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Film Study: Is Brandon Scherff a guard or a tackle?

Let's take an exhaustive look at Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff as he takes on Indiana in this film study.

Brandon Scherff
Brandon Scherff
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to our first prospect film study of the off-season, Giants fans. I usually do these film studies on players that I think can be good fits for this team, or are closely linked to the team throughout the draft process.

Film study is essential when looking at a prospect, as it's what probably 65-70 percent of the evaluation consists of. You have your pro-days, and interviews, and the NFL scouting combine, but you really want to know how that prospect does in game in real time situations.

Today, we're looking at Brandon Scherff, left tackle for the Iowa Hawkeyes. We're going to look at his game in early October vs. Indiana. Before we get started, I'd like to remind you that he had a meniscal tear less than a month before this game, so keep that in mind as your evaluation goes on. I've got some of his later games on DVR (but don't/can't know how to upload them). Hopefully draftbreakdown (which is the amazing site from which I got this game) can upload later games in the future and we can re-evaluate then.

As I have done every year, I'm going to start by going through what I look for when scouting an offensive lineman.

Pass Protection

At the snap, the first thing you want to look for is how quickly a lineman gets from his hand on the ground to his two-point stance. You want them to have their head snapped up quickly, and ideally their feet should already be in motion and going into their kickslide at the moment the play begins. Make note of their stance. You want to see them springing and bending at their knees. A big knock on a prospect is if they are a "waist-bender." That essentially means you are bending and pivoting at the waist and hips, which makes you slower and more likely to be off balance and lunge. It also makes you more prone to a power move because you can set back when you waist bend.

As they engage the defensive lineman or linebacker, you want to see them have a wide base. While this is much more important for a guard, a wide (but not too wide) base allows tackles to absorb bull rushes and other power moves because it lets them anchor better.

Let's take a look at an example of this:

Here, we see Texan LB Whitney Mercilus destroy Charger OT King Dunlap. Mercilus hits him with a simple bull rush, and manages to get a hit and pressure on the QB. Why? Look at how Dunlap bends. Do you see any real bend to his knees? Nope. Standing too straight up, his back is arched forward, classic waist bending. Look at how wide his feet are. They start okay, but as soon as he takes a few steps, his base starts to decrease. The result? No functional strength at all and the 260-pound Mercilus takes the 320-pound Dunlap to school.

When they are kick-sliding, you want to see smooth transition as one foot slides with the other. You want it to be fast, no sluggish movements. It doesn't matter if their feet look choppy as long as they go where they need to go and you don't trip over yourself. Be active. This is especially important when you are "mirroring" the defender. Out of your initial kick out, you follow the defensive opponent wherever he goes. Fast, active feet let you do that. Waist bending means you leave your feet behind you and you end up lunging and more often than not, whiffing.

As far as upper body goes, the big thing here is the arms and hands. You want a heavy (and by heavy, I mean like a club) punch straight inside the shoulder pads as soon as possible. Then your arms need to be strong and hold off whatever moves the opponent throws at you. Keep him away and anchor down. You don't want to get called for holding, so don't tug and don't grab him outside his shoulders. Stay in, stay square, and stay clean.

Awareness is also a big positive if the player shows it. You have to  be able to quickly diagnose your assignment. If you see a blitz coming and are able to pick it up, that's a plus. If it's on a delay, seeing a college player get off his initial block and pick up the delayed blitzer is rare and something you absolutely mark down.

Finally, if you ARE beaten, that's okay. It happens. I want to see how you respond. Do you lunge, or do you quickly reset and have the athleticism to catch the defender from behind and shove him back out of the way?

Run Blocking

Run blocking is a very different skill than pass blocking and a lot more complicated then what you'd expect. There's different types of blocks and even more techniques with which you execute these blocks. I won't go into much detail with that. I'm not a coach, nor do I pretend to be, and wouldn't be able to give you nearly enough detailed X's and O's on this matter. So let's just stick with the basics, shall we?

You've got your base drive block, which is the primary staple of the run blocking arsenal and the easiest to learn. You essentially look for the offensive lineman to explode off the ball, keep his head down and drive through the opponent. You want to see him have a low center of gravity, win leverage, and above all, keep driving those legs so that he doesn't lose functional strength. The objective here is to destroy your opponent. Drive him backwards. You need all the power you can get.

