A breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons’ 2015 fifth-round pick: Clemson defensive tackle Grady Jarrett.
BIO & VITALS
40 Time: 5.06 (Combine)
Bench Press: 30 reps (Combine)
Grady Jarrett was born on April 28, 1993 and attended Rockdale County High School in Conyers, GA, about 30 minutes east of Atlanta. His biological father is former Falcons linebacker Jessie Tuggle and has a half-brother, Justin Tuggle, who currently plays linebacker for the Houston Texans. Has a close relationship with former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who Jarrett considers his “uncle,” despite not being related by blood.
As a true freshman at Clemson, he appeared in nine games, recording two tackles and a quarterback pressure. He assumed the starting spot at defensive tackle as a sophomore, earning 11 starts in 13 total appearances. He finished the season with 49 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, 10 pressures, one pass breakup and a fumble recovery. He started all 13 games as a junior, tallying 83 tackles, 11 for loss, two sacks, 14 pressures and two fumble recoveries. He would earn All-ACC honorable mention honors that season. As a senior he started all 13 games, recording 73 tackles, 10 for loss, 1.5 sacks, 12 pressures, two forced fumbles and a recovery. He was named a team captain and earned first-team All-ACC honors that year.
Jarrett is known for his high character, work ethic, and being a leader mostly by example. But he is known to be vocal when necessary. Is said to play with a chip on his shoulder due to the lack of recognition from local schools like the University of Georgia when he came out of high school.
2014 GAMES WATCHED
|Aug 30||at Georgia||0||1||0||0||0||0||0.5||0|
|Sep 20||at Florida State||0||1||2||0||0||0||0||0|
|Sep 27||NORTH CAROLINA||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Oct 4||N.C. STATE||0||3||0||0||1||0||4||0|
|Nov 6||at Wake Forest||1.5||2||0||0||0||0.5||0||3|
|Nov 29||SOUTH CAROLINA||0||1||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Dec 29||vs. Oklahoma||0||0||0||1||0||2.5||0||0|
The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.
Strength (7.0) – Shows good power, especially when he’s able to get his hands inside, able to disengage and shed blockers. Generates the majority of his power rushes with his lower body and leg drive. Shows enough strength to be a match for NFL guards and centers, but tends to rely on his quickness versus pure strength to beat opponents.
Point of Attack (5.0) – Not great when asked to get initial leverage at the point of attack and is not ideally a stack-and-shed defender. Can do that at times, but the majority of his plays against the run come from penetrating and being disruptive in the backfield. Will lose gap responsibility at times when trying to get upfield and too often gets redirected by the blocker out of the hole, leaving a lane for the ballcarrier.
Quickness (6.5) – Has a good first step at times, able to shoot gaps and beat slower-footed guards and centers. At times, he can explode off the ball when he times the snap well and bust up run plays in the backfield even before they develop. Can get overextended at times trying to explode upfield and it allows guards and centers to control him. Spends a bit too much time on the ground for this same reason.
Pass Rush (6.0) – An effective pass-rusher due to his ability to shoot gaps and is able to collapse the pocket. Is not a guy that finishes a ton of plays to get sacks, but does a good job getting pressure and preventing the quarterback from stepping up in the pocket. Capable of lining up in a variety of techniques, playing the one, two and three-techniques comfortably. Has a decent rip move and swim move, but needs to continue to improve his hands as he tends to rely on effort over disengaging to beat blockers.
Recognition (6.0) – Shows good recognition, able to sniff out screens consistently and make the open-field tackle. Does a good job when he can read and react at the point of attack, but is more of an attacker than a guy that you want to stack and shed and play gaps.
Motor (9.0) – Tends to be relentless when it comes to chasing and is the type of defender that is willing to work sideline to sideline to sideline. Owes many of his pressures, sacks and hits to his ability to keep working to the quarterback on second and third efforts. Will continuously work down the line of scrimmage laterally and make occasional plays against the run in pursuit.
This is based off my own grading system on a 9-point scale.
Potential Starting Prospect (5.4) – Player that possesses starting potential, but ideally targeted as a key role player. If he’s a backup on your roster, it’s an area of strength. More than capable of getting the job done if pressed into starting role. Expectations are typically that he will eventually become a starter, albeit may need at least a year or two before he can do so. A good value taken in the Top 100 or so picks.
Jarrett is going to be a very good part of an defensive line rotation at the next level, with the potential to start down the road.
While he doesn’t possess ideal size or length for a defensive tackle, he has good quickness and first step to be a disruptive force in a one-gapping scheme. He’s at his best alongside his Clemson teammates such as top pick Vic Beasley when he was able to pin his ears back and use his first-step quickness and penetrating abilities to get upfield and attack the quarterback.
He’s a capable pass-rusher that doesn’t have a ton of sacks. Jarrett isn’t a finisher, but more of a disruptor that can collapse the pocket, get in the face of quarterbacks and harass throws. That isn’t likely to change at the next level, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s someone that never has seasons where he has more than two or three sacks in NFL. If he does, it’ll likely be due to the fact that he’s playing alongside very good edge-rushers that force the quarterback to step up into the pocket into his waiting arms.
So much of where Jarrett succeeds is due to his high motor. He plays to the whistle and doesn’t quit on a play even if the ball is 20 yards away from him. Much of his pressure this past year came thanks to second effort, where he was unable to beat the guard off the snap, but kept working and eventually shed the blocker to get in the face of a quarterback and flush him.
The following GIF illustrates this, where Jarrett (#50) wins on a second effort. (Note: if the GIF is weirdly zoomed, double click on it)
This probably won’t work as well in the NFL given how quickly the ball comes out, typically in under 2.5 sacks. This is why at least initially, Jarrett probably won’t be an impact pass-rusher.
