Ra’Shede Hageman DT Minnesota #99
Size/Athleticism: Prototypical size and impressive strength. Has experience lining up as the nose tackle and a three-tech in both 3-4 and 4-3 base sets. Originally recruited as a tight end.
Run Defense: Adequate strength to anchor at the point of attack. Takes on a lot of double-teams and is capable of holding his ground, although he lacks the dominant strength to create a disruption against the double-team. Quick off the snap and is capable of splitting the gaps and getting into the backfield. Marginal change-of-direction ability, even for a guy his size, and doesn’t make a ton of plays in the backfield unless the ball carrier is trapped. Makes very few plays in pursuit and only gives a margain effort to chase down the ball carrier.
Pass Rush: Can be extremely explosive off the snap, but shows somewhat inconsistent effort. Does a great job converting speed to power. When linemen attempt to deep set against him he’s capable of generating momentum and delivering a devestating punch. Long arms and does a nice job getting them up into passing lanes. Frequently double-teamed and does a nice job holding his ground, although he rarely splits the double team and isn’t quite dominant enough to quickly shed the double-team and bounce out to a new angle. Struggles to consistently play with leverage and gets stood up and thrown off balance by more polished offensive linemen.
Intangibles: Team captain. Raised in a difficult situation until his mother was arrested and he was found in a crack house closet at the age of four. Put into foster care and eventually adopted. Stayed at Minnesota rather than accept other offers in order to remain close to his adoptive family. Suspended for three games for academic reasons in 2010. Arrested for misdemeanor disorderly conduct at a bar in 2012.
Durability: No known issues. 26 starts over final three seasons.
Comments: Hageman is a physical specimen who is still getting by with just his raw tools. He needs to refine his technique in order to reach an elite level, but all the talent is there. He explodes off the snap and has the long arms and violent hands to develop into a dominant interior pass-rusher. He can be controlled if the offensive line focuses on him, but even then he’s impacting the game by opening things up for his teammates. He’s not nearly polished enough to be labeled a sure thing, but his upside will almost certainly land him in the first round.
Aaron Donald DT Pittsburgh #87
Size/Athleticism: Lacks the size of a typical interior lineman. Lacks the arm length to make up for his size and keep offensive linemen from getting into his pads. Elite quickness for the position. Has enough speed to make some plays in pursuit.
Run Defense: At his best when he’s able to shoot the gaps and disrupt the play in the backfield. Can get stacked fairly easily and is often shutdown at the point of attack, especially by double teams. Easily moved off his spot at the point of attack by more physically powerful linemen. Has the skills to disengage and makes plays in pursuit when the play is directed away from him. Shows good awareness and reacts quickly.
Pass Rush: Phenomenal first step and can slip into the backfield right off the snap simply by beating the offensive linemen to the gap. Capable of converting speed to power when linemen try to compensate for his speed with a deep set. Get get stonewalled by more physical offensive linemen, but he fights hard and does have the ability to shed blocks. Can be manipulated by savvy offensive linemen when why anticipate the gap he will try to exploit off the snap—he tries to win with pure speed so often, that when a lineman anticipates it, they can use that use that to their advantage and go with him, allowing his momentum to carry him outside.
Intangibles: Hard worker who was praised by coaching staff. Clearly gets the most out of his physical tools. Brother played linebacker at Toledo.
Durability: Missed one game with a knee injury in 2012.
Comments: Donald gets the most out of his small frame and works hard to do so, but how much more does he have to give? The biggest concern with Donald is that he’s already maxed out his potential. But even if he’s a what-you-see-is-what-you-get prospect, he has a future in the NFL. In the worst case scenario, he can be an effective situational interior pass-rusher and pulled on short-yardage plays in favor of a more stout run defender.
Louis Nix DT Notre Dame #1
Size/Athleticism: A true space-eater, but has decent athleticism in short bursts. Strong enough to consistent take on double teams.
Run Defense: A massive run-stuffer who can plug holes and is tough to move off his spot. Struggles with balance at times and misses some opportunities to blow up a play in the backfield because he’s off balance and isn’t able to make a quick adjustment to get his hands on the ball carrier. Doesn’t make plays in pursuit due to limited athleticism but also a lack of effort. He seems to be content to plug holes and take up space and gives limited effort beyond that.
Pass Rush: Needs to be doubled teamed unless the play is designed for a quick pass or a rollout. He can be slowed by one interior lineman, but he will ultimately find a way to fight his way through and collapse the pocket if he isn’t double teamed. Does a nice job getting his arms up into passing lanes.
Intangibles: Lacks consistent effort and clearly takes plays off, especially late in games and on extended drives. Conditioning is an issue and he’s struggled with weight problems throughout his career. Extremely well liked by teammates. Very active on social media, which will turn off some teams and it has been reported that certain talent evaluators worry about his commitment to football.
