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Know your Chiefs draft crush: Cam Erving

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Our own MNChiefsfan has been knocking it out of the park on this "Know your draft crush" series.

With the Chiefs picking at No. 18 in a very deep draft class, there are just too many "Crushes" for MNChiefsfan to cover by himself. To paraphrase one of the great football movies of our time, "I mean, MNChiefs is just one man, he's just one man."

So I volunteered to help him out by taking a look at Cameron Erving, offensive lineman from Florida State.

I'm not an NFL scout (believe it or not) so, I started from scratch and did a bit of research on what to look for when evaluating an offensive lineman.  I found it to be pretty intuitive but for reference, here's the list I compiled of what to watch for:

Size, Strength, Initial Quickness / Mobility, Footwork, Use of Hands / Arms, Technique, Intelligence and Consistency.

Then I went straight to the film to take notes on what I saw. I watched four games on Draft Breakdown, and highlights of another just to make sure I saw enough of him at center because it was a small sample size.

Watching film on lineman is interesting because you're looking for specific techniques and competencies, but on most plays you also just get a sense of "Did he get the job done?"... even when they get beat or their technique falters, sometimes they are able to slow the defender down just enough ... or recover in time to allow the play to be successful.

What you don't want are the plays that Chiefs fans know all too well, when the QB/RB is overwhelmed a couple seconds into the play, and the linemen responsible are standing around wondering what happened or laying on their backs.

For Erving, I tried to put aside my prior bias, as he's a prospect I have liked for the Chiefs for some time. For the record, I expected to see a "jack of all trades, master of none"... a guy that can play a lot of positions well, even if he's not a Pro Bowl player at any of them.  Alternatively, I thought he might look out of position at either tackle or center given that it's a bit rare for guys to play both.

I also tried to avoid reading and quoting other scouting reports on him, until AFTER I watched for myself. Before I get to my film observations, let's get the measurable out of the way.

In the size category, Erving fits what you look for in a Tackle, and is bigger than you'd normally see in a center with longer arms: 6'5", 34 1/8" arms, 313 pounds, 10 3/8" hands. Thick build, a little sloppy, but not so much that it's a problem as long as he can afford an NFL jersey instead of the "Tankini" he wore at FSU.

Strength on film is most important to me, but for the record, he put 225 up 30 times at the Combine, which is pretty impressive, especially for a guy with long arms.

Quickness: 5.15 seconds in the 40 was average or below, but his 7.48 second 3-cone drill (which is much more important for most footballers) and 9' 4" broad jump were both near the top of his peer group.

Overall film notes

  • Strong upper body, able to punch and counterpunch, keep defenders at a stalemate
  • Solid technician at left tackle, moves his feet well
  • Gets to the 2nd level, and redirects defenders, looks like a zone blocker, but powerful enough that he's not limited to that scheme
  • Not a mauler, but gets the job done

Vs. OSU 2014 (LT)

  • Shows great feet in pass pro, able to anchor and reset vs. bull rush, kick and shuffle his feet against speed rushers, steers them around the pocket when he can't stonewall them.
  • Erving tends to bend at the waist, keeping his back straight for leverage.  It doesn't seem to be a major problem for him, but ideally, you'd like to see more power generated from his bottom half.
  • Not overpowering in the run game (or in pass pro really), but able to redirect and move.
  • Looks natural at left tackle, always under control, doesn't panic, moves his feet and stays with his blocks the whole way.

Side notes on this game

  • I can see why they had to use him at  center ... the interior line was terrible.
  • I'm really glad my team isn't about to take Jameis Winston first overall (I don't even want him at 18 now)... seems like he throw an intercept-able ball every 3-4 plays in this game.

Vs. Boston College (C)

  • At center, gets his hands up quick, good punch, anchors well, holds his ground.
  • Saw at least one high snap, that looked to me like he stood up too quick and rushed the snap
  • One snap where he got caught with a huge punch from the defender, toppled over backwards
  • More often than not, was able to get leverage, stalemate his guy and get to the second level.

Vs. Notre Dame (LT)

  • A few struggles vs. speed rushers, but stonewalls bull rushers
  • Does a good job of extending long arms to keep defenders at bay,
  • Has left tackle feet, IMO
  • Plays through the whistle

This GIF is what I saw most often from Erving as a LT... moves his feet, locks on to the defender, gives some ground, but holds him at bay

Vs. Miami (C)

  • Looks huge for a  center
  • Good job on combo blocks, knows when to help the guard, and when to hand off the defender.
  • Just like at tackle, not overwhelming blockers, but consistently stalemating them, walling them off and redirecting.
  • Punch, re-anchor, counterpunch, move feet, repeat.
  • Great awareness, sees and picks up blitz on consistent basis.
  • Side note from this game:  Denzel Perryman is a BAD man at inside linebacker for Miamia, really nasty hitter, shows up a LOT.

Here's an example of a Combo block with the guard, releases, and picks up blitzing defender.  Notice how he moves his feet, shows good awareness, releases at just the right moment ... but you can also see how he bends at the waist, so he gives up some ground.

Here's what others had to say about Erving

CBS Sports

"A two-time winner of the ACC's Jacobs Blocking Trophy -- first at left tackle, then at center. Erving expands the definition of versatility. After redshirting in 2010 with back problems, Erving played as defensive lineman in 2011. Ervin found his calling in the spring of 2012 when he was moved to offensive tackle because the team needed somebody to protect quarterback EJ Manuel's blind side, which Erving did surprisingly well. After earning numerous honors in 2013 protecting quarterback Jameis Winston, Erving considered the draft but returned for one more season, and one more position. He was needed as a center when starter Austin Barron broke his arm October 4 against Wake Forest. Erving was a key in the November comeback victory over Miami."

....

"Frankly: Quick, draft Erving and then worry about the details, like what position he plays."

CBS Sports

"This kid made a lot of money moving inside to center. He was decent as a tackle, but he can be dominant as a center. He is athletic at a position that requires it. But he's also strong at the point of attack."

National Football Post

"Erving has the skills to start at any of the five offensive line positions. That versatility will help him get on the field early. He is clearly the best center in this draft and will most likely be a late first round pick."

This one guy's own conclusions

As you can gather from my game notes, I was impressed with his footwork, use of hands/arms, intelligence/awareness and athletic ability. I didn't see a DOMINANT, mauling guy who overwhelmed opponents.  But, what I DID see was a good, intelligent, steady, plug and play center.

I wouldn't have a problem with him at tackle either, as he certainly has the feet and size to play on the edge.Erving is an athletic, smart player who can contribute early in his career at center or tackle. Even though I didn't see it on film, he could probably play guard as well.

Consistency is key to his game ... He's the same guy, day in, day out at center and left tackle. For offensive linemen, this is key. They could be excellent on 95 percent of the plays, but will be remembered for the five percent. With Erving, I feel like he'll be a reliable NFL lineman, even if he doesn't make the Pro Bowl, or the highlight reel pancake block.

You get the impression that Erving is still learning and improving, which makes sense for the former d-lineman turned tackle turned center ... but it's VERY clear that he understands the game, knows the right assignments and how to get in the way of defenders in order to keep the play moving along. Projections for Erving in the draft vary a lot.  He's certainly the first center off the board, but whether he  goes in mid round one or mid round two is still very much up for debate.

Bottom line for the Chiefs:  I'd be fine with Erving at 18, giddy with him at 49 ... but don't take my word for it, take a look and see what you see.

One final GIF shows Erving fighting to the end, and his QB again not doing him any favors by running into 
his backside...