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Video Analysis: The Underrated Athleticism of Iowa's Fiedorowicz & Morris

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Video Analysis: The Underrated Athleticism of Iowa's Fiedorowicz & Morris

For a variety of reasons, Ted Thompson has taken a liking to players to players from Iowa during his tenure as general manager of the Green Bay Packers, a trend that could continue with several prospects likely to be selected in next week's NFL Draft.

In recent history, the Packers have selected Hawkeyes such as Bryan Bulaga, Mike Daniels and Micah Hyde, all of whom figure to play a role for the 2014 edition of the team.

Maybe Thompson likes the Iowa players' raw athletic ability; maybe they filled a need; or maybe he respects the way head coach Kirk Ferentz has developed his talent. Likely all these reasons played at least a small part in Thompson's decisions.

Perhaps a few more Iowa players will join the fold in Titletown this year with the likes of tight end C.J. Fiedorwicz and linebacker James Morris figuring to provide mid-round value, not that other NFL teams won't be taking notice.

It is this author's opinion, Fiedorowicz and Morris are underrated compared to their rankings in most other well-known outlets and analysts, and what follows here is evidence in the form of a video breakdown.

Tight End C.J. Fiedorowicz

Fiedorowicz may not be the best receiver in this year's draft class or the best blocker, but it's possible he's the best player that blends a combination of the two.

Primarily an in-line tight end with the ability to ocasionally flex out, Fiedorowicz provides a degree of underappreciated athletic ability and determination to get the job done both on the ground and through the air.

As noted by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Fiedorowicz was recruited by Wisconsin and Indiana as a basketball player, and as many sports enthusiasts saw this season during Wisconsin's run the Final Four, Bo Ryan doesn't recruit stiffs for his team on the hardcourt.

Taken another way, Ryan does an uncanny job of developing players perhaps perceived to be unorthodox post players and turns them into threats from anywhere on the court. Frank Kaminsky was just the latest example, but there was no shortage of other similar Wisconsin big men such as Jared Berggren, Jon Leuer, Brian Butch, Marcus Landry, Keaton Nankivil and Mike Wilkinson during the Ryan era.

Fiedorowicz seems to have found his calling as a football player, but his basketball skills are evident on film. 

From Iowa's Outback Bowl loss to LSU in 2014 (times listed are from the video, not the game clock):

1:10 Fiedorowicz doesn't let an attempt to chuck him on his release faze him as he gets downfield to make a catch 20 yards downfield between defenders.

1:19 Fiedorowicz uses his lateral quickness to get inside positioning on the defender head-up on him on an inside zone run.

1:27 Fiedorowicz again gets inside positioning on a player shaded to his inside, sealing him off.

1:52 Fiedorowicz shows an ability to pass protect, riding a rusher past the pocket.

3:35 Fiedorowicz takes the elevator and uses his body to shield the defender on a high pass.

These are just a few highlights by Fiedorowicz, and keep in mind that many of the plays made in the passing game came with Jake Rudolph at quarterback. Able to work with an elite QB like Aaron Rodgers, Fiedorowicz should be able to flourish.

Inside Linebacker James Morris

Whereas many outlets like NFLDraftScout.com have James Morris listed as their 13th-ranked inside linebacker and potentially going undrafted, Paul Bessire of PredictionMachine.com has Morris ranked as the second player at his position.

During an appearance on Cheesehead TV's Railbird Central last week, Bessire discussed the discrepancy:

I see the analysis on him as being small, maybe not being able to put on the requisite weight, as not being an elite athlete, yet he checks every box for us: 6' 1", 240 is certainly capable of being able to play at the inside linebacker position for just about any scheme in the NFL.

None of his Combine numbers fail to check the boxes when we're looking at being able to have the athleticism that you need to play at the NFL level. And yet, he's not a tackling machine either, which is probably a negative a lot of people see in their minds. He hasn't put up the same kind of numbers like a Luke Kuechly did at Boston College, but he does everything well.

He makes plays as both a pass rusher and in coverage. I'd like to see an inside linebacker that doesn't necessarily make the sacks and the tackles for a loss, though he has been, but be around the football, and that's definitely true with James Morris, who was in pass coverage making plays with the interceptions and the pass breakups and was there when he was needed to when asked to blitz and come through and make plays in the backfield.

From Morris' 2013 game against Nebraska:

0:01 Right off the bat, Morris contributes on special teams, playing on the punt coverage unit.

0:24 Despite an attempt by the fullback to cut block him, Morris stays on his feet to make a tackle for no gain.

0:42 Morris sidesteps an off-balance blocker to make a tackle for a loss.

1:39 Although he doesn't make the tackle, Morris occupies two blockers, freeing up his teammates to flow to the football, making a stop for a short gain.

1:49 Morris undercuts a route by the tight end in the flat for an interception.

Obviously there's plenty more video to watch, but even the first two minutes should give a good idea of Morris' athleticism.

By no means are these perfect players. Admittedly, their highlights are pointed out while their lowlights are glossed over.

But these players should make good professionals outside the first round.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

Photo: Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz by Brian Carriveau.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (41) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

MarkinMadison's picture

Iowa had a trio of linebackers this year, none of whom are getting much love from anyone for the draft. I think all three are draftable, and I was shocked that (almost) no one was talking about Morris at all. Thanks for highlighting him.

Fiedorowicz is my favorite TE in this years draft as a Packers prospect. At the risk of starting some kind of war here, as with Jordy Nelson I sometimes wonder if his skills get overlooked a bit because he's a white guy. He is going to be a great player for someone. He turned in good measurements in his vertical, bench press, three cone and 20 yard at the combine. It also shows up on film. He is going to go up the seam and knife a defense, and he is going to play jump ball in the end zone. I don't know what else you really want from a guy.

ebongreen's picture

My take on Fiedorowizc is similar - moreover, I think while he may have a lower ceiling than some more talented players, I think his bust potential is much smaller. From what I've read, Ebron is a smaller version of J.Finley, ASJ's DUI worries me (especially in light of Jerramy Stevens' long history), and Amaro doesn't block.

For the Packers, a base formation includes Lacy, (TE), Cobb, Boykin and Nelson. A TE that can really block (unlike Finley, who never really cared to block) would turn this (and every other TE formation) into a bigger dilemma for the defense as the run threat is stronger. I would be perfectly happy if CJF wound up in the Green and Gold, and I think he's a great fit.

DrealynWilliams's picture

Regarding to the last paragraph -- I agree with everything but the part about Finely never caring to block. He had a pretty nice mean streak in him this past season before the injury. Which is why a lot of us thought he was finally turning the corner and becoming the total package. He wasn't the in-line blocker Niklas or CJF is,but he was giving much more effort compared to previous seasons.

I'm fine with Quarless and Bostik being our "receiving TEs". I hope if the Pack decides to draft a TE,he will be a better blocker than receiver. We should no longer NEED Rodgers to throw 35+ passes a game. I'm looking at the 2 losses Rodgers had last season,the score from quarter-to-quarter and it's a bit maddening. It just doesn't add up. You'd think we were getting blown out.

ebongreen's picture

Drealyn,

I appreciate the praise as well as the disagreement. :-) You obviously have a different opinion of recent-JMike than I have, but sadly including the injuries he's been long on potential and short on production. I know some considered him a "coach-killer" (http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/jermichael-finleys-play-hasnt-alw...), and I'd have love to see him live up to his talents on-field - but it seems unlikely.

With the Packers' backfield talent, they should be an offensive terror next year, injury-gods willing. The run game should work, which means the play-action game should work and the bootleg game should work... there's practically no play they can't run and seriously stress defenses. From spread to full-house to 2RB-2TE-1WR, everything can be on the table - they're a matchup nightmare even without Finley.

I can't wait. :-)

Stroh's picture

"Coach Killer?" He's had ONE Coach in his entire Pro Career and he has never been fired! LMAO Oh and all his TE coaches have moved up the ladder not down or fired. Kinda hard to be a coach killer if that's the case, don't you think? Hell, you could make a case he's coach maker since his position coaches keep moving up! Tell those "some" to see the facts... And maybe you should too.

Finley is far from a great inline blocker, but he gives good effort in blocking downfield for other recievers.

DrealynWilliams's picture

Yea,there shouldn't be any formation that the Pack could line up in that wouldn't cause teams to over think and second guess,but it all comes down to rhythm and execution. Too many times the Pack didn't really do those 2 until late into the 1st half or somewhere in the 3rd quarter.

JimTaylor31's picture

Finley may be a lot of things but by no means is he a "coach killer". He did a very good job for the Packers and I wish him the best. He definitely added a dimension to the offense that will be very difficult to replace. Maybe he had some weaknesses as far as blocking, and some folks may have expected more but the "coach killer" designation is a pretty big stretch.

COW's picture

My 2 favorite TE's are Fiedorowicz and Niklas.
Well rounded.
Seem like sound locker room guys.
I think Fiedorowicz would be a better player on day 1 but Niklas has a higher ceiling.

I like Morris but he's probably a backup/special teams guy at most. Would he be an upgrade over any of the Packers' ILB's? I don't think so. I think even Lattimore and Barrington have more potential.

4thand1's picture

I would like them coax Bubba Franks out of retirement.

Mojo's picture

What I liked about Fiedorwicz in the LSU film is his willingness to block. Not a road-grader, but for the most part gets the job done. I will say Iowa's o-line looks overwhelmed.

Getting and old fashioned TE who is willing to block and can catch would be worth one of our third rounders.

4thand1's picture

5 and a 1/2 days. Draft a QB, Running Back, Place kicker, Punter, Guard, OLB, CB, OT, WR, Center,TE, ILB, and Safety. In that order.

MarkinMadison's picture

I think you mean reverse order.

DrealynWilliams's picture

Not even.

Who the hell drafts place kickers and punters?

4thand1's picture

Only 2 bit?

YGB69's picture

Yes ... take Fiedorowicz in the 3rd round ... and watch Lacy light it up behind his blocking. In time, he'll be a go to red zone guy for Rodgers.

ben's picture

Quarless, Blake Annen(5-6th Round), Stoneburner, Bostick

6'5"254lbs, 4.57 40, 1.58 10ydsplit, 4.57 shuttle, 7.29 cone, 23 reps.
6'4"247lbs, 4.41 40, 1.61 10ydsplit, 4.30 shuttle, 7.19 cone, 25 reps.
6'4"253lbs, 4.53 40, 1.59 10ydsplit, 4.27 shuttle, 7.12 cone, 18 reps.
6'3"243lbs, 4.59 40, 1.67 10ydsplit, 4.25 shuttle, 7.41 cone, 19 reps.

http://draftbreakdown.com/video/blake-annen-vs-purdue-2013/

http://draftbreakdown.com/video/blake-annen-vs-northwestern-state-2013/

Stroh's picture

Takes more than measurable to play in the NFL. Why did he only have 15 rec and 177 yds as a Sr? Bring him in as an udfa or 7th rd to give him a look, but you have to wonder why his production sucked so bad.

Don't you find it curious that the player considered the best receiver of the TE group for the Packers (Bostic) yet he has the worst (not bad by any means) measureables.

Like I said, it takes more than measurable!

4thand1's picture

Yes, takes more than measurables. That's why they can stick the combine. Watched draft analysis on espn and these guys were training like crazy for the 40 just to move up in the draft. Fuck that. Show me what your made of on the field. The combine doesn't hit back.

Stroh's picture

Measurables do have a place tho. Especially when you get them all together and doing the drills in the same order. Get a fair comparison of hopefully what you see on film. If you think player X plays faster, it can be confirmed by the measurables. But its always gotta show on film first and foremost.

Its one reason I like Shazier so much. His speed and explosiveness shows up in his play on the field. Same is true w/ Moncrief and Brooks IMO.

Stroh's picture

We saw the links before. You don't have to double post them.

ben's picture

it appears I do.

"it takes more than measurables"

Stroh's picture

You damn right it takes more than measurables! Don't forget it Wrong Again Ben.

ben's picture

he wont be available in the 7th or as a udfa. measurables matter. gametape, measurables, production.

The Bearcats leading their league in rushing is impressive enough production for Annen. Annen is as good a run-blocker, & better pass-blocker than Fiedorowicz. Differences between the 2 are; Annen runs a 4.41 not a 4.73, Annen can stretch the field, and Annen should be available in the 5th.

Stroh's picture

Then let him go somewhere to a team that overdrafts him. No big loss...

Production, film then measurables to confirm what you see on film.

Got them backwards, Wrong Again Ben.

ben's picture

If it was 1.production, 2.film, 3.measurables;

Moncreif would be considered a 4th round pick as he clearly lacks production. he also is not a very good route runner, drops WAY too many catchable balls, & is overall soft on film. he does have 2nd round measurables though.

1.Film! 2.Measureables. 3.Production. (prospects have total control of their film & measureables. Production can vary due to various factors such as System, Surrounding talent level, & level of Competition)

Stroh, You obviously know a lot about football. If you could only keep some level of subjectivity or honesty you wouldn't come off as such a chump.

4thand1's picture

Paul Coffamn former Packer great TE had the best line ever. When asked about his speed he replied," I'm actually running a lot slower than it looks."

4thand1's picture

So you don't like Paul Coffman, stinkin troll.

Stroh's picture

Measureables should only confirm what you see on film. It should never trump the film you see. To some degree production is affected by outside influences, such as QB play for a WR. But if you look for production in the context of makeable plays it shows itself. Production and Film go hand in hand for the most part. Measurables should NEVER trump what you see.

