Here is a breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons’ 2016 sixth-round pick: San Jose State guard Wes Schweitzer.
BIO & VITALS
Arm Length: 32⅝”
40 Time: 5.12
Three Cone: 7.75
Bench Press: 28
Vertical Jump: 27.5″
Broad Jump: 108″
He was born on September 11, 1993 and went to Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. As a junior in high school he was a 189-pound wrestler and reserve tight end before adding roughly 80 pounds for his senior season. He then moved to the offensive line where he got his first action as a starter. He nearly enrolled in the Marine Corps after high school before getting his first offer from the University of New Mexico. He reserved subsequent offers from other college programs before deciding to enroll at San Jose State.
As a redshirt freshman, he appeared in seven games as a reserve while also logging an early-season start at left tackle as a replacement for an injured David Quessenberry. Upon Quessenberry’s departure to the NFL the following year, Schweitzer was tasked with replacing him full-time at left tackle, where he earned starts in all 12 games during his sophomore season.
As a junior he started all 12 games once more at left tackle and was named the team’s annual scholar-athlete at the year-end awards banquet for the third consecutive year. His senior season saw him start all 13 games at left tackle, extending his consecutive start streak to 37 games while also being voted a team captain. He also earned second-team All-Mountain West Conference honors, was named to the conference’s All-Academic team for the fourth consecutive year and was also the team’s most outstanding offensive lineman at their year-end awards banquet.
Schweitzer was a biochemistry major that had a 3.42 GPA. He also scored a 31 on his Wonderlic, so he’s certainly intelligent. He’s a self-made player that rose from a backup tight end at 189 pounds to a 314-pound bookend left tackle six years later. He was listed at 314 pounds for his final year at San Jose State and looked the part, so the fact that he measured in at 300 at his pro day suggests he’s slimmed down, which should help his game. In terms of blocking downfield, a slimmer frame should help him become a lot more mobile and effective.
As a junior his position coach and San Jose State’s offensive coordinator was Keith Carter, who is currently the assistant offensive line coach for the Falcons.
2015 GAMES WATCHED
Note: scroll right to see more stats.
Key: MB – Missed Block; KB – Key Block* indicates only a partially watched game (at least 75% of offensive plays)
|Date||Opponent||Downfield Blk||Pull Blk||Cut Blk||Screen Blk||Sack||Hurry||Hit||MB||KB||Pen||Pen. Type|
|Sep 19||at Oregon State*||2/2||0/0||0/0||0/1||0||0||2||2||0||0||N/A|
|Oct 03||at Auburn||0/0||0/0||5/6||2/2||0||1||0||0||2||0||N/A|
|Oct 24||New Mexico*||5/6||0/0||1/3||0/1||0||2||0||0||1||0||N/A|
|Dec 19||vs. Georgia State||3/9||1/1||1/1||1/1||0||0||0||1||2||1||holding|
|TOTALS||4 gms||10/17 (59%)||1/1 (100%)||7/10 (70%)||3/5 (60%)||0||3||2||3||5||1||N/A|
SKILLS: How Good Is He?
Skills are graded 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 (4.0): Only has adequate power and tends to get by against collegiate competition because he’s much bigger than most opponents he’s facing. Lacks a powerful punch and rarely creates push upon initial contact whether working in pass protection or as a run blocker. His shorter arms allow defenders to get into him and jolt him back and without a powerful punch to counter, could struggle against power rushers at the next level.
Here are some examples of Schweitzer’s inability to create push at the point of attack:
Pass Blocking (5.0): Is mostly effective in pass protection since he doesn’t give up a ton of pressure. But could struggle at the next level due to the dramatically increased level of competition should he have to deal with starting NFL defensive linemen. Lacks the feet on the outside to stay in front of speed. Tended to struggle against the more athletic defensive tackles he saw in the games I watched.
Run Blocking (5.0): An effective run-blocker despite the fact that he doesn’t create reliable push at the point of attack. But does a good job getting position and is an effective leverage blocker that can wall off defenders and create seals on the edge. Shows limited pop off the snap when he lines up in a three-point stance. Competent zone-blocker that can make the backside cut block or get out laterally on stretch plays. As a one-on-one blocker, he’ll likely struggle against the bigger, more physical defenders at the pro level.
Footwork (4.0): Lacks the feet to play tackle in the NFL, but projects to average if he makes a move to the inside to guard. Can’t stay in front of speed and struggles to stay square on his kick-slide on the edge. Has a tendency to give ground to the bull rushes since he lacks adequate base to anchor against power. Shows enough lateral quickness and light enough feet that can sometimes mirror defenders in space. Has effective lateral footwork on zone-blocking plays.
