It’s that time of year when I turn my focus to the college bowl games to gain insight. I will do my best to find some draft eligible players that could improve your dynasty teams. This article intends to start conversations and encourage continued thought throughout the entire draft process. These are my observations based on the bowl games, unless otherwise indicated. There will be much more in-depth, thought-provoking discussions later in the offseason. I am listing these players alphabetically.
DE-Brock Hekking, Nevada- The young defender is undersized for the position at 6’4” 255lbs. He did not come into the game until the second series due to violating team rules in the bowl game. Hekking has fast hands, keeps blockers off his body, and gets off the snap quickly. The defensive end varies his stances from a three-point to standing up like an outside linebacker. He uses a shoulder dip to get underneath and swim around blockers, while throwing in an occasional spin move to create space. A few times, Hekking drove back the offensive tackle towards the quarterback when he sunk his hips. The defender takes good angles rushing the passer and is willing to dive at their legs to make the sack. He changed his point of attack from the outside lane to stunt inside, but was not very successful.
Hekking doesn’t appear to have the athleticism to become an outside linebacker. He has tight hips and looked uncomfortable dropping back into pass coverage. Again the run, Hekking seemed stiff and tended to over-pursue the ball carrier. He reminds me a bit of a lesser talented Michael Sam, who is a good pass rusher, but has no natural position in the NFL.
DE-Martin Ifedi, Memphis-The senior defensive end got a lot of good initial pressure rushing the passer using a combination of swim moves and brute strength. He can line up anywhere between the two (on top of the guard) and five gaps (outside shoulder of the offensive tackle) on the defensive line. Ifedi is coming back from a knee injury that cost him four games this season, but still was a force in the bowl game. The defender keeps his arms cocked, not letting the offensive line into his body.
There were multiple times that he demanded double teams, which freed up his fellow defenders to get to the quarterback. He looks a lot bigger than his 6’ 3” 265 lbs. frame and tossed around whomever they put in front of him. If Ifedi can add 20 to 30 lbs. on his frame, he could get used as a defensive end or defensive tackle. The defensive lineman crashed down the line of scrimmage and was inches from really causing havoc on multiple occasions. His power and on-field personae reminds me a bit of Ra’shede Hagemen who got drafted by the Falcons last season.
LB-Gabe Martin, BGSU- First disclosure, I am a graduate of Bowling Green (I think this is important for anyone doing any sort of analysis, in case of bias). Martin reminds me a bit of Christian Kirksey, the rookie Cleveland Browns backer. He drops back quickly into pass coverage and tracks the ball well in the air. There were a few times he kicked out to cover the slot receiver when the offense changed the formation. The linebacker takes good angles and is a solid tackler. He shows good anticipation, but doesn’t overact to misdirection.
As a pass rusher, Martin swims underneath his would-be blocker to get around them. He does a good job keeping his arms coiled to strike keeping linemen off his body while rushing the passer or against the run. The backer recovered a backwards pass while everyone else on the field gave up on the play. He seemed a bit clumsy changing directions and might be a better inside backer than an outside one.
LB/DE-Nate Orchard, Utah- This is a naturally born pass rusher. He explodes out of his stance, keeping his hands all over the blockers in his way. Orchard lines up either in the five gap on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle or he kicks out to the seven gap. He varies his stance from a two point linebacker stance to a three or even a four point stance to get the best leverage. The pass rusher gets good initial penetration, knocking his offensive lineman back on their heels.
Orchard has a good motor, always moving whether defending the run or attacking the signal caller. He used a swim move to get around blockers and hit the quarterback’s arm, causing the ball to go elsewhere. When the rusher gets hung up near the line of scrimmage, he gets his arms up to knock down passes and makes it more difficult for the passer to see any openings downfield. In the running game, Orchard anchors his position, forcing the play back inside and has the quickness/vision to crash down the line to make a tackle. He uses good balance and possesses the vision along with instincts to thwart plays a less athletic defender might miss.