2014 NFL Draft Prospect: David Yankey

5

TOJ Offensive Line Guru, Mike Nolan continues his scouting reports on linemen that the New York Jets could target in the NFL Draft.  Today he takes a closer look at Stanford Guard David Yankey.

Tale of the Tape

Name: David Yankey
From: Roswell, GAYankey 2
School: Stanford
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 315 pounds
Arm Length: 34″
Hand Size: 9 1/2″
Bench Press: 22 Reps
40 Time: 5.48 Sec
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.86 Sec
Accolades:  1st Team All-American (2013), 2nd Team All-American (2012), 1st Team All-Pac-12 (2012, 2013), 2013 Lombardi Trophy Watch List, 2013 Outland Trophy Watch List

About

It will most likely be a long time until we see a deep draft at Guard like the 2013 NFL Draft where two guards were taken in the top 10 and numerous others started successfully in their rookie seasons. There is a lot less hype around the 2014 Guard class. Last year the main argument was about which of the top 2 guards would make more All-Pro teams. This year, there may be no guards taken in the 1st round and there is plenty of argument about who the first Guard to go in the draft may be. David Yankey is a guy who I have seen on several lists as the top guard in this class (Including Mike Mayock), while others have him as a 3rd-4th round prospect.

Yankey is an interesting prospect. At 6’6″, 315 pounds he has a versatile body type which was demonstrated by the fact that he played 4 of 5 Line positions at Stanford and also lined up at times at Tight End and Wing.   n addition he has average to slightly above average arm length and hand size. While he has versatile size, does he have enough athleticism to carry that versatility over to the NFL?  This is something NFL scouts have to ask themselves as they decide where his draft value lies.

Strengths

In addition to a great body type, Yankey has some strengths that led to his All-American status. He is a very good run blocker, particularly on Gap scheme plays like Power or Trap. Power was the bread and butter running play for Stanford and Yankey excels whether it is in down blocking or pulling. He is very good at moving defenders horizontally. When he down blocks an unsuspecting defensive lineman, he can usually move them down the line at will, often times putting them on the ground. He is also an excellent puller and shows tremendous footwork when utilizing a “skip pull” technique. He does a great job of finding a hole and bursting through it to get to a linebacker.

Skip Pull

Where he really wins is in short yardage running situations. In short yardage and goal line situations, the defense knows Stanford is running the ball. It doesn’t matter because of guys like David Yankey who is absolutely dominant in short yardage.

Yankey is at LG #54

While not great in pass pro, Yankey has done a great job of limiting pressure, only allowing one sack in 2013. It doesn’t look pretty on tape, but he does just enough to get the job done.

Yankey seems to have a good head on his shoulders. He was named a team captain, which shows he has good character and leadership. He also is notably intelligent, which is usually true of Stanford guys. He looks like he understands the blocking schemes and I didn’t see any noticeable mental errors on tape. His intelligence also comes through in his ability to play numerous positions.

Weaknesses

Considering Yankey is a two-time All-American, I was surprised how often he got beat. Despite having great feet when pulling, his footwork is a little slow everywhere else. He often stops his feet upon contact and doesn’t finish blocks. He struggles to recover when he gets beat and can be pretty easy for defenders to shed at times.

I have seen Yankey described as explosive in other scouting reports. I don’t see it. In fact, he actually seems to be a split second slower off the ball than the other 4 Stanford linemen. And I’m not talking about sometimes, this happens often.

While decent athletically, Yankey’s movement is a bit stiff and lumbering. Because of it, he struggles blocking in space, often lunging at people. This even shows up on “skip pulls” when the defender is a little deeper. This is something that will definitely have to be worked on at the next level. He can get by in the run game, but his lack of knee bend is a major issue in pass protection where he can get beat by slight counter moves. Because his lack of knee bend makes him stand up so tall, his punch isn’t really that effective. Because he punches at a weird angle, he doesn’t maximize his power. He may have been taught this though, as I’ve seen OLine coaches teach guys to punch downward.

Yankey Stiff

Nice close up shot of Yankey with hardly any knee bend in pass pro. Also notice how flat his feet are.

I also have one small concern about his toughness. Although he is generally a physical blocker, he looked very tentative in the Notre Dame game. On the first play of the game he gets driven back about 3 or 4 yards. After that play, I saw a tentative lineman who almost looked like he was trying to avoid contact on his pulls. I thought it was worth noting, because it was incredibly out of character.

Fit With the Jets?

I frankly don’t think Yankey would be a great fit with the Jets. He is coming from an offense at Stanford where approximately 80% of the run game was based in the power scheme. While Marty Mornhinweg does use this scheme, he uses a Zone Scheme more frequently. The Zone scheme is much more predicated on footwork than the power scheme and I think Yankey will struggle to adapt. The one bright spot is that he looked decent in the limited snaps where he had to combo block.

Conclusion

Although I like Yankey’s run blocking ability and physicality, I tend to side with the draft analysts who list David Yankey as a 3rd-4th round prospect. From what I’ve seen, he seems to be a little overrated. The adjectives used to describe him in scouting reports just don’t seem to be accurate. On tape, Yankey struggles athletically, technically, and even with strength. With 22 Bench reps and some slow times, the NFL Combine seems to back up the fact that he may not be who we thought he was. He is a little bit more of a project than people realize as he has a lot of flaws technically and athletically. The technical flaws can be fixed. I’m not as optimistic on the athletic issues. The Jets already have a project starting at Left Guard and two projects waiting in the wings, do they really want to draft another player that will need some time to adjust his game to the NFL and their offense?

  • KAsh

    Thanks for the informative review, Mike. You touched on it a little bit in this article, but I was hoping you could go further in explaining the difference between zone blocking and man blocking. What does an OL draft prospect have to demonstrate to be described as excelling in either a power scheme or a zone scheme? Are there varieties of man blocking schemes? Why do teams seem to favor one over the other rather than equal parts of both? (I feel like I asked you a similar question before, and if so, I apologize.)

  • robert snyder

    Great info Tiny….I like your analysis.

  • JetOrange

    Yankey had a terrible combine, would not touch the guy until the 4th. Idzik has to hope that his scholarship program with Campbell & Aboushi from last year works out because there are no Offensive Guards in this draft. Zack Martin and Sua Filio are the only OG’s that are potential starters right away, it would seem to be crazy to go for one of these guys at 18, but it is possible. Because of the talent level , I think the Jets will be drafting a Guard with one of their 4 sixth round picks.

  • Joe Caporoso

    Could definitely see the Jets taking a couple of mid-round fliers on offensive lineman, similar to how they did last season. I wouldn’t expect them to draft a OL before round 3.

  • Mike “Tiny” Nolan

    Sorry Kash I didn’t have computer past few days…The Zone scheme is much more heavily predicated on footwork and balance than the power scheme…IN the Power Scheme that Yankey ran at Stanford he is asked to do 1 of 2 things: pull or down block. Pulling is a difficult thing to do and Yankey actually does it pretty well, but down blocking is generally one of the easier blocks for an OL because you are blocking an unsuspecting lineman who you already have an angle on…Because of this a guy like Yankey is able to simply push a DT down the line of scrimmage because he already has leverage…It is easy to get away with poor footwork and technique when you have this big of a pre snap advantage. In the Zone scheme, you need to be able to be balanced at all times because you have to be more reactive to movements, stunts, blitzes…Yankey often lunges when he is asked to be reactive and has poor balance in general