In my first post, I briefly mentioned just how many potential pass rushers that could be available in the 2013 NFL Draft. As the title of the post states this second installment is going to be a more in depth look at these prospects. Be warned this is a ranking of "the best potential 3-4 OLBs", not "the best pass rusher" or "the best player" or a "draft order". The following is my own analysis of the players based off what I have seen on film. If you do not agree with these feel free to comment in the comments section however be prepared to back up your statements.Warning what you are about to read (or skim through) is roughly 5600 words long. Enjoy.
1) Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB Louisiana State University-
Much was expected from this 6'4" 240lbs DE with an awesome name that plays for the LSU Tigers. In 2011 as a player who played almost exclusively on passing downs he racked up 7 sacks and 15 TFL. It was expected that with another year Mingo would put on weight, refine his technique and thrive in 2012. This was not the case in 2012. Mingo did add weight to his frame, he didn't lose any explosiveness and yet his production slipped off to only 4 sacks and 5.5 TFL. His stock has fallen some right now but I guarantee after the combine it will raise again with reports Mingo can run a 4.4 forty yard dash.
- Pass Rush- There is a lot of...well to put it frankly bullshit being thrown around by people who look at Barkevious Mingo measurements and make claims about his play. First things first, Mingo has an excellent first step and quite possibly the best of any player in this year’s draft class. On tape it is easy to see the flexibility he has to dip around the edge. He uses his hands to keep the offensive tackle off of him and has a strong punch despite his size. Many have said he tries to avoid contact with the OT but that false. If anything he stays in contact too long. Why then hasn't he produced this year? The answer is found when examining the nuances of the pass rush. Wise coaches will tell any pass rusher that to be successful you need no more than to moves. An elite pass rusher will perfect his go to move and then its perfect his counter. Mingo lacks this skill. He is so explosive and uses the speed rush extremely well but that's all he has. He needs to refine his technique force the OT to set up outside and the use his quickness and hands to cut across the OT face and have a straight path to the QB. Mingo doesn't do this in the passing game and it is infuriating because I have seen him do this very thing in the run game a lot. Mingo wins at the beginning of the play nearly every play, and converts his explosion off the ball to power in the bull rush with very good technique. But just like his speed rush he often gets engulf because he doesn't make his move. Finally Mingo stay engaged too long, at time throwing the OT to the ground but still stay focused on him instead of going straight to the QB. All these small details have lead Mingo to post 12 QB hurries instead of converting those hurries to sacks.
- Coverage- When I turned on the film to watch Mingo the most surprising aspect of his game was his coverage skills. He has the flexibility and the quickness to stop his rush an cover the tight end in route he can cover a RB stride for stride. Mingo does a great job converting his athleticism and length to shutting down offensive players in man coverage. He has the awareness in zone coverage to flow but it is not as polished. Of any of the tweener I believe Mingo make the easiest transition to 3-4 OLB.
- Rush Defense- Probably the biggest load of crap I have heard for people about Barkevious Mingo is that he can't set the edge in the run game. He can do this and has dominated in this aspect against TE, not as much against OT. He does an excellent job at the POA keeping his arms extended and his knees bent for leverage. He reads the play and is able to rip through the block to make a play. He is rarely blown out of plays as a run defender because of his technique. Mingo is susceptible to falling for trap blocks and draws like many pass rushers though. The fact that Mingo is as good as he is against the run is only a bonus because he is a pass rusher. Mingo does need to add some bulk I am not denying this but his drive and technique will help him contribute in the run game.
- Conclusion- Barkevious Mingo is a player who has all the tools to be as disruptive a pass rusher as Von Miller. However unlike Miller Mingo has yet to master the nuances of the pass rush. He does not understand how to set up offensive tackles and needs to develop a counter move. However I believe a good coach will be able to teach Mingo these nuances. Barkevious clearly has the movement skills to be factor in pass coverage and he surprising can hold his own in the run game. It is in my opinion that if Barkevious Mingo can put it all together he can be the best player in the draft. Scout will see what I and others have seen, he will blow the Combine up and he will rate back in the top ten as a prospect. People forget that Aldon Smith's last year in college he had 4.5 sacks after an outstanding year prior and that didn't hurt him. If Bruce Irvin can go as high as he did, Mingo who is physically more dominating will go higher. (Though Bruce Irvin understood how to rush the passer better than Mingo) I guarantee that Mingo has 10+ sacks his rookie year.
2) Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State University-
There honestly isn't a more fun pass rusher to watch in college football than FSU's 6'4" 256lbs Bjoern Werner. The German born Werner didn't begin playing football until he was fifteen and instantly fell in love with the game. In 2011 he finished with 11 TFL and 7 sacks. This year he looked to improve that and did despite his fellow pass rush threat Brandon Jenkins missing most of the year to injury. In 2012 he finished with 18 TFL and 13 sacks (2nd in NCAA) as well as being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
- Pass Rush- If you watch just one minute of Bjoern Werner’s play you will realize that his best attribute is his definitely motor. He never quits on a play and will give it his all on every snap. I recommend that young aspiring DE watch Werner’s on tape to learn how to use your hands in pass rushing. Werner easily has the best hand technique of any prospect in the draft and because of this he has a big variety of pass rush moves. Werner has a very strong punch to knock the tackle off balance, and he can definitely bull rush. Werner's bread and butter move is the chop-dip-rip move and using it he can get around the edge nicely.
- Coverage- Before Jenkins was injured and in 2011, I was surprised to see Werner actually log some coverage snaps. He isn't the best at this but he is aware of the players around him and does an adequate job in playing short zone coverage. This attribute will be better evaluated in the combine as I am sure Werner will be asked to participate in LB drills. Werner is a selfless player and because of this will not hesitate to stop his pass rush and jump up into the passing lane when he sees the QB start his throwing motion.
- Run Defense- Despite Bjoern Werner's ability as a pass rusher, he has been known for his strength. Werner plays with a powerful punch to knock back the offensive tackles and good leverage. He holds his ground and reads the play quickly then he is able to disengage from most blocks effortlessly. On the backside he follows the play, seeing how it develops in case of a cut back. Then at the point of contact he can tackle and tackle well. He may need to put on about 15lbs to be effective in this aspect of the game as a 4-3 DE.
- Conclusion- Bjoern Werner clearly is the most complete defensive end in this year’s draft class. He is not only strong and technically sound but he has a non-stop motor. You can see just how much he enjoys the game every snap. Werner can provide a good pass rush in the NFL as well. While there is little tape showing his coverage skills I believe he has the ability to be adequate in this area if asked to play 3-4 OLB. In summary, 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB I don't think a team can go wrong with Bjoern Werner.
3) Jarvis Jones, OLB University of Georgia-
At 6'2" 240lbs the much talked about Jarvis Jones is probably the most well rounded potential 3-4 OLB in this year's draft. In 2011, his first year at LB, he put up 13.5 sacks, 19.5 TFL and 70 tackles. Jones looked to improve on that total in 2012 yet due to injury would barely miss beating his prior year sack total. In 11 games he has 12.5 sacks (4th-T NCAA), 22.5 TFL, 1 INT, 7 FF and 77 total tackles. Jones was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year for 2012.
- Pass Rush- Jarvis Jones has been considered by many in college football as one of the nation’s best pass rushers. Some have tried to compare him to Von Miller. I am here to tell you he is nowhere near Von Miller's league in terms of athleticism and pass rush. Don't get me wrong though he still shows the ability to rush the passer very efficiently in the NFL. Jones has a very good (but not elite) first few steps. He immediately gets his hands on the inside of the offensive tackle and has a powerful punch. After this is where I believe Jones struggles. He routinely chooses to go with the double swipe move to the outside (sometimes too often) and when he can't get the tackle off-balance he doesn't quite have the ankle flexibility to dip around the corner. Would like to see him use the rip move more often to force the tackle into a bad position.
- Coverage- Jarvis Jones drops into coverage more often than one might think and he is very capable covering both the TE and the RB out the back field. He is a better zone defender because his excellent vision and first step. In man coverage he lacks the change of direction and long speed to be consistently lined up against a TE but his route recognition allows him to be effective manning up against the RB out of the back field. This is definitely the most under-rated part of Jones game.
