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A.J. Cann, the senior offensive guard from the South Carolina Gamecocks, enters the 2015 NFL Draft after an impressive 51 starts during his collegiate career. In 2014, Cann was named First Team All-American by several outlets as well as First Team All-SEC. He was elected captain of the Gamecocks for the second straight year. In 2013, Cann started every contest and was named to Phil Steele’s Third Team All-SEC squad. Physically, Cann is a thick, put together player who has good weight distribution and a thick trunk. He presents with the ideal frame and makeup for the guard position in the NFL. Cann possesses better than average body control combined with good overall, functional strength. He does a nice job generating a jolt on contact in the run game and locks onto his assignment through the whistle; He’s a tough guy to shed. He’s capable of getting his feet around the target when sealing defenders away from the ball, and works his feet hard to continue driving his opponent out of the play. He drops his pad level on contact and generates a good push as a power, in-line run blocker. He’s not quite as effective in space, despite possessing enough athleticism to reach the second level quickly. He’s a bit of a lunger in the open-field, and while he’s capable of finishing his assignment, he’s a bit inconsistent at hitting his target. In the passing game, Cann displays a quick punch that he uncoils well at the POA. He has enough quickness to effectively combo block and navigate within tight quarters. He tends to struggle a bit versus the power/bull rush, as he’s too often bent backwards and pushed into the pocket. He has to work on sitting deeper into his stance in pass protection; He possesses the kind of frame to suggest success anchoring versus power, but his tape has warts in this area.
BOTTOM LINE: A.J. Cann is going to be an appealing prospect for teams that covet 40+ game starters at the position; Cann’s 51 starts in the SEC has prepared him for NFL play. His experience, combined with his ability to be effective in the run game, will be a big plus for a franchise looking to enhance their rushing attack. That said, I have some concerns about his ability maintain pocket integrity, as his inconsistency versus power will lead to some struggles on the next level. At the end of the day, Cann is a quality guard prospect with starter’s potential.
GRADE: 7.3 (3rd Round)
-Submitted by Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade)