It isn’t often that NFL teams line up for a shot at a Canadian player, but it happened recently in the case of Armond Armstead. There was a lot of interest in the pass rusher, and he visited the Eagles, Colts and Patriots before choosing New England.
He has an interesting story. He was once a promising player at Southern Cal, so promising that he considered going pro after his junior year. But he suffered a heart attack and both the NFL and Southern Cal lost interest in him. Armstead ended up in Canada, playing for the Toronto Argonauts.
There, he had six sacks and played on a Gray Cup winner. It was pretty hard for NFL scouts not to notice him. Two NFL front office men who studied Armstead said they thought the 22-year old would have been no worse than a third round pick if he were in the 2013 draft. A third said he thought Armstead would have been a third or fourth round pick.
“He has effort plus length,” one personnel executive said. “He flashed a lot. His hand use was good. I’m not sure he’s Cameron Wake, but he can be a solid NFL player.”
Said a general manager who looked at Armstead on tape: “He has length, and natural pass rush. He flashes power. He has to learn to play with pads down. He’s still raw. But he has things you can’t coach. At this point he’s more athletic than refined.”
Armstead measures at 6047, 289 pounds. He ran the 40 in 5.0. He has 33 ½ inch arms.
The general manager said he thought Armstead would compete for a starting job immediately at be no worse than a situational defensive player.
The question is what position will he play? The answer is he might play several, especially under the coaching of Bill Belichick. Given his dimensions, Armstead probably is best suited to be a five technique defensive end. But the personnel men I surveyed for this story also mentioned the following possibilities: three technique, nose tackle, and nickel rusher/outside linebacker in a 3-4.
“You have to imagine him to project him,” one of the front office men said. “He’s a talent. You get him now and worry about what position he plays later. He can be so versatile because he is quick off the snap. He’s a jack of all trades.”
All of which explains why Armstead was the first coveted free agent of the offseason. Said one of the personnel men, “It’s like getting a free player without spending a draft pick.”
Dan Pompei covers pro football for the Chicago Tribune @chicagotribune.com.