The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to be looking for a pass rusher in the 2014 NFL Draft, as they will likely finally be looking to draft that LEO prospect. Last offseason we came up with an idea of what the Jaguars would likely look for in a LEO prospect, measurable-wise and it actually turned out to be fairly accurate, at least in identifying some of the good young pass rushers.
Last offseason I came up with some benchmarks that I think the team may be looking for in their defensive ends, especially at the LEO position. The player will need to have arms measuring at least 33 inches, preferably longer. The player will need to run at least a 1.65 in the 10-yard split in the 40-yard dash, preferably lower. The player will also need to clock a sub 7.2 and a sub 4.4 in the 3-cone and shuttle drills, respectively. I upped the 10-yard split from 1.60 to 1.65, the 3-cone from 7.0 to 7.2 and the shuttle from 4.4 to 4.5. On the first benchmark test I actually think I had them set too good. Bruce Irvin blew up the combine, so holding to his standard is kind of unfair. I also decided to add in vertical jump (32.5") and broad jump (115" or 9'7") to the checklist.
Mind you, just because a player doesn't meet these area's doesn't mean they're not a fit. Meeting all of them however is likely to make them more ideal at the position. I would imagine however that an ideal candidate would likely meet the majority of the criteria.
In this chart I did not include bigger defensive ends that were traditional 4-3 ends only and I did not include the bigger 3-4 ends/5-technique players. I tried to pick out the players listed as "linebacker" who could be a fit, but I did not include linebackers who project to be simply linebackers (ie Kyle Van Noy is a SAM, not a LEO). There are also some players who I may go back and add that seem like they could be a fit when I go over the numbers again. Players who did not do any drills were not included in this, such as Jeremiah Attaochu, Dee Ford and Aaron Lynch.
Here's how the ends that could fit at the LEO at the 2014 NFL combine stacked up to these benchmarks:
First, just a quick gripe with combine coverage: For the third year in a row NFL.com has been delayed putting up short-shuttle times for defensive lineman and defensive lineman only. It's going on over 24 hours, but once they're finally up I will update the chart.
Note that I put an asterisk next to Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack, Christian Jones, Adrian Hubbard, Trent Murphy and Prince Shembo. This is because they're kind of tweener players that probably won't be full-time LEOs if drafted, but also play SAM linebacker a bit, sort of how Bruce Irvin is used on the Seattle Seahawks and/or how the Jaguars use Andre Branch and Ryan Davis.
So anyway, from the benchmarks the biggest thing that stands out to me is that Clowney didn't fit every bench mark. Mind you, I didn't expect him to. The surprising thing is that he was so close to hitting all of them and outside of the 3-cone drill, basically destroyed every other benchmark. A testament to the kind of athletic freak Clowney is.
Now, the only players who met all of the criteria (at least what's available) were Jackson Jeffcoat, Howard Jones, Kareem Martin, Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack, Christian Jones, Adrian Hubbard and Trent Murphy. I can only give an opinion on a few of these players, but I do think that Christian Jones fits as a LEO end, despite being listed as an inside linebacker. He played all over at FSU and seemed to finally settle in at defensive end. As for the others, outside of Barr and Mack this gives me some players to go watch film on. I've been a bit lazy this year watching film, but this might be a better method of keying me in on players who I need to pay attention to.
Again, this isn't an exactly science but last season it identified Barkevious Mingo and Ezekial Ansah as fits and both seemed to be effective pass rushers as rookies.
I'll also have something else using another metric I've been alerting to called the WALDO concept that places a risk rating on potential pass rushers, but because that is more numbers based in a formula, I can't go forward with that one until the shuttle times are released.