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2015 Pass Rusher Rankings

April 30, 2015
Elite prospect or just the best this year at his position?

Elite prospect or just the best this year at his position?

  1. Dante Fowler Jr. Florida 6’2 5/8 261 He had a great Combine as he showed good height (I was always worried he’d come in at closer to 6’1 than 6’3), good length (’33 ¾ arms), elite speed (4.60 40) and solid explosion, strength and quickness numbers though all were more average than anything. He checked off that box which was huge since he already had the production (2014-8.5 sacks, 15 TFL, 2 FF) and his burst and motor are extremely evident on film. He dominated Antonio Richardson in 2013 to begin making a name for himself with 1 sack, 3 TFL and 2 FF in a little over 1 ½ quarters! Fowler is an extremely well made DE with great proportions of girth in the lower body to hold up against the run, length on the arms to rush the passer and burst to make splash plays. I love his motor and think he will be a very good pass rusher. I have to admit though that I don’t see a superstar pass rusher in Fowler like some other scouts do. I’ve recently heard numerous NFL teams have Fowler as the #1 prospect in this draft and I vastly disagree. I think he’s a step below elite pass rushers in college like Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett who likely will come out next year. Fowler looks like a 10-12 sacks a year type guy which is very good but not superstar level. His production in college points to that as well as 8.5 sacks in 2014 is good but not great and he had 3.5 sacks or less in his previous two seasons. Also his Combine was very good but his speed was the only elite trait I saw in him as his length, explosiveness, quickness and strength all came out about average. Average in most categories and elite in one category will allow him to be the #1 pass rusher in this draft but not in many others. Top 10 as my #1 pass rusher but he’s a little overrated in my eyes 4/30/15.
  2. Vic Beasley Clemson 6’3 246 Sr. He’s an undersized pass rusher that will be a pass rush specialist in a 4-3 or will need to be in a 3-4 scheme as an OLB. He showed off his elite speed with a 4.53 40 and it shows on film as he’s a quick twitch athlete. He also wowed at the Combine with 35 reps on the bench, ’41 vertical (borderline historic for a pass rusher), 10’10 broad and 4.15 shuttle. All were dramatically better than Dante Fowler Jr. who is his main competition for the first pass rusher off the board. I really like Beasley but he’s scheme specific and even at OLB in a 3-4 he’s undersized a bit. He’s also a bit of a one trick pony as he is invisible in the run game and I just worry about guys like that when you’re talking about taking them in the Top 15. As a pure speed rusher though there are few like him as he had 33 sacks in 3 seasons, is incredibly agile (I have no worries that he could be a good linebacker if asked to be) and has elite speed. The problem though is that he doesn’t have a second move and gets engulfed by tackles too often. He will battle OL but at the end of far too many plays he’s picking himself up off the ground. If he can’t get the edge on a tackle he will usually have a pretty quiet night so whatever team drafts him will need to have a plan for where to use him on 1st and 2nd down as well as be comfortable moving him all around the field to rush him against different players. Athletic guys will just toy with him but he could feast against slower footed tackles. He’s a superior player to Dee Ford, taken in the 20’s last year, but is in a similar mold. I love pass rushers and think he has value but he’s such a niche player and is so scheme specific that I can’t give him too high of a grade. Top 20 4/30/15.
  3. Randy Gregory Nebraska 6’4 7/8 235 Sr. Is he Jason Pierre-Paul or is he Dion Jordan? Those are the two guys he reminds me of the most and one has been a huge success and the other a huge failure. What worries me about Gregory are a few things: First I worry that his weight fluctuates so much. He was playing at +240 lbs last year at Nebraska and then shocked everyone by showing up at the Combine at 235 lbs. Scouts were hoping he would have added some weight and showed up close to 250 but he actually went backwards. That is a bad sign as some guys constantly struggle to keep weight on and at sub 240 lbs I don’t see him being a full time pass rusher but more of an OLB that occasionally rushes ala Bruce Irvin. The second thing that worries me is his production or lack thereof as he never had a huge season of 13-15 sacks but had a 9.5 sack season in 2013 and a 7.0 sack season in 2014. Not terrible production but nothing special. The third thing that worries me is his tape was very mediocre vs. NFL tackles. In 2013 he went against Donavan Smith of Penn State and was shut down. In 2014 he faced Ereck Flowers of Miami and again was shut down. In 2014 he was also going to face Brandon Scherff of Iowa but mysteriously couldn’t play. He played in the game before and the game after but couldn’t suit up for Scherff. Finally I worry about Gregory’s failed drug test at the Combine. It doesn’t just mean he smokes weed but it means he’s stupid as he knew he’d have to take a drug test on that day yet he couldn’t keep it out of his system. On film he’s an incredibly long (’34 arms), tall, fast (4.64) kid with very good explosiveness (’36 ½ vertical). He has a good motor and has the frame to eventually become JPP at 270 lbs. To me though he just has too many concerns, both on the field and off the field, and I have to drop him on my board. A boom/bust type prospect, late 1st round 4/30/15.
