- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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I'm taking a look at selected players leading up to the NFL draft, which begins May 8. The reports are based on watching multiple games on draftbreakdown.com; I'll let you know when there is an opinion other than my own. I'm not a fan of having to only watch them off a TV feed -- you don't always get the best angle, or see all the players -- but it's the best I can do now and it helps provide a snapshot. The draft analysts -- especially those from ESPN.com, NFL.com and CBSSports.com -- help fill in the gap, especially in terms of where they are projected.
Player: Kyle Van Noy
College production: He finished his career with 62 tackles for a loss and 26.0 sacks. He also intercepted seven passes and forced 11 fumbles.
How he’d fit: Van Noy can play multiple spots, though it’s hard to say where he’d fit best. It could be more as a strongside linebacker in a 4-3. Spent the bulk of his time at BYU as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 front. He’d have to bulk up to play there regularly. There are some analysts/scouts who believe he could play inside in a 3-4. He could help as a multi-purpose linebacker in a nickel package. If the Redskins aren't confident they'll keep Brian Orakpo and/or Ryan Kerrigan long-term, then perhaps they'd draft an outside linebacker knowing they'd play this year and start in 2015.
What I liked: His instincts and his quickness. Saw his quick feet in a few games; against Texas he took the left tackle upfield only to cut back inside for a win. Saw him step inside against the right tackle, only to quickly bounce outside for a win. He understands how to position his body on spin moves and when taking on blocks on the edge against the run. Though he could improve his strength (see below), I did not see it as an issue when taking on blocks in the run game in the four games I watched. In fact, he did a good job getting off them. He lined up all over -- left outside, right outside, over the guards, in the middle. But when he played in the middle, it was almost always in coverage or as a rusher. I did not see him take on blocks while aligned inside, as a 3-4 backer would need to do. So I don’t know how he’d handle that role. He seemed to read plays well and was decisive. On one play against Utah State, he was aligned in space against a three-receiver set to the right. Utah State ran a jet sweep to his side, but Van Noy reacted too fast to be blocked, cutting inside the receiver and making the tackle in space behind the line. His change of direction was pretty good, though he didn’t always finish well. He dropped into coverage, both in the middle of the field and on the outside. Didn’t see a whole lot there; did make a nice interception on the first play vs. Utah State that he returned for a touchdown (stayed at the line; read the QB; timed his jump and grabbed the ball). Doesn’t seem to waste steps on the rush. Has a good awareness of the QB in the pocket and at times would freelance as a rusher, starting from one side, reading the QB’s movements and reacting accordingly by sliding through traffic to the other side.
What I didn’t like: His motor ran hot and cold. He did not necessarily give up on plays, but I would not describe him as relentless all the time, either. He did not always show up in the picture at the end of the play. Also, when I watched him against Virginia for example, he made a lot more plays on the left side -- away from left tackle Morgan Moses, a second-round pick at worst next week. Moses controlled him in the pass rush, using his strength to knock Van Noy off stride on a few rushes. Moses clearly won their one-on-one battles and strength was a factor. It was an impressive game by Moses. Van Noy’s strength was fine in other cases, but he could stand to add more because Moses is more the measuring stick. Van Noy did not arrive with a lot of pop on his tackles and was hot-and-cold in open space or on cutbacks. He could have finished more change-of-direction plays, though if he had we’d be talking about a first rounder.
Projection: Second round, maybe third. I think that’s about right. Van Noy has some skills, but where does he fit best? He was not an elite college rusher and, at 243 pounds, would have to gain weight to play outside in a 3-4.
1dJohn Keim and Adam Caplan