- Run Defense- In my opinion this is the best part of Jarvis Jones play. He does an excellent job of immediately getting his hands on the inside of the tackle, extending his arms and then looking into the back field. He reads plays fast and react to them well. When holding the edge he understands he must keep his outside should free. When he does bite on fake he lacks the athleticism to regain his angle and hold the outside. He is undersized and not overly powerful but he is strong enough to hold his own against SEC level offensive tackles.
- Conclusion- While Jones is a play maker at Georgia honestly I see a player who will have an impact more like a LaMarr Woodley than a Von Miller as a pass rusher. I am sure most teams would take that production in a heartbeat just not in the top 5. In the long run may be better off as a 4-3 SAM Linebacker. He will still make an impact for a team with his field awareness, ability to cause a turn overs and overall solid play in all aspects of the game. My money says his stock will fall come combine time due to medical history and lack of astounding athleticism but don't expect him to get out of the top 15. My guess is Jones is drafted somewhere around 7-12.
4) DaMontre Moore, DE/OLB University of Texas A&M-
I really like DaMontre Moore as pass rusher and I am almost obligated to pat myself on the back with Moore. Back in the end of July I mentioned that Moore had really stood out to me when I was watch film of Sean Porter. I said he was going to shine this year. At that time Rob Rang had Moore as a 3rd or 4th round pick. The 6'4" 250lbs Moore is a bit of a tweener and has played both a 3-4 OLB and 4-3 DE. In 2011 Moore had 8.5 sacks, 17.5 TFL as a Joker 3-4 OLB in Texas A&M scheme. Some thought it would be hard for him to improve on those numbers moving from the Big 12 to the SEC. Well in 2012 Moore has 12.5 sacks (4th-T NCAA) and 20 TFL in 12 games in Texas A&M new 4-3 scheme.
- Pass Rush- DaMontre Moore definitely has a first step that will make him successful in the NFL. He blessed with long arms as well which help when he is engaged. What Moore does best is that he reads how the Offensive Tackle sets up and then exploits it. If the tackle sets up outside he is quick enough to change his pass rush angle inside this makes for a very difficult for the tackle to block him. If the tackle set up inside he displays the ankle flexibility to dip around the corner and make a play. Moore needs to clean up his hand use. He will to often let the tackle make contact first and as mentioned above he prefers to rush the pass by angles then through straight up domination. Moore is a master of the "slow rush" allowing the OT to set up and making his move off what he sees. He has a strong enough punch and a good rip move to win 1-on-1 though; he just doesn't consistently use it. Polishing this will help get the tackle off balance more off balance and allow him to win his battles earlier.
- Coverage- Moore has limited coverage experience and it is almost exclusively in zone coverage to the flat. He doesn't quite have the lateral movement ability to excel in this area. The more I watch of Moore the better he looks as a 4-3 DE and he looks good. At the line of scrimmage he does a nice job of getting his hands up and in the passing lane if he can't get to the QB. (A necessary skill of NFL D-linemen in today's NFL.)
- Run Defense- DaMontre Moore does a decent job in the run game. He explodes off the line and shows willingness engages extend his arms and react to the play in front of him. However due to his lack of bulk this is not his strong suite. In the run game he is far better crashing down from the backside or shooting the gap to make the block harder for the OT in front of him. He can win 1-on-1 consistently against the TE in the run game. He display in the run game appears adequate enough for a 3-4 OLB but he will need to add some bulk and strength to be a 4-3 RE.
- Conclusion- Ultimately I see Moore being drafted as a 4-3 DE in the top 15 (maybe even the top 10) of the 2013 Draft. He is a pass rusher with a good awareness of blocking angles. He has long arms and understands how to use them to get to the QB. Moore can also hold up in the run game. He is limited in coverage as he is more of a straight-line athlete and this may be what ultimately prevents him from being a 3-4 OLB but that will be evaluated more at the combine where I am sure he will be asked to partake in LB drills as well as DL drills.