  4. Nate Orchard Utah 6’3 ¼ 250 Sr. He reminds me of DeMarcus Lawrence as a narrow bodied guy with great production, underrated strength but mediocre speed and length. Lawrence weight 6’2 7/8 251 with a 4.80 40 and Orchard is 6’3 ¼ 250 with 4.80 40 so eerily similar. Orchard was 2nd in the country with 18.5 sacks which kind of came out of nowhere as he had 6 sacks the previous 3 years. Both guys are the classic speed to power type rushers as they have just enough quickness and speed to get an edge or get an OT off balance and then they plow into them for the kill. Orchard’s coming out moment with the scouting community was against Andrus Peat when he obliterated him for 10 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. It was an incredible night and was the high point of an incredible season but I don’t see a future Pro Bowler in Orchard. To me he looks like an above average starter with 8-10 sacks a year. There is good value in that and I like his motor and intangibles so I probably have him a little higher than other people. Early 2nd round 4/30/15.
  5. Eli Harold Virginia 6’3 1/8 247 Jr. A 3-4 OLB prospect due to his size, Eli showed great speed (4.60 40), average explosiveness (’35 vertical) and elite quickness (4.16 shuttle) at the Combine. He had 15.5 sacks the past two seasons which is solid for an underclassman but I worry about him as a run stuffer as he is top heavy with skinny legs and he won’t be able to set the edge at all. His speed is apparent on film though and I think he has enough quickness to play coverage as a linebacker so maybe that weakness could be schemed out by a good defensive coordinator. I like him as a poor man’s Vic Beasley as they have similar skill sets. 2nd round 5/1/15.
  6. Shane Ray Missouri 6’2 5/8 245 Jr. Arrested for possession of marijuana a few weeks before the draft and has a fracture in his foot that some teams think will need surgery which will wipe out his OTAs and could endanger part of training camp. He had a great season in 2014 with 13 sacks and 22.5 TFL in the SEC no less. He has a great motor. He’s a quick guy but he’s also a stiff guy and doesn’t seem to bend very well which worries me since he’s not even 250 lbs. Surprisingly, due to his lower weight, his best pass rushing tends to come from lining up over an interior lineman not on the edge. He’s one of the best at using his hands to free himself from an OL. He has very good functional strength and can get linemen back on their heels. Shane is a unique prospect as he’s one of the more versatile rushers in this draft with his best rushes coming from inside at DT instead of on the edge at DE. I hope whoever drafts him will continue using him in that way as he isn’t that fast of a player and doesn’t bend that well so I question how effective he will be if lined up at weakside DE in a 4-3 play after play. If a team moves him around he could be effective since his hand usage, quickness off the snap and underrated power are all better in close quarters action. Watching the 2014 South Carolina game where he lined up against their RG most of the game he looked dominant. Watching the 2014 Florida game where he lined up against their LT (DJ Humphries) most of the game he looked very mediocre. I think he won’t be used at his most effective spots (inside as a one gap DT) and he will end up being a very mediocre NFL player. I could be wrong though as he was one of my tougher reads. Mid 2nd round as one of the most overrated players in this draft 4/30/15.
  7. Owamagbe Odighizuwa UCLA 6’3 ½ 267 He has an NFL frame and looks the part of a top notch pass rusher. He has ’33 ¾ arms, ’11 hands (some of the biggest in the draft at any position), very good speed (4.62 40), elite explosiveness (’39 vertical, 10’7 broad) and elite quickness (4.19 shuttle) for his size. The problem though isn’t his frame or athleticism but is his production as in 2011 he didn’t have a sack, 2012 he had 3.5, 2013 he didn’t play due to injury and 2014 he only had 6 which was his career high. I actually think his tape is pretty solid as he was used inside a lot which negated a lot of his pass rush potential and he seems to have improved over time. He and Daniel Hunter are similar in that you look at them and say they have to be 1st rounders but the tape alone is that of a late rounder. He has the potential to become a Pro Bowler but I’m a production guy and can’t get on board with him. Early 3rd round 4/30/15.
  8. Preston Smith Mississippi State 6’4 7/8 271 Sr. He’s a tall, long armed (’34 arms) guy that really understands leverage and when to use his power moves. He probably is the best pure power rusher in this draft class and could be a great weapon for a team as a 3rd pass rusher. His 4.74 40 was much better than I anticipated so he possibly could be a full time starter at 4-3 SDE yet at worst he’s a rotational DE and a nickel pass rusher at DT due to his size and length. Early 3rd round 4/28/15.
  9. Alvin Dupree Kentucky 6’4 269 Sr. He had an incredible Combine with a ’42 vertical, 11’6 broad jump and a 4.56 40. Those three numbers are all elite for a 270 lb pass rusher. The problem though is his production as he’s been between 6.5 sacks and 7.5 sacks each of the past three years and his tape shows an uber athlete running around with no technique, no idea what he is trying to do and sometimes with no effort. For 270 lbs he also doesn’t show much strength and overall I’m not a fan of this kid. Unfortunately though it is not that simple as his Combine numbers are Top 5 caliber so he settles in as another boom/bust candidate who could become a Pro Bowler but likely will be a mediocre pass rusher with no instincts, no technique and limited production. 3rd round 4/30/15.
