Scouting the Jets Rookies – Dakota Dozier

Mike Nolan steps into the TOJ Film Room to take an in-depth look at Jets Rookie Lineman Dakota Dozier.

Continuing our breakdown of the 2014 New York Jets rookie class, Mike Nolan steps into the TOJ Film Room to take an in-depth look at rookie offensive lineman Dakota DozierHere is a closer look at Calvin PryorJalen SaundersJace Amaro, IK Enemkpali, Trevor ReillyQuincy Enunwa and Dexter McDougle:

I recently had the chance to speak with someone who works in an NFL Front Office specializing in Scouting and Analytics. With an impressive background and active involvement in personnel, I thought he would be the perfect person to provide advice on an issue I have been struggling with in scouting: How do you account for lower levels of competition when scouting a small school prospect? I was hoping he would give me some miracle advice that would help me finally figure it out.  Instead, he reaffirmed that this is a big issue that he and others in his profession often face. He told me, “The best you can do is watch the player against the top competition he faces and see how he fairs. Make sure he dominates the weaker opponents and shows that he belongs with the top dogs. In the end, a lot of it is about going with your gut on these type of players.” I tried to take this perspective when scouting Jets’ Fourth Round Pick Dakota Dozier.

By now, most people have read all of the standard scouting reports on the big Offensive Lineman out of Furman. I decided to take a different perspective and follow the advice of the front office staff member. For this scouting report, I only watched Dozier’s games against the top talent that he played: Florida in 2011, Clemson in 2012, and LSU in 2013.

Dakota Dozier vs. Florida (2011) 

The first thing you notice in this game is that Dozier definitely belongs with this level of competition. Dozier was a Sophomore when the Paladins took on the Gators, with this being his second taste against top FBS competition (Played South Carolina in 2010). Florida played a multiple front on defense, mixing it up between 3-4 and 4-3 looks. Because of this, Dozier was lined up against several different Gators including 2013 1st Round pick Sharrif Floyd. I was impressed watching this game as Furman started off hot, going up 22-7 in the first quarter. Dozier also started off the game strong both in run and pass blocking.

One thing that Dozier has shown is that he is pretty good at getting up to linebackers on run plays. He can get off balance sometimes, but he generally gets to his guy and sticks with him through the whistle. This is important as he will be asked to do this in the Jets zone and power running schemes. He does have some work to do in Combo blocking, but there have been plenty of good examples to like the below combo block in the red zone. Not a great job by the guard here, but excellent, physical combo block by Dozier at left tackle.

It will be interesting to see how this strength translates to the NFL. Furman ran a multiple offense that included zone and power schemes as well as a triple option package that was run out of the flexbone. Dozier was very good at getting to linebackers in all three schemes, but linebackers will flow much faster against the Jets who will mostly run zone and power schemes. This will be a huge change from the stationary linebackers Dozier saw in college and something he will have to adjust for pretty quickly.

Of the three games I watched, I was most impressed with Dozier’s pass blocking technique in this game. I noticed he used a Vertical Pass Set where he pass sets straight back to cut the defender off at a deeper angle. There are some positives and negatives to this technique. There is a much smaller chance of oversetting on a defender, but first contact is made much deeper in the backfield which leaves less space between the lineman and the quarterback.  Dozier used this technique to his advantage for much of the game as I only saw a couple of plays where he was even challenged. He used his hands really well and had excellent posture through his pass sets.

Dozier 1 (1)
Here Furman will pass the ball out of the gun. Dakota Dozier at left tackle is responsible for the defensive end outside of him.
Dozier 1 (2)
Dozier uses the vertical pass set to cut off the defenders angle on his wide pass rush.
Dozier 1 (3)
As the defender closes in, Dozier correctly turns his shoulders at the last possible second and uses his hands well to stun the defender. Notice the contrast between the defender who is straining and Dozier who has great weight distribution and balance.
Dozier 1 (4)
Dozier locks the defender up as the QB delivers the ball. Dozier has excellent posture and knee bend.

The only real issue I saw in this game was that Dozier looked like a different player when he had to block Sharrif Floyd. This was true in both pass protection and run blocking. He looked pretty solid technically throughout this game, but when pass blocking Floyd he would often stop his feet and lean and lunge to account for Floyd’s strength. Watch the clip below as Floyd tosses an off balance Dozier.

The main concern is that this makes me question Dozier’s functional strength. Granted he was only a sophomore, but the fact that he loses his technique and balance when blocking Floyd makes me think he may not currently have the functional strength to gain consistent movement when he moves to Guard in the NFL.

Dakota Dozier vs. Clemson (2012)

Against Clemson, Dozier was a monster physically. I counted at least 10 knockdowns in the first half alone. It wasn’t his best game from a technical standpoint, but he showed how his wrestling background comes in handy by using opponents’ weight against them to put them on the ground. He definitely needs to improve his footwork though so he doesn’t put himself in positions where he does have to “wrestle” guys. This was an issue Brian Winters had coming into the NFL.

