I love Draftbreakdown.com. We all love Draftbreakdown.com. Those guys help me look less like I’m profiling poor comics art.
But today, I have to go old-school and use stills with UConn tight end Ryan Griffin. It isn’t Draftbreakdowns’s fault. Their lack of attention to this prospect is a reflection of the sheer ignorance that the national media has when it comes to this prospect. No one has games posted of this Connecticut tight end Ryan Griffin, once considered a good – if not top-tier – prospect at his position at the end of 2011.
I don’t know what changed, but if you ask me, it’s a draft-season injustice. I know quite a few tape hounds agree with me. Dane Brugler is a prominent witness ready to testify. I wouldn’t even need to call him to the stand. He’d be shouting it from the cheap seats of the courtroom.
If I were into video production, I’d correct this travesty “right quick and in a hurry,” but that’s not my specialty. I will give you the next-best thing. What I enjoyed most about watching this 6’6″, 254-pound tight end in two games against Pitt (2011-2012) and one at Syracuse is his sneaky athleticism. Before you know it, you realize that you’re witnessing an NFL-caliber athlete in action.
This is an I formation two-tight end set with Griffin on the wing to the quarterback’s right. The offensive runs a play-action pass with a roll out the opposite direction of the fake. This backside roll-out to the tight end on the drag route is one of the oldest plays around. Griffin slants inside, places a hand on the edge defender and then sprints right to the flat.
The ball arrives on-time and at the numbers for Griffin to extend his arms and make the catch with his hands. Although his hands could be extended a little more from his body, I like how he turns his frame to the ball to present a good target. There’s another practical reason to for a receiver to turn his chest to the ball: in case he has a lapse of coordination and the ball goes through his hands. If his chest is square to the incoming pass, there’s a greater surface area for the ball to bounce off his body towards his hands.
This technique gives the receiver another chance to catch the football whereas if his back shoulder is behind his outstretched arms, the ball is more likely to ricochet off the shoulder and behind the receiver, increasing the likelihood of a defender earning a shot at the rebound.
The UConn tight end secures the ball to his sideline arm, turns up field, and extends his separation from the backside pursuit. The yellow arrow in the upper left corner of this still is the path of the cornerback about to appear in this picture that seems like a lot of empty space for a ball carrier to roam.
Griffin has enough quickness to gain seven yards before the cornerback travels two and breaks down to attempt a tackle. Griffin isn’t the fastest tight end in this class, but he can move. It will be an pervasive theme throughout this analysis.
Griffin hurdles the Panthers corner, who breaks down too early. The UConn tight end is not ready for the high hurdles in a track and field event, but the move is fluid, well-timed, and effective. It qualifies as athletic by NFL standards.
I also like that Griffin sticks the landing in stride at the 25, and continues moving as the backside linebacker closes. Griffin nearly runs through the hit to his ankles. The play ends when his knee hit the 21. While the play call was a huge factor in this 23-yard gain, Griffin’s execution and athleticism deserves props.
Griffin also demonstrates sideline awareness as a receiver and can make the smaller adjustments necessary to work the perimeter. This 12 personnel 1×1 receiver set has Griffin as the right end next to right tackle before the snap.
As the receiver at the top of the screen motions across the formation to the wing behind Griffin, the safety over top creeps to the line of scrimmage. The safety doesn’t pose a direct problem for Griffin’s release, but it does congest the release area just enough that the tight end has to have a good plan to avoid the defensive end’s jam.
This is not as easy to see as video, but Griffin does a find job of reducing his inside shoulder to avoid the contact of the defensive end and get a free path up the seam. I personally like this technique because it allows Griffin to avoid his opponent and maintain a position where he can drive off the line of scrimmage and achieve good acceleration into his stem. This release helps Griffin work past the linebacker dropping to the flat and avoid subsequent contact (see below).
The Pitt defense is play zone coverage and the quarterback has three reads to this side. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reads on this 1st-and-10 play go short to long because the flat and hook routes break first. The coverage is good enough in the flats that the quarterback waits for Griffin to make his break towards the corner.
The quarterback waits long enough for the tight end to get behind the safety before delivering the ball at the sideline. Griffin once again turns his shoulders and chest to the target and extends his arms to the football as he’s closing on the boundary. The next two stills demonstrate good hands, quick feet, and boundary awareness all working in coordination.
I like what I see with the little techniques and the they are all important when seeking a player with NFL skills. However, these are all basic plays in the tight end canon that you seek from any NFL option that will play at the line of scrimmage. What makes the lack of coverage of Griffin disappointing is his skill split away from the formation.
Although Griffin doesn’t make the catch on this play, there is a lot to like here. First, is the confidence that UConn has in the tight end’s athleticism to split him wide of the formation against a cornerback in press coverage.
At the snap, the corner throws his hands towards Griffin’s chest, but the tight end is prepared for the jam. He greets his opponent’s effort by using his inside hand to meet the defender’s hands with a swat and then uses his outside arm to swim over the corner to get a clean release to the inside. This is hard to see below, but if you look close enough you get the idea.
Swat with inside arm . . .
The quarterback slides to his right to avoid pressure as Griffin maintains separation inside the corner and works behind the safety towards an open window to the post near the hash. The quarterback should lead the tight end inside as much as possible.
I think the quarterback should have thrown the ball to the region of this box inside the the goal post and over the safety to the right of it. Instead the quarterback’s pass is in the region outside the goal post and this gives the cornerback a chance to work behind Griffin and play the ball.
With a veteran NFL quarterback, this target results in a touchdown because of better pass placement inside. There’s not much more anyone could have expected from the tight end on this play. He executes a good move to wkr though the press coverage and get separation on a cornerback, but the quarterback doesn’t come through. A better throw and this is s touchdown, a highlight, and probably does a little more to pique the interest of the football media that is sometimes obsesses with the latest, greatest, shiny-new toy.
Speaking of shiny-new baubles, here’s a play that I believe Griffin makes better than Zach Ertz on a consistent basis – receptions on low throws in coverage.
Griffin finishes a solid speed cut to break outside and I like that as he makes the break he gets a little more depth to work behind the first down marker (below) before he comes back to the ball.
Griffin slides as the ball arrives and extends his arms to get them under the football so he can still make the catch with his hands. The entire play, Griffin is in control despite leaving his feet and reaching low for the ball.
While Ertz makes these plays on occasion, he is rarely displaying this level of balance to attack the ball. Ertz often looks like a big man making an adjustment. Griffin who is not much smaller just looks like a man doing his job. On the following play, Griffin works from the slot, swims inside the contact of the safety in single coverage and beats him to the goal line for the touchdown. I’m not showing it because it’s not much different from what you’ve seen from him on earlier post route split wide against the cornerback.
Griffin is the type of prospect who I believe will have a longer career than half the players ranked above him and he’s a sneaky-good player to add to your fantasy rosters during the summer if beat writers begin to take a shine to him. If not, don’t be surprised if two years from now he has infiltrated the lineup as a subpackage receiver making plays and your buddy on the couch is screaming WHO IS THIS GUY?
For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2013 Rookie Scouting Portfolio available April 1. Prepayment is available now. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the 56-page Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2013 RSP at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.