NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas
In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this 11th installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton.
Scott Crichton won’t win every battle at the line, but he approaches each one the same.
That mentality is what turned the Tacoma, Wash., native into a three-year letterman at Henry Foss High School, where he played defensive end, linebacker and tight end. It is what netted the then-6’3”, 225-pound Falcon 78 solo tackles, 10 pass breakups, four forced fumbles and an interception during his senior season. It is what named him Narrows League Defensive MVP, a 4A first-team All-State selection and Tacoma Weekly Player of the Year.
Even so, Crichton remained concealed in recruiting circles. Rivals.com ranked him 44th among defensive ends in the 2010 class; Scout.com ranked him 127th at the position; 247Sports.com ranked him 602nd overall.
The weak-side defender was a fringe three-star prospect, but he was also a player driven by effort. And as signing day drew near, that was a something the University of Oregon, the University of Washington and Washington State University all made note of.
Yet in the end, Crichton decided to trek 226 miles southward, enrolling at Oregon State University in the fall of 2010.
His first year in Corvallis was a redshirt one. The freshman filled out to 260 pounds, made an impact in practice and earned co-MVP honors on the defensive scout team as a result.
His second year was one of in-game impact. Crichton tallied 74 tackles, a freshmen national-best 14.5 tackles for loss, a team-leading six sacks, a Beavers single-season record six forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, three pass breakups and a blocked kick. In the process, he garnered first-team Freshman All-America recognition from CBSSports.com, Phil Steele, Yahoo! Sports, College Football News and Sporting News. All the while, he was named a Pac-12 honorable mention and Oregon State’s most improved player along with quarterback Sean Mannion.
Crichton found himself on the Lombardi Award Preseason Watch List heading into 2012. The redshirt sophomore proceeded by registering 44 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, three pass breakups and a blocked kick. He was branded a SI.com All-America honorable mention, a Ted Hendricks Award semifinalist and a first-team Pac-12 selection shortly thereafter.
As 2013 arrived, the redshirt junior arrived on the preseason radar for the Bronko Nagurski Award, the Bednarik Award, the Ted Hendricks Award and the Lott Trophy. He followed that up by amassing 47 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and three pass breakups. He was an SI.com All-America honorable mention and a second-team Pac-12 choice by season’s end.
And by season’s end, after starting 37 of 38 games played over his Beavers career, Crichton made his decision. He didn’t need input from the advisory board; all he needed was to help his family.
The 273-pound 22-year-old took the next step towards doing so in January, when he announced his decision to forgo his final year of eligibility to enter the 2014 NFL draft.
No. 95 is seen as a first- or second-round selection this May. Courtesy of the film archives at DraftBreakdown.com, here is a closer look as to why.
High Pad Level, But A High-Powered, Explosive & Versatile Run-Pursuer
It’s fair to say Crichton isn’t a complete run defender, as in many ways, his flaws are conspicuous.
He can get stood up by run blocks and must play with a lower pad level on a consistent basis. Otherwise, he is unable to drive his legs and can be consumed in double-team blocks. And when he loses leverage and gets tossed back by a strong, punching hand replacement, he doesn’t have the counter to free himself seamlessly.
In terms of his aggressiveness, it can be a double-edged sword. There are instances where he hustles to get in front of the play, yet on the other hand, there are also instances where he barrels through without an itinerary and is shocked by a pull block or overrun by the ball-carrier.
These trends have an adverse effect on gap integrity. But while there is room for improvement, it would be remiss to call Crichton a deficiency on running downs. After all, 51 tackles for loss in three seasons is far too significant a number to be an outlier.
It starts with his versatility.
Not only does he have experience lining up as far out as the seven-technique and as close as the one-technique, he understands the responsibilities that go along with playing both ends of the line. One snap he’ll play left end in a 4-3 to contain the backside, the next he’ll play right end in a 3-4 to slow the strong side, and the next he’ll play left defensive tackle in a 4-3 to wedge the interior.
That went a long way towards him staying on the field, but it also went a long way towards him staying active on the field to disrupt offensive linemen and running backs.
Crichton’s ability to time the snap and burst into the point of attack proved to be a key component in that. As his 4.29-second short-shuttle time at the NFL Scouting Combine indicates, he is sudden in short space and is anticipatory in reading the direction of the play.
He knows how to convert that initial quickness and instinctiveness into power when he maintains a low center of gravity. He uses his 32 3/4-inch arms and heavy 10 1/8-inch hands to stun blockers or contract and expand them. In doing so, he can get under his foe’s pads to thrust them onto their heels and rip them down.
He closes fast. And he did against California on Oct. 19.
With under six minutes to play in the first quarter, the Golden Bears dispersed in “21” personnel from the Pistol formation. The plan for the 1st-and-10 was a handoff to 5’8”, 175-pound halfback Khalfani Muhammad down the right side of the hash.
The freshman would have a pulling left guard to lead him, but Oregon State’s 4-3 under front would have a six-man rush coming from the strong side. Crichton stood in the middle of it as the right end.
As quarterback Jared Goff handled the snap and circled around to the running back, Crichton circled around the void left by left guard Jordan Rigsbee.
