Four Prospects Set to Upend Draft Boards
3. Ra’Shede Hageman – Defensive Tackle – Minnesota
There are few interior defensive linemen who rival Hageman’s blend of size, explosiveness, and power. After coming to Minnesota as a tight end in 2009, he sat out a year to add strength before moving to play on the interior of the defensive line. Three years later, and still very raw in terms of overall technique after spending two years in a rotational role, Hageman finished second on the Golden Gophers defense in both tackles for loss (7.5) and sacks (6.0) in his first season as a full-time starter. He needs to develop his technique to maximize his physical talent, but if the flashes of dominance he displayed as a redshirt junior are any indication, Hageman could be merely scratching the surface of his vast potential.
What Makes Him Special: Hageman has the ability to overwhelm single blockers with his combination of explosiveness, athleticism, and sheer power. His ability to get blockers on their heels and then turn speed into power makes him very difficult to block one-on-one. His first step and lateral agility enable him to shoot gaps in the offensive line, after which he has the ability to close quickly on the football. Even so, better hand usage to complement his explosiveness would help him to disrupt opposing backfields with greater frequency.
Hageman does a good job of locating the football while engaged and shows good speed to follow the play down the line of scrimmage. He has ample strength to man two gaps and handle double-team blocks as a run defender, while also being capable of either penetrating or pushing the pocket against the pass.
Where He Must Improve: Hageman is a raw physical talent with a long way to go in terms of developing his technique to match the level of his athleticism. The most glaring issue that stands between Hageman and his upside is a tendency to play too high. He has a bad habit of turning his shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage, negating his strength and often causing him to lose his balance and get taken out of the play.
There is no natural leverage advantage to be had at 6-foot-6, so Hageman must compensate by playing with better pad level and learning to use his hands to establish good leverage. Developing and refining his hand technique will not only help him get the most out of his strength at the point of attack, but it will also enable him to become a more consistent penetrator, increasing his ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
How He Stacks Up: There are certainly more finished products among this year’s class of draft-eligible defensive tackles. Hageman currently sits behind the likes of Louis Nix, Will Sutton, Anthony Johnson, Timmy Jernigan, and Daniel McCullers on the majority of pre-season media draft boards.
It is true, however, what they say about it only taking one team, and Hageman’s stock will ultimately equal the sum of his athletic talent and the number of flaws that “one NFL team” feels can be corrected through coaching. His impressive power and freakish athleticism at 6-foot-6, 311 pounds will make him desirable to 3-4 and 4-3 teams alike. With a strong senior year and workouts to validate the hype surrounding his athleticism, it could be more a likelihood than a longshot that Hageman ends up the first player drafted from his position group in the 2014 NFL Draft.