With the 2010 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Before the 2011 scouting combine begins on February 24, we'll be taking a closer look at the 40 draft-eligible players who may be the biggest difference-makers when all is said and done.
We continue our series with Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan. In four seasons, Kerrigan totaled 210 tackles (134 solo), 32 solo sacks, and 50 solo tackles for loss. And he put up a freakish season in 2010 - 70 tackles (50 solo), 26 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, and a pass defensed. Kerrigan won the Big Ten Defensive Player and Defensive Lineman of the Year awards (both voted on by the coaches), and is highly regarded as a team leader with an impressive work ethic.
In the 2011 Senior Bowl, after losing 10 pounds to show off his potential as a pure pass-rusher, he logged a sack and made Arkansas tackle DeMarcus Love look like an eighth-grader. Clearly, this is a guy looking to finish off any questions about his NFL potential, and from what I've seen, I think he'll wow a lot of people in the scouting combine's specific drills.
Pros: Strikes with great quickness off the snap, even out of a three- or four-point stance - Kerrigan gets up and starts moving forward in a big hurry. Uses his low stance as leverage to explode up and forward. Can "dip-and-rip" very well; he gets low around the edge and uses his hands to separate from tackles as he's turning to establish a pass rush arc, and closes in with a fast re-direct. Fast in doing so to the degree that tackles who don't have a quick kick-step are going to be in big trouble against him. Changes offensive gameplans in that a blocking back is often required to take him out as he gets around the tackle.
Not a great splitter of double-teams, but can ride more than one player outside against the run. As fast as he plays, Kerrigan has a very good eye for misdirection - doesn't get fooled a lot on traps and counters. Blasts off the blocker well when crashing in at an angle. Really good leverage concept for his height (6-foot-4, 255 pounds); he'll get under pads easily and win some strength battles.
Cons: As quick as he is, I wonder if Kerrigan's pass-rush style will work right away in the NFL, especially as a lower weight. He has a decent bull-rush and impressive upper-body strength, but his game is built very much on edge speed, and a lot of tackles at the NFL level will be able to work that out. With a new transition to edge rusher/linebacker obviously in the cards (the weight loss sort of gives it away), he'll need to learn a lot about coverage unless his new defensive coordinator just wants him moving forward all the time. Loses his footing on stunts and loops at times because he's going at Tasmanian Devil speed.
Conclusion: In the right system - either paired with an elite defensive tackle who can split the blocking load or as a pure "endbacker" in a five-man or hybrid front - Kerrigan has the potential to dominate. He's proven that he has the determination to succeed, and he could confirm what people saw on tape and at the Senior Bowl with a strong combine performance. I expect him to excel there; he should tear up the drills with his pure speed, first-step burst, and ability to turn the corner.
More Shutdown 40
#40 -- Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State | #39 - Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee
| #38 - Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor | #37 - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas | #36 -- Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami | #35 -- Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor | #34 - Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State | #33 -- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State | #32 - Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida | #31 - Nate Solder, OT, Colorado | #30 - Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame | #29 - Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois | #28 - Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State | #27 - Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA | #26 - Brandon Harris, CB, Miami | #25 - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin | #24 -- Jake Locker, QB, Washington| #23 -- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado| #22 - J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin | #21 - Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois| #20 - Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State | #19 - Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland