Better Know a Jaguars Draft Prospect: Notre Dame Safety Tom Zbikowski

The least you should know about Tom Zbikowski...

 

Height
5-11
Weight
211 lbs
40 Yard Dash
4.44
20 Yard Dash
2.55
Bench Reps
24
3 Cone
6.78
Compares To:
Adrian Wilson - Arizona: " One of the most exciting defensive players in recent Notre Dame defensive history, Zbikowski has proven himself to be a game breaker with 7 career touchdowns (3 punt returns, 2 interception returns, 2 fumble returns). Whether he can return to his dominant form of 2005 where he garnered several all-American honors remains to be seen. If a team can figure out how to best use his unique set of skills, something the coached at Notre Dame seemed to struggle with, he could be an impact player at the next level both on defense and in the return game."

There is a considerable lack of consensus about where Zbikowski will fit in the NFL. Some sites put him as a second round prospect and put the emphasis on the team that drafts him to use his unique skills. Other sites more realistically put him as a mid to late round prospect that needs significant polish to make the transition to the NFL. Personally, I see him as a Donovin Darius type strong safety that plays best close to the line of scrimmage but needs a bit of protection if he's playing center field. Which he shouldn't be playing anyhow with Reggie Nelson out there. This is most certainly a developmental pick, but for a 4th round pick, a good one. This is a guy who needs development and polish, but plays with a good motor and loves the game.

Fun Fact Interview
Growing up, who was your favorite NFL player and why? Walter Payton. He's what every football player should be.

In college, what player hit you the hardest? Who was the recipient of your best hit? I hit Tony Hunt--PSU

What TV-show marathon will keep you on the couch all day? South Park

What are the five most-played songs in your iPod? What's the one song you hope nobody ever finds out is in your iPod? Leonardo DiCaprio because he was good in The Departed

What celebrity would play you in the movie version of your life and why? Will Smith. He has similar physical features and a dynamic personality.

What is one thing your teammates don't know about you? They know everything - I don't keep secrets.

What reality TV show would you like to be on and why? The Contender because I would win.

What's your proudest moment in football? Proudest moment off the field? My first college start; Fighting at Madison Square Garden

When you play Madden, what team do you use? Do you put yourself on the team? Don't play it.

Who has been the biggest influence on your football career and how? Charlie Weis - he helped prepare me to be an NFL prospect

 

Better Know a Draft Prospect: Notre Dame Safety Tom Zbikowski

Introduction:

For a die hard Florida State Seminole fan, I've had a little too much fondness for draft prospects from Notre Dame.  First I pick Defensive Tackle Trevor Laws in our Mock Draft, and now I'm doing a full review of Tom Zbikowski, Notre Dame Safety.  

Frankly, all I need to do in order to explain why "Tommy Z" is an intriguing prospect is to force you to watch this video .  It's a very well produced compilation that overlaps his Notre Dame career with his stint as a professional heavyweight boxer.  In his one and only pro fight he knocked out Robert Bell in 49 seconds.  Seriously.

We know Zbikowski is tough, that's for sure.  But what kind of player is he on the field and why would he make a good second day selection for the Jaguars?  

The Numbers:

Tom Zbikowski, Mohawked Draft Prospect!

Tom Zbikowski is on the shorter side of the "ideal strong safety" body type.  He's 5'11 and 211 lbs, though "built like a horse" according to Matt Miller of New Era Scouting.  His speed is a little harder to figure out.  One source says he "plays faster than his clocked time", another "looks slower than timed speed indicates".  Tom ran a solid 4.44 40-yard dash at the Combine, as well as an impressive 24 bench presses (for a Safety, 17-20 is good).  A 6.78 3-cone drill and 2.44 20-yard dash round out his good times.  His vertical jump and broad jump were slightly less than average, 32.5 and 9' 01'' respectively.  

