Positives: Impressive size, strength and hand usage. Stands up well against the run, and moves well for a man of his size. He should have no problem controlling two gaps as a 3-4 DE at the next level if that is the scheme he is drafted into. He gets off the ball pretty well and has a good bull rush to collapse the pocket. He has an impressive motor for a defensive lineman, especially a guy of his size, and will chase plays down from the back-side. He seems to have good instincts and reads plays well in the trenches. He spins off blocks versus the run as well as anyone I’ve seen in recent years and I have seen him take an inside move, read the running back as he tries to cut back to a seam in the defense, spin off the block and wrap up the running back for almost no yardage many times. He has strong hands and can dominate one on one blocks thanks to his size and strength. He draws double teams for this reason, and he definitely has the bulk and strength to hold up against them in the NFL. He is also a good tackler and he wraps up well for a man of his size.
Negatives: He isn’t much of a pass rusher as his only move is really the bull rush or occasionally a swim move. He struggles to shed blocks at times which is surprising for a man of his size and strength, but he will stay blocked too long in the pass game and also in the run game at times. He doesn’t really have any secondary pass rush moves outside of spinning off of a block as the quarterback steps up in the pocket. He will also play too high at times versus the run which limits his ability to shed blocks and also explains why he can be pushed off the line by a quality run blocker or by a double team at times. He isn’t very comfortable in space and while he will pursue from the back-side he doesn’t break down very well and is stiff when pursuing the quarterback as a pass rusher if he has to try to close on him, though he does have a solid burst to close.
Overall: I really like Heyward as a prospect. He really doesn’t get a lot of publicity but that is probably because he doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher. He won’t ever be a dynamic pass rusher in my opinion, but if his hand usage develops (which it really should, especially since he has shown flashes of it) he could offer more from a pass rushing standpoint than a simple bull rush. Seeing him work a swim/rip move into his pass rushing would be nice, and considering how well he spins off blocks versus the run it might be nice to see him work a spin move in as a pass rusher as well. He isn’t a quick twitch athlete so it might not work, but it might help keep tackles off balance. Regardless, if his hand usage improves I think he can be a dominant defensive lineman in the NFL. Already he should be a quality defensive lineman once he gets on the field because of his raw size and strength, but refining his technique would help a lot. Watching Heyward play with good leverage and then shedding a block is awfully impressive because he just can’t be blocked with one guy, hence why he drew some consistent double teams this year. I think he could end up being one of the best 3-4 DE’s in the NFL once he gets coached up a bit, and while that might not mean a lot of sack numbers I do think he will be a very good run defender in the NFL who can really help make his team a lot better. Watching Ohio State’s defense against Arkansas was really eye opening because it shed some light on just how significant his impact was on that defense. When he was in he was constantly disruptive and dominated anyone who tried to block him one on one, but because of his arm injury he would occasionally have to come out of the game, and when he was out the defense had no disruption and Arkansas seemed to move the ball at will. Then he came back in and immediately disrupted the flow of the offense. It was really something to behold, and it was the nail in the coffin for me being really high on him as a NFL Draft prospect.
Projection: Top 20. I really think he has a shot of going to the Patriots #17 overall because they have never been afraid to draft a player they think will be great even if it seems early to others. I’ve had him there in all of my mocks thus far and that probably won’t change. But if he does get past the Patriots and the Chargers at #18 then I could see him sliding towards the end of the 1st round. That boggles my mind though, because I think he will end up being the best 3-4 DE in this draft class when it is all said and done, but he may not get drafted until the end of round one.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Pass Rush: 2.0
Point of Attack: 3.5