Dion Sims Evaluation
Yesterday, according to Joe Schad, Michigan State TE Dion Sims declared for the NFL Draft as many have long expected. Sims didn’t put up monster stats his Junior season, but he most likely realized that he was unlikely to see a massive increase in his production his Senior year with the Michigan State offense being far from a juggernaut. In fact, more often than one would expect of a TE in today’s game, Sims stayed in as a blocker on passing plays, which certainly hindered his potential production. Much of the intrigue that will come with Sims is due to the fact that he’s 6’6 and 285 pounds. While with that size, you definitely would expect him to be a mauling in-line blocker, Sims has also showcased soft hands and ability in the open field during this past season.
Despite his massive size, I was rather underwhelmed with Dion Sims as a run blocker. While on some occasions he showcased the ability to be able to push his man out of the play, much of the time, I felt as if he blocked more like a receiving tight end. Even in situations in which Sims was able to win on his block, I saw it happening more due to his footwork and proper positioning as opposed to brute strength. There are two main issues that I observed with Sims that made him appear less than ideal as a run blocker. The first issue is Sims’ hand placement. When attempting a block, you want to have your hands inside of the chest of the defender. This allows a concentration of power in the block, and makes it tough for the defender to throw off the blocker, or to simply slide off the block.
The other thing I’ve caught Dion Sims doing is lunging when attempting to make a block. He most frequently does this when trying to block linebackers on the second level, but it is a bad habit that rears its head throughout all of his blocking assignments. When a blocker lunges forward, they overextend with their arms, and lose all the power in their hips (and any potential power created through leg drive). Another thing that frequently occurs is the dipping of the head, so that the blocker’s eyes are looking at the ground. From a defender’s perspective, there might not be an easier block to shed. Pictured below is an example of Dion Sims doing this, and it’s something that occurs far too often.
As I mentioned earlier, Sims was often left on the line to help with pass protection. In this area, Sims does show promise. While he is more of a waist bender more so than someone who is capable of sitting into their blocks, he does display good foot quickness in his pass pro slide, and he shows better consistency in his hand placement when in this setting.
Since I don’t think Sims’ size translates all that well to his run blocking (although it does help with pass blocking), it is interesting to see how it plays out as a receiver. One way in which it helps him, is the fact that he’s a tough tackle. When he makes a catch, it’s very difficult to bring him down right away, without him at the very least falling forward. He also carries some serious momentum after the catch, which makes him a tough open-field tackle. Another thing that I really liked about Sims as a receiver is the fact that he is a hands catcher who can use his frame to shield defenders. This trait makes his frame more valuable, as it reduces the distance the ball needs to travel, and makes it much more challenging for defenders to make a play on the ball.
However, there are two things that I’m bothered by when observing Sims as a receiver. The first is that he struggles to adjust to throws. While he is highly athletic for his size, this talent is more evident as an open-field runner. In space, he has trouble contorting his body to make tough catches. While he shows proper technique on the “normal” throws, he struggles to make the “difficult” catches. The second issue is his burst off the line of scrimmage. While I’ve talked about how well he moves when he gets his momentum going, it does take some time to get that momentum started. In watching him, many times I felt as if he really labored to get off the line of scrimmage. There wasn’t a natural explosion, but rather, he had to shift his body weight before being able to proceed forward. Pictured below is an example of what I’m talking about.
In conclusion, Dion Sims is an intriguing prospect due to things like his massive size, and his open field speed at this size. He also shows good pass blocking skills, in addition to some natural pass catching talents. However, I question his run blocking, and his ability to be a difference maker as a receiver. While he possesses an impressive blend of talent and potential, I don’t think he’s particularly close to harnessing these abilities. I think he profiles more as a fringe starter, with the potential for more if he can improve upon his run blocking. I’d personally put him in the 4th round range, but I suspect he will go much higher if a team thinks they can correct his flaws, potentially in Round 2.