Two plays into LSU's Chik-Fil-A Bowl game against Clemson, defensive end Barkevious Mingo showed why he's an elite prospect.
Clemson ran a counter, pulling the left guard to handle Mingo on the edge after a tight end released off him. The guard pursued shallow, assuming a normal defensive end wouldn't be five yards into the backfield a half-second into the play. Mingo was.
He took a sharp angle back to the ball carrier, completely missing the pulling guard, and put his shoulder squarely on the ball, causing a fumble - which LSU recovered.
His explosion off the ball is unreal, and the power he gets out of his lanky 240-pound frame is more than impressive.
Right now, he's simply too light to play in a three-point stance in the NFL, and while there aren't a ton of example of him as a stand-up outside linebacker on film, it's hard to see his instincts and quickness not translating well to the position.
Some are knocking his technique, which, to me, seems pointless, considering he's not going to be a defensive end. Or at least, if he is, he's going to essentially be redshirted in 2013 and be locked into the weight room and cafeteria.
He looks very flexible physically. He's very low in his stance, and doesn't stand up high out of it. He explodes into the tackle, and gets a pretty good push, considering he's giving up 60 pounds or more on the tackle. Giving Mingo a step or two head start in a pass rush could be pretty devastating to a pass protection scheme.
During one of the Steelers' prime time games this season (I forget which one), they showed a graphic of James Harrison turning the corner before his knee injury and after it, highlighting the angle in which he was bent. I remember people ridiculing it, as if it was nonsense.
It's not, especially when you are as short as Harrison is.
If a player has that kind of flexibility, and can push forward with his body nearly parallel to the ground, a tackle has to be extremely low in order to counter him with any strength. This is why terms like "knee bend" are brought up by scouts. Flexible players, like Mingo appears to be, can get that much lower than a blocker, get his helmet around his butt, then follow with his shoulder pads, and he's in the backfield. Even the strongest offensive lineman isn't very strong when having to push downward (against a pass rusher who's center of gravity is barely off the ground) while in a backpedal.
Any offense breaks down when that happens.
Mingo adds an explosive first step, but has that flexibility to bend around a tackle and get his shoulder pad around his backside. Possessing the flexibility to do that is a vastly underrated skill, and it's one that makes Mingo, in my opinion, extremely likely to go in the top 10, and can contribute immediately in the right defensive scheme from Day 1.
If he's within breathing distance, the Steelers should consider exploring a trade up for him. I don't think it will get that close, and I hate to suggest lightning could strike twice in two years, but I said the same thing about David DeCastro last year. Because of that, I can't say there's no chance he falls to 17, but I really want to.