  10. Mario Edwards Jr. Florida State 6’2 5/8 279 Jr. The former #1 recruit out of High School, Mario Edwards Jr. hasn’t had the career I expected of him. He came in at around 300 lbs and was just too heavy to play DE. I thought a move to DT made the most sense but instead he lost weight and gained quickness. It helped him as a DE as he went from 2.5 TFL in 2012 to 20.5 the next two seasons but I still don’t think he’s a 4-3 DE. His best position is probably as a 3-4 DE who can battle with OL as he is incredibly strong (32 reps) but lacks the speed or quickness to be much of a pass rusher. William Gholston was in a similar position a few years ago out of Michigan State and he hasn’t done much of anything since entering the NFL so I’m kind of down on these “too big for a DE” types. I left him at the pass rush position though since everyone else has him there but to me he’s more DT than DE. Late 3rd round as one of the most overrated players in this draft 4/30/15.
  11. Danielle Hunter LSU 6’5 1/8 252 Jr. Danielle, often seen spelled Daniel, is an interesting prospect as he’s basically the perfect physical specimen for a 4-3 DE with his height, length (’34 ¼), speed (4.57 40) and strength (35 reps). I noticed him two years ago on film and haven’t stopped drooling since as he looks like Jason Pierre Paul. Unfortunately he looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane as he isn’t quick, is tightly built and just doesn’t seem to be able to produce on the field. He only had 4.5 career sacks in 3 years at LSU and it’s a little surprising that he came out early. I do like his run stuffing ability (73 tackles in 2014) and think he could be a better pro than collegiate but I’m a sucker for productivity so I won’t have him as high as some. Late 3rd round 5/1/15.
  12. Lorenzo Mauldin Louisville 6’3 5/8 259 Sr. He had a terrible Combine with a 4.85 40, 4.58 shuttle and ’32 vertical all of which were among the worst marks for the year. His tape is better though and his 16 sacks the past two seasons helps but you can see the physical limitations in his game. I love his emotional leadership though as he’s usually the main guy in the huddle pre-game and has a fiery disposition. He could be something though as one of his best attributes is how good he is at bending around a corner, a trait which is rare. That combined with his attitude and production make me comfortable with him as a mid rounder despite the atrocious measurables. 4th round 5/1/15.
  13. Markus Golden Missouri 6’2 3/8 260 Sr. Golden is quite similar to Michael Sam as they’re both undersized guys who have a great initial step but poor overall speed (4.90 40 for Golden), were productive in the SEC (10 sacks, 20 TFL in 2014) and played for Missouri. Golden is a superior prospect, despite the worse 40, as he isn’t as tightly built and he appears faster on film. I like him as a mid round guy who can be a specialized pass rusher off the bench for 4-3 teams. His tightness makes me hesitant to okay him for 3-4 teams as an OLB but he could possibly work there as well. Late 4th round 5/1/15.
  14. Frank Clark Michigan 6’2 7/8 271 Sr. Clark is a very mixed bag in terms of physical traits. At 6’2 7/8 he’s on the short end but with ’34 3/8 arms he has some of the best length in the draft. At 4.79 40 he’s not very fast but with a ’38 ½ vertical and 4.05 shuttle he’s one of the more athletic pass rushers in certain ways. He’s a pure 4-3 DE with a lot of talent but his career high for a season is only 5 sacks so he seems more Combine freak than actual football player. Add to his profile the off the field issues, two arrests on domestic violence charges, and I don’t really want any part of him. He also has a very unpassrusher like body as he’s too short and stocky. His quickness is impressive for his frame but again I just see too many red flags on and off the field to think he’s worth the risk. 5th round as one of the more overrated prospects in the draft 5/1/15.
  15. Za’Darius Smith Kentucky 6’4 ½ 274 Sr. He was a JUCO kid and had only mediocre productivity with 10.5 sacks in 2 seasons. He dominated a lackluster group at the East-West Shrine game to earn an invite to the Senior Bowl and was solid there but he has no quickness and is all power. I’m not a fan as he drops below the level of impact starter in the NFL and I don’t want any pass rusher that is going to be just a placeholder until someone with real talent takes the spot. 5th round 4/29/15.
  16. Trey Flowers Arkansas 6’2 1/8 266 Sr. He was always extremely overrated to me on film so it wasn’t surprising when he measured in at the Combine shorter and slower (4.93 40) than almost all pass rushers. He reminds me of a shorter Frank Alexander when he came out of Oklahoma as Flowers only hope is to bulk up and become a powerful 4-3 SDE. He lacks the athleticism to get the edge and will need to become an elite run stuffer. I’m not interested at all and think he is vastly overrated. 7th round 4/28/15.
  17. Deion Barnes Penn State 6’4 260 Jr. He flashed during his time at Penn State but his never had the breakout season I expected of him when I saw him in 2013. He was absolutely terrible at the Senior Bowl getting no rush on anyone and rarely have I seen that not be the nail in the coffin for a pass rush prospect. 7th round 4/28/15.
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