Durability: Suffered a knee injury during national championship game in Jan. 2013. Knee bothered him throughout 2013 season and eventually underwent knee surgery in November.
Comments: Nix has obvious immediate value because there are only so many guys with his size capable of playing the game. But he will never be an every-down lineman due to conditioning issues, and it has the potential to get worse depending on how well he maintains his weight. He has been compared to B.J. Raji but he lacks that type of athleticism and upside. He’s more similar to Terrence Cody, a guy who can be effective in bursts but simply isn’t capable of staying on the field for an extended period of time.
Marcus Smith DE Louisville #91
Size/Athleticism: Average height but long arms add to his length and improve his ability to disrupt passing lanes and keep linemen from getting into his chest. Listed at 252 in college and weighed in at 251 in college, but looks a little lighter than that on film. If he’s gained weight, will his impressive mobility remain?
Run Defense: Lacks the strength to consistently hold his ground at the point of attack and can fairly easily be moved off his spot, especially when lined up with his hand on the ground and immediately engaged with a lineman. Does an adequate job shedding blocks and making plays in pursuit. Keeps his eyes on the backfield and reacts appropriate. Takes proper angles and shows an impressive closing burst. Knows when to keep pace on the edge to close off a seam and when to turn on the jets to close on the ball carrier.
Pass Rush: Extremely explosive edge-rusher. Elite first step and blazes past slow-footed offensive linemen. Shows elite balance and easily dips his shoulder to turn the corner. Played in a very favorable scheme (and against modest competition) to pad his stats. Often lined up from the seven-tech spot and even from the wide-nine position. Times the snap extremely well and often the first defensive player to react. Doesn’t show many pass-rush moves and gets shut down fairly easily if a lineman is able to shut down his initial rush off the edge, and especially if they’re able to get into his chest and engage him.
Versatility: Among the most versatile front-seven players in this draft class. Primarily played with his hand off the ground, in both 4-3 and 3-4 base sets. But also lined up with his hand on the ground 4-3 sets. Has plenty of experience dropping into both zone and man coverage, even against slot receivers. Occasionally lines up from the inside linebacker position to blitz and often wins with an explosive first step.
Intangibles: Originally recruited as a quarterback, but shifted to linebacker and defensive end very early in 2010 season.
Durability: Missed time with an ankle injury in 2011. Missed time early in 2013 season with undisclosed injury.
Comments: Smith has limited experience on the defensive side of the ball as a converted quarterback. He burst onto the scene with a breakout year in 2013 and may only be scratching the surface of his potential. He has the tools to be a quality edge-rusher, and that’s despite limited moves. Once he refines his technique, he could be a legitimate pass-rush threat at the next level. He should make an immediate impact at the next level due to his versatility. He has the rare ability to line up all over the field and creative defensive coordinators will love what he brings to the table.
Scott Crichton DE Oregon State #95
Size/Athleticism: Average height but relatively short arms. Athleticism is decent. He’s fairly explosive off the snap, but extended speed is modest. Shows great balance and agility when working through the junk in pursuit.
Run Defense: A hard hitter who forces fumbles. Strong wrap-up tackler. Short arms hurt his ability to make plays when lunging after the ball carrier in pursuit. Does a nice job keeping his eyes on the backfield and reacting appropriately. Quickly sheds blocks and takes off in pursuit when the the play is away from him. Struggles at the point of attack and can get swallowed up and throw off balance by more powerful offensive linemen. Lacks the elite lower body strength to hold his ground at the point of attack, and tends to get too high out of his stance further limiting his ability to hold his ground.
Pass Rush: Quick first step allows him to occasionally win with speed, especially when he can lower his shoulder force taller offensive linemen to lunge at him, throwing them off balance. Quick footwork and impressive agility in tight spaces allow him to evade linemen when he’s on the edge with some space to maneuver around them. Shows a decent bull-rush and can walk the linemen back into the pocket, but struggles to fully disengage once he’s locked up.
Versatility: Probably limited to play as a down lineman. If he does land in a 3-4 scheme, he could potentially play linebacker but dropping into coverage should be limited. He lacks the speed to cover much ground and certainly can’t stay with anyone in man coverage.
Intangibles: Praised by coaches as a team leader.
Durability: No known issues. Three-year starter.
Comments: Crichton is sort of a ‘tweener. He lacks the dominant strength to excel against the run and doesn’t have the elite athleticism to consistent win as an edge rusher. If he refines his technique he can develop into a quality well-rounded three-down lineman, but he definitely has bust potential and may struggle to make an impact early in his career.