Technique (5.5): Understands hand use and knows how to get his hands inside trying to lock on in order to create push. Will struggle at times with hand placement against quicker defenders, partially due to his shorter arms. However his arm length will be less problematic if he makes a move inside. But he needs to improve his punching power inside to deal with bigger defensive tackles. Has a tendency to get overextended because he’s a waist-bender when trying to deliver his punch and needs to do a better job with his balance.
Here’s an example of Schweitzer’s waist-bending tendencies:
Mobility (6.0): Is effective on screens, able to get out in front and consistently hit his assignments in space. Effective on pulls and is capable of making reach blocks at the second level. Athleticism and movement to look a little less fluid when he’s trying to change direction suddenly or make adjustments in space on reach blocks.
Here is a good example of Schweitzer pulling outside:
Here is an example of a good reach block from him:
Here are examples of Schweitzer doing a good job on screens:
Mean Streak (7.0): Does a good job finishing his blocks and will occasionally take defenders down to the turf. Plays to the whistle on a consistent basis.
Here is a good example of Schweitzer winning on a second-level block and also finishing off the defender by playing to the whistle:
Click here for more information about my grading system.
Potential Stopgap Prospect (3.0) – Possesses enough tools that sticking at the NFL level should not be a huge obstacle, but how long he sticks will largely depend on his ability to impact early on special teams. Tends to be a journeyman player that has enough ability that he can become a stopgap starter for a limited period of time. Ideal target for the last three rounds of the draft, although typically become harder to find after the sixth round.
NFL FORECAST: How Do His Skills Project to the NFL?
Schweitzer spent all of his time in college at left tackle, but he projects best to guard at the next level. His lack of length, subpar footwork and athleticism would likely lead to major struggles at the next level on the outside, although his experience at tackle means that he could play there if a team found itself in a pinch due to sudden injuries.
He has experience playing in a zone-blocking scheme at San Jose State, which is where his skill set projects best over a man-blocking scheme. The latter puts too much emphasis on power and athleticism, which Schweitzer just doesn’t have quite enough of.
Instead, he’ll be best used blocking on the move where his ability to get leverage and position can make him more effective.
He’s been well-coached at San Jose State because he’s an effective technician. His technique is far from flawless and he’ll need to be coached up to do a better job with his balance, footwork and hand placement.
With Schweitzer likely playing guard, starting-caliber NFL defensive tackles are going to give him trouble, particularly early in his career. His only way to counter that will be to become a much better technician because he’ll never possess the power or athleticism to really adequate match up with them.
The real question about his long-term development is whether Schweitzer’s technique will ever become polished and good enough to compensate for his less-than-ideal power and athleticism.
Essentially his pro career will go as far as his hands will be able to carry him. There’s reasons to be optimistic about his potential development there given his mean streak and weight room strength, but his punch is inadequate at this point.
San Jose State played two “Power Five” schools last year in Auburn and Oregon State. Schweitzer held his own in both games, but he wasn’t facing elite competition since Auburn’s likely 2017 first-round defensive end Carl Lawson was out of that game. There were also a few too many instances, particularly against Oregon State, where Schweitzer looked a bit overwhelmed against such premium competition.
I think Schweitzer has/had the ability to play and start for a “Power Five” school, but probably wasn’t good enough to shine there. That of course raises questions about whether he’d then be good enough to stick at the pro level.
I believe he is, but it’s hard to be overly optimistic as he’d be a perfect candidate to get a year or so in a developmental league to really bring out his ability. Players like Tyson Clabo and Harvey Dahl, who too were collegiate tackles at lesser programs like Wake Forest and Nevada, respectively, got early opportunities in NFL Europe, which really helped them develop the technique to compensate for less than ideal athleticism. Clabo was starting games by his third NFL season and Dahl by his fourth thanks in large part to the development they got overseas.
Practice reps are only going to get him so far early in his career, and he needs game reps before you can expect him to make the necessary growth to be trusted as a starter. He’s just a bit too raw at this point to be trusted with extended game reps early in his career.
A good comparison for the type of pro he might become is current Falcon Mike Person. He too was a tackle at lowly Montana State, before being expected to transition inside to guard for the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. After three years of being off and on multiple rosters, Person eventually worked his way to becoming a regular reserve for the St. Louis Rams in 2014.
Then Person came to Atlanta this past season and was afforded some starting reps at guard in the spring as the team remade their roster. He then turned that into a starting opportunity at center during the regular season due to a solid preseason and training camp. Person didn’t quite make the most of his opportunity as a starter, but proved adequate at times and did enough that he might have further starting opportunities should he continue to grow.
