is able to sell blitz and drop into zone. As a result, he can occasionally get the opponent assuming he is coming and not expecting him to drop, which gives him an advantage and can make up for some of his deficiencies.
If there is anything that hurts what Skov can do in coverage, it is his agility. At times, he plays too high and he has trouble changing direction. Some of this might improve the further he gets away from the knee injury and is able to get stronger and more comfortable in what he can do laterally on the knee.
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.
Skov does have problems getting low and changing direction when he gets into the backfield, so quarterbacks who can make a quick move and see him coming can make him miss. Much of Skov’s success is getting on top of the quarterback almost when they get into their drop and overwhelming them quickly.
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 Harbaughplayers, 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 linebackeror even as a strong side linebacker in certain schemes. 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.
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. A small difference is that Skov has showed some added ability to contribute in coverage but it is a work in progress. 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.
Shayne Skov is going to impress teams with his tough mindset, aggressiveness as a run defender and ability to take on and shed blocks. He has the ability to accelerate and diagnose quickly, so he can make some impact plays. While Skov is not a huge asset in pass coverage, he can help in zone and offers the ability to be an effective blitz option in the A gap. Skov has been a leader for Stanford and is going to bring that added element to a locker room, though he does have the DUI that will need to be vetted by teams as well as the status of his knee. Nevertheless, Skov projects as a top 75 prospect that could go as high as the top 50 with good workouts. If he falls farther than the top two rounds, it may reflect concerns over the knee.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com