You lose total objectivity w/ anyone w/ good measurables that you like. You play favorites among players and lose objectivity in regrads to guys that you see have numbers that you like.

There's a reason that Moncrief has climbed draft boards from 90-100 and now up to 40 overall. Everyone knew he ran in the 4.4's his combine just showed. The players I'm high on keep rising and the ones you like keep dropping. Film study shows up.

Moncrief and Shazier both have climbed once the combine confirmed the tape. Said all along Moncrief is a 2nd round player, you on the other hand call Cooks and Verrett a top 12 players. So who's more objective?

Stroh's picture

"Perhaps the only thing standing in Moncrief's way of becoming the first "skill-position" player from Mississippi to earn a first round draft selection since Eli Manning (No. 1 overall, 2004) is the question about his straight-line speed. Moncrief was not caught from behind on tapes."

Once the tape confirmed his speed (never caught from behind) he rose up boards.

DrealynWilliams's picture

"never caught from behind" doesn't mean he's fast though.

It just means the player/people chasing him wasn't so much faster than him that they could make up the difference in distance.

Think of a head start (whatever the distance is).

+ He seems to get the split second opening due to his nice route running.

- I don't like the fact that he tends to catch the ball with his arms a lot.

Stroh's picture

But his speed was proven by his 40 time. And he did play against NFL CB's in the SEC. Lets remember that the best NFL defensive player are usually coming out of the SEC. So if he wasn't caught from behind playing in the SEC, it stands to reason he IS fast. Upon further investigation there were 3 SEC DB's taken in the 1st rd last year, along w/ a couple LB's. In '12 there were also 3 SEC DB's that went in the 1st. This year only Clinton-Dix is expected to be a 1st rd DB, but the point still stands.

Any questions about Moncriefs speed were answered authoritatively by his 4.4 flat 40, if there were any doubts.

DrealynWilliams's picture

I'm not labeling him fast.

I'm not labeling him slow.

I'm just saying "never caught from behind" doesn't mean he's fast. It's apparent he has some speed. It's on game tape.

Handsback's picture

Amaro is a better blocker then many realize. His issue isn't blocking but speed, or the lack of it.

Stroh's picture

All the "experts" beg to disagree... They don't consider him a very good blocker at all. Say he can't play as an inline TE and is all finesse. Compares to Rob Housler of the Cards. Decent, not great receiver but has to line up in the slot or wide to succeed in the NFL.

Seems he plays and acts on the field like he's a WR, not a TE.

With the Packers now having a strong RB they need a TE that can function as an inline blocker, as much as a receiver.

ben's picture

I think that's why he says, "better than many realize".

I agree, he's a better blocker than given credit for.

Stroh's picture

Maybe better than fans realize, but I doubt he's fooling the experts. Why would we take your or his word over guys that are paid to scout?!

Haven't seem a scouting report that calls his blocking even adequate. Maybe adequate blocking downfield a la Finley, but not as an inline TE. All finesse no physicality at 6'5 265... Somethings wrong w/ that picture! At that size his physicality should show up but all that shows is finesse. He's soft... Face it Wrong Again Ben.

Nick Perry's picture

Actually Stroh is right about both Amaro and Moncrief. I've started looking at Moncrief a little since I heard him name. The guy IS fast and at 6'2" 220, he won't go down with a arm tackle as he's running by Jennings or Tillmans ass. EVERY scout has said that Amaro doesn't know the meaning of blocking. Doesn't mean he can't, he just wasn't asked to do much of it at A & M. As many times as I've just kind of shook my head at Stroh's aggressive answers to other readers, he makes many valid points when it comes to football.

JimTaylor31's picture

I'm good with C.J. in the 3rd. A good blocking TE who can catch the 3rd down and short pass and hopefully catch in the RZ would be a real plus for the offense. I'd rather have a guy like that than a faster pass catcher who doesn't block well. In other words I'm good with giving a little in the passing game to help Lacey & Co. in the run game.

Jordan's picture

I used to think he might be a decent pick. But the more I watch him, he just seems too slow. Not just foot speed. He seems like the kind of guy that's going to get jacked up over the middle and spend a lot of time with doc Mckenzie.

Just seems like he has slow reaction time on film.

Some teams (not the packers) do have safeties that will jack you up over the middle. Both high and low. He'll be a sitting duck.

DrealynWilliams's picture

I don't know if you all are familiar with MockOne (MockOne.net) on Twitter,but in the 3rd round they have the Pack taking QB Jimmy Garoppolo in the 3rd.

See!!!!

**Drops mic**

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