5) Dion Jordan, OLB University of Oregon -
The 6'6" and some change, 243lbs is to put it nicely an athletic freak of nature in the football world. In 2011 Dion Jordan put up 7.5 sacks, 13 TFL and 42 tackles in the PAC 12. This following season he amassed 5 sacks, 10.5 TFL and 44 tackles. He was given First-Team All PAC 12 honors and was a Butkus Award finalist. Dion Jordan played three years on the defensive side of the ball after being recruited as a tight end at Oregon. He is an incredibly versatile and explosive athlete.
- Pass Rush- Dion Jordan is an explosive pass rusher on film. He has an excellent first step and uses his length to eat up space. Jordan has very quick and active hands during his pass rush as well. However what truly makes Jordan special is his flexibility an ability to turn the corner. It is unreal before you consider the fact that Jordan is 6'6" 243lbs. However Jordan is also very raw as a pass rusher playing in only his third year at defensive end. He will let offensive tackles in to his chest and be shut down. Though he has incredibly quick hands he does not have the power to push back offensive tackles. Finally as the drives continue he will continue to rise out of his stance do to fatigue. This makes it harder for him to turn the corner on offensive tackle and even more so because of his height. All this being said Jordan has that elite play-maker potential and it is very visible on tape he just needs to add about 12lbs and refine his game.
- Coverage- Dion Jordan is easily the best potential OLB prospect in coverage. He has a great change of direction and the hips and feet of a safety. He has high 4.6 speed and dangerous length. At Oregon they often asked him to cover both WR and TE in both the slot and on the outside and he did not disappoint. He has great closing speed and excels in Zone coverage as well. Clearly when watching Jordan if I am a defensive coordinator in the NFL I am salivating at all the way I can use Jordan in coverage.
- Run Defense- Jordan isn't what you would call a run defender. In fact the reason Dion Jordan was used so much in coverage is because on running downs the Ducks felt he was a liability at the line of scrimmage. In Jordan defense I have seen him improve in this area as the season went on. Jordan doesn't always extend his arms and will let the tackle into his body. He is light weight and doesn't show the ability to hold the point against offensive linemen. He will win at least half the time against tight ends. Jordan is however a great backside defender who will pursue and close down. When Jordan does use his hands in contact he shows the ability to get off blocks.
- Conclusion- In his third year on the defensive side of the ball he is still unpolished. His height and length are unique but his change of directions and flexibility are elite. He shows an amazing ability to dip around the corner. He is skilled in covering both wide receivers and tight ends. Jordan has quick hands and when he polishes his skills to not let the tackle into him he will be a very good pass rusher in the NFL, Jordan will need to add 12-15 pounds while keeping his athleticism and he will need to continue to focus on playing low especially through contact because of his size. There are so many question marks with Jordan he could go anywhere from 16-40.
6) Ezekiel "Ziggy"Ansah, DE/OLB Brigham Young University-
A rather unheard of prospect coming into the season the 6'5" 270lbs Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah has been the main topic of almost every BYU game. Ansah is originally from Ghana and went to BYU on academic scholarship in 2008 in hopes to play basketball like his favorite player LeBron James. Despite is 6'5" 250lbs frame and 39" vertical jump he was cut twice. He then tried out for the track team running a 10.91s 100 meter dash. Finally he tried out for football. Bronco Mendenhall his head coach at BYU said he could even make it through the first spring conditioning. He said he thought Ansah would quit, but yet every day he kept coming back. Ansah made it to fall camp and on his first day needed his teammates to help put on his pads because he had no idea how to. Why would he? He had never even heard of football till he came to the U.S. Three years later media members looked shocked when Bronco Mendehall mentioned that Ansah may be playing in the NFL in the preseason even though at the time he was just a backup OLB. BYU starting NT got injured and Ansah found his chance to start and seized it. After that game BYU used him in every way possible. In 10 starts this season his only starts of his career Ansah racked up 62 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 13 TFL, 9 pass break ups and 6 more QB hurries in just his third year ever in football.
