NFL Prospect Focus: Clemson Defense
Clemson has played some great football so far this season. They are 4-0 and the class of the ACC. One of the reasons they have played so well is they have a strong defense that is loaded with athletes. Their defense is on par with any in the SEC. There are three quality NFL prospects on this defense this year and all are underclassmen. They are defensive end/linebacker Vic Beasley, defensive end Corey Crawford, and linebacker Stephone Anthony. All are athletic and productive and should be premium draft choices whenever they decide to turn pro.
Vic Beasley – Defensive End/Linebacker
Beasley starts at right end. While he usually lines up with his hand in the dirt, he will play on his feet and drop into coverage at times. Beasley is a fourth year junior. He redshirted as a freshman and then played as a backup in 2011. He has been a quality starter in 2012 and this season.
Beasley is not big by DE standards. He is listed at 6’2 – 235, but I suspect he may be slightly lighter. He has a long narrow frame and I doubt he can get much bigger than 245. Still, he is very athletic with speed and quickness to go along with very good change of direction and body control. He is explosive off the ball, and despite his lack of top size, shows strength and power at the point of attack. He is quick to react and finds the ball. He has very quick hands and does a very good job keeping blockers off his body. While he is effective as a run defender, he is best as a pass rusher. In the past 17 games he has 14 sacks and numerous other pressures and hits. As a pass rusher he can get off the ball, has the body flexibility to get under his opponent on speed rushes and has the moves and change of direction to redirect with counter moves. He is also effective as a bull rusher because of his explosiveness. He shows excellent closing quickness. He is not as good a run defender as he is a pass rusher, but he is consistent, can hold the point, get off blocks, and get to the ball. As a pursuit player, he shows speed, takes good angles, and can chase plays down.
He is used in coverage some, but I have not seen enough to grade fairly. I can say he has a good drop, gets depth and can transition.
This is an interesting prospect. I see him as a 3-4 OLB at the next level. Because of his pass rush skill, he will carry a premium grade. Top pass rushers are too hard to find and Beasley shows he has a natural trait.
Stephone Anthony – Linebacker
Anthony is a third year junior and a two year starter. He played as a rotational player as a true freshman and started 3 games that year. Anthony has all the tools…..size, speed, strength and athleticism. He is listed as being 6’2 – 245 and he looks all of that. His play speed looks to be in the 4.65 – 4.68 range. He is very instinctive and is consistently around the ball. He can be a force against the run. He shows the skills to get off blocks and get to the play. He has strength at the point and can fill. While he is effective taking on blocks, he has the athleticism to elude blocks and make plays. He is used at times as a blitzer, showing quick hands, the ability to elude and close.
He is often used in coverage, showing a quick drop. He has fluidity in his hips to turn and the suddenness needed to play man coverage. He moves well in transition showing a quick plant and drive.
Linebackers have to tackle and Anthony is a very good tackler. He hits and wraps with good form. Overall Anthony is one of the few linebackers that can be effective in both a 4-3 and 3-4. He has the size and athletic traits to play Mike or Will in a 4-3 or he can play either ILB position in a 3-4. He has all the needed traits to be a good pro; size, speed, strength, and athleticism. If he decides to enter the draft he will be a high pick.
Corey Crawford – Defensive End
Crawford is another third year junior who may enter the draft. He also played in a rotation as a freshman and has been a starter since. He lines up at left defensive end. He has good size at about 6’5 – 270 to go along with good athletic ability, play speed and strength. He has a play speed of about 4.75. He has excellent balance and is seldom off his feet. Crawford is strong and explosive with very good initial quickness and stays low out of his stance. He has the power and hand use to control blockers and shed. He is able to get penetration on a consistent basis to disrupt the run, and with his key and diagnostic skills, is seldom out of position.
Crawford is a solid all-around player who plays the run and rushes the passer on an equal basis. While his sack numbers are not that great, he is a disruptive pass rusher. He gets off the ball, can collapse the pocket, and has a variety of moves. He gets pressures and hits but not the sack numbers you would expect from an athlete like this.
Overall, Crawford is a solid player and has the skill set needed to be productive at the NFL level. At this present time his best fit is at left end in a 4-3 scheme. He has the athletic ability to play OLB in a 3-4, and I’m sure he will be worked out at that position at the combine and his pro day. What I don’t see at this time is him playing as a 3-4 DE…he doesn’t have the bulk to play that position. Because he lacks good sack production he probably won’t be looked at in the first round, but I can see him being taken a round later. His athletic traits are too good to ignore.
Follow me on twitter @greggabe