In what’s considered one of the deepest defensive tackle groups to come along in years, it’s easy to overlook some of the mid-level prospects who have the potential to develop into quality NFL starters at the next level. That’s exactly the case with LSU defensive lineman Al Woods, who was a one-year starter for the Tigers after playing behind current NFL linemen Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Ricky Jean-Francois and Marlon Favorite. However, after becoming a starter in 2009 and shedding nearly 15 pounds to improve his stamina and quickness inside, Woods has become one of the more intriguing defensive lineman prospects in this year’s draft.
When evaluating Woods throughout the season, it was obvious he wasn’t a guy who, at 6-4, 309 pounds, had the burst to consistently fire off the ball and create behind the line of scrimmage. What made him effective inside was his overall lower body strength and ability to anchor at the point of attack. He wasn’t asked to make many plays on the ball last season, which is apparent from his 12 solo tackles, 4½ tackles for loss and one sack, but instead he was considered more of a “garbage man” on the LSU defensive line, doing the dirty work and making life a lot cleaner and easier for his teammates around him.
After the season, I slapped a 6.2 grade on him, which reads:
“…has one deficient area of his physical attributes that he can NEVER overcome, but has been productive and has the potential to be a starter in the NFL in spite of his shortcomings…”
I projected him as a dependable two-down run stuffer for either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense.
However, after seeing the results of his combine and pro day performances, which included a sub-5.0 40 time and an amazing 37-inch vertical jump, I will admit the guy is a better athlete than I gave him credit for. He only recorded 23 reps on the bench at his pro day, but a 309-pound athlete jumping 37 inches is absolutely astounding. Is it any wonder where Woods’ power comes from to be able to hold up so well at the point of attack in the run game?
Where do you play a guy like Woods?
Well, I think he would be a great fit as a two-down nose in a 4-3 defense. However, his true value might be as a versatile 3-4 defensive lineman who has the power and athleticism to hold up on the outside and stack blocks as a five-technique, as well as the base strength and girth to possibly play inside at nose.
He really is a jack-of-all-trades type of lineman who has the versatility to be on just about every NFL team’s draft board. Is he a guy who will ever be a consistent playmaker at the next level? No. But he’s a prospect who has the ability to win at the point in the run game, develop into a selfless contributing starter and could end up being taken a lot higher than expected on draft day. He looks like an ideal fit for New England, Kansas City or the New York Jets.
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