2014 NFL Draft: Highlighting This Year's Biggest Hitters
The landscape of the NFL today does not make it easy on guys with a propensity for hard hits. This specialized crop of hard-hitters could also populate a list of guys who are most likely to pay the most money in fines.
But hey, there are still a few inches left on a football player's body that can still be hit at full speed. This is a slideshow dedicated to the infamous players with a reputation for pain. Perhaps the last of a dying breed.
Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Weight: 207 lbs
It seems like Calvin Pryor only knows one way to play football. That way is as a safety who loves to build momentum before running directly at the ball-carrier in a straight line. Before contact, Pryor has perfected the art of turning his body into a missile aimed right at the chest of his opponents.
Though this tone-setting mentality is effective and does have value on a football field, it also causes him to take poor angles, misread plays and miss more tackles than you would like to see. Pryor also seems caught in "no man's land" when playing center field. His instincts to anticipate where the ball is headed while positioning himself for success downfield are not strengths of his game.
Sigmund Bloom of Footballguys.com would agree with the negatives of Pryor—so much so that he put the potential first-round selection on his All-Overrated Team for 2014.
On the plus side, Pryor has good size/speed combination and gives incredible effort for four quarters of every game. He is one of the toughest players in this draft class and has the passion to make a big splash for his future organization.
Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
Weight: 211 lbs
This first-team All-American has the NFL size and instincts to be a special player for years to come. Though he made this list for blowing up ball-carriers, he has much more than that to offer as an NFL prospect.
Of all the hard-hitting safeties in this class, Bucannon appears to be the strongest of the group. Furthermore, he also graded out as the most productive safety of the 2014 draft class based on a system that averages both production per game and career production by assigning a certain number of points for various stats.
Though he is certainly a physical and instinctual football player, Bucannon seems to glide around the field with effortless movements that often make him look slower than he really is. At the combine in Indianapolis he ran a sub 4.5 40-yard dash and timed an impressive 6.96 seconds in the three-cone drill.
Out of 222 completed measurables I have listed for this draft class, Bucannon ranks 38th overall. To read more about these measurables and to see the top 25 prospects in this category, click here.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Weight: 266 lbs
This high-profile rookie prospect is still vying to be the first pick in the draft on May 8.
Jadeveon Clowney is widely considered one of the most impressive athletes to come along in years. He also happens to be a dominating hitter who routinely slips by offensive linemen and destroys running backs in the backfield before they get a chance to get started.
One of the more famous examples of his hitting prowess can be found in the video above, where he clobbers the RB for Michigan. This could be one of the greatest football hits of all time.
Despite only playing in 36 games, Clowney rates seventh out of 27 edge-rushers in total production. This rank is determined by combining each player's production per game with his career production.
It's reasonable to believe that when it comes to Jadeveon Clowney, the best is yet to come.
Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
Weight: 245 lbs
Shayne Skov is a physical run-plugger who takes on blockers with good strength and an aggressive mentality.
Although this inside linebacker lacks a great feel for zone coverage, he does do a good job finding the ball and winning at the point of attack with physicality. For this reason, Skov makes this list of hard hitters.
You have to remember that linebackers and linemen are not afforded the luxury of building up momentum by covering large areas of turf on the way to their target. For this reason, the hit intensity has to be judged differently for these players.
Skov is an incredibly stout, physical linebacker who is very tough to push around. In fact, if anyone is going to be doing the pushing, that man is likely going to be Skov.
Because he isn't very fast or quick for the next level and given his strengths, he would be ideally suited as an ILB for a 3-4 defensive front. In my opinion Skov is too slow and lacks the athleticism for a 4-3 defense.
Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Weight: 332 lbs
The type of hitting that Greg Robinson does on the offensive side of the ball is obviously different from that of a heat-seeking safety. With that said, his big hits are certainly no less enjoyable to watch.
In all of my adult years watching football, I've only seen one other person move people around against their will like Greg Robinson does. That person is Leonard Davis, who I had the privilege of going head-to-head with for one series.
Davis was the biggest, most intimidating human being I'd ever seen in my life. When I tried to beat him around the edge during a pass rush, he literally sent me flying into the air by punching me in the shoulder with a single hand. I learned a humbling NFL lesson that night.
Put on some of Robinson's tape, and you'll see several examples of him manhandling 300-pound men by driving them five, 10 or sometimes 15 yards down the field. His blocking style and leg drive are relentless.
One two-hand punch from Robinson in your chest is equivalent to Calvin Pryor launching his entire body at you with a 20-yard running head start.
C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Weight: 234 lbs
The most complete linebacker in this class is C.J. Mosley. He has the size and strength to clog up the middle but also the speed, quickness and athleticism to play sideline-to-sideline.
In 51 games at Alabama, Mosley averaged 6.24 tackles per game, which is impressive considering he was a reserve player for the first few years with Alabama. During his time with the Crimson Tide, he scored an impressive three defensive touchdowns over his career.
If you're wondering whether or not Mosley can deliver a hit, ask Zach Mettenberger if he still feels the hit he took from Mosley last year. That hit can be seen on the video above. One of the best things about Mosley's hitting ability is that he often comes with great technique and calculations. Because of this, he rarely misses tackles or blows his assignment.
The "hard-hitter" label rarely comes in a package like the one offered up by C.J. Mosley.
David Yankey, OG, Stanford
Weight: 315 lbs
David Yankey is the second Stanford Cardinal to make this list. I can assure you there is no bias for that school considering it was my school's (Cal) ultimate rival.
As it stands, Yankey makes this list of hard hitters on merit, certainly not any affinity for his wretched school.
Stanford's highly decorated guard can certainly move a pile. He is solid at the point of attack and moves well while displaying consistently good hand placement and a nice firm base.
For a guy who is 315 pounds of power, Yankey is also impressively quick. When you watch tape of Stanford's offense, it's clear who the play-caller felt comfortable running behind in short-yardage situations. Yankey has proven to be a reliable guy to run behind in critical moments because he nearly always clears a path.
In a sport where the defenders pride themselves on being able to deliver punishment, it's always refreshing to have a player capable of giving some punishment back.
Sean Parker, S, Washington
Weight: 193 lbs
There is absolutely nothing special or impressive about the physical measurables of Sean Parker. This reason surely contributed to being snubbed for the scouting combine in Indianapolis. But if you think he made up for measurables with insane production throughout his time in Washington, you'd be wrong again.
Out of 20 safeties tallied up for this year's draft, Parker finished 13th in his production grade. But it's worth noting he wasn't statistically invisible either. Parker did stand out in one major category. He enters the draft tied for fifth in interceptions out of all draft-eligible Division I football players.
Another impressive tidbit about Parker's style of play is his physicality, especially considering he is the only player on this list under 200 pounds. Few men of his stature are willing to turn their bodies into human weapons. Parker does this often, and he does it well.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player and currently writes for Bleacher Report.
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