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Patrick Mannelly’s 2017 NFL Draft long snapper scouting report

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The longtime Bear shares his findings on three top long snapper prospects he worked with this offseason.

Chicago Bears v Arizona Cardinals

Of the 39 long snappers who played in the NFL in 2016, only four were drafted.

Patrick Mannelly is hoping to help three more earn that honor this week.

The long snapping great and Chicago Bears franchise leader in games played is passing on his wisdom and training to college long snappers, starting with three of the best prospects at the position: Scott Daly of Notre Dame, Colin Holba of Louisville, and Cole Mazza of Alabama.

The trouble with ranking long snapper prospects, Mannelly said, is that the differences in rules and level of opposition between the college game and the NFL are so stark as to make comparisons a dubious act. Most significantly, long snappers on punts in college can start running to make the tackle as soon as they snap the ball, while NFL players have to wait until the punter kicks the ball.

Protection is different,” Mannelly told me this week. “In college, you really don’t have to block anybody. That’s why you see those spread punts, or ‘shield’ punts, whatever you want to call it, because it takes advantage of that rule.”

Exacerbating the coverage challenge is the level of defender. Because of that and the release rules, Mannelly describes coverage skills as important, but moreso “a nice intangible to have if you can add it to your repertoire.”

“There are very few snappers in the NFL who make a difference covering, and one of them is Zak DeOssie (of the Giants, who was drafted as a linebacker),” he said. The most important skills for an NFL long snapper fall in this order, he said: “Snap first, protect second, cover third.”

That’s why Mannelly focused his work with Daly, Holba, and Mazza on protection, footwork, and blocking angles, ones that allow a snapper to “get back in (his) depth to block a Jason Pierre-Paul if he’s lined up over (center), or a fast linebacker in the a-gap,” Mannelly said as examples of the type of athlete an NFL long snapper might see.

“You’ve got to change these guys’ mentalities about what they have to do after they snap it,” he added. “You have to revamp their footwork. That’s the number one thing you have to do with all three of them.”

Because of these differences, scouts don’t agree on rankings of long snapper prospects. Pro Football Focus doesn’t even rank them. I found long snapper rankings for the 2017 draft from DraftCountdown, CBS, OurLads, and two scouts from LongSnap.com.

The rankings of Mannelly’s three prospects by those five evaluators:

  • Holba: 1, 3, 2, 2, 1
  • Mazza: 3, 2, 1, 1, 4
  • Daly: 5, 5, 5, 5, not ranked

Other prospects whose names come up most frequently in the above rankings:

  • Bradley Northnagel, California (all five)
  • Nolan Dowling, Western Kentucky (three of five)
  • Joshua Appel, Indiana State (two of five)
  • Anthony Kukwa, Lake Erie (two of five)

Of Mannelly’s three, he ranks Daly as the best in protection, Holba (a snapper in the Senior Bowl) as the best overall prospect with the highest upside, and Mazza — a four-year starter and national champion with Alabama who was the other Senior Bowl snapper — as an excellent snapper who needs to work on his footwork.

That said, Mannelly spent the most time with Daly (about 15 sessions), the next most time with Holba (4-5 sessions), and the least time with Mazza, with whom he spent about two hours one day in March. He doesn’t feel like he has seen enough pro-style workouts of any of them to evaluate their coverage abilities, but that is the third most important skill an NFL long snapper must have, he said.

In the most important skill, snapping, Mannelly gives each one an A grade.

“They all have terrific technique, great touch, perfect velocity — all that kind of stuff,” he said. “All of those guys are NFL-ready to snap. … They are all 1, 1, 1 to be able to get into a game and snap if they didn’t have to protect anybody.”

There’s the rub: protection. That’s where the differences come in. Mannelly discussed that and his final draft rankings of all three players with Windy City Gridiron, noting whether or not the prospect was a “must draft” or if teams could wait to sign him as a rookie free agent.