You've got your backside cut-off block where you are the offensive tackle on the side opposite where the ball is going. Your job here is to be quick enough to simply just get in the way of the backside pursuit and maintain discipline on your side by not missing that block. It doesn't even need to be a cut block where you take out the guys knees, all you need to do is get in the way.

You've got a seal block/reach block where the objective is to be the play side tackle (meaning the ball comes in your direction) and you get on the outside edge of the defender quickly enough to seal him off from the play and keep him off with your arms long enough to let the runner get by you and take him out of the play. On these I look for speed, the ability to re-adjust your feet enough to stay square, and the ability to set your feet down and create a seal.

Pulls, Screens, Downfield Blocking

Final few things I look for when evaluating OTs is their ability to block in space. This is the most dependent on that particular player's athleticism. Take pulling for example. You don't see it too often from an offensive tackle because the distance is usually too great. Take a look at this play for example:


Only an athletic tackle would be able to complete that near sweep pull to the other side to take on the crashing 5. On screens, I want to see if they can lock on quickly to their target and have the speed and agility to make a clean block in space. That's really it. Anything more is a bonus, but you want to see that form of athleticism.


Like I did last year, I'll be doing this study a little differently. Along with going with the times and analyzing each play, I'll try and use a 'ProFootballFocus' grading system to come up with the player's overall grade for that game, so you guys can see not only where my thoughts are, but how exactly I'd quantify their performance on a play to play basis.

Just like PFF, this grading system goes with a maximum possible score of +2.0 for a play, to a lowest possible score of -2.0. Also just like PFF, if the player does what an "average (read: mid-round)" prospect does, that counts as a 0.0. I can guarantee, I'd never give a +2.0, nor would I give a -2.0, it'd just have to be the worst or best play ever. In any case, I've said enough about that, so let's get on with it!

0:00 - 0:31 - Two plays. One screen. one run. Dive block on first screen, away from Scherff. On run, Scherff gets to second level quickly, but once again away from him, nobody to block. Grade: +0.0

00:32 - 0:48 - One play, pass. Poor play by Scherff. Remember when we talked about awareness against the blitz? There was a definite mis-communication here, and although it's impossible to tell who's at fault, I'm going to guess Scherff is. There's a blitz and the RB is in pass protection. Scherff initiates contact with his guy and then passes him off inside, but there's nobody there. The RB had already started from the snap to go outside to handle the edge blitz. Result is unblocked DL getting a sack. Grade: -0.8

0:49 - 1:17 - Two plays. One screen. one run. Screen again away from Scherff, stays square on initial contact but does not have to hold the block long enough for it to count. On run, he explodes into the second level but again doesn't find someone to block. Grade: +0.0

1:18 - 1:28 - One play, run. Scherff turns his DL assignment loose on a stretch run, gets a hit on linebacker, but doesn't bother to engage him. Grade: +0.1

1:29 - 1:52 - Two plays, both passes. On first pass, really like how quick he is off the snap. Engages well, and gets into the defender's body, which is perfect form for pass protection. Second play has some good and bad. Kick slide is fine, but he gets beat off the edge because of a weak punch. Unusual. DL shrugs it off. That's bad. The good is how quickly he reset and was able to block him again and away from the QB. That was unexpected. Grade: +0.3

1:53 - 2:04 - One play, pass. Lucky the pass came out quickly. Beaten off the snap, you see the low speed of his punch again as he tries to stay square in his lower body to prevent any inside moves. Late getting his punch out until defender gets past his outer shoulder and bends in. QB waits any later, that's a sack. I'm going to count that as a pressure. Grade: -0.4

2:05 - 2:24 - Two plays, one pass and one run. Scherff wins when he's allowed to drive into the defender and force the initial contact into him. Then he just won't let go (without it being holding). His feet can mirror just well enough to prevent a pressure after initial contact. The run play...woof. Again, leaning into defender, grabbing with hands, and churning legs with a perfect drive block. Grade: +0.7 (0.3 pass play, 0.4 run play)

