2015 NFL Draft Preview: DE Nate Orchard

The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series rolls on! Over the course of the 10 weeks leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top NFL prospects at each position. This eighth week, the focus is on defensive ends. Because many college defensive ends transition to linebacker in the NFL, we would like to clarify that all players being analyzed this week played defensive end in college. Today's prospect is Nate Orchard out of Utah.

College Career

Nate Orchard exploded onto the scene in a big way last year. He had moderate success in the years prior putting up 9.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks his sophomore season and 9.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks his junior season, but last season he finished second in the FBS with 18.5 sacks, first on his team with 21.0 tackles for loss, and second on his team in total tackles with 84.0. He earned First Team All-American and All-Pac 12 honors as well as the Ted Hendricks and Morris awards for stellar defensive end play. He got into the backfield a lot and made his opponents pay the price.

Pros

Orchard is a talented pass rusher. He doesn't have the size or the athleticism to physically beat up or dominate his opponent, but he is very skilled in the art of getting to the quarterback. His best pass rushing move is when he gets inside on the opposing tackle. Orchard gets to the quarterback other ways by using precision moves that can defeat more physically gifted opponents. His massive successes in college shows that he has not only been able to do this, but excel at it. Orchard is also a very solid tackler. He wraps up and does not let ball carriers get away once he gets there. And lastly, maybe the best thing about Orchard is his motor. He never gives up on a play. Watch game tape and you'll be impressed how he never gives up pursuit. He'll need that at the next level.

Cons

As I alluded to in the 'Pros' section, Nate Orchard does lack some physical tools that you would like to see out of your pass rusher. He's a bit undersized, listed at about 6'3", 250 lbs., and has a lean body type. Although this helps him perform precise moves and get by less athletic offensive linemen, it could be a problem at the next level where the linemen he encounters will have both size and athleticism. He has trouble getting a good strong push off of the snap. Another issue is his run defense. We haven't really talked about it at all, and the reason is because it's not that good. He has trouble shedding blocks and setting the edge on run plays. He won't be able to contribute much in this area and may be limited to pass rushing situations early on in his career.

Grade

Orchard is an interesting guy for me to grade. He's got a lot of the intangible stuff you look for with his maturity, effort, and mental toughness. However he lacks some physical skill. Personally, I'm a guy that has seen enough of these "intangibles" guys fizzle out at the next level due to just being "out-physicalled" by the players of the NFL. However, it would be stupid to discount the production that he has had and his high level of skill. Orchard is thought to be roughly the 7th best DE prospect in the draft. This seems about right. He has a lot of talent and could be a very productive player in this the league, but he also has the potential to bust. Tough call for teams on draft day.

Best Fit

I think they best fit for Orchard is a team that has an okay pass rush already and is looking for a guy to add to their rotation. He will probably maximize his potential in this role. It would also help for him to go to a team with a solid secondary. Because of his effort, I could see Orchard receiving the benefit of a lot of coverage sack if this were t occur. He belongs in a 4-3 defense, perhaps a wide nine like Trent Cole in the Philadelphia Eagles in season past. Nate Orchard will most likely go in the mid to late second round. A good fit for him could be a team like the Cincinnati Bengals or Philadelphia Eagles that could use some help at pass rusher.


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