NFP Prospect Focus: Michael Bennett and Nate Orchard

You will always find out which positions have top value when free agency rolls around. The players who usually end up getting the most money are defensive linemen, pass rushers, and corners. Why? The really good ones are hard to find, so when there is a chance to get one in free agency, a club has to pay top dollar in order to sign him.

That said, come draft time, those same positions draw interest in the premium rounds. So much interest that some, like quarterbacks, can get over drafted. This year, the draft has some fairly good defensive linemen and pass rushers. Interestingly, many of the pass rushers are undersized guys who are better fits in a 3-4 than a 4-3 scheme. Two defensive linemen who should go fairly early in April are Ohio State’s Michael and Utah’s Nate Orchard.

Michael Bennett – Defensive Tackle – Ohio State

Bennett is a fourth-year senior and a two-year starter for Ohio State. He is an undersized 3-technique that is very active and disruptive in the run game and an excellent inside pass rusher. He doesn’t have great size and will measure in the 6020 – 290 area at the Combine. He does have top instincts and is very explosive.

Bennett is a good athlete with first step quickness, very good body control and change of direction. He gets off the ball very quickly and is consistently able to get penetration and disrupt the run game. While he may not make the tackle, his ability to disrupt has an effect on the play. He is strong at the point and is able to hold his ground. He reacts quickly and finds the ball. He is a solid tackler and seldom misses.

He will be one of the better inside pass rushers in this draft. His quickness off the ball consistently gives him an advantage. He flashes as a strong bull rusher, and he can use his hands and feet to be good with counter moves. He has a nice burst off of a block to close to the quarterback. His production is excellent as he has 14.5 sacks over the last two seasons playing inside.

Michael has some limitations, with size being his biggest. His best fit will be as a 3-technique in a one gap 4-3 scheme. He can be described as being a poor man’s Tommie Harris when Harris was at his best. While Michael can play in a 3-4, I don’t see him being as effective in that scheme. He can become a pro bowl tier player as a 3-technique.

Nate Orchard –DE/OLB – Utah

Going into the 2014 college football season, Orchard was not considered to be a player with premium round potential. He was a solid college player with average-to-good traits. That changed as the three-year starter had an outstanding senior season capped off with a good showing at the Senior Bowl. Orchard plays as a defensive end, but he is undersized. He measured 6032 – 251 at the Senior Bowl with good length. He doesn’t have a big frame and I doubt he will ever get past 260.

Nate has good overall athleticism. He stays on his feet, has good change of direction, has quick feet and is flexible. He has good play speed with a burst. I would estimate his play speed to be in the 4.70 range. The best thing Orchard does is rush the passer. In 2014, he had 18.5 sacks and finished his career with 25 sacks.

Orchard is explosive off the edge and has a variety of moves. He has the speed to rush wide and get under his opponent, or he can use counter moves and come back across his opponent's face. He shows really good hand use as a pass rusher and also has an explosive first step to gain advantage.

In the run game, Orchard is more average. He lacks size and bulk, and if he can’t defeat his opponent with his quickness, he can get tied up. He has good instincts and is able to find the ball, he just isn’t consistently making plays as a run defender. He is excellent as a pursuit player, taking good angles and has the speed to run people down. While Orchard usually plays down, he will also play from a 2-point stance. He will drop into coverage a couple times each game, but that isn’t his forte.

Orchard's best fit at the NFL level is as a 3-4 OLB. He would be best utilized as a rush linebacker. He will need some work with his pass drops and in playing some zone coverage, but he will be getting drafted to be used as a pass rusher. While I don’t see Nate going in the first round, it wouldn’t surprise me if he went there late. Top pass rushers are always high on value boards. I think that, in reality, he will go in the early part of the second round. While he still needs some development, he will get a lot of playtime as a rookie because of his pass rush skills.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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