2:25 - 2:52 - Two plays, both passes. First play bootleg opposite side of Scherff. Second play, attempted dive block and another whiff. Grade: -0.1

2:53 - 3:30 - Two plays, one pass and one run. Pass play, Scherff gets hands on early, but defender disengages. Once again, Scherff's feet are just good enough to reset and prevent pressure when he contacts defender second time. On run play, drive block. Good hand-fighting by Scherff. Loses control a little bit when defender gets lower than him, but then just heaves all of his weight into him and knocks him down (unfortunately in the same lane the runner went through). Grade: +0.4 (0.1 pass, 0.3 run)

3:31 - 3:57 - Two plays, one run, one pass. Run play, gets legs churning again, gets low but doesn't bother to get hands up to engage defender. Result doesn't matter, bad technique. Pass play, instead of kick sliding, he again initiates contact and re-directs so hard that defender goes to the turf. Grade:+0.1 (run -0.1, pass 0.2)

3:58 - 4:13 - One play, pass. Strong awareness here. Gets initial bump on first defender but passes him off to guard and reads the outside blitz. Sees that running back does not pick it up and is quick enough to get in space and use power to get a good hit on him to redirect away from QB. Grade: +0.4

4:14 - 4:53 - Two plays, one pass, one run. Two touchdowns but nothing to do with Scherff on either. On pass, Indiana dropped more into coverage, Scherff had nobody to block. Instead he helped. On run, got to second level, but nobody to block, jet sweep on his side. Grade: +0.0

4:54 - 5:15 - Two plays, both runs. In both, Scherff goes to second level for down-field block and doesn't do a great job either time. He gets up to speed very quickly, but looks to be aiming for pancake rather than a functional block, and so he doesn't extend arms fully on contact, allowing defender to disengage. Happened on first play, a little bit better on second as Scherff was able to re-engage. Grade: -0.1

5:16 - 5:41 - Two plays, one pass and one run. Pass protection mediocre. Slow kick slide, little bit of waist bend. If he's passive and allows defender to make contact, they can beat him with a bullrush despite his strength. Was vulnerable there, but defender didn't decide to drive home, so not a pressure. On run play, again shows capability as brutal drive blocker. Moves defensive lineman off the LOS by three or four yards. Grade: +0.4 (0.0 pass, 0.4 run)

5:42 - 5:59 - Two plays, one screen and one pass. Attacked screen as if run play, burst off ball. Got arms around shoulder pads and just drove backwards with abandon. I love it every time. In pass protection, struggled. Thought he'd be beat off an inside move, little waist-bending present and didn't move feet fast enough. Got help from guard. Grade: +0.1 (0.1 run, 0.0 pass)

6:00 - 6:26 - Two plays, one pass and one run. Stayed square in pass protection. Good hand use, this time punch was good and defender struggled to disengage. On run play, again the same thing all over again. Explodes to second level but whiffs initially on block. To his credit, he finds his target and is able to engage him out of the play. Once engaged, defender had no chance. Grade: +0.2 (0.1 pass, 0.1 run)

6:27 - 7:05 - Four plays, all runs. Does a good job of initiating contact. Seal blockers oftentimes allow defenders into their bodies before re-directing, but Scherff always gets the first hit. Tries washing his defender out on all three plays. Sloppy hand work allows defender to disengage on three of four plays, but he holds him long enough for it not to matter. Grade: +0.0

7:06 - 7:29 - 2 plays, both passes. First play, perfect technique. Active feet, strong arms don't let defender disengage. Stays square to defender and base allows him to anchor so he isn't shoved into QB. Second play weird. He's confused and doesn't know who to block since both guys on his side are engaged. Caught in no-man's landed on broken play. Grade: +0.0

7:30 - 7:57 - Two plays, one screen and one pass. Was not involved in screen play. On passes, great job not allowing defender to get the edge. Defender does good job of not allowing Scherff to get close and lock arms with him, so DEs hands are fully extended. Scherff does some handy arm work as well and basically is able to shove the DEs arms down, making him fall. Grade: +0.1

7:58 - 8:19 - Two plays, one screen and one pass. Was not involved in screen play. Decent play in pass protection. Slow kickslide, almost painfully slow, but again just good enough as DE takes stupidly wide angle. Misses on initial punch, which is annoying, but again, impressed with ability to reset and stay square to the defender to not allow pressure. Grade: +0.1