- Pass Rush- When watching Ziggy Ansah as a pass rushing you can tell he is very raw. While he shows a good burst off of the line he often lets the offensive tackles into his body. He doesn't have any pass rush move but his bull rush and is outstanding motor. Often times he will play too high to get around the edge. Usually this would be a concern but you can tell on tape these deficiencies come from lack of experience not lack of ability.
- Coverage- While not the most comfortable in coverage there is something about Ansah that seems natural when he keeps the play in front of him. He does a great job of using his eyes and once he see the play in front of him he will plant his foot an go. While he doesn't possess elite change of direction skills, it is above average for a man his size. He is more of a straight line athlete. Lack of football experience shows in route recognition and feel for the routes behind him. Ansah length also helps him in coverage situations.
- Run Defense- Ezekiel Ansah flourishes as a run defender. He does an excellent job of firing off the line and driving back his double team. He shows the ability to look in the backfield while driving back the OT. When he sees the play he does of excellent job of disengaging from the block and making the play. Ansah seems to have a nose for the football always impacting the play. He does need to work on consistently extending his arms and keeping the linemen away from his body. Ansah clearly has yet to reach the peak of his potential in this area as well.
- Conclusion- Ezekiel Ansah of BYU will be the fastest riser this off-season. I think he will play very well in the Senior Bowl. I know he will light up the combine. Many have compared him to Jason Pierre-Paul because of his freakish athleticism. Clearly Ansah can play the run but he has a lot to learn as a pass rusher. He long arms, strength and athleticism as well as his quick learning ability suggest he has yet to hit the peak of his potential. However unlike JPP who was very young, Ansah may have to deal with age concerns. BYU does not list their players’ age and by my rough estimate of his timeline I suspect Ansah is 24 or 25 years old which is old for a rookie. Despite this look for Ansah to be drafted by a 4-3 team and as high as a top 15 pick come April.
7) Sam Montgomery, DE Louisiana State University-
The 6'5" 265lbs Sam Montgomery complete the dangerous pass rushing tandem for LSU. It looked like a promising year for Montgomery after a 2011 season where he was name 1st-team All-SEC and had 9 sacks, 13.5 TFL, and 49 tackles. However Montgomery didn't improve on those in 2012 he put up 7 sacks, 12 TFL and 32 tackles. Montgomery does display great power and motor on the field and will almost assuredly be a first round pick.
- Pass Rush- The first thing that stood out to me when watching Sam Montgomery was his power and specifically his bull rush. When he has a good start off the line he was able to overpower the tackles in the SEC. Unfortunately for Montgomery he wasn't able to get off of the line quickly. It is noticeable on tape that Montgomery is the last player to leave his three point stance giving the tackle in front of him a good tenth of a second to prepare for him. He rolls out of his stance instead of firing out and rarely gets the edge. I kept hearing that Montgomery was a rare blend of power and athleticism but I do not see the ankle flexibility or explosiveness for Montgomery to get around the edge. Even in his bull rush Montgomery will let the tackle get his hands inside him. I do not think Sam Montgomery will be a consistent pass rush threat in the NFL and I believe he will be more like Courtney Upshaw of the Ravens.
- Coverage- Sam Montgomery is not asked to cover as much as he fellow DE Mingo. In his few coverage snaps it is clear Montgomery does not possess the change of direction needed to be successful in this area at the pro level. Montgomery does show an instinct for the ball when the play is in front of him but doesn't show the ability to feel the routes behind him. He also lacks the quickness to play in coverage against tight ends.
- Rush Defense- Contributing in the run game may be Sam Montgomery best aspect of his play. He is clearly strong enough to set the edge against a tackle. He does a nicer job of finding the ball and playing with leverage to drive his blocker back and disrupt the play. Montgomery has a good motor and will pursue backside till the play is over. He needs to do a better job of extending his arms and getting off the blocks to make a play. Often times he will let the tackle into him and let him hold the block long enough. Sam Montgomery will make an impact in the run game in the NFL.
