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.To read more about the 2016 NFL Draft Project, Click Here.
Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State - 6'7, 272 - RS Senior - #95
As we continue our profiles this week of draft prospects who are certainly in the mix for the top 2 rounds and also (special to this week) in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, we happen across yet another Penn State defensive lineman who is being coached by the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff as we speak.
Just being at the Senior Bowl this week is a major upset for this player if you merely went back 6 months. For back in the summer, Carl Nassib - the little brother of New York Giants backup QB, Ryan - was a virtually anonymous defensive end for PSU who had 2 seasons in which he registered 1 sack each year. But, 2015 was an amazing season for Nassib where he led all of major college football in 2 significant categories. He led the country in sacks with 15.5 and forced fumbles with 6 while playing in just 11 games this season (this despite missing a few weeks in November with a hamstring injury). Add to that another 19.5 tackles for loss and Nassib was a human highlight film in what amounts to most of one swim through a Big 10 schedule.
If you go back further, his story gets even more like a script as he arrived at Penn State as a walk-on athlete and had to earn every snap he ever received while sticking in with Penn State through a very tumultuous time for the program (to say the least). To go from that to the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year (as well as many more awards he received this year) is quite a story. But, is he a significant NFL prospect?
What I liked:There is no question that if a player is leading the country in sacks and forced fumbles and has 35 explosives (sacks + tackles for loss) in just 11 games, the player is as productive as you could ever hope in a Power 5 conference. When he gets up to speed around the corner, he is a menace in backfields and is closing down Quarterbacks. He is primarily coming off the LDE spot (against Right Tackles) and is able to use his very long arms and top-of-the-class wing span to clear a path. Against the run it almost looks like he is a comfortable 2-gapper - perhaps a 5 technique in a 3-4 defense - because of his gifts to extend his arms and turn the blocker in any direction. You are not going to win leverage against this large man very often at the point of attack. He also works down the line against zone very well and looks the part as a strongside defensive end. He really moves well in a straight line once he gets up to speed. He also will give you everything he has in the motor department, which might be the most important attribute for a pass rusher.
What I did not like: There are some significant things in this category to consider. In short spaces, he really has trouble changing directions. I am concerned about his quickness in tight and this becomes an issue in the numerous times he is stuck in the bind as the unblocked edge man against the zone read. Ohio State, in particular, and Northwestern both exposed him at times for getting his choice wrong and exposing the flank to the QB. He also occasionally has a few issues getting disengaged on run plays in his direction. Nothing too significant, but perhaps a little technique work might clean that up.
Also, we at least have to point out that there have been prospects over the years that do fit in the "one year wonder" categories that have never showed sustained success at the college level until his final year and then, at the age of 23, is somebody you are betting on for the next 8-10 years of his life. It requires an amount of blind faith that this is his "new normal". If it is, you have yourself a real find. But, that is the risk. Also, always being a LDE hurts his value a bit, but if he shows at the Senior Bowl that he can also rush against left tackles, he can erase that doubt.
Summary and Potential Fit For the Cowboys: There is a lot to like about Nassib and he seems like the type of guy you would be willing to bet on both on and off the field. Knowing that he is a high production guy and knowing the Cowboys have great regard for Penn State defensive players like Sean Lee and Jack Crawford (Dan Connor, 2012) and knowing the Cowboys are in the market for a big defensive end to compliment their under-sized pass rushers, we shouldn't rule out this type of prospect being on the board as the draft develops. I question if he has some of the NFL traits to excel on Sundays, but the fact that he made so many plays make him a somewhat interesting calculation. Some guys have traits and make no plays. Some guys are just the opposite. Nassib has some exceptional traits and perhaps that compensates for his slow ability to "stop and start". It will take a while to see where exactly he will be valued, but as a player who was on nobody's list in August is now creeping onto many Top 50 lists and is going to continue his rise right onto an opening day NFL roster.