First off, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Connor Livesay and I have been covering the NFL Draft for about five years now. I’d like to thank the Breaking Football guys for giving me the opportunity to join their team and reach a new audience and further my NFL Draft coverage. Today I’m brining you my debut article and it’s centered around one of my favorite — and most underrated, I might add — prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Meet Wisconsin linebacker, Jack Cichy.
You may not be familiar with Cichy, and I understand why you wouldn’t be. Through his five years at Wisconsin (redshirt year in 2014), Cichy has only seen action in 24 games (11 starts) due to a variety of injuries which have really driven his draft stock down.
In the last two seasons, Cichy has had two serious injuries that have limited his ability and availability to the Wisconsin Badger football team. It was a torn pectoral muscle that ended his 2016 season, and a training camp knee injury that forced him to miss his entire senior season. He also redshirted his sophomore season. While the injuries are certainly concerning, I’m here to tell you that when on the field and healthy, Jack Cichy could be among the best linebackers in the 2018 NFL Draft class.
In his oft-injured career at Wisconsin, the former walk-on was still able to produce at a high level, when healthy. In his 24 games, he finished with 120 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 6 pass breakups. While his stats over those 24 games are intriguing, his overall play in the run game, in coverage, and as a blitzer is what I really love about him.
When looking at his strengths and weaknesses, the first few that come to mind are his ability to see things develop and react to them, his football IQ, and his motor that doesn’t run out of gas. Cichy is one of the better run defending linebackers in this draft class that can play as an inside or off-the-ball linebacker at the next level. His versatility is also something I love about the former Badger. As far as his weaknesses, Cichy lacks the ideal long speed to keep up with quicker backs and receivers, and could improve on his angels when attacking ball carriers moving horizontally. Not that his injury history is necessarily a weakness, but it has certainly affected his draft stock in a negative way.
Below I’m going to post some GIFS from his film and break down some of the things I see that still make Jack Cichy a top 100 player in this year’s draft class, even with the injury concerns.
This first clip is a play he makes in run support against Iowa’s running back Akrum Wadley. If you aren’t familiar with the player, Wadley is an extremely shifty back who is a nightmare to bring down with the football in his hands. Cichy does an excellent job of keeping his shoulders square to his target and keeping his eye level up when approaching the ball carrier. With how shifty Wadley is, if Cichy’s shoulder’s and/or pad level doesn’t stay square to his target, this run could have been a big one for Iowa:
The next play I want to show you is another great example of Cichy’s instincts, explosiveness, and tackling ability against one of the toughest backs to bring down in the nation. Cichy reads this one from the get-go, shoots the gap perfectly, and is able to meet the ball carrier in the hole before he can get his feet underneath him. Any hesitation here from Cichy, and Wadley can have an extra second or two to make a move or build up more acceleration and beat Cichy to his landmark:
Next we have a play that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. Cichy does a great job of reading the quarterback’s eyes, working his way through the offensive line traffic until he’s able to find a crease, and explodes through to make a play on the quarterback. C.J. Beathard is able to get this ball off, but due to Cichy’s ability to apply the pressure, it’s a harmless throw away. My favorite thing about this play that won’t get noticed is Cichy’s ability to change direction and drive off his back foot for that last ditch effort to bring Beathard down. Also love his motor and pursuit in this clip as well:
Here’s a few clips of Jack Cichy as a blitzer. You notice how well he times these up, along with his ability to covert speed to power to disrupt the pocket, on these plays. Cichy isn’t known for being a very fast player, but his explosiveness flies off the tape here in these two plays:
The most impressive thing about this second clip is that during this play, Cichy’s pec muscle had already been torn. The ability for him to avoid the offensive lineman with a swim move while really only having one working arm is unreal to me:
Yet another play that just blows my mind. Cichy again is playing with one arm at the time of this play. Here, he does an excellent job of getting around James Daniels — a possible first round pick, meeting the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage, and is able to finish the play with a tackle, all while having a torn pectoral muscle:
The last play I want to show you today is probably my favorite play out of any player in this draft class. Here Cichy shows his cover, athletic, and playmaking ability all in one clip. Cichy isn’t in a perfect position when this ball is released, but he’s able to recover just a bit at the last second to reach out and make a hell of a play on the ball that results in a huge interception for the Wisconsin defense. Jack isn’t what we would consider a “cover linebacker”, but plays like this make you realize that he really doesn’t have many limitations:
If Jack Cichy’s durability concerns weren’t such a red flag, I would have a first round grade on the player if his senior campaign matched what we saw in 2016 and 2015. His ability on the field, when healthy, has signs of being an elite linebacker that can play any position in any scheme. Cichy is a guy I’m looking forward to seeing in just a few days at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine. If he tests well athletically and looks like the player I saw in 2016 during the drills, it’s going to be a situation where he may end up in my top five linebackers, and easily one of my top rated ILB.
His ability to play sideline-to-sideline against the run, effectiveness as a blitzer, and some of his signs of being a really strong cover guy makes him an early candidate to be my sleeper out of every player in this 2018 Draft class. If his on-the-field talents don’t impress you enough, a little research will show that his teammates and coaches rave about Jack Cichy the everyday person just as much as Jack Cichy the stud linebacker. Every draft season there seems to be a talented linebacker who slips in the draft due to injury and ends up being a diamond in the rough. If I was a betting man, I’d put all my chips in for Jack Cichy being that guy this year.