Similarly Schweitzer is a player that probably should sit for the better part of three years in the hopes that he can improve and develop during that time. Then by his third or fourth season, hopefully he’s developed enough that he can be a competent to good backup or a functional starter if need be.
Like Person, I don’t think Schweitzer will be a great starter if given that opportunity. He’s not a player that I suspect will be able to go up against top defensive tackles and win, but he might be good enough to hold his own to a point where terms like tolerable, competent and adequate are used to describe him as a starter.
FALCONS FORECAST: How Does He Project in Atlanta?
Schweitzer shouldn’t have much issue fitting in Atlanta’s outside zone-blocking scheme . He has plenty of experience working on stretch runs and bootlegs from his days in San Jose, which are staple plays of the Falcons offense under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
The big question is whether Schweitzer is going to develop quickly enough to stick in Atlanta long-term. There are two potential timelines for his future as a Falcon.
The first is going to be one where he impresses early on, endearing himself to the Falcons coaching staff initially as a rookie. That gives him an opportunity to earn a key role as a reserve on the interior in 2016 and 2017. Should he get an early starting opportunity as an injury replacement, there’s the potential that Schweitzer impresses enough that he could figure into the mix as a potential starter further down the line.
I don’t ever quite see Schweitzer being handed a starting job or finding himself as the clear front-runner in an open competition at a guard spot at any point in the near future, but he could find himself in a favorable situation like Person found himself a year ago. And if Schweitzer takes advantage of said situation, then it’s not crazy to expect him to win a competition for a starting spot two or three years down the road.
The question then will be if Schweitzer plays well enough after that point to maintain that starting job. From what I’ve seen, he’s always going to be the type of player that struggles against premium defensive tackles like Gerald McCoy and Kawann Short, two guys that he potentially will face for many years to come.
Ideally Schweitzer will become a player like Andy Levitre was early in his career, who was a masterful technician that was able to compensate for having subpar size. Despite being the size of an undersized center, Levitre was effective going up against quality defensive linemen like Vince Wilfork because of his superior technique. He also got reps during his days with the Buffalo Bills as an emergency left tackle and was able to hold his own against players like DeMarcus Ware due to his polished technique and footwork.
Yet Levitre was a far superior and more polished blocker coming out of Oregon State many years ago than Schweitzer is coming out today. In truth, Schweitzer is probably at least three or four years away from being on the same level that Levitre was coming into the NFL.
By having a technician like Levitre to learn behind as well as his former collegiate position coach that should know how to push the right buttons, Schweitzer may have the right sort of variables in place to develop and improve his game.
If he does wind up becoming a starter down the road, again it’ll probably be a stopgap that a team can live with for a year or two rather than someone that the Falcons want to hitch their wagon to for many years.
Schweitzer is notably entering an interesting situation in Atlanta because Levitre and fellow starting guard Chris Chester are potentially playing their final years with the team. Both starters are far from guaranteed to return next year, meaning that the Falcons could be looking for potentially two starters to play beside center Alex Mack in 2017.
One imagines that it’s possible that Schweitzer could be one of them. However because of he’s not a fully polished player and probably won’t change that a year into his career, it’s unlikely that Schweitzer will figure heavy into that competition.
And that creates the second possible timeline for Schweitzer’s career. That timeline has Schweitzer entering next year on the bubble because he doesn’t light the world on fire right away this summer as a rookie.
If the Falcons wind up investing in higher-round draft picks or higher-priced free agents to replace Levitre and/or Chester next year, then they will have less of a vested interest in keeping Schweitzer around. He could easily get lost in the shuffle of impending roster turnover on the inside.
If Schweitzer is a player that needs three or four years of development time before he can be trusted as a starter, that’s three or four years that the Falcons have to find alternative options. If the team succeeds in doing so, then suddenly Schweitzer’s window to become a starter is closed.
In the end, I expect that Schweitzer will be able to stick in Atlanta for a few years. The presence of Keith Carter on the coaching staff should give him an advocate for the next few seasons. But in terms of sticking beyond his rookie contract, I’m not overly optimistic. I just believe it’s going to take too long for Schweitzer to develop enough to be trusted as a starter, and that’s all time that the Falcons should be able to find better alternatives to fill any potential voids.
In the end, Schweitzer has the tools to become a valuable reserve in Atlanta should he polish his technique enough to compensate for middling athletic and physical tools. His starting potential is low, but as a sixth-round pick that is by no means a negative.