Coby Fleener

A look at why Shayne Skov went undrafted and how the NFL views Stanford

Stanford D

I’m going to ask the following question, even if it means putting myself at risk of sounding both lazy and kind of racist at the same time.

What does third round pick Chris Borland have that undrafted free agent Shayne Skov doesn’t? 

From first glance (at their statistics, guys) there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between these two middle linebackers. Borland and Skov were key contributors to winning teams from BCS conferences with similar color schemes (I’m talking about uniforms, guys). Both had great senior seasons, but Skov’s overall numbers were slightly better. Skov has short arms (30 5/8″), but Borland has even less going on between his shoulders and hands (29 1/4″). Neither player is known for Patrick Willis-like sideline-to-sideline speed …

Hold on, there’s our answer.

Borland ran the 40-yard dash in 4.83 seconds, and he did it at the combine. He also put up 27 bench reps and performed slightly better in the jumping and agility drills than Skov, who looked like a potential first- or second-rounder early on in his career.

Four-and-a-half weeks after suffering a hamstring injury that prevented him from participating in Stanford’s Pro Day, Cardinal linebacker Shayne Skov worked out for NFL scouts on The Farm.

Skov weighed in at 242 pounds and looked to be in very good shape. He ran a 5.11 in the 40-yard dash, broad-jumped 9-5, vertical jumped 30.5 inches, ran a 4.4 in the short shuttle, a 7.31 in the three-cone drill, and a 12.82 in the 60-yard shuttle.

“(I think it went) OK,” Skov said of his workout. “I think when you finish up think you always feel like you could have done better. But I gave my best effort today and that’s all I could ask for.”

The effects of Skov’s hamstring injury were apparent as he went through a variety of tests and drills. Skov had to rest for several weeks following the injury and was only able to resume running a few weeks ago. And even then, he had to be cautious to avoid re-injury.

“I mean, it’s good enough,” Skov said of his hamstring. “I could play in a game. I’m not going to say I feel perfect, but it was good enough to come out here and perform.”

Despite being limited in the workout, Skov shouldn’t fall too far in next month’s NFL Draft. According to a source, multiple teams graded Skov as a second-round pick after his junior year. NFL teams had a 5.17 40-yard dash time on Skov at that point.

The tone of the article above that I quoted was pretty favorable, probably because it came from Stanford Rivals. In reality, it doesn’t matter if a linebacker looks like he’s in shape after he runs a 5.11. Some believe Skov hasn’t fully recovered from the injuries he suffered back in 2011 (torn ACL and MCL, broken tibia — three surgeries). Still, he was projected to go anywhere from the second to the fifth round by all the major draft sites, and one has to wonder if that’s exactly where the 49ers would’ve taken him if he suffered his injuries more recently (because that would’ve allowed them to stash Skov like all the other recent redshirt candidates).

Both Skov and Borland are known as smart, instinctive players, but Skov looks like someone who really can’t be expected to cover anyone at all in practice besides maybe Joe Staley. If his left knee isn’t fully healthy now, over two years later, we may never see Skov fulfill the promise he displayed as a havoc-wreaking sophomore who registered three sacks in Stanford’s 40-12 win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl — Jim Harbaugh’s last game as the team’s head coach.

But don’t tell that to Skov, who looks a little like Blake Griffin in his Twitter avatar.

Curious case of the Cardinal

Stanford has won at least 11 games in each of the last four years, and not just because they’ve put a lot of points on the board.

  • 2010: 17.4 ppg allowed (10th out of 120 teams)
  • 2011: 21.9 ppg allowed (30th out of 120 teams)
  • 2012: 17.2 ppg allowed (11th out of 124 teams)
  • 2013: 19.0 ppg allowed (10th out of 125 teams)

The Stanford renaissance has led to an influx of Cardinal players getting drafted by NFL teams, but one side of the ball has dominated.

— Of the 20 Stanford draftees since 2010, only five were selected for what they did on defense*. Three of those players were taken over the weekend: OLB Trent Murphy (second round), S Ed Reynolds (fifth round) and DE Ben Gardner (seventh round).

* Owen Marecic was a two-way player in college, but he hasn’t played at linebacker since getting selected in the fourth round by Cleveland in 2011. Marecic is currently a free agent.

— Murphy was the first Cardinal defensive player taken as early as the second round since strong safety Tank Williams was selected with the 45th overall pick in 2002. Meanwhile, six offensive players have gone at least that high in the last five drafts: Toby Gerhardt, Andrew Luck, David DeCastro, Coby Fleener, Jonathan Martin and Zach Ertz.

It appears that NFL personnel people love Stanford offensive linemen and tight ends, whereas they like Cardinal running backs. Luck was in his own category altogether. But scouts and GMs seem to view Stanford’s defensive players as a bunch of smart kids running a great system who’ll get punished at the NFL level due to less-than-ideal athletic traits. So far, in just about every case besides Richard Sherman, that’s looked pretty accurate. We’ll see if that continues with Murphy, Reynolds, Gardner, Skov and inside linebacker Jarek Lancaster, who received a minicamp invite from the Raiders.

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