Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue Boilermakers
40-Time: (NFL Scouting Combine Time Feb. 23 - Mar. 1 to be added)
Ryan gets off the ball quick, which allows him to usually dictate the battle with the offensive line. His quick first step usually takes him on a speed rush, trying to get to the outside of the tackle. If the tackle has a slow kick move and can't beat Kerrigan to the edge, then Kerrigan usually holds them off with upper body strength until he's in the pocket attacking the quarterback.
That first step also allows for one of his other key attributes, the inside move. As witnessed firsthand at the Senior Bowl by Nate Solder and Demarcus Love, Kerrigan can get inside of the tackle's head and have him so worried about the outside speed rush that he'll take a quick step to the outside to get the offensive tackles body weight moving that direction and then quickly redirect back inside for a devastating sack.
I believe that Kerrigan's best pass rush feature is what he does when he gets to the quarterback. Some defensive players are happy to get a sack, while some always have the turnover in mind. Ryan is the latter. When you put the film on, you'll see over and over again Ryan getting to the outside and when he starts closing on the quarterback, he uses his stellar rake move. It's a simple move that chops down at the quarterback's arm with the ball in it, while wrapping up to ensure the tackle at the same time.
A lot of Kerrigan's strengths lead to his biggest weaknesses. Because he has such a quick first step, he relies on it too much. He goes to the outside around 90% of the time. That may work in the college game, but at the next level it'll end in him not being a factor on most plays.
He also comes straight up out of that first step and gives up leverage on every single snap. Kerrigan is built with mostly upper body strength and has to add bulk to his lower frame. He can't afford to give the huge offensive lineman in the NFL leverage on every snap or he'll become known as Ryan "Pancake" Kerrigan.
When he came to the Senior Bowl at a chiseled 255 pounds, I felt that his athleticism would make him a good 3-4 outside linebacker option. I was disappointed when I watched him drop into coverage. It was like watching a bear that was drunk and confused trying to mirror the movements of a deer. Okay, it wasn't that bad, but he moves stiff in open space and doesn't change direction with the ease that a 3-4 outside linebacker would have to.
I'm not a huge stat guy but something is to be said for the type of stats that put up at Purdue. It shows that he's a game changer and a playmaker. Ryan finished his career tied with the all-time lead in forced fumbles (14) in FBS history! That was also good enough to make him the Big Ten's all-time leader in that category.
All he did his senior year was tie for the lead in tackles for loss (26) with Da'Quan Bowers, who is possibly the first name called on draft day. He also had 12.5 sacks this season which was good enough for 3rd in the nation.
Those stats are a direct effect of his quick get off and his impressive rake move. I believe he's best suited as the right defensive end in a 4-3 formation, but if he starts to slide to the mid or late part of 1st/2nd round, then a 3-4 team might take the chance to try and develop him into an outside linebacker.
Potential NFL Team, Round
The New England Patriots have so many draft picks that they can basically do whatever they wish at the 17th pick. They could ask Al Davis to make picks for them and somehow it would magically work out. Bill Belichek may find Kerrigan's pass rushing ability too tempting to pass up. He could find the risk of Ryan in coverage as a calculated, worthy one.
I think that if Kerrigan slides to 27 and the Falcons are on the clock, they'll have to turn in the card with his name on it. John Abraham is still playing at a high level but doesn't have much time left. He could basically groom his replacement.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (20), Indy (22), and New Orleans Saints (24) are all possible landing spots for the defensive end prospect. Tampa Bay is trying to build a young, dynamic defensive line. Kerrigan could step in next to Gerald McCoy and Brian Price and the Bucs would be well on their way to a stellar front four. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney are two of the best bookends in the league. We all have seen what can happen to this team with injuries on the defense. Kerrigan couldn't possibly fail learning behind this dynamic duo. The Saints...well just go back and watch the Marshawn Lynch run from the wildcard game...enough said.
Jayson Braddock appears on Sports Radio 790 AM in Houston, TX, every Thursday morning at 11:19 am CST as the football insider on the Dylan Gwinn show. He's a graduate of the Sports Management World Wide Football GM & Scouting Course and has been mentored by former NFL player / executive John Wooten and Sporting News.com NFL Draft Expert Russ Lande. His work is mostly appreciated by die-hard fans interested in every little detail about their team and not just watered down mainstream talk. - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports7910.com. You may email Jayson directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ JaysonBraddock
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