They’ll poke. They’ll yank. They’ll twist. They’ll scan every sinew the way your auntie scans groceries at the Walmart self-checkout line. But once the NFL types are done working Jack Cichy the way a butcher works a Boston butt, it always goes back to the film, and the film don’t lie:
— Daniel Parlegreco (@DTPDraftScout) December 28, 2017
Most impressive of all – Jack Cichy.
Logged 10 tackles in 1st Half vs Iowa. I loved this clip! pic.twitter.com/9q5k9pwmhw
— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) August 2, 2017
“My guess is, somebody’s going to pull the trigger on him with a compensatory draft pick,” longtime NFL scout and Ourlads.com general manager Dan Shonka said of the former Wisconsin linebacker. “Maybe fold him away for a year, get him back to 100 percent.
“He’s a good football player. Maybe even a fourth [rounder] … but I think you could safely say between four and six somewhere. You’d love to get him at six, [where] one linebacker coach says, ‘Hey, we can do this.’”
One coach. One front office.
One franchise, willing to stick its neck out for a playmaker who hasn’t made a football play, at game speed, in 15 months.
“Cichy has graded very well in all three phases when he’s been on the field, but the reality is, in three seasons, he’s played just 737 snaps,” Pro Football Focus Big Ten analyst Josh Liskiewitz said.
“I think squeaking into Day 2 [of the draft] was always going to be tough for him because his size is average at best, and I don’t see elite speed or explosiveness. There’s not much he can show scouts in terms of health and durability, other than testing well at the combine and clearing medicals.
“I think Day 3 is where he’ll slot regardless, but in order to get into the fourth or fifth round he’ll probably need to run under 4.7 [in the 40-yard dash]. And it wouldn’t hurt to shoot for Ben Gedeon’s numbers from last year, which were a surprise to teams.”
‘He had surgery, so that’s probably going to be taken into account’
When the first line in the dossier says DAMAGED GOODS, the idea is to get prospective NFL employers focusing more on the latter word and less on the former. From Halloween 2015 to Halloween 2016, the 6-foot-2 linebacker was one of the most productive defenders in the Big Ten, recording at least 10 tackles on five different occasions while racking up 6.5 sacks over an 11-game stretch. That includes a second half at the 2015 Holiday Bowl that became the stuff of legend:
— Ron Clements (@Ron_Clements) December 31, 2015
Flip side: A torn pectoral muscle sustained at Iowa cut a stellar 2016 campaign short after seven contests. And just when Cichy was poised to unleash hell last fall, a freak injury during preseason camp in August shredded his right ACL and ended his senior season — and his Badgers tenure — with more questions than answers.
“Ultimately Cichy, in the eyes of the NFL, isn’t going to be defined by three plays from 2015,” Liskiewitz noted. “And even looking at them, one was unblocked and the other two were very poor block attempts by a running back. He just doesn’t have a stable body of work, and without elite height/weight/speed measurables, I think he’s a late Day 3 guy.”
At 6-2, 234 pounds and with a frame that looks leaner, Cichy isn’t a prototypical NFL 4-3 middle linebacker, nor is he a physical freak like former Wisconsin running mate T.J. Watt, now with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He could slot inside in a 3-4 front, but there’ll be red flags about strength and bulk in addition to the running narrative on durability.
“He had surgery, so that’s probably going to be taken into account,” Shonka said. “Somebody will probably draft him and maybe they’ll even put him on PUP or something and make sure he’s 100 percent. So, for instance, if he’s a fourth- or fifth-round compensatory pick, that’s not all that much money if he never plays, or if he’s limited. And he might be, unfortunately.”
‘This kid may step off a curb and may be done the minute we get out of this meeting’
Cichy, who’s working out in Phoenix this winter in advance of the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis next month, can take some solace from a guy he used to cover — former Michigan tight end Jake Butt.
Butt spent much of last winter recovering from surgery after tearing his right ACL in the 2016 Orange Bowl in late December. The Denver Broncos took a flyer on him anyway, snatching the Ohio native in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft and stashing him on the reserve/non-football injury list and the Physically Unable to Perform [PUP] list for his rookie season.
“What’s going to be key is the doctor, is what they say,” Shonka continued. “They may say, ‘Hey, this kid may step off a curb and may be done the minute we get out of this meeting.’ And some doctor says, ‘Take him sixth or seventh round, I don’t have much [of a read] on him.’
“If I was on it, I wouldn’t ever take an injured guy at all, and I’ve been around where we made good decisions on injured guys. You’re going to get the hell beat out of you going into the NFL. I like guys as durable as possible, but that’s just me. But I know people who will take guys who are injured.”
And it only takes one.