Draft Breakdown: LB Blake Cashman

By Thomas Ringgaard |
Draft Breakdown: LB Blake Cashman

Blake Cashman, OLB/ILB, Minnesota

Conference: Big Ten

Measurables: 6'1, 235 lbs

Career stats:
2016: 45 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks 
2017: 30 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks
2018: 104 tackles, 15 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 TD

Interview:

After breaking down the film on Blake, i spoke a little with the man himself. Here is what he had to say:

Question: Both from an inside and outside position you seem to know exactly what to do. What parts of your game do you believe will help you have success at the next level?

Blake Cashman: "I think one of the strongest parts of my game is my speed, which can be really effective in coverage, as well as getting down hill fast to stop the run. I also consider myself a versatile player so teams can use me in different ways whether it be in base packages, blitzing/pressure packages, and in different coverage situations."

Q: If you could pick a LB in the NFL right now that you wanted to learn from, who would it be? 

BC: "If I could pick one LB I would pick Bobby Wagner in Seattle. Besides that he is very talented, I love how active he is around the ball. It seems like he's always involved in making the tackle. I think that shows he prepares at a very high level and I believe that's the most important aspect about the game."

 

Strengths:

  • Movement: Very natural mover. Stays square and shuffles inside the tackles but can turn and run smoothly to get to the outside. Has good speed and displays ability to compensate for false steps by utilizing quick movement and taking good angles. His fast pace allows him to play sideline-sideline. In fact, on several plays he tracks the ball-carrier while being the backside linebacker. On QB scrambles he triggers with good angles and speed.
  • Coverage: Has played between the tackles in 3hole, RB man, as well as outside covering more shifty WRs. Plays very good zone by reading the QB well but also identifies inside breaking routes naturally. Understands his coverage responsibilities and does an above average job of following a receiver in his zone, passing it on, and jumping on new receivers coming in - all while reading the QBs eyes. 
  • Block shed: Displays ability to defeat blockers in open field with speed, whether it be a quick hip turn and regather balance, arm swipe, or rip move. In pass rush he has displayed ability to blitz outside from a 10 or 30 technique, dip nicely against the tackle, regain balance and chase QBs for sacks multiple times. Has a natural nasty bull rush on RBs in pass pro but understands to e.g. push-pull and use arms actively if first move is countered. Displays ability to defeat cut blocks very well.
  • Tackling: Consistent reliable tackler. Doesn't go for big hits in open field situations but breaks down, shimmies to the ball-carrier, and makes solid contact with power. Can lay the wood on crossing WRs. 
  • Versatility: Has the size, aggressiveness, and speed to plays inside and outside linebacker. 

Weaknesses:

  • Production: His only consistent year was 2018. He will need to combine a tremendous 2018 season with a good Combine to elevate draft stock.
  • Level of competition: Coming from a school playing against lesser competition can alter the way scouts view his ability. However, the same could be said for e.g. LVE from Boise State last year (Editor's note: Better example, Darius Leonard out of South Carolina State.  Yep, still salty).  Hence, technique matters more than competition level. Plus Cashman dominated in 2018 against top level competition in Ohio State.
  • Play recognition: This is by no means a weakness, per se.  Rather, an area of improvement. He displays very good ability to read screens, pulls, and adjusting his gap responsibility.  However, at some points, he reads the play a little late, forcing him to false step to the initial read, delaying his approach to the play side. Again, very limited, and will definitely be something he will get better at as he gets more experience. 

Conclusion:

  • Final Thoughts: Under the radar player who has every tool to be a day 1 starter in the NFL. Blake is a fast, versatile, instinctive player who always seems to be around the ball. He's a natural mover who consistently sheds blocks and makes good tackles. He is one of the best zone coverage linebackers in the draft.
  • Grade: Right now, Blake's name is not thrown around a lot in the draft community. That will change before the draft. He is a day 2 talent who will probably slip to early day 3 if scouts overthink the production and level of competition - in which case he might be the steal of the draft.

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