Yahoo Sports' top 2020 NFL draft prospects, No. 39: Alabama EDGE Terrell Lewis

Yahoo Sports
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports

39. Alabama EDGE Terrell Lewis

6-foot-5, 262 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.98 — starter potential

TL;DR scouting report: Uniquely built edge rusher with considerable injury history but fascinating upside.

The skinny: A 5-star Rivals recruit (and top 20 nationally), Lewis — who changed his last name from Hall in 2017 — de-committed from Ohio State and pledged to Bama. He played as a true freshman and had one sack in 11 games.

Lewis played in only four games in 2017 after suffering an elbow injury in the opener against Florida State, but returned for the stretch run. His first career start was the national title game against Georgia, where he made seven tackles and notched a crucial sack in the overtime victory.

In 2018, Lewis suffered a torn ACL prior to the season and missed the entire year. He returned for the 2019 campaign and made 31 tackles (11.5 for losses), six sacks, two passes defended and one fumble recovery. Lewis was named to the coaches’ second-team all-SEC squad.

Lewis, who turns 22 in June, skipped Alabama’s bowl game and turned pro. He attended the Senior Bowl and NFL scouting combine, participating in only the vertical and broad jumps there.

Upside: Unusual dimensions — long wingspan (an absurd 83 3/8 inches), long (and strong) legs, decent bulk and nicely sculpted physique. Has room to add more bulk if needed. Jumping-drill numbers display his outstanding lower-body explosion. Long strider who can move and pivot better than some 230-pound linebackers. 

Basketball-type athleticism and explosion that suit well in the NFL. Rangy with sudden-movement ability. Seems to put at least one freaky move on almost every tape. Able to bend very well for a longer rusher. Pad level typically isn’t an issue — gets low and uncoils well. Disruptive potential to close down passing windows with long arms and good instincts.

This interception against LSU wasn’t all that impressive from a playmaking standpoint, as teammate Xavier McKinney gets credit for the sack and tipped pass that went into Lewis’ hands. However, he shows some nice poise here — instead of bearing down on Burrow, Lewis knows he has man coverage behind him and could get burned by a scramble. He also appears to anticipate the Texas route LSU loved to throw to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, so credit Lewis for having his good anticipatory skills rewarded with a gift-wrapped pick:

Lewis shows some impressive instincts here, along with some quick reaction skills.
Lewis shows some impressive instincts here, along with some quick reaction skills.

Pass-rush arsenal taking shape — executes nice long-arm move and has some sharp counters off of that. Also flashes a nice counter spin off his speed rush. Rides blockers’ momentum against them and can work back to the quarterback well. Uses a nice jab step to get tackles to overset followed by an inside counter. Gets skinny and works through cracks as interior rusher.

Fascinating versatility — rushed from the edge and as a 3-technique, manned the nose on occasion, played stack linebacker and even dropped into hook zones (see LSU game). Even walked out and covered the slot on occasion. Can work as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense or fit as an end in a 4-3. Should contribute readily on special teams, especially as a kick blocker.

Strong effort — motor usually revved up. Tested weekly against SEC competition plus in practice the past few years vs. Alabama’s high-end OL talent, including multiple first-round picks. Arrow pointing way up if he can stay healthy. Might be the second- or third-best pass rusher in this class behind Chase Young.

Downside: Lengthy injury history — missed entire 2018 season (ACL) and all but four games  in 2017 (elbow) — must be considered. Practice reps needed to be managed on weekly basis. NFL teams typically grade prospects’ medical concerns from 1 to 5 (or A to F), with a 5 being a medical reject; Lewis likely will earn some 3s from teams. 

Could use some more bulk to handle trench duty more readily. Appeared to play closer to 250 pounds last season and might have trouble keeping on more weight consistently. Incomplete testing spectrum at combine. Uses length to press out blockers but might need to strengthen upper body for that to be effective vs. NFL tackles. Will get caught peeking into backfield and loosen up his approach.