8:20 - 8:47 - Two plays, one pass and one run. Pass play bootleg, Scherff not involved. Loses balance on run play. Overextends trying to drive defender and gets on ground. First really kind of poor run play on the day. Grade: -0.2 (0.0 pass, -0.2 run)

8:48 - 9:07 - Two plays, both runs. First play, great technique. Drives defender laterally. What we've been saying, head down, legs going boom-boom, move defender off LOS. Second run, he basically just falls on defender. Grade: +0.2

9:08 - 9:25 - Two plays, one run and one pass. Run play, very rare for him not to finish his block but he doesn't here. Allows defender to push off his punch and doesn't let Scherff latch on. Scherff's foot speed also slower than DEs, allowing him to close on ball carrier. On pass, successful cut block. Grade: -0.4 (-0.4 run, 0,0 pass)

9:26 - 9:51 - Two plays, one pass and one run. On pass play, he allows pressure but no fault of his own. Great job mirroring defender. Good hand-fighting and footwork allowed him to stay ahead of defender. QB steps up after taking way too long, so defender gets pressure there. On run play, again, takes defender out. Hands on him, dips his head and bulls him away from play. Grade: +0.5 (+0.3 pass, +0.2 run)

9:52 - 10:13 - Two plays, one run and one pass. Run play, rinse and repeat. Textbook drive blocking. Pass play, slow kickslide again, but still manages to reset. Anchor is decent, definitely gives ground but doesn't allow pressure. Good wide base. Grade: +0.3 (+0.2 run, +0.1 pass)

10:14 - 10:34 - Two plays, both passes. First play, successful cut block. Second play, offsides gave defender all momentum. Don't fault Scherff here, was caught off balance from the snap. Penalty gave first down. Grade: +0.0

10:35 - 10:50 - One play, pass. Wonderful play by Scherff. Strong punch knocks first defender back, then gets punch on defender that is engaged with the left guard. The first defender than stunts outside but Scherff gets back and gets another punch on him that knocks him back. Grade: +0.3

10:51 - 11:19 - Two plays, one run and one pass. Two mediocre plays. Explodes off snap again to get to second level, but again keeps his head down and whiffs on target for run that goes opposite side. In pass pro, allows defender to get into his body. QB lets it go before what could have been successful inside spin move. Grade: -0.5 (-0.3 run, -0.2 pass)

11:20 - 11:41 - Two plays, one pass and one run. Poor play by Scherff on pass. This is what happens when your base narrows and you get too high. He got bullied by a power move and then inside move for a pressure. Didn't reset and get his base wider which knocked him off balance. On run play, stood up his guy, which was decent. Grade: -0.6 (-0.6 pass, 0.0 run)

11:42 - 11:59 - Two plays, both runs. This is becoming a common theme. Scherff gets to second level really quickly, but no one to block. He just stops. On second run, he's not involved. Grade: -0.1

12:00 - 12:32 - Two plays, one run, one screen, one pass. Ugly run play again, he gets down the field, whiffs on a block. On screen, was too quick for him to do anything. Pass play was thing of beauty though. Look at that BRUTE strength. Punch is so hard, he whips him down to allow QB to scramble. Wow play right there. Grade: +0.1 (-0.3 run, +0.4 pass)

12:33 - 13:06 - Three plays, run, screen, and run. First run play gets blown up before he can find someone to block. Screen play is over in a flash, so can't tell much, and second run play he pulls and gets rid of the guy in backside pursuit. Nothing noteworthy about any of these plays. Grade: +0.0

13:07 - 13:40 - Two plays, one pass and one run. Pass play, he attacks like he's run blocking, engages quickly and dispatches defender. On run play, he isn't involved in play. Takes out No. 58, who basically takes out himself by crashing away from the play, so Scherff just helps him along. Grade: +0.0

13:41 - 14:05 - Two plays, one run and one screen. Run play, he essentially just picks someone to block from crashing defenders and it has no impact on play. Screen play is more of the same. Grade: +0.0

14:06 - 14:26 - Two plays, one pass, and one run. Pass play showed phenomenal technique. Kick slide was smooth, hand-fighting was good, stayed square towards the defender. Run play was more of a seal than anything as he ended up boxing out defender trying to get into running lane. Grade: +0.1 (0.1 pass, 0.0 run).