He planted towards the center with his left foot and angled towards the ball with his right. At than juncture, he propelled through the B-gap, tucking his right arm into his chest before slapping it around the inside shoulder of 6’8”, 330-pound right tackle Freddie Tagaloa.
The blocking scheme spread beyond its bounds. Crichton crossed the line of scrimmage behind the guard’s back and beyond the tackle’s arms.
It wasn’t until then that the tailback could inhale the football. Five yards separated them.
As Muhammad made his cut towards the outside of the dilapidated line, Crichton made his presence felt. He lowered his shoulders as he stormed into the ball-carrier’s vision.
Then he collided high.
Crichton finished the play off with the same urgency he began it with.
He was prompt out of his stance. He had the recognition to eclipse the pull block as well as the right tackle awaiting him. He had the lean to forge into the backfield.
And he had the power to run through the back. It was a loss of three.
Whether it’s at the handoff, off the tackle, down the sideline or upfield, Crichton clicks and zeroes. He will weave around obstacles. He will sniff out the best angle to get there, even on reverses. And he will finish through the target with great physical nature, even on triple options.
A total of 10 forced fumbles were recorded along the way.
Limited Pass-Rush Moves & Flex, But A Downhill Bull Chasing Quarterbacks
When you watch Crichton operate, it doesn’t take long to see that he’s willing in both the run and the pass. That said, there are currently restrictions on what he can do efficiently.
Much like in run defense, Crichton can land on the wrong side of the leverage war in pass rush. When he rises off the ball, his body has an inclination to let kick-sliding offensive tackles and guards into his torso. As his opponents anchor and pop their arms, he can be decleated by side-blocking linemen and blitz-pickup halfbacks alike. And when he is twisted off the snap, he inevitably loses sight of the ball and concedes containment for quarterbacks to scramble.
Part of that is technical, as Crichton tends to rely on his spin move and doesn’t always keep his head on a swivel. Part of that is strength, as he displays a rugged core but struggles to unlock succinctly. Part of that is also flexibility.
There are cases where Crichton seems to play high because of some lower-body stiffness and minimal ankle flexion. While he can be used as a stand-up rusher and is multifaceted in running stunts and the arc, sometimes his radius proves to be too wide to meet his destination. When he cuts into the A-gaps and doesn’t accelerate through his bend with a clear plan of action, he gets stuck in the rubble. And when he swings around the edge and tries to dip his inside shoulder, he can stumble or he can get wrapped around and ridden out of range.
Now while Crichton has limitations, those limitations didn’t keep him from notching 22.5 sacks over the last three years. He is an excellent chaser of the football, even if he’s not an acrobat.
He uses a downhill mentality to get there.
With a turn-key jump off the snap and a violent follow-through, Crichton can be as virulent as he wants to be. Though he isn’t a steady edge-bender and is refining his arsenal of moves, he is a devastating bull-rusher when he gets his weight shifted and hands fired.
He will shrivel a quarterback’s pocket by long-arming and spinning out, or by slicing through open space. To Crichton, it doesn’t matter if the quarterback is dropping back, reading and rolling out, or flushing out to the flat – he has shown he can catch up to them.
He will surprise with his balance and agility when he stays on his feet through cut and combination blocks. He will sprint, stop and redirect to bring down tunnel screens. And every so often, he will trace back into shallow ground and read a quarterback’s eyes to bat down a pass.
Crichton will do a lot of things. But as far as passing downs go, one is prevailing: He will run like a bull and deliver like one, too.
This was seen versus Stanford on Oct. 26.
On 1st-and-10 with four minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Cardinal offense deployed in bunched “21” personnel for a play-action pass across from Oregon State’s 4-3 defense.
Crichton aligned wide at left end, which meant that 6’6”, 301-pound right guard Kevin Danser and 6’6”, 304-pound right tackle Brendon Austin had the task of covering him.
He had the task of splitting them.
Quarterback Kevin Hogan harnessed the snap from center and sold it to Tyler Gaffney on the fake. Concurrently, Crichton twitched towards the A-gap before waving back towards the C-gap.
It left the right tackle bracing the edge while the right guard braced the interior. Crichton saw the void.
His quick cuts became a straight-line sprint.
Austin responded by separating his base from his arms, while Danser responded by bending at his waist.
By the time they adjusted, it was too late. Crichton had bulldozed himself between them.
Crichton wasn’t done. He unloaded on the laterally moving guard and was within three yards of doing the same to the quarterback.
Hogan sensed the heat and stepped up in the pocket to dodge it. Crichton, however, was stepping up with him.
He swerved in front of the junior signal-caller and threw him to the turf.
Crichton beat the tandem block for a sack. It set Stanford back seven yards.
He may not carve the corner like a finesse 3-4 outside linebacker, but he can disassemble a third down like a jackhammer. He could fit as a situational defensive tackle, a third pass-rusher or a full-time left defensive end because of it.
There may be 4-3 end prospects with more length, strength and athletic upside than Scott Crichton, yet few transformed those traits into production the way he did over his career at Oregon State.
For three years, Crichton played with a tempo few on the field could match. He did so whatever the situation. He did so wherever he was asked to line up.
He flashed rawness in his moves and in sustaining leverage, but he also flashed the speed, physicality and determination to suggest he’s far from his apex.