South Florida's Aaron Lynch is a very intriguing pass rushing prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft. He began his career playing for Notre Dame as more of a 3-4 defensive end in their defensive scheme at around 275 pounds, but was still a threat off the edge rushing the passer with speed and power. Due to some issues he sat out a season and transferred to South Florida where he played just a single season.
Lynch changed his body type from his days at Notre Dame to his days at South Florida, dropping 20-30 pounds and playing more of an outside pass rusher and standing up at times to play in space. He finished his only season at USF with 11.5 tackles for loss and just five sacks, but he showed quite a bit of flash on the games that I watched. He's also quite a bit of length to his frame standing at 6'6", with what should be a huge wing span.
Where Aaron Lynch Wins
Watching Lynch play the first thing that jumps out to you is how he can explode off the snap. He can get into the offensive tackle immediately and catch them off balance. He has the quickness and speed to get the tackle on skates and get around the edge.
The other area that stuck out for me with Lynch in watching both his games at Notre Dame and South Florida is his strength, which I think is an overlooked part of his game currently. It was much more evident when he was with the Irish, rushing inside from the 3-4 end position, but even with his drop in weight and change in body type, he still seems to possess functional strength rushing the passer and setting the edge.
In regards to the Jaguars defensive scheme, Lynch would seem to slot right into the LEO position perfectly. He's playing in space quite a bit, he's got the length the team looks for on the defensive line, and he can bring pressure off the edge and setup against the run if necessary.
Where Aaron Lynch Needs To Improve
The biggest area Lynch needs to improve on for the next level is his consistency. He will often flash in games and then disappear for stretches of time. I'm not quite sure what the reason is for this, because he can be downright dominating at times, but if a coaching staff can get consistent effort out of him on the field he can significantly improve next level.
The other concerning area for Lynch is he doesn't seem very comfortable in space just yet. He stood up quite a bit while on South Florida, both covering the flats and rushing the passer, and he doesn't appear to be natural at it. This is a transition for him however, so it's not surprising and is something that could improve with more reps in the position.
Finally the other area Lynch can improve on is taking advantage of his length. He has natural tools that many coaches covet in a pass rusher, but he does not use them consistently quite yet. He needs to improve at creating space for himself when he's engaged with an offensive lineman, taking advantage of his long arms. He could also be due to improve his overall pad level and hand fighting, but again a lot of these things can be corrected with good coaching and hard work at the next level.
Overall, Aaron Lynch appears to be a good pass rusher for the Jaguars to target to be the future LEO on the defense. The natural ability that he possess is something a lot of teams covet, but he definitely needs refinement for the next level. He's a player who's unlikely to start out of the gate as a rookie, but should be able to contribute in packages and as a rotational pass rusher early on.
Grade: 6.5 - second rounder, could progress into a consistent edge rushing threat next level
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