14:27 - 14:49 -Two plays, both runs. First play drives defender initially, but DE recovers. Still, functionally the job was done but Scherff could've done better staying engaged. Second play was just a washout on a counter. Scherff did his job and made his target flow opposite the runner. Grade: +0.0

14:50 - 15:13 - Two plays, both runs. Can't say enough about his drive blocking. Don't need to describe it anymore. Good job. Second run was end around away from him. Grade: +0.1

15:14 - 15:35 - Two plays, both runs. Great play by Scherff, who chips one DE and FINALLY gets to second level and connects on a successful block. Bullies the defender out of the screen. On second play, gets stuck in the wash and the play is broken. Grade: +0.1

15:36 - 15:56 - Two plays, both runs. What an awesome play here by Scherff. Blocks two guys in one play. Shows excellent ability to get downfield. This time, he is able to get his arms into the defenders' chests and that allows him to use his brutality to make blocks for his running back. Second play, he does what has frustrated me all game. Explodes downfield like prior play but whiffs on block. Gets back and drives his intended target after runner is past him and gives him a nasty little shove at the end. Grade: +0.2

15:57 - 16:07 - One play, run. Was end of the game, he just finds a linebacker and engages. Grade: +0.0

Game Charting and Stats

Total Snaps: 78

Total Grade: +1.6


Run Block Snaps: 41

Run Block Grade: +1.0

Pass Block Snaps: 37

Pass Block Grade: +0.6


QB Sacks Allowed: 1

QB Hits Allowed: 1

QB Hurries Allowed: 2

Final Word

I'd be very surprised if you read through all that mess. If you did, kudos, it was exhausting for me to type. If you didn't, I don't blame you, so here's the conclusion I got from watching this game. Brandon Scherff looks like a guard. Not a tackle, but a guard. Let's go over why:

Let's first talk about pass protection. He looked really, really good when he jumped off the snap and initiated contact with the defensive lineman. His upper body strength is elite. His hand fighting is elite. Once he latches on to you, I saw maybe once or twice in that 16 minute video of a defender breaking free. He looked uncomfortable when he had to go into a typical kick slide and allow the defender to initiate contact with him. Why? His feet looked slow and he struggled with hand placement when he was in space (or rather, whatever limited space there is between him and the defender). He made most of his mistakes in pass protection with that. It doesn't allow him to use his brutal strength to his advantage. He DID impress me at times with how fast he could recover ... especially his feet. But that was too inconsistent for me right now.

Now, do you think his knee injury had something to do with it? I'm sure it did, but I am only commenting on THIS video.

In run blocking, it's clear as day that he's probably one of the best run blockers in the draft. He's just an absolute monster. So why is his grade only a +1.0? Well if you go back to the actual grades given out per play, you'll see him have a fantastic grade when it's just to move the guy in front of him out of the way. Perfect technique every single. time.

The problems start when he releases into the open field to get blocks for his running backs in space. The speed at which he gets there is astounding. He's so fast and that's awesome. However, he keeps his head down and doesn't adequately lock on to his target and that results in a lot of whiffs. Unacceptable, but it's something that's very coachable, so color me unconcerned about that. He also sometimes gets lazy in his technique and his punches aren't as strong as they could be, but that will happen to anybody over the course of an entire game.

So where does he win? A freakishly strong initial punch. If he engages you in pass protection or in run blocking, it's pretty much over for you. He can recover very well. He anchors decently. Drive blocking is elite.

So where does he lose? Kick slide is not good enough for a left tackle and inconsistent for a right tackle. Downfield blocking needs to get better.

That makes him a guard. Pass protection will be MUCH easier for him when he's just engaging the defensive tackle in front of him, and he's got monstrous power to not give up an inch. Put him in a phone booth and ask him to drive his target off the line of scrimmage, no problem. I think he could be an elite run blocking guard (and this is from multiple film reviews, not just this one).

Is that worth the New York Giants' first round pick? I'm not so sure.