Pre-Season Scouting Report - Danny Shelton, DT Washington

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Oct 19, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly (10) throws as Washington Huskies defensive tackle Danny Shelton (71) defends during the first half at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Shelton has been a three year contributor and could be in for a big year as a senior for the Washington Huskies.  Shelton was an exciting player as a junior, but his performance was so radically uneven that he was somewhat unpredictable from one snap to the next.  Shelton could single handedly blow up one play and then be completely overwhelmed the next.

Shelton has incredible athleticism and ability, so while he was so uneven, the overall sense is that he could be ready to put it together as a senior.  That would allow him to be a substantially better prospect than Alameda Ta’amu was when he played for the Huskies.

Shelton’s athleticism is a blessing in what he is capable of doing, but there are times when it ends up causing him problems.  He needs to be able to show better instincts and feel for certain situations, which may simply come with time.  If the light is able to go on for him, Shelton could make more splash plays and eliminate at least a portion of the bad ones.

Projecting nose tackles can be extremely difficult as draft projections always seem to be dramatically higher than how they come out in the actual draft, but there is a lot to like with Shelton and reason to believe he can be the player both the Huskies and NFL teams would like.  He will enter the NFL with a ton of experience, durability and he has been a stellar student off the field.  It is all there for him going into the 2014 season.

Vitals & Build

  • Date of Birth is not listed
  • 6’2″ 332lbs (Listed)

Shelton embodies the idea of a dancing bear.  He has an enormous frame but displays impressive agility and acceleration at times.  Additionally, he can show tremendous strength as well as power and the momentum he can generate can produce huge results.  At times, he can be incredibly impressive with how quickly he can move and how much ground he can cover.

Shelton has the frame to continue getting stronger but the question with him is his body composition.  He arrived at Washington and was listed at 334lbs as a freshman, was listed at 317lbs as a sophomore and then 327lbs last year while now being 332lbs.  This would seem as though this is something Shelton and the staff at Washington have been aware of and worked to improve, trying to find the right amount of raw weight while being effective.  This search for the right amount of weight does not appear to be over as Shelton’s balance can pop up as an issue.  As a result, while he continues to try to add strength, he may want to try to trim fat off in hopes of improving his balance and overall play.

Despite his size, Shelton shows a pretty good motor and promising amount of stamina.  His level of effort does not seem to waver even if the results can fluctuate a great deal.  Shelton still has an interesting amount of potential because his athleticism at his size, so he could continue to get better in the NFL from a physical standpoint.

Snap Anticipation & First Step

Shelton has his moments where he can not only catch the opponent’s snap count correctly, he is off the ball before his opponent.  There are also situations where he is reacting to play the late and it gets him in trouble.

As far as his first step goes, Shelton can be outstanding.  He varies how he attacks.  On short yardage plays, he tends to fire out extremely low and look to make a pile, allowing teammates to get in and make the play.  In more unpredictable scenarios, Shelton can start out high, sink his hips and play behind his hands.  When opponents can catch him before he is able to sink his hips, they can drive him off the ball and knock him off balance.  The more aggressive he is, the higher he tends to come out of his stance.  Balance is an issue that needs to be improved in general, so trying to fire out lower on a consistent basis would make a big difference.

Block Shedding

Shelton is strong enough where he can throw opponents out of his way at times.  He has violent hands and can rip his arm through.  Shelton can extend his arms and toss opponents aside, but likes to use a swim move when the situation suits him, which can be a double-edged sword.  When it works and he can get through cleanly, it is impressive, but since he has an ample flank, when opponents catch him, they can take him out of the play or he ends up trying to push himself through sideways.

Run Stopping

This is where Shelton should be at his best and he can be incredibly impressive as both a clogger and someone who can penetrate and make plays.  The problem is that he can also be rendered useless at times and overwhelmed and the results tend to be unpredictable as to which way Shelton is going to do at different points.  Shelton has all of the ability to do the job, do it at a high level and do it consistently, but he has to make the necessary adjustments to do it.

The Huskies have had Shelton play inside at the 0, 1, and techniques depending on their alignment and the situation.  Shelton is problematic enough for opponents where he can alter the opponents’ gameplan, especially when it comes to short yardage running.  Most often, this comes in the form of avoiding Shelton entirely either by running outside directly or showing inside and faking to the outside to try to pick up the yardage needed.

  • Stanford avoids Shelton by running outside on 3rd-and-short. Shelton does his job, knocking the guard and center sideways, but the Cardinal are able to seal the outside and get into the endzone.

  • In a situation where Shelton needs to come through; 3rd and short in the 4th quarter.  He fires off of the ball with good pad level, takes the initial shock of the double team and then simply overpowers the interior of the UCLA offensive line and the ball carrier has nowhere to go.  UCLA faces 4th down.

Shelton has impressive range and the ability to get to places that most nose guards cannot.  This can have some impressive results.

  • Shelton shows off his athleticism with an assignment that has him go to the left tackle, bounce off and be able to secure the tackle from behind for almost no gain.

  • Shelton reads the play, slides laterally down the line, attacks downhill and makes the tackle for no gain

It can produce impressive results in terms of his ability to get down the line and chase plays laterally.  This can also result in Shelton having trouble gauging when he needs to gear down, turn up field and opponents can use his momentum against him and just keep him going in that direction past the play.  That athleticism can also occasionally pop up as an issue when Shelton goes too far upfield and takes himself out of the play.

Shelton can be a real issue when teams try to block him one on one.  He can be drive the opponent into the backfield and force the ball carrier to go around him or simply make the tackle himself.

  • One gap stack and shed.  Shelton gets into the opposing guard’s body, overpowers him and throws him out of the way before making the tackle on the back.

The problem is that this is not even consistent, which is why teams will still do it.  There are situations where he can be stoned or even pushed off of the line.

  • Khalil Wilkes blocks Shelton one on one and drives him off of the ball. Shelton is able to work off of the block and make the tackle, but it is 5 yards down the field.

  • Shelton is driven off of the ball and if not for poor execution by BYU to finish the block, Shelton is completely erased from the play.  Shelton does deserve credit for the second effort and getting in on the play, but that cannot happen as a nose guard.

  • This play starts with poor pad level and continues because Shelton is unwilling to get down and make a pile, so he ends up on skates and a huge running lane is opened as a result.

Shelton shows a tremendous amount of ability to impact opposing running games, but while the peaks are impressive, the valleys are a huge concern.  If he can even out his performance and either maintain those highs and eliminate some of those bad plays, he can be a far more dangerous and more effective nose guard.

Pass Rushing

Shelton is able to contribute in obvious passing situations as a pass rusher, but much like with his performance against the run, the results can vary greatly.  If teams do not take him seriously, he can surprise them with his acceleration and burst.  Much of his contribution comes in the form of demanding multiple blockers.  Teams will try to single block him, but he will occasionally just drive that opponent into the backfield and into the quarterback.

Shelton’s biggest contribution as a pass rusher is usually in the fact that he makes it difficult for opposing passers to step up in the pocket and in doing so, his teammates coming from the outside can use their speed more to get up the field.

Here is a good example.

  • Shelton simply bullrushes the guard into the backfield, then capitalizes on the pressure by Hau’oli Kikaha that forces Taysom Hill up into the pocket and simply buries him.

At this point, it is not reasonable to count on this type of impact in the NFL, but the capacity is there for him to do it and if he can be more consistent in this area, it could make him far more attractive when it comes to the NFL Draft.

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