Kiper's take on Zeke Motta before the draft was that he was as aggressive as any safety in this draft class and as tough as anyone you will find at the safety position. He was all over the field for Notre Dame and was second on the team in tackles (behind Te'o) last year. But Kiper said he'd probably only be a late round pick because of his lack of speed - in the 4.75 to 4.8 range, which cast doubt on his coverage ability at the next level.
Gotta give Kiper due credit for calling it on Motta sliding. But there's far more to the story on that hideous 40 time, and Darth Helmet Hair missed it.
Mayock went on a rant after the Falcons finally snagged him with a seventh round compensatory pick. He said he felt fairly confident that Motta was a third or fourth rounder coming out of the East-West Shrine Game. The downfall was his 4.83 in the 40 at the Combine. That was the slowest time among all defensive backs.
Mayock didn't buy into that number. He insisted that Motta had the straight line speed of a Harrison Smith (Motta's teammate at Notre Dame, taken in the first round by the Vikings in 2012). He said that on tape, he sees a 4.6 guy.
He also said "Zeke strains too hard when he gets tensed up about his 40". That made no sense whatsoever. It might convey that Motta takes it too seriously and has some kind of mental hangup over his time. Or it might have meant that Mayock had been at the desk too long and was starting to babble. After all, it was the end of the seventh round.
Thomas Dimitroff also explained it. It's not a mental thing at all. Mayock meant it in the physical sense but didn't get it out clearly on live television.
According to Dimitroff, the bad time is due to his track style, not his actual speed. Zeke Motta simply doesn't have very good track skills. In particular, he's really bad at taking off from a track-style starter's stance. He clenches his muscles rather than relaxing when he's in the starting position. When he puts his hand on the ground, he tenses up. He gets off to a horrible start and looks really bad running the 40.
Fortunately, football players don't take off from starting blocks, and defensive backs don't even have their hands on the ground at the snap. If it really was due purely to a lack of track skills, that 40 time would be completely irrelevant.
Mayock insists that the bad 40 time was the ONLY reason why Motta slid to the seventh. The game film shows he's much faster than that, and even his other measureables are more in line with a 4.55-4.6 runner. Gil Brandt agreed, and he had also put a third to fourth round grade on Motta.
Dimitroff said that he puts more emphasis on the 3-cone drill, which stresses agility and change of direction ability that is critical for defensive backs. Motta did extremely well in that drill at the Combine.
So... if we disregard that 40 time, what kind of player are we getting? Kiper notes his toughness, aggressiveness, range, and tackling reliability. Mayock says he's good in coverage, is a thumper, will be a core player on all special teams units, will work his tail off, and is talented enough that the starters will need to watch over their shoulders in a year or two.
Dimitroff likes his size, range, toughness and aggressiveness, saying "he's a good football player with confidence and swagger". He also noted that Motta is a solid tackler and played well working in tandem with Harrison Smith.
But the obvious question: can we really dismiss the 40 time that easily? It wasn't just bad for a defensive back. It was truly hideous. There were even some linemen running faster than that.
Well, let's compare him with the other safeties. There were nine taken in the first three rounds: Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid, Matt Elam, John Cyprien, D.J. Swearinger. T.J. McDonald, J.J. Wilcox, Shawn Williams, and Duron Harmon.
At the Combine, Matt Elam strained a groin muscle after the 40. He didn't do the 3-cone drill or the short shuttle, and he opted to do position drills only at his pro day. So that leaves eight safeties from the first two days of the draft for comparison. Cyprien had a hamstring issue and didn't run at the Combine, but he did all the drills at his pro day. Harmon (the surprise pick by Belichick in the third round) wasn't even invited to the Combine, but also did all drills at his pro day.
Motta's short shuttle was officially timed at 4.16 seconds. That beat first rounder Eric Reid (4.22), third rounders McDonald (4.20), Williams (4.25) and Harmon (4.40) and second rounder Cyprien (4.44). Vaccaro, Wilcox, and Swearinger were the only three of the eight that beat Motta's time. Not bad.
And in the 3-cone drill, which the Falcons value the most, Motta was among the very best safeties at the Combine with a time of 6.75 seconds. The only one of the early rounders to beat it was Swearinger, at 6.70. (Ironically, Swearinger had the slowest 40 time of the safeties taken in the first two days, officially timed at 4.67 seconds.)
Motta's cone drill beat four of the eight by over a quarter of a second. And those four include Shawn Williams, who blazed a 4.46 in the 40, as well as Harmon (4.51) and Wilcox (4.57).
So there you have it. The other speed drills confirm what Mayock and Dimitroff said about his 40 time being misleading. Throw in that he has major college experience, lots of it (played 51 games with 29 starts), and was a team captain on a team that made it to the national championship game, and it's easy to be ecstatic about getting this guy at #244 overall.
The Falcons landed a third or fourth round talent with a seventh round compensatory pick.