Prospecting the Draft: Prospect #3 - S Eric Berry

Knowshon Moreno, Eric Berry. Eric Berry, Knowshon Moreno.

Intro: When it comes to Eric Berry, Tennessee fans have seen and heard it all.  He's known as "The Fifth Dimension". "Two-thirds of the planet is covered by water; the rest is covered by Eric Berry."  The Tennessee "Minister of Defense". Besides Chuck Norris, who is the only guy to crash into Tim Tebow head-to-head and live to tell about it?  Eric Berry. 

All kidding aside, although he's known to even the most casual of college football fans as an outstanding player, Eric Berry is poised to explode onto the scene in the NFL and become an everyday household name in a very short time.  There's no doubt he has the ability to do it. I really don't know how to put it any better than to say Eric Berry is a playmaking, gamechanging freak of an athlete.  He is one of the most flexible, multi-talented defensive backs to come into the draft in the past decade.  He transitioned from corner to safety before the 2008 season...both positions of which he handled very well.  His incredibly-honed football instincts remind me of Ed Reed.  His cover skills are suited for a starting NFL corner....right now.  He might not have the perfect size for a strong safety, but he's a hard hitter and a fine one-on-one tackler who brought college ballcarriers down regularly with ease.

Berry put together an impresive college resume, tallying 14 interceptions and making 3 long house calls:

Stats Overview Tackles Misc Interceptions
YEAR TOT SOLO AST SACK STF STFY FF BK INT YDS AVG LNG TD PD
2007 86 52 34 0 0 0 1 0 5 222 44.4 96 1 0
2008 72 44 28 3 0 0 0 0 7 265 37.9 72 2 0
2009 83 54 29 0 0 0 1 0 2 7 3.5 7 0 0

Check out Mocking the Draft's outstanding scouting report on Berry here.

Here's a video clip put together by the great folks over at UTSports.com:

  

Analysis: Berry is nimble on his feet, can change direction on a dime, and showed more than adequate recovery speed against college receivers.  He was mentally ahead of virtually every other player on Tennessee's defense and has the gift of being able to see the play develop in front of him much more quickly than the average player, as evident by his ability to read the quarterback, recognize routes, and regularly put himself in perfect position to disrupt the play.  As a result of his keen instinct and speed, he's aggressive and can close very quickly on a route, which resulted in his 14 career receptions and a school and SEC record for interception return yards. 

Berry possesses ok size to play strong safety at 6'0, 200 lbs.  However, he can lower the boom and deliver a slobberknocking hit like a guy 20 pounds heavier.  Part of that extra pop in his hits comes from the pure speed he delivers at the point of attack, which is again a result of his aggressiveness and awareness of knowing exactly where the ballcarrier is going.  It reminds me of the play of another guy who looks like he's running around with his hair on fire.....Troy Polamalu.  Berry's aggressiveness can work against him, as he will occasionally try to separate the ballcarrier from his shoes rather than make the sure form tackle.  However, his technique on tackling could be an instructional video for how to bring a player down.  There might be a concern of him wrapping up bigger, stronger NFL ballcarriers.

What makes Berry so special as a safety is his ability to prevent teams from exploiting mismatches that you'd typically see.  Just as the Bucs like to mix up their formations to try to isolate Kellen Winslow on a safety or linebacker, teams managed to snooker the Bucs for big plays this year by doing the same.  In the first game of the season, the Cowboys set both of their TEs out wide and managed to get Roy Williams matched up on Sabby Piscitelli, whom Williams torched for a long TD.  Slip Eric Berry in there and you've got a guy that can pop Roy Williams in the mouth at the line, and turn and run with him, forcing Romo (or any other QB) to abandon the matchup they'd anticipated, go through his progressions, and stand in the pocket longer.  With a pressure-challenged defense like our Buccaneers, that extra time would be a big help to the front four.

Berry is already prepped and ready to jump into the Tampa 2 defense, making him primed and ready for an immediate jump into the starting strong safety position of the Buccaneer defense and into the hearts of cheering Buccaneer fans for many years to come.  Question is, BucEm readers, is he the guy you want to take at the third position if he's there?  What do you all say?  If the tackles are both gone, do you pick him?  Trade down, if possible?

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