Tom was a four-year starter at Notre Dame, averaging 40 solo tackles and 33 assists.  His 8 interceptions stand out, though five came in 2005 and none in 2006 are a little fluky.  He did average 24.9 yards on each interception return  and had two touchdowns, but I don't know that he'd be considered a true "ball hawk".  2005 through 2007 had Tom returning punts and kickoffs for the Fighting Irish, he kept to about 11.5 yards per punt and 3 touchdowns in his career, as well ass 16.2 and no TD's on Kickoffs.  While Tom is going to be a fantastic special teams player in the NFL, it's unlikely that it'll be as a returner.  

What you get out of the numbers is that Tom has a nose for being around the ball and making a big play.  In four years as a starter he scored seven touchdowns, not too shabby for a defensive player.  There are good wide receivers that score that much.

Notable Quotables:

On how Boxing translates to the NFL:

"Boxing is a one-on-one sport and football is pretty much just a series of one-on-one battles,"

"It shows a mental toughness that you're going to go one-on-one with someone and not let them beat you. "That's why we're here -- to compete one-on-one against the best players and show what you can do."

On giving up boxing for the NFL:

[ Will You Box Professionally?] "No, not right now. I'm solely focused on football and getting ready for this. And then once you get into minicamp and training camp, you've got to do everything all you can to make a team."

[Does "not right now" mean you plan to continue with boxing] "There's always a possibility. I'm never going to take that out. But as long as there's football in my life, it's not going to happen."

On the Combine Microscope:

"Walking around in tight Spandex in front of a bunch of men is not exactly the position you want to be in,"

Oakland Raiders Defensive Backs Coach Darren Perry on Zbikowski:

"Tommy takes great angles to the ball and he's real sharp," Perry says. "He's very fundamentally sound. Now it's just understanding the pro game, the formations and adjustments.

"The speed level of the game is another issue. Obviously, in an environment like this, we don't get too exotic from a coverage standpoint.

"After this event here, it's all about workouts. And people put a lot of stock into that."

Scouting Reports:

There's a lot of inconsistency in reports about Zbikowski, and I'm OK with that.  He's not a first round elite level talent and therefore his game is flawed.  Its without doubt that Tom will need some development before he can be anywhere approaching a starter.  That's OK too.  You simply can't expect to hit first year home runs in the NFL draft, those expectations will ruin your team.

That said, let's see what the scouts say:

Positives

New Era Scouting:  Emotional heart and soul of secondary...rededicated himself to being the best football player he can be...seels the field well when returning punts...built like a brick house...tremendous natrual athlete...brings all the physical tools to the table...will play through the pain.

Specific Safety Traits: Seems to play faster than his clocked time...very smooth athlete...fluid in and out of his breaks...he has a lot more agility and better foot work than most give him credit for...shows a great nose for the football...devastating hitter in the secondary with his speed and power...true ball hawk of a safety...can stay with opponents in the passing game...can man up and jam...solid in run support...one of the most exciting defensive players in recent Notre Dame history.

Scott Wright's NFL Draft Countdown: Hard worker and team leader with excellent intangibles...Very strong and is tough as nails...Smart and has terrific instincts...Does a great job versus the run...Good hands and ball skills...Quick with a burst...Likes to hit and is a reliable tackler..Well built with a very solid frame..A playmaker who can make something happen when he gets the ball...Fiery and intense...Has extensive experience as a punt returner.