- Conclusion- Sam Montgomery is the bigger name of LSU defensive end tandem. He has more production and looks the part of paper. The problem for Montgomery is that on tape he doesn't look to be in Mingo league as a pass rusher. He is consistently the last person off the line and rolls out of his stance. Though Montgomery displays a good display of power he lacks the hand technique to get off blocks. Despite having 7 sacks in 2012 the stats are deceitful because many of his sacks came because the QB held on to the ball for too long. Montgomery should go to a 4-3 team and should go around the late first round to early second. I think after the combine scouts will see he doesn't have the athleticism some have boasted he has and he will fall. I am telling you right now to me he is a slightly more athletic Courtney Upshaw.
8) Kyle Van Noy, OLB Brigham Young University-
With the entire buzz surrounding "Ziggy" Ansah in BYU's defense it seemed the 6'3" 235lbs Van Noy was kept a national secret, in the Poinsettia Bowl that secret was revealed to the nation. Van Noy had 8 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, and INT for a TD, a FF and a blocked punt in what has been the most dominate performance by any defender in a bowl game and it was on national television. This performance added to his yearly total of 44 tackles 18.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 5 FF and 8 QB hurries. The athletic junior 3-4 OLB from Brigham Young University is far from polished, and has yet to announce if he is going pro but after a bowl game like he had I can't see why he would wait.
- Pass Rush- Kyle Van Noy is an athlete when it comes to the pass rush. He has a very good first step and shows the ability to set up the offensive tackle for failure. Clearly his best (and only) pass rush move is the swim move. He will take a step inside and use his lateral agility and hands to win with his swim move to the outside and it is a well-executed move at that. If Van Noy does not win with this move initially he lacks another move to get off the block. He won't keep the tackle away from his body with his arms and will be locked down. This could be worrisome if drafting Van Noy but he shows the physical tools to excel as a pass rusher if he can refine his hand usage.
- Coverage- In coverage Kyle Van Noy looks comfortable. He does a nice job of reading the QBs eye in zone and using both his length and quickness to close on the ball. He has rarely played in man coverage except against a RB in the backfield and does an adequate of stay with his man. Van Noy will need to improve his route recognition to continue to be successful in this area at the pro level.
- Run Defense- Against the run Van Noy isn't at his best. He is undersized and doesn't show the ability to hold the edge consistently. However Van Noy does get off blocks well using his swim move and lateral agility. It is because of this that Van Noy can get into the backfield. He show great quickness in backside pursuit and won't quit on a play where he has a chance to make the tackle. Van Noy needs to do a better job of using his length to keep the lineman off of him and play low to improve his leverage.
- Conclusion- Most BYU athletes don't leave for the NFL draft early. However given the year Van Noy had and the post-season he has had I can't imagine his draft stock much higher than it is now. Yes he can go back to school and work on his hand usage like he did this last off-season. Yes he can add some weight to become a more complete defender as well. With the NFL need of athletic pass rushers though I think Kyle Van Noy's quickness can help him be successful in the NFL.
-Update: Kyle Van Noy announced that he will return to BYU for his senior season-
9) Alex Okafor, DE University of Texas -
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Before the bowl game Okafor had a solid senior season with61 tackles, 8 sacks, 11.5 TFL, and 9 QB Hurries. He put an excellent exclamation mark on his senior year with 9 tackles, 5TFL, 4.5 sacks and 1 FF in the Alamo Bowl. He has a good first step. He uses his hands well and he has great power. He doesn't have change of direction skills needed for OLB and is not laterally quick. In my opinion Okafor is a 4-3 DE who will be draft somewhere in the second round and the team that drafts him will get a solid player.
10) Chase Thomas, OLB University of Stanford -
(Shortened for Length)
Chase Thomas is probably the most technically sound of any potential 3-4 OLBs. He has great hand usage, a variety of pass rush moves and good football intelligence. He is always around the ball. Posting a senior season where he had 71 tackles, 7.5 sacks 15 TFL and 5 QB hurries. However Thomas lacks a lot in athleticism. In the long run Thomas will go around the middle of the 2nd round to a 3-4 team. He will be a 5-7 sack a year guy who is never out of place. He reminds me a lot of a Clark Haggans or Mike Vrabel.
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