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.
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Nate Orchard, DE, Utah - 6'4, 251 - Senior
Here is one of the more interesting players that we will look at this spring as we prepare for the draft. He certainly was not on any of my watch lists from last summer as to who might emerge as serious contenders for Rounds 1 and 2 in the 2015 draft, but Nate Orchard has made everyone take notice of a season where he personally amassed 18.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss for an insane 39.5 explosive plays in one year. That number is an entire college career for most of the prospects we will examine who rush the passer. During the spring time we will measure these guys and time them to see who has the raw, physical tools to make them a premier player in the NFL. But, we must remember that no less than 75% (for me, closer to 90%) of their overall grade must be the performances they had as college football players - not running 40 yards in February. For Orchard, I looked at a lot, but mostly UCLA, Stanford, and Oregon State from this past season.
What I liked: This guy is like the Jason Garrett dream. He is a guy who plays hard and seldom is seen taking plays off. He competes at a very high level when the ball is snapped. He is a team captain, married, with a daughter, and settled down already. He shows a fantastic jump off the snap and an array of moves that center mostly around playing until the whistle as hard as he can. He has an array of moves for sure and put on a clinic (video below) against 1st round target LT Andrus Peat from Stanford, with balance and often a refusal to be blocked for long. At the Senior Bowl he started a run play from the opposite hash and pushed the carrier out of bounds on the opposite sideline. He plays RDE and LDE and occasionally stands up in the MLB spot on 3rd Downs. He can bend his body at that precise angle to turn the corner on left tackles that you look for which speaks to good flexibility. He chases the ball down and gives pass protectors real issues with his motor. I found plenty to like here.
What I did not like: The question when you watch a lot of Utah is that their scheme is relentless as well. They often rush 5 and 6 and are trying to cause tons of chaos with their scheme so you don't want to attribute credit to a player when the scheme is getting him statistics and opportunities because you are not going to do in Dallas what they did at Utah. The Cowboys do not believe in blitzing so if half of his sacks are coming from those reasons, we must be careful. He also is not stout at all against the run and may be more of a weak side DE (RDE) which is what the Cowboys drafted last year in DeMarcus Lawrence. He can really get pushed out of the way on the runs right at him and it appears he could spend a little more time in the weight room from a strength and definition standpoint.
Summary: If I have a flaw in my evaluations, it is that I am always a sucker for a high motor. Scouts are not looking for high motors in the 1st round, they are looking for freakish attributes first and foremost. For that reason, he might get downgraded at the combine because I don't know if he will score extraordinarily well on those tests. But, from a character and accomplishment standpoint, I really like the player quite a bit. The stats are inflated from the scheme and the Cowboys will have to ask themselves if he could get all home if they are always only rushing 4. I think his battle level is such that he fits at the right price and I would love to add him to the arsenal and hope that with 5-10 more pounds of weight training on his frame, he might even be able to be a bookend for Lawrence for years to come. I really like him as a prospect at the right place in the draft which might now have to come late in the 1st round.