He can still get pressure early on and still win because he has enough quickness to beat slower-footed guards off the snap. But certainly there is going to be an uptick in talent at the next level and at least the good starting NFL guards will be more effective at controlling him with their hands.
Thus, Jarrett’s key to long-term success at the next level as a pass-rusher will be improving his hand use and technique. While he shows some rudimentary moves for disengaging, he needs much more development to be quality guards in the NFL.
But between now and then, Jarrett should be an effective rotational player that can come in on a part-time basis, use his quickness and effort to keep starters fresh and give valuable snaps on passing downs.
Jarrett isn’t a great run-defender when it comes to holding the point of attack. Most of his positive run plays come when he’s asked to get upfield and be disruptive in the backfield. But he does have the short, squatty build that he can potentially become better at anchoring and maintaining gap integrity with further development in the future.
While his most natural fit today is as a three-technique defensive tackle, Jarrett’s build and other aspects of his play suggests that he could develop into a capable one-technique nose tackle down the road. He has a similar build to Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, who was also a powerful disruptor when he came out of California many years ago.
While Mebane is known for his ability to primarily plug the run as Seattle’s nose tackle nowadays, he began his career more as a penetrating disruptor before settling into his current capacity as a run-plugger. That still-remaining quickness however does make Mebane more effective as a nose tackle than your traditional “space-eater.” Similarly, Jarrett could develop in a similar capacity down the road. Most of his power is in his lower body, which suggests he’ll become better at anchoring in time. As he continues to improve his hands, he should get better at holding the point of attack required in Dan Quinn’s scheme, as the nose tackle is responsibility for maintaining two gaps.
That sort of responsibility is too much for Jarrett to handle based on the player he is today, but there’s the potential that he gets there eventually. I’m not sure Jarrett will be quite as good as Mebane is, but could be potentially 75 percent of him.
However if he remains as a three-technique, which is where his current skill set translates best, he has the potential to become an effective starter. But Jarrett is probably not ever going to be a top-level three-technique in the same capacity of similarly short-statured disruptors like Aaron Donald, Jonathan Babineaux, Jurrell Casey or Geno Atkins are or have been in the primes of their careers. Jarrett has similarities to all four and Casey is probably the closest comparison given the similar builds, but I don’t think his first-step quickness quite measures up to the others.
If Jarrett continues to improve his hand usage, he can potentially become a good starter as a three-technique, but may never instill the sort of fear in opposing offenses that those aforementioned disruptors do.
How Jarrett develops in Atlanta will be something interest to watch over the next few years. As I’ve mentioned before, he could potentially go down either career path as a one or three-technique and become a starter down the road.
Being able to learn from a veteran like Babineaux, who has a similar playing style, should be very beneficial to Jarrett’s career. That suggests that Jarrett could have a potentially bright future as Babineaux’s heir apparent. Presumably if Babs plays the next two remaining years of his contract, that should mesh perfectly with Jarrett’s ascension as a starter. Most defensive tackles don’t really hit their strides until their third seasons in the NFL, thus timing things well as one passes the baton to the other.
Yet, Jarrett’s immediate future in Atlanta might be better served as a one-technique nose tackle that subs in for Paul Soliai on passing downs. Thus, Jarrett could fill the void left by the free-agent departure of Corey Peters, who played a similar role in 2014.
Jarrett’s potential reminds me a lot of Peters in terms of his overall impact. Jarrett should be a more disruptive presence in terms of rushing opposing quarterbacks than Peters. But it somewhat balances out when you consider how much more effective Peters was defending the run due to his ability to anchor at the point of attack.
Unlike Peters, Jarrett likely won’t be forced into the starting lineup prematurely. For much of his first three years in Atlanta, Peters’ production was more akin to a rotational backup than a true starter. Jarrett is likely to be the same, but due to the presences of Babineaux, Soliai and Ra’Shede Hageman also in the rotation, he won’t be thrust into the starting lineup prematurely.
More than likely, Jarrett’s role as a rookie will be subbing in for both Soliai and Babineaux and doing his best to keep the veteran tackles fresh. Whether that involves him playing more one or three-techniques remains to be seen, yet there’s a good chance the Falcons employ him in both roles until he settles in.
Ultimately, Jarrett has the upside and opportunity to be a starter in Atlanta down the line. What role that takes will depend on his own development as well as that of Hageman’s, as Jarrett’s ultimate position may just wind up being the one opposite to Hageman. Right now the Falcons’ plan appears to be that Hageman will be a three-technique, thus potentially leading Jarrett down the path of the one-technique. But that of course could change at some point in the future.
One reason to be optimistic about Jarrett’s future is that he won’t be rushed into the lineup and thus will be given the time to develop and find his footing at a more natural pace. But that said, there’s also the chance that Jarrett never takes that necessary leap to becoming a starter. Even so, he should have a long, productive career as a guy that can be the third tackle in a rotation. In that scenario, he’ll often get opportunities to start in a pinch due to injuries to the regular starters and should have no problem being effective in that role.
Ultimately, I probably wouldn’t bet on Jarrett being the caliber of defensive tackle that is one of the more feared players in the league. But he’ll certainly be a regular contributor capable of making plays on a fairly regular basis week-to-week.
There’s little doubt in my mind that Jarrett will be a good pro that may never become a dominant force, but certainly there is the potential that he becomes a disruptive one. There’s good reason to be optimistic about his future given that he seems to possess the intangibles to be confident that the player he is today is only a fraction of the player that he will eventually become.