Name: DE Cameron Heyward
School: Ohio State
Size: 6'5, 295 lbs
Expected Round: 1st
40 Time: 4.95s
Career Stats: Click Here.
Strengths: Elite frame for a 3-4 DE and is near the optimal size. Able to push through interior linemen to get into the backfield and pressure the quarterback. Able to spin out of contain to tackle the ball carrier. Extremely capable and aware of his gaps and won't risk getting out of place. Solid tackler who will chase players down the field. Great work ethic who wants to win. Holds the point of attack against double teams and can disengage to grab the ball carrier. Raises his production against top talent. Four year player and team captain. Enough of an athlete where I actually saw him drop into coverage.
Weaknesses: Will have to add 15-20 pounds to his frame over time to become a stouter run defender in the two gap defense. Not a real speed threat around the edge, but will have to improve his pass rushing tool set to reach the quarterback. Needs to increase his awareness of counter moves by the offensive linemen because he can get taken out of the play, especially on cut back plays by running backs. Inconsistent.
Why and Why Not the Patriots after the jump, and my final verdict!
Why the Patriots?: Heyward is a fan favorite to be "the next Richard Seymour" at defensive end. He has a great frame and he's a committed player so adding quality weight shouldn't be an issue. Once he adds the pounds, he can do everything needed in a Patriots DE- watch two gaps, hold the point of attack, pressure the quarterback when single blocked, and pick up a few sacks over the course of the season. He also presents great value at the bottom of the first round.
Why Not the Patriots?: There has to be questions about his performance this season compared to his junior season and why his production stalled. I would have liked to see an improvement over his junior year numbers, but he stayed fairly stable, which makes me wonder where his upside is- and if he can put everything together. Another reason would be his draft competition- how does Muhammad Wilkerson compare to Heyward? Does Wilkerson seem more NFL ready, with more upside? If so, and if there are other prospects, I can see Heyward getting passed over.
Verdict: Heyward is another player who I like more every time I watch his tape. His "lack of production" is because he's doing what a good 3-4 two gap DE does- he lets others make the plays. If he can do it, he'll make the play himself, but he draws players out of the way to open lanes for other pass rushers. I think he could succeed with the Patriots and it's honestly a toss-up with Wilkerson. I'd be extremely happy with either.