NFL Draft Scout: Has a lean but muscular frame with good shoulder width, thick chest, tight midsection, muscular arms and thick thighs and calves...Best when playing in the short area or front third of the field, doing a nice job of making plays in front of him...Plays with a good motor, showing good urgency closing on the ball...Hard worker in the training room and takes well to hard coaching...Too tight in his hips to be relied upon covering on deep routes, but is a good downhill runner who works hard to keep the action in front of him...Good contact seeker who hits with good pop on contact, but is more of a collision-type that needs to improve his wrap-up technique...Plays smart in the short third of the field, but will struggle to shadow and trail speedy receivers on long patterns...Is an adequate punt returner, but brings better value to special teams with the coverage unit...Gets a little too reckless in pursuit, but when he plays at an even tempo, he is good to sniff out plays along the sideline...Has a good feel for QB indicators and ball flow when he plays within the team concept (tries to make a big splash too often and gets burned)...Best when covering tight ends and backs in the short area and is a liability playing in the deep zone (too stiff and lacks a burst out of his turns on long routes)...When he sees the play develop, he is quick to come up and plug gaps in run support (must do a better job using his hands to protect himself from low blocks)...Gets a good break on the ball in front of him once he locates it...Has adequate range to the sideline (poor when making backside plays), but gives good effort in pursuit...Secures the ball well before heading upfield on returns...Has enough agility to get around slower blockers (will get absorbed if he tries to overpower them) in run force, showing good courage and physicality filling the alleys.

Negatives

New Era Scouting: Instincts/regognition: His biggest hole...at times a step slow in getting to his man in the zone...being late on balls is a result of a lack of instincts or misdiagnosis...easily sucked in by play action...could use improvement in his ability to disengage...he'll attempt to use his power to arm tackle when he should just break down, wrap, and drive, can be beaten in man coverage due to an inability to recognize routes early. Improvement in his ability to disengage and better recognition skills could make Zbikowski a dominant run support DB if they were combined with his hitting ability.

Scott Wright's NFL Draft Countdown: Shorter than you would prefer...Does not have great timed speed...Is not a great athlete...Can be too aggressive at times...Does not have fluid hips and could be a liability in coverage...Is prone to biting on fakes...Will need to work on his tackling fundamentals...Might be a one dimensional in-the-box type...Has a limited upside.

NFL Draft Scout: Looks slower than timed speed indicates, especially when he has to turn, come out of his backpedal and trail the receivers on long routes...Lacks ideal field instincts, as he often bites on play-action, pump fakes and misdirection...Also gets his feet caught from under him trying to come out of his backpedal, showing too much hip stiffness to maintain mirror on the receiver, as he will generally lose a step or two in transition...Gets taken out of his backpedal too early when he bites on running plays rather than stay on his zone assignment...Closes with good urgency, but does take bad angles in pursuit, making him late to the ball...Must be more active using his hands to ward off blocks, as offensive linemen have good success attacking his body...Gets very reckless in his tackle technique and is more of a collision-type who will miss when he takes a side (lacks good wrap-up skills)...Tries to come up with the big play rather than playing in containment...Has just adequate speed and is a liability covering in the deep third of the secondary...Has good hands, but fails to show the leaping ability or timing to get to the throws at their high point (just eight pass deflections in 48 games)...Struggles to get his body turned and look the ball in when trying to compete for jump balls...Does not have the acceleration to recover when receivers get behind him...Must show better plant-and-drive agility, as he gets turned around often and is slow to recover...Likes to play inside the box, but is a marginal blitzer who is too slow in his pursuit to generate backside pressure...Will get engulfed by bigger blockers, as he does not do a good job of using his hands to protect his body, especially from low blocks (has marginal side-stepping agility)...Lacks overall consistency in his play (tries to go for the big play too much to compensate)...Has a noticeable hitch and hesitation when he has to turn sharply.

Why should he be on the Jacksonville Jaguars?

He's a hard working high motor player that has the physical skills to be a performer on special teams and as a developmental strong safety.  Don't knock his height, think about another hard hitting "smaller" safety in our division?  Yeah, Colts Safety Bob Sanders is only 5'8 and 206 lbs, and he's a solid run stuffing near the line of scrimmage safety. While I don't think that Zbikowski is the second coming of Sanders, it's something that he could develop into.  Frankly, I like the idea of having a punishing hitter as our strong safety, someone who will make tight ends and running backs hesitate just a bit when they look his way.  

He's also a player that has shown a devotion to making himself better, he's got no character issues, he excelled at Notre Dame, and brings more upside to the table than he's given credit for.  I'd love to get him in the 4th round, but If we reached in the third I'd completely understand.

Your thoughts?

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