Draft profile: Ohio State DE Cam Heyward

March, 30, 2011
3/30/11
11:47
AM ET
Leading up to the April 28-30 NFL draft, ESPNNewYork.com will provide profiles of players being considered by the Jets with the 30th overall pick. Previously, UCLA S Rahim Moore, Baylor NT Phil Taylor and UCLA OLB Akeem Ayers were featured.

Under the microscope: Cam Heyward, Ohio State

• Wednesday is a big day for Heyward -- his Pro Day at Ohio State. Heyward didn't participate in drills at last month's combine because he underwent Tommy John surgery Jan. 12 to repair torn ligaments in his elbow. He reportedly has regained his range of motion and has resumed lifting, although he may not perform the bench press Wednesday for scouts.

• Right now, Heyward is regarded as a late first-rounder. ESPN's Todd McShay rates him the 28th-best prospect, NFL.com's Mike Mayock has him at 27. If he fares well Wednesday, he could inch up the rankings a bit.

• Heyward is the son of the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, a longtime NFL running back. Football is important to Heyward. Scouts say he has an excellent attitude and a great work ethic. You're going to get his best on every play.

• The Jets need help at defensive end. Shaun Ellis has been a rock for a decade, but he's a free agent and turns 34 in June. They have one solid starter in Mike DeVito, with unproven Marcus Dixon and Ropati Pitoitua (coming back from Achilles' tendon surgery) leading candidates for increased roles. The Jets would like to re-sign Ellis on the cheap, but they'd also like to secure an heir apparent.

• If the Jets drafted Heyward, the first or second question in the news conference would be a Vernon Gholston reference. The Jets missed badly on Gholston, another former Buckeye standout. Gholston and Heyward were teammates in 2007, Heyward's freshman year. Fair or not, it would be an immediate stigma for Heyward.

• Heyward, speaking at the combine, on the comparison to Gholston: "We're two totally different players. Vern, they had him dropping at linebacker. You've seen my dropping abilities, they're pretty good [joking]. Me, I can play all over the line; I can play 3-technique and 6-technique. We are two different players. We had the privilege of going to The Ohio State, but we're not the same player. I'm never going to compare myself to him and I don't think he'll ever do the same."

• Heyward offers scheme versatility. At 6-5, 294, he can play tackle in a 4-3 scheme. On a 3-4 team like the Jets, he has the ideal body type to play the 5-technique -- defensive end. He's strong enough to be a two-gap player.

• Heyward is a solid, all-around player, especially against the run, but he doesn't have the 'wow' factor. He's a marginal pass rusher, lacking top-end explosiveness. He saved his best for last, dominating Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, but he was inconsistent throughout his senior year -- only three sacks. He played 52 games in his career, recording 15.5 sacks and 37.5 tackles-for-loss.

Here's some footage on Heyward facing Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi, who is projected as a first-round pick. You can see that Heyward is stout at the point of attack, but that he lacks elite speed on the edge.

ANALYSIS: Heyward is an NFL-ready player that probably would be a longtime starter for the Jets, but he wouldn't solve their issues with the outside pass rush. Defensive end isn't a money position in Rex Ryan's scheme, so they probably wouldn't pick him unless they're convinced he can contribute on third down and be a double-digit sacker.

UPDATE: By all accounts, Heyward did well in his workout. He weighed 295 pounds, ran the 40 in the 4.95-4.96 range and recorded an impressive 35-inch vertical jump, according to NFL.com. Because of his surgically repaired elbow, he didn't do the bench press ... On Tuesday, UCLA OLB Akeem Ayers helped himself at his Pro Day, running the 40 in the 4.68-4.74 range -- better than his disappointing 4.8 at the combine.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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