Gelen Robinson has excellent athletic bloodlines – he is the son of former NBA star Glenn Robinson, who himself excelled at Purdue. Gelen also has a strong wrestling background, which you can see in how he uses his hands and engages blockers. In 2016, he played as both an orthodox DE in a 4-3 and also as a five-tech DL. At 6-1, 280lb, he is a bit of a tweener, without quite enough size to hold up inside or the speed necessary to excel on the edge. He shows flashes against the run; he is a disciplined and physical defender with sound tackling technique. He also has a knack for the big play – see his interception return for a TD vs Eastern Kentucky and what proved to be a game-winning forced fumble in overtime vs Illinois. I don’t see much pass-rush potential, however; he has very limited repertoire of pass-rush moves and relies on his wrestling skills to throw off blockers. It doesn’t work with that much regularity in the Big 10 and I can’t see it being any more successful in the NFL. He lacks an explosive – or even vaguely quick – first step and he is not powerful enough to bull rush NFL defensive linemen. As such, it is hard to see where he would win in the NFL and, for this reason, I would see him primarily as an undrafted free agent.
Moore has some traits that can get you excited. He is tall, fast and is coming off a 1000 yard receiving season in the SEC. That speed is for real – just look at how he blew away Georgia’s Dominick Sanders in a race for the end zone in 2016. At the same time, there are some major question marks about Moore as well. He has never been a firm favourite of the Missouri fan base – he was one of the leading figures in the race protests that were later shown to be a canard, raising some doubts about his judgement. His hands are also quite erratic; whilst he can make some circus catches, he is also prone to a disproportionate number of relatively simple drops. He has the productivity and the measurables to attract the interest of NFL scouts but he needs to show that he has a) improved his concentration and b) developed into a team leader if he is going to surge up draft boards. He also needs to circle the games against the top defensive backfields in the SEC. Against Louisiana State and Florida in 2016, he had only two catches in eight quarters of play – if he is going to be drafted, he will need to make a conspicuous improvement in his performance against the strongest opposition.
Ware is a functional SEC linebacker, who has decent instincts as a run defender and who has been a productive player at Kentucky, with 70 tackles and 5.5 sacks as a sophomore. Kentucky asks a lot of its edge players – they drop into coverage more than a lot of other teams’ edge players do – and it is clear from the tape that Ware really struggles with quick and nimble receiving threats in space. He is a rather lumbering figure, whose athleticism is marginal in the SEC and would be positively problematic at the next level. This is not to say that Ware has no straight-line speed – I suspect that he’d run somewhere in the 4.70-4.80 range, judging from his long fumble return in the South Carolina game – but he has stiff hips and plays too often on his heels, meaning that he finds it hard to change direction. He also really needs to work on his leverage; as a sophomore, he played way too high, struggled to shed blocks and was often eaten up even by tight ends against the run. As a pass rusher, he is tenacious and flashes some power but he has no real go-to move and lacks the explosiveness to make a difference as a pass rusher in the NFL. At this point, I would say that Ware should certainly come back for his senior season, as he does not look to be a draftable prospect at this point.
If I were to pick a play that crystallises why Arden Key has so much potential in the NFL, it would be his sack against Florida, in 2016, with 6.59 to go in the 2nd quarter. The ball is snapped, almost everyone else on the O and D lines is moving at normal speed (David Sharpe, the Gators’ LT, and the Raiders’ 4th round pick in 2017, is moving with the speed of an oil tanker that’s run out of gas), whilst Key is already two yards ahead of anyone else by the time Appleby has his arm cocked to throw. This is the sort of thing that has NFL scouts salivating like ravenous Frenchmen presented with a plate of fois gras. In backside pursuit, Key pursuing a QB looks like a lion in chase of a gazelle, demonstrating exceptional explosiveness, flexibility and speed. Against the run, he is a bit more raw but, even so, it’s still worth noting how seldom he gets pushed back, even if his angles and instincts are occasionally awry. This is impressive, given that he looks like he could carry an extra 20-25lbs on his frame without compromising his speed. In essence, Key is an elite prospect – a top 5 talent in this year’s draft, should he elect to declare. There are, however, some off the field issues which will need to be carefully explored. He was suspended for the A&M game and, earlier this year, he took a leave of absence from the LSU program – these are massive red flags, which will need to be checked out. These issues compromise my grade on Key slightly but, nevertheless, he should be one of the very best players in the 2018 draft.
The most impressive thing about Hubbard is his body control. When setting the edge, he shows flexibility and intelligence in his use of his hands and feet. He plays with his hand down even more than Lewis but I can see him making the transition to OLB in the NFL more easily than his Buckeye teammate – he looks like a more fluid, albeit less powerful, athlete on tape. He has a good motor and won’t give up on a play but I’m not sure he’s got the strength and leverage to be consistently effective against NFL OTs, should he play as a DE. In the 2016 Oklahoma game, for instance, he lost the majority of his battles against Orlando Brown quite convincingly. He has a good bull rush and good speed but neither of them have looked elite so far, leading me to question how often he will win as a pass rusher in the NFL. He does, however, seem opportunistic on tape and opportunism is often indicative of very good instincts. There is certainly something to work with here and I see Hubbard, at the moment, as a 3rd round prospect, who projects best to the LB position at the next level.
Lewis is an aggressive, powerful edge rusher who shows a relentless streak in his pursuit of the QB. He has played mainly with his hand on the ground at Ohio State although, on occasions, you will see him standing up. He is a much better prospect going forward than he is when he’s asked to read and react; he looks almost lost in space and I have doubts about his ability to project to an OLB role in the NFL. As such, he doesn’t look to me to have much scheme diversity, fitting best as a DE in the 4-3. He sets the edge extremely well and uses his hands very effectively, showing impressive strength and power – he is one of the very best run defenders in this draft class. An underrated part of Lewis’ game is the quickness of his feet, which enables him to change direction quite subtly and, as a consequence, attack half a blocker very effectively. His speed off the edge is good but not great at this point – he doesn’t really have an explosive first step and he will have to add some moves to his arsenal if he is to really thrive at the next level. He is a very productive player, who won the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year as a junior and will should in the mix for national preseason awards. At the moment, I see him as a second round guy but I expect NFL scouts to have him firmly in the 1st round discussion.
This is a tricky one. Smith looks to me like he could, if given the opportunity, blossom into a really strong edge player. In 2016, however, due to deficiencies on the Baylor D-Line, he found himself playing mainly as a 3-tech, which doesn’t really play to his strengths – there were times he was simply overwhelmed by guards who weighed 60 pounds more than he did. It is to his credit as a football player that he did a more than serviceable job inside, weighing 260-265 pounds, and it also speaks highly of his commitment to the team ethic. He projects, however, as an excellent edge player at the next level. He is a strong, powerful, explosive athlete, who is relentless in his pursuit of the football. He shows tenacity and skill as a pass rusher, with the ability to make himself skinny through traffic. His sack in the Cactus Bowl, in which he defeated pretty much the whole right side of the Boise State line, shows these skills in abundance. Matt Rhule, the new Baylor coach, has promised to allow him to operate on the edge this season, in order to maximise his NFL value – that value could, after the 2017 season, be considerable.