NFP Prospect Focus: Max Valles – Virginia

In 2014, the University of Virginia had, in all probability, the best pair of outside linebackers/defensive ends in the country. In Eli Harold and Max Valles, Virginia had two tall, long, and athletic players who could set the edge and consistently put outside pressure on the quarterback. Both players were underclassmen, and both have entered the 2015 NFL Draft. Yesterday, I profiled Harold, today we will talk about Valles. Max Valles - OLB/DE - Virginia Max Valles is a true sophomore at Virginia. He was draft eligible as he attended Fork Union Military Academy for a year following high school. He enrolled at Virginia in 2013. As a freshman, he did not see game action in either of the first two games but began playing as a reserve beginning with their third game. By season's end, he played in 12 games and had four starts. He finished the 2013 season with 23 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. In 2014, he started all 12 games for Virginia and upped his production to 55 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 9.0 sacks, one interception, and three forced fumbles. Looking at Valles physically, he is tall with good length and has the frame to carry more weight. At the combine, he measured 6050 - 251. While he showed good explosion with his jumps (36" vertical jump, 10'1"  long jump), he was slower than expected. His best forty was only 4.87, and his 20 yard shuttle and 3-cone drill were 4.31 and 7.51 respectively. While those are adequate times, you would hope for better. In the Virginia defensive scheme, Valles almost always plays on the left side and plays, mostly, from a 2-point stance. He shows good instincts and reactions and is consistently quick to find the football. He is tough, aggressive, and plays with a good, competitive nature. With playing on his feet a majority of the time, he has a tendency to get tall. This can hurt him when taking on and shedding blocks. While he plays with good strength, his hand speed is adequate, and there are times he doesn't get off a block quickly enough. Still, he plays the run well, does a good job playing contain, and more often than not keeps plays inside. He shows he can get penetration and be disruptive versus the run. He has a good burst, and when he gets an opportunity to shoot a gap, he can get the tackle for a loss. As a pursuit player, he takes good angles, shows hustle, but doesn't have the flat out speed to consistently catch plays from behind. Valles has the most value as a pass rusher. He has the body flexibility to get under his opponent and turn the corner. He also has the snap in his hips to generate a good bull rush. He also does a good job using counter moves. When he isn't able to get a pressure, he does a good job getting his hands up and has a number of passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage. Max is used regularly in coverage and has a decent drop. He can get depth and shows awareness in zone. I don't see the responsiveness needed to be consistent with man-to-man coverage. When I first looked at Valles, I thought he was a good fit to be a strong side linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Unless he runs better at his pro day, he may be better off adding some bulk and being a 4-3 defensive end. If he can get to 260 - 265, that may be his best position. I would like to see him get his time down to under 4.8. If he is able to do that, he has scheme flexibility. Based solely on tape, he could easily be drafted as high as the third round, but unless he runs better, it will more likely be the fourth. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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