The NFL has its eyes out for talented players, looking closely at every level and every school. But sometimes prospects manage to fall through the cracks when it comes to the coverage of the draft. Sometimes it’s because they have big-time talent but played for a small school and didn’t get national exposure. Sometimes it’s they were waylaid by injury at some point in their college career and were out of mind for a season. And sometimes it’s because they played for a team that didn’t live up to expectations.
While we should certainly expect that the New York Giants are looking past all of those cases and casting their net wide, players can slip past the notice of those of us on the outside.
TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock is one of those players flying (a bit) under the radar after losing his 2018 season to an Achilles injury. However he brings good athleticism and disruptiveness, which will play well in any one-gap defense.
Prospect: Ross Blacklock (DT, TCU)
Games Watched: vs. Purdue (2019), vs. Texas (2019), vs. Baylor (2019), vs. West Virginia (2019)
Red Flags: Achilles (2018)
Games Played (starts): 24
Tackles For a loss: 15.5
Games Played (starts): 12
Tackles For a loss: 9
Best: Explosiveness, quickness, agility, leverage, motor
Worst: Size, balance
Projection: A starting, or important rotation, defensive tackle in a one-gap defensive front.
TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock is a quick, agile, and explosive defensive tackle. Blacklock lines up at multiple techniques for TCU’s defense in both odd and even fronts. He shows a good get-off with an explosive first step and good timing of the snap. Blacklock is frequently one of the first players moving at the snap of the ball and uses his burst to pressure blockers while he attacks gaps.He fires off the ball with very good hip and pad level, establishing leverage and playing with very good leg drive. He shows good hand usage, getting his hands on blockers early in the rep, extending to create separation and preventing blockers from establishing control. Blacklock is at his best in 1-gap situations, consistently putting his hips in his gap and preventing linemen from reach-blocking him.
Blacklock flashes understanding of a pass rush plan, using both power and speed rushes to beat blockers. He shows a consistent ability to penetrate into the backfield, pressure passers, and disrupt plays.
Blacklock shows upside as a run defender, with his power, leverage, and leg drive allowing him to hold blocks and not be moved in the run game. He shows good discipline in maintaining gap integrity and uses his hands well to shed blocks. Blacklock has good competitive toughness in pursuit, frequently hustling across the field.
For all the athleticism he shows in his initial burst, Blacklock can struggle with balance while navigating traffic. Blacklock can be tripped up as he tries to navigate the trash at the line of scrimmage, though he is quick to regain his feet and continue the play. Blacklock’s relative lack of mass also shows up occasionally in run defense. He can be moved when taken by surprise and playing without leverage.
Blacklock lost the 2018 season to a ruptured Achilles suffered in August of that season. Teams will want to take a close look at his medical reports.
Overall Grade: 6.3 - Should be an instant contributor for any team that drafts him. Has the traits to be a starter in the right system. A Day 2 value.
Ross Blacklock projects as a potential starting interior defensive lineman in a 1-gap defense. He has the athleticism to play a variety of positions, but would likely be best from a 2i to 5-technique.
Blacklock has a very good get-off with good snap anticipation and an explosive first step. He plays with great leverage thanks to good hip and pad level, as well as very good hand usage. His burst and leverage make him very difficult for linemen to reach block when he is attacking a single gap. Blacklock is a surprisingly powerful player for a 290-pound defensive tackle, using his leverage to make the most of his leg drive. His play strength is good enough that teams should be wary of asking him to gain additional mass, as it might compromise his athleticism.
He tends to favor an arm-over (or “swim”) move as a speed rusher, but might be better served by developing a rip move. Offensive tackles have been able to find his body with their hands when he uses his arm-over, contributing to his occasional issues with balance around the line of scrimmage. A rip move, or club-rip, would work well with his leverage and hand usage.
Blacklock was also frequently used in stunts and twists as a part of TCU’s pass rush, and he performs them well. He has great range on those plays, at times looping from a 0-technique nose tackle all the way out to attack the C-gap as a 7-technique. He shows good discipline and doesn’t freelance if his job is to occupy blockers and create rushing lanes for his teammates.
Blacklocks’ experience is limited thanks to injury, but he already shows good technique and his best football is likely still ahead of him with the right coaching staff to maximize his traits.