Scott Daly

College: Notre Dame (team bio)

NFL Draft Scout profile

Time with Mannelly: Probably 10-12 times since the end of Notre Dame’s season, plus 5-6 times prior to that, since Daly is an Illinois native.

Mannelly’s snapping grade: A. NFL-ready

Mannelly’s protection grade: A-.

“Must draft”?: “I believe he could be, yes.”

Mannelly’s draft round: 7th round

Mannelly on Daly: “(Looking at snapping with protection), I would put Scott Daly as number one (of the three). … I have a video from last March until this February, and it’s just night and day of what he can do with his feet. … He’s real athletic. … Probably a little more polished (than Mazza). … He has improved dramatically from the first day I put my eyes on him. With all the work he’s put in, he’s really smooth in the protection aspect.”

Colin Holba

College: Louisville (team bio)

NFL Combine profile

NFL Draft Scout profile

Time with Mannelly: three or four sessions in February, an hour each

Mannelly’s snapping grade: A. NFL-ready

Mannelly’s protection grade: B+

“Must draft”?: Yes. Mannelly has Holba as the best long snapper prospect in the draft, based both on his observations and on discussions with about five NFL coaches.

Mannelly’s draft round: Middle 6th. (Mannelly: “I wouldn’t go any higher than mid-6 and below, just for any long snapper in general. That’s my feeling.”)

Mannelly on Holba: “He’s a self-taught kid who is still kind of raw at the position but has a tremendous upside. Might have the biggest upside of all three of them. … He’s a bigger guy (6’4, 248 pounds). A little bit more raw. I think they project more out of him as far as his ceiling. Scott (Daly) is probably a little more polished right now, but I think that Colin could potentially be a bigger, top-notch athlete at the snapper position.”

Cole Mazza

College: Alabama (team bio)

NFL Draft Scout profile

Time with Mannelly: One session for two hours, in early March

Mannelly’s snapping grade: A. NFL-ready

Mannelly’s protection grade: C+, though that was when Mannelly first saw him, and he expects that Mazza has improved.

“Must draft”?: “No, not yet. His footwork’s not good enough in my opinion.”

Mannelly on Mazza: “He’s a terrific long snapper as far as being able to snap the ball, but he’s limited with his footwork. That’s what’s going to hurt all three of those guys, and I think that’s what makes it hard to get into the NFL, is that your footwork’s limited.”

***

Mannelly notes that all three prospects — Daly, Holba, and Mazza — succeed with the most important intangible to being a long snapper: “Enjoying the process of trying to be perfect.”

Every snap won’t be perfect, he said, though you need to pursue perfection by keeping punt snaps in the chest or waist area, and throwing a catchable ball on field goals with laces forward. Enjoying the process of pursuing that perfection is critical, Mannelly said.

“These three guys I worked with, if they did throw a snap off a little bit, the next one was perfect,” he said. “That to me is the sign of a guy who can play in the NFL.”

Mannelly noted that whether or not a long snapper gets drafted is contingent upon available jobs. In 1998, the Bears needed a long snapper, and Mannelly was drafted. Other years, no one is drafted. Mannelly thinks this is a year where some spots will be available with teams looking “to upgrade or move on.” That bodes well for Daly, Holba, and Mazza.

“They have passion for their craft,” he said. “I love long snapping and they love long snapping as well. If you have that, you’re going to be okay.”

For more on Patrick Mannelly and all things long snapper, check out longsnapper.com.

Poll

How high would you draft a sure-thing, can’t-miss long snapper prospect?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Round 1
    (51 votes)
  • 0%
    Round 2
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Round 3
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Round 4
    (2 votes)
  • 5%
    Round 5
    (16 votes)
  • 26%
    Round 6
    (80 votes)
  • 22%
    Round 7
    (68 votes)
  • 26%
    I would not draft a long snapper no matter his talent
    (81 votes)
303 votes total Vote Now