Wasn’t great in coverage at the Senior Bowl — duties likely will have to be limited in that aspect in the NFL. Instincts not yet honed — still learning how to sniff out screens and QB run game. Missed tackles (see LSU game) can be an issue. Plays out of control and can get his feet tangled in a hurry to make a play. Still unsure of himself when playing in space. 

Watch here against LSU when QB Joe Burrow goes through his progression and then drops his eyes to scramble, Lewis (No. 24) is flat-footed and doesn’t react quickly enough, missing out on a free shot at the Heisman Trophy winner:

Lewis is still learning how to play on his feet.
Lewis is still learning how to play on his feet.

Limited tape to scout — only 26 career games and fewer than 700 career snaps. Best games last season came against Duke, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas; his least-impressive games tended to come against some of the better teams on Bama’s schedule.

Appeared to throw Alabama coaching staff under the bus at the combine, questioning the play-calling and communication. Questioned by NFL scouts for why he skipped Alabama’s bowl game but played at the Senior Bowl a few weeks later. No known major character concerns, but teams have vetted his maturity — suspended for one quarter in 2019 season opener.

Best-suited destination: In a thinner class of complete edge rushers, Lewis should be a desired commodity despite his injury concerns. Although there’s some big projection required with his evaluation, there’s still too much talent to ignore, and he theoretically can fit in just about any type of defensive system.

Among the teams that could be potentially interested in Lewis’ services include the Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills.

Did you know: Lewis told Yahoo Sports at the Senior Bowl that basketball was his second-best sport. “At one point, I thought it was my first,” Lewis said. “That was the sport I was mostly focused on at first, really until my junior year [of high school]. I wasn’t sure which route I’d go, but coaches kept telling me how good I could be in football. If I just focused on football, they said I could be great. It took me a while to see it, but then I did and they were right.”

They said it: “He looks like a heavyweight boxer. He’s got that reach, you know? Like Lennox Lewis or something. He’s different than the other rushers Nick [Saban] has had before. [Lewis] has some nice tools in his box. You wish he played more. I saw him twice this year, and he was pretty good both times. Not dominant, but you noticed him out there. I was trying to watch him and like 3-4 other guys, and he just found ways to stand out each time.” 

— NFC scouting director

Player comp: Montez Sweat is probably the closest recent comp, but Lewis might possess Aldon Smith/Chandler Jones upside if he can stay healthy and continue growing as a pass rusher.

Expected draft range: Late first to mid-second round.

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz | 40. S Kyle Dugger | 39. EDGE Terrell Lewis | 38. WR Laviska Shenault Jr. | 37. S Grant Delpit | 36. Jonathan Taylor | 35. WR Brandon Aiyuk | 34. EDGE Zack Baun | 33. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos | 32. CB Jeff Gladney | 31. QB Jordan Love | 30. CB Trevon Diggs | 29. EDGE A.J. Epenesa | 28. RB JK Dobbins | 27. WR Justin Jefferson | 26. WR Tee Higgins | 25. S Xavier McKinney | 24. WR Jalen Reagor | 23. CB Kristian Fulton | 22. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire | 21. WR Denzel Mims | 20. LB Kenneth Murray | 19. RB D’Andre Swift | 18. QB Justin Herbert | 17. LB Patrick Queen | 16. WR Henry Ruggs III | 15. EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson | 14. WR Jerry Jeudy | 13. OT Mekhi Becton | 12. DT Javon Kinlaw | 11. OT Andrew Thomas | 10. OT Tristan Wirfs | 9. WR CeeDee Lamb | 8. OT Jedrick Wills Jr. | 7. CB CJ Henderson | 6. LB-S Isaiah Simmons | 5. DT Derrick Brown | 4. QB Tua Tagovailoa | 3. CB Jeffrey Okudah | 2. QB Joe Burrow | 1. Chase Young

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