NFL Draft analysis: defensive ends — Harold Landry

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DENTON, Texas (KNTU) Continuing my analysis of NFL 2018 Draft candidates, here is:

Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College — 6’2″ / 250 lbs — Senior, #7

  • Who is He?

In 2016, Landry led the entire Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) with 16.5 sacks. It was the sixth most by a player in a season since 2005, putting him in elite company with Elvis Dumervil, Nate Orchard, and Von Miller.

It seems logical that such stellar production would immediately make Landry a consensus first round prospect. But questions lingered about his strength against the run and what he would be able to do in the NFL against bigger, stronger competition. When the 2016-17 bowl season came to an end, Landry had a hard time rising above top edge prospects like Myles Garrett, Derek Barnett, Charles Harris, and Takkarist McKinley. He ultimately decided to return to Boston College for his senior year with the goal of boosting his draft stock to become a top prospect in 2017-18.

Landry only played in eight games before an ankle injury sidelined him for the year. He finished the season with a disappointing five sacks.

Landry is an undersized defensive end which will always draw questions about his ability to compete against NFL offensive linemen. But where Arden Key has a refined technique without much raw athleticism and Marcus Davenport has raw athleticism without a ton of polish — Landry brings a combination of both, just without ideal size. Undersized pass rushers tend to be heavily scrutinized during the draft process. Teams are usually apprehensive about spending a first round pick on someone they believe would be a rotation player. This is where teams have to weigh the value of a player who can pressure the passer against a lack of versatility in the run game.

A good comparison is the aforementioned Elvis Dumervil, who had 20 sacks in his 2005 season with Louisville. Dumervil was 5’11”, hovering around 230 pounds at the time, and nearly fell to the 5th round in the 2006 draft. He went on to have 8.5 sacks his rookie year, four double digit sack years — reaching 17 twice — and two 9.5 sack years. Now at age 34, he has 105.5 career sacks.

There’s no guarantee that Landry will have 100 NFL sacks over the next decade, but he has that kind of potential.

  • Positives

While Landry’s shown he can play as a 4-3 end, he’s better suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4. His flexibility is his best trait. It’s the reason he’s so high on draft boards. He can get low and bend his body in order to get around offensive tackles and into the backfield. In the clip below, he gets into the backfield and forces a bad throw.

In this next video, Landry uses his flexibility to record a sack.

It’s a trait that few prospects possess.

Landry’s second favorite pass rush move is to long arm the tackle back inside. He has tremendous strength, and his flexibility allows him to leverage linemen into the backfield.

He also does a good job of attacking the inside shoulder of pulling blockers on running plays. Below are clips of two plays where he gets inside his man and plugs the hole, once in the backfield and the other to force a short gain.

Landry wins with his athleticism. It’s why he does a good job against zone run plays in which he’s momentarily unblocked as the ball is snapped, allowing him to use his quick first step to beat blockers to the point of attack.

  • Negatives

When healthy, there aren’t many negatives in Landry’s play. The biggest question mark will be his ability to stand-up blockers in the run game. In the positives, I included a video of him doing well against a tight end and pulling blockers; however, as seen in this video below, he struggles a bit when he has to take on his man right at the snap of the ball.

Despite showing some ability to hold up against the run in college, scouts are still questioning how it translates to the next level. Landry’s frame will be the dominant reason for these questions. There aren’t many 6’2″ defensive ends able to play as force defenders in the NFL, and those that can usually do so in specific schemes designed for it.

Landry also had some minor tackling issues on tape, but it wasn’t due to poor form, so it doesn’t strike me as a red flag.

  • Summary

Landry brings premium qualities to the edge position. He has the intangibles NFL scouts look for in pass rush specialists. He showed that he could win in the run game as well, overcoming some questions about his size with good technique and a quick first step.

If I was a NFL GM with a hole to fill on the edge, I would strongly consider taking Landry in the first round. I think he’s an immediate starter, and he’ll make a quick impact if he can stay healthy.

  • Relevance to the Cowboys

Despite getting injured, returning to Boston College for his senior year worked out for Landry. He’s being touted as a consensus draft first rounder and will likely be taken inside the top 20 overall.

I would love to have a guy like Landry on my team, but the Cowboys have bigger issues to try to fix with their first round pick.

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