With the 2015 NFL draft fast approaching, it’s time for all 32 NFL teams to start getting their draft boards in order and ranking players based on their own preferences. At SI, it’s time for us to do that as well. To that end, Doug Farrar and Chris Burke have assembled their own definitive Big Board, consisting of the players they feel deserve to be selected in the first two rounds.
Our last player in double digits is Clemson's Vic Beasley, one of the best pure pass rushers in this draft class with the potential to be even better at the NFL level with a few technical additions. Beasley put up 25 sacks in two seasons as a full-time starter, and he could very well do the same in the pros.
Bio: In 2014, Clemson's defense was the best in the nation by the standard metrics of Football Outsiders, and Beasley was a major part of that equation. The former high school running back amassed 34 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. And Beasley was hardly a one-year wonder: He put up 13 sacks in 2013 and eight the year before in his first season as a major contributor. After setting the program record for career sacks, Beasley went to the scouting combine and proved that he had the whole package by running a 4.53 40-yard dash with a 1.59 10-yard split and 35 reps at the bench press, all at the top of the list for draft-eligible outside linebackers and defensive ends.
Beasley has been labeled a tweener throughout his college career, but he's aware of that, and he's ready to line up wherever his NFL team asks him to.
"Outside linebacker, D-end, I’m willing to play either one," he said at the combine. "Whatever the team I get picked by and whatever position they want me to play, I’m willing to move wherever they want me to move."
Beasley is also aware that he'll be asked to drop in coverage at the next level.
"Teams really just want to see me dropping in coverage," he said. "They haven’t seen me with my hand off the