Dozier seems to have abandoned the Vertical Pass Set technique that he used so well against Florida. One of the major criticisms of Dozier coming into the draft was that he often shuffles instead of kickslides in pass protection. I personally do not see where this criticism came from, but I have a feeling that the analysts who came up with that criticism watched this tape on (Which is a great resource by the way) or YouTube. It is difficult to fully examine the pass protection technique of a prospect when you don’t have the end zone angle. I noticed pretty immediately that he started kicksliding out to a wide defender which he actually struggles with at times. As fellow OL enthusiast Lance Zierlein said to me below, Dozier can struggle against inside counter moves. It is a little more subtle than a pure overset though as he will lean to hard too hard to the outside, making it difficult to shift back inside.

Below is a prime example of this issue in this game. This is really poor technique as you can see Dozier’s weight already distributed hard to the outside in the first clip. In the second clip, he adds a hard lean as is bending more at the waist.  Because of his poor technique, he gets tossed aside as the defender takes off after the QB.

Dozier 2 (1)Dozier 2 (2)

Dozier 2 (3)

Dakota Dozier vs. LSU (2013)

Mel Kiper had this to say on ESPN after the LSU game:

“If you watched Furman hang around with LSU for a while Saturday, you should have seen Dozier. He plays tackle for the Paladins, but I think he’ll end up at guard when he’s in the NFL. What I see from Dozier is a player who is really aggressive, and is able to generate a ton of power as a run-blocker (another reason he will succeed at guard).”

This was the perfect game to watch last. The tape showed the full spectrum of who Dozier is as a player. Overall, he looks like a more polished and consistent player than he did against Florida or Clemson. Similar to the Florida game, Dozier looked great when run blocking defensive ends and linebackers. He generated great movement on DEs and had some excellent down field blocks on the 2nd level which sprung some big plays. He also played pretty physically again in the run game putting people on the ground and mauling people in short yardage.

I don’t want to diminish the game he had, but there is some more evidence of my main concerns with Dozier: Does he currently possess the functional strength to block bigger, stronger defensive tackles? Against LSU, Dozier did a great job when down blocking on power scheme running plays. When asked to block Defensive tackles in Furman’s Zone or Option blocking schemes, I saw similar struggles to those he had against Sharrif Floyd back in 2011. He wasn’t able to generate much movement and had poor footwork and high pad level.

In pass protection, Dozier is generally very good. He doesn’t possess a very quick kickslide, but he is a fluent enough athlete to put himself in a good position. However, he still has a lot of work to do, because he isn’t completely consistent at it yet. He continued to use the kickslide that he used in the Clemson game and showed a tendency to overshift his weight in his sets. He had trouble with a couple inside moves, especially a nice spin move that beat him in the 1st half. Luckily, he won’t have to kick to wide defenders often while playing guard, but his weight distribution issue needs some work.

Another thing that we got a chance to see in the LSU game is Dozier’s pulling ability. He pulled a few times and his footwork and vision helped him reach his target each time. He just needs to stay on his feet once he reaches his target. With more reps, this should be an easy fix for him.

The Outlook 

From these 3 tapes, I got a chance to see Dakota Dozier against some of the top talent in college football. He clearly looks like he belongs. Dozier has the kind of body you look for in an offensive guard and has much better bend and foot fluidity than Brian Winters did coming out of college. He was solid in both run blocking and pass blocking in all three games. His physical style of play helped Furman move the football pretty well against all three teams. If you add up the first halves of all three games, Furman only held a respectable 67-45 disadvantage.

When I asked one of Dakota’s former coaches what his biggest strength was, he said it was his “downright nastiness” on the field. When I followed up asking what Dakota might need to improve, the coach pointed to his consistency and being consistently nasty on the field. This assessment was evident in the tape. Dozier is a guy that shows some seriously physical play at times where he is finishing blocks and putting people on the ground. Other times, he seems to be a little more passive. Just like there are streaky shooters in basketball, I think Dozier is a streaky offensive lineman. When he is rolling, he looks explosive off the ball and athletic in space. When things aren’t going that well, he tends to lose his technique and can struggle at times. The good news is that he was almost always rolling against FCS competition and more often than not, played very well in all three of these games against FBS competition.

Dozier is a good prospect and a good value at the end of the fourth round. However, he does have some things he needs to work on; namely his footwork, weight distribution, and functional strength. The best case scenario for Dozier would be to sit for a year and gain some experience in an NFL strength and conditioning program. Dozier had a pretty atrocious combine performance (Which may have been the reason he was there at pick 137), yet he had one of the top Ten-Yard splits in the 40 yard dash. To me, this says that he has not reached his athletic potential and could gain a lot from an NFL Strength and Conditioning Program. Although I think he is a better prospect than Brian Winters, I fear that there will be similar struggles if Dozier is forced to play too early.

Schematically, Dozier should fit nicely in the Jets’ offense as I see a player who has the physical tools to succeed in zone and power blocking schemes as well as man and slide pass protections. If he can improve the areas where he struggles, Dozier could be a very solid offensive guard in the NFL by year 2 or 3 and should be in the conversation to take over a starting guard spot for the Jets. He has the potential to be the best guard out of the draft picks they have taken the last two years. If he can’t fix those issues, he should be a serviceable lineman that would provide solid depth.  Sticking with recent Jets draft trends, Dozier is a versatile player that has gotten work at Tackle, Guard, and Center.

Considering the question marks that are still out there, we may find out sooner rather than later if he is forced to play this year due to any number of foreseeable issues like Brian Winters not improving, Willie Colon injuries, or Aboushi and Campbell not being ready. Either way, Dakota Dozier will be an interesting player to watch this preseason.