The Washington Redskins selected OLB Su’a Cravens from the University of Southern California in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
“He’s a lot of fun to watch because he processes quickly like an NFL linebacker and then just fires into the play. I’ve never really cared about the size at the WILL, I just want to know if they have instincts and can run and make plays. That’s it. He can do that.” — Former NFL general manager
Widely expected to address the defensive line or interior of the offensive line, General Manager Scot McCloughan defied expectations and went with the playmaking ballhawk from the Pac-12. McCloughan is known as a fan of taking players from big conferences, particularly in the second round and beyond.
The Skins passed up DL Andrew Billings of Baylor, who was still available when Washington made its pick.
Cravens ran a disappointing 4.69 in the 40 on his pro day, which may have caused his stock to drop, but a look at the tape shows he plays much faster in pads than he runs in shorts.
The 6’1″ and 226 pound Craven began his career at safety, but moved to outside linebacker in his second season and started three years for USC. Craven led the team with 17 tackles for loss and added five sacks and three INT to earn third team AP All-American and first team All Pac-12 honors. In 2015, Craven led USC with 86 tackles, 15 of them behind the line of scrimmage, adding 5.5 sacks. He’s a very talented blitzer and plays with rare motor and aggression. He plays like he was born to play the game of football.
Craven is respected for his football intelligence and toughness. He has outstanding hands and does a good job of using his hands and first moves to disengage from blockers and get to the ball. Washington will probably ask him to get his weight over 230 pounds if he’s going to play outside linebacker, though he may not have to do that if they decide to move him to safety or use him as a safety-linebacker hybrid, as often happened at USC.
Expect Cravens to contribute immediately on special teams, as he is the type of player designed to cover kicks and punts.
Craven’s aggression is admired and it helps explains why he never plays passively, instead becoming known for making plays. He has sticky hands, picking off nine passes in three seasons and is solid in zone coverage.
However, Cravens is small by NFL linebacker standards and it will take some time for him to figure out how to beat blockers at that level. Sometimes he prefers to dive and try for a spectacular tackle rather than lining up and making a higher percentage play on the ball.