Today we’re taking a look at one of our favorite defensive tackle prospects – Javon Hargrave. At the onset of pre-draft activities, Hargrave was widely considered a developmental interior defensive line project. Since that time though he’s become viewed as a legitimate prospect who has the potential to emerge as an impact player on the next level. Grades for Hargrave range wildly with some doling out first round grades while others maintain late round designations.

We’ll chime in with our grade for Hargrave based on the role we think he’d play within Teryl Austin’s defensive scheme. But first, let’s evaluate the player’s physical tools.

Physical Attributes

From NFL.COM:

  • 6‘1
  • 309lbs
  • 32” arms
  • 9’5/8” hands
  • 29 reps at 225lbs on the bench press
  • 5” vertical
  • 109” broad jump
  • 93 40-yard dash (Combine)
  • 83 40-yard dash with 1.69 10-yard split (Pro Day results courtesy of CBS Sports)

Hargrave is cut from a similar mold as Geno Atkins. Both men are about the same size with analogous workout results. What’s most impressive with Hargrave is his explosiveness. As SI’s Doug Ferrar noted Hargrave’s 40-yard dash and 10-yard split were 5th and 2nd best respectively among DT prospects in this draft class. The above combines with Mock Draftable’s labeling Hargrave’s 34.5” vertical in the 95th percentile to paint the picture of an exceptional athlete in comparison with other players at the defensive tackle position.

Javon Hargrave Mock Draftable

Statistics are often used as indicators of a player’s impact. On this basis, Hargrave’s penultimate and final collegiate seasons were as prolific as any in recent memory. According to NFL.com Hargrave is credited with 29.5 sacks and 45.5 tackles for loss over that timeframe.

Many skeptics wanted to dismiss Hargrave’s production citing the level of competition Hargrave faced was mediocre at best. However, after college the level of competition Hargrave faced ramped up exponentially as he received invites both to the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl. Not only did he pass each test, but NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah called him the best player at the East-West Shrine Game.

To gain an even more analytical look at Hargrave in relation to his peers the writers at Blogging the Boys listed advanced metrics such as Production Ratio, Kirwan Explosion Index, Explosive Power and Speed Score were listed in sortable columns for some of the combine’s most notable defensive linemen. Javon Hargrave placed 1st in three of the four categories (Production Ratio, Explosive Power & Speed Score) and 2nd behind Robert Nkemdiche in Kirwan Explosive Index.

As impressive as Hargrave appears on paper NFL games are played on the gridiron not an office setting and college production only invites challenges from veterans. The true test of a player is found in how they perform on the field. If past performances are the best predictors of future successes, then Hargrave’s ability to use his physical tools should translate to the NFL with proper grooming. With that in mind we’ll engage in film study of Javon Hargrave.

In the trenches

When I breakdown film on a player for a review I like to post a couple of images that best demonstrate a player’s strengths; then post a couple of opposing views that illustrate what a player most struggles with. Finally, I finish with a play or two that displays a bit of what a player may be expected to perform if he’s selected by the Lions.

The good

In the following clip Hargrave uses brute force to take on a double team, effectively pressuring the quarterback. Once the QB feels pressure flash on the periphery he climbs the pocket to escape. Hargrave uses his quickness to spin out of the double team and has the motor and athleticism to climb the broken pocket with the quarterback to make a shoestring tackle.

Hargrave vs Double Team

 

In the next clip Hargrave beats an intended double team with a subtle use of his hands, then gets skinny through the gap and finally shows great burst to get to the running back.

Hargrave Burst and Swim

If there’s a money shot from Hargrave this next GIF would be it. Here Hargrave displays the traits elite pass rushers have. He shows great explosiveness off the snap, uses speed to get under an offensive lineman then converts speed to power as he rips the lineman’s arm away. While doing all of the prior Hargrave shows the flexibility in his hips and ankles to arc around blockers en route to the quarterback. Within 2 seconds Hargrave has the quarterback in his grasp. Whether they play on the edge or along the interior of a defensive line the traits shown below are what NFL defensive coordinators covet in pass rushers.

Hargrave - Shoulder Dip

The not so good

In the interest of fairness, I must show clips of Hargrave failing to excel. Take the next clip for example. Hargrave does a great job in blowing his man off the line of scrimmage. Where he fails is in paying attention to the running back. Hargrave is playing the zero technique in this play. His job isn’t to create pressure on the quarterback by collapsing the pocket, instead he should be engaging two blockers; stacking and shedding them once the running back commits to himself to a gap.

Hargrave - Horrible Zero Technique

In viewing film of Hargrave, a recurring them appears – superior hands. Hargrave’s hands allow him to use power against double teams yet disengage when he needs to get after the ball carrier. Hand placement allows Hargrave to keep offensive linemen at bay when he’s ‘getting skinny’ through a gap or using a rip or swim move.

While Hargrave is an athletic marvel the one area he tested poorly in was the shuttle drill. This drill is often associated with an athlete’s ability to rapidly change direction in small areas. In the clip below Hargrave shoots through the outside gap. The running back quickly moves to the inside gap. Hargrave makes an effort to get back into the play, but his limited lateral agility renders his effort fruitless. In my film review Jonathan Bullard is the only player who consistently recovered from shooting through the wrong gap yet was athletic enough to get to the opposite gap to make a play on a ball carrier.

Hargrave play side run D

How Hargrave fits Detroit

My favorite play from Javon Hargrave is below. Arkansas Pine-Bluff had grown well tired of Hargrave making plays in their backfield so they send three blockers his way. He ends up beating all three blockers in an attempt at closing the gate on the quarterback that somehow eluded two of Hargrave’s teammates. Imagine Hargrave knifing through a double team and flushing a quarterback or ball carrier into Ziggy’s waiting arms. Or envision Cutler or Rodgers throwing passes off their back feet in Slay’s area because Hargrave is bringing pressure up the middle.

 

Hargrave - Vs 3 blockers closes gate

Conclusion

There are biases against non-quarterback, non-FBS players and this will almost certainly drop Hargrave in the 2016 NFL Draft. In my view there is no more productive or explosive player in this draft and as such I would not hesitate to trade back to the 20’s in round 1 and make Hargrave the Lions’ first round pick. For most Hargrave’s academic issues and small school pedigree may indicate a steep learning curve is ahead and won’t consider him until round 2. While he will need to be paired with a big bodied player like Jarran Reed, Vernon Butler or Kenny Clark I believe in time Javon Hargrave will give the Lions the dominant interior pass rush that has been missing since Ndamukong Suh took his talents to South Beach.

Special Thanks to draft breakdown for access to game film on Javon Hargrave.