Explosiveness - Regularly the first player off the ball by a wide margin. Gains significant ground with first and second step and regularly initiates contact with opposing offensive lineman, leading to initial displacement. Is a nightmare as an unblocked read/pursuit defender; regular turned conflict plays into TFLs. Has good lateral mobility and stride length to slant/crash on stunts without losing vertical explosiveness.
Hand Usage - The biggest gap currently on his evaluation, and the biggest hurdle for him to clear for NFL success. Flashes the ability to work hands on swipes and places hands nicely when bull-rushing, but regularly is too passive with his hands and leads into contact with his shoulder. Doesn't maximize his length on long-arm reps or use hands to keep chest plate clear when two-gapping. Improved hand technique will unlock his game.
Power/Leverage - Lower body power is tremendous and ability to generate initial backfield push will make him valuable for NFL teams. When his pads are down and he's under control, is night on impossible to keep from compromising pocket depth. Will pop upright at times and surrender his chest, especially on running plays when he's trying to work to the runner without first taking on contact. Can convert explosiveness into power for great bull-rush reps.
Rush Moves - Has a bevy of exciting flashes. Has hit push/pulls, hump moves, arm over, and long-arm with varying degrees of success. Understands how to get to a half man and work angles to move quarterback off of his spot. Knowledgable on slants as the crasher to generate displacement and then work back inside. Has tweener-like ability to win as an rusher from 5t and wider alignments. Addition of a more consistent push/pull and a swim will increase the rushes he finishes from interior alignment.
Flexibility - Decently flexible for a big fella. Understands how to get his toes pointed to the peak of the pocket and fights pressure with pressure on the outside rush track to keep his angle tight to the quarterback. Ankle flexibility is better than hip flexibility in this regard -- struggles to drop his hips and his weight without losing his ability to create power. More than enough bend to flatten half-man relationships from the inside to attack the quarterback's set point.
Lateral Influence - Play discipline and technique creates some issues. Tends to give up his back too easily, though slanting nature of defense has some blame to shoulder here. Struggles to work back across face when he's getting downblocked and will sit on blocks when he feels like he can't get involved in the play. Not a strong hustle player unless he's unblocked and in pursuit of boundary plays.
Block Recognition/Deconstruction - A mixed bag against double teams, though given his play weight (285 pounds), pleasantly surprised to see him drop anchor every so often. Culprit of his worst reps is an upright approach out of his stance -- guilty at times of firing off the ball without bring his feet with him, which makes him easily displacable. If/when he's truly reading as a two-gapper, can nicely drop anchor and use his hands to control his opponent; flexibility comes in handy when fighting pressure with pressure to maintain gap integrity.
Tackling - Some concerns with his ability to finish sacks -- comes into contact often too upright and looks to latch and drag and instead of deliver contact with low pads and drive with his legs. Lack of agility can present an issue when working against slippery quarterbacks and running backs, but length comes in handy here.
Versatility - A bit of a tweener who won't be a fit for every team. Length and explosiveness profile lend themselves to one-gapping teams and odd fronts, though Broughton's best fit will be with squads that love to slant, twist, and run other games that allow him to line up all along the line and attack from different angles. High-ceiling prospect because of the many ways he wins.
BEST TRAIT - Explosiveness
WORST TRAIT - Hand Usage
RED FLAGS - None
PLAYER COMPARISON - Sheldon Rankins
Cortez Broughton looks like he's just one or two years away from some truly dominant tape, and I'm buying into the upside. With a wicked first step and the ability to bowl over interior offensive linemen with his power and explosiveness, Broughton offers rapid interior penetration at a tremendous rate. The NFL values that from their interior defensive linemen above all else.
Broughton is a bit undersized and can be exposed in the running game, though the scheme at Cincinnati did him no favors in this regard. Technique-wise in general, Broughton needs some polish: by activating his hands more as a pass-rusher and run-defender, he'll make his own life easier by keeping his chest clean and having more control over his opponents. It's important to make sure Broughton has the "want-to," as he takes some plays off on film, but his ceiling is tantalizingly high.
ROUND GRADE - Late 3rd