Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2015 NFL Draft #23 - Lorenzo Mauldin, DE/OLB, Louisville

I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
Find all the profiles here.
Lorenzo Mauldin, DE/LB, Louisville - 6'4, 255 - Senior
Louisville Cardinals defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin (94) greets fans during the Card March before facing the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Oct. 18, 2014.. (Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports)
Here is yet another option in a very plentiful and top-heavy draft for edge rushing defensive ends and linebackers.  Finding candidates who might be the answer is never hard as the draft offers us many players every year at this position.  The trick is finding the actual answer, who can make their game translate to Sundays like it did on Saturdays.  The differences are sometimes under-discussed, but for starters, the tackles at the NFL level are unlike anything these guys see in college, usually.  College football tackles are normally never moving on, and most that do are moving inside to guard.  So often, when evaluating edge rushers in college, you have to consider who they are beating as much as the pass rusher himself.
Mauldin has an amazing story and has overcome many obstacles growing up to get where he is today as a man.  As a player, he is clearly a leader in his own locker-room, and a guy who has been looked at to deliver impact moments and key stops more and more as his career has gone on at Louisville.  For his project, we looked at Georgia, Florida State, and Virginia.  I will confess at the top that he is a complicated study.
What I liked:  There are moments where he can make you jaw drop.  He comes around the edge like in the video above, swats the arms off him from the left tackle and blindsides the QB with textbook ease and performance.  He moves from LDE to RDE to OLB and sometimes even to MLB like we saw with Dante Fowler, where it looks like he has been handed the keys to the defense and told to go make plays.  He has a very impressive flexibility and bend to his body that makes edge rushing easier.  He has long arms and can win with quick and also show strength at times.  He is very active and is looking to swat passes when he doesn't get home.  He has a solid swim move.  He can drop into coverage and doesn't look lost, but his ability to change directions quickly might harm him here.
What I did not like:  More than anything, there were games where he just didn't look the same.  I mention this because in the Florida State and Georgia games, he was rather anonymous.  That said, he did make single plays that were significant in both.  He appears to be banged up and hampered by injury in both of those contests, so I would love to know his actual status as he played in both games.  More than that, he gets hung up very often in pass rushes where OL get their hands on him and he is stuck.  He can't break free with his arms like the other premium guys can.  He also looked slow on change of direction against Virginia where he misread a zone read and an end around and each time could not slam on the breaks and reaccelerate at a normal pace for a player in his position.  He appears to have average quickness for his spot and can get outflanked against the run with a false step to the inside - especially in the NFL.
Summary:  Like I said, this one is confusing.  He appears to be more ideal to be the outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, yet the open field quickness will surely be tested there.  You watch 3 or 4 games and you generally feel like you know the player.  This time, I feel like there are some very interesting aspects to his game that make him a 1st round idea and other aspects that look like an average draft-able LB that you shouldn't overspend to get.  I think that his hamstring injury at midseason cut down on his production (6.5 sacks, 13 TFLs), but then you even ask about the numbers he did accumulate because he had 3 sacks against Wake Forest alone.  Is he a special player or is he a guy who flashes special qualities but cannot sustain it like you need if you are to spend a high pick on him?  Like a few of his colleagues in this position group, I feel like I will need to revisit him and choose new games to zero in before the draft.  As it stands, I think I see him in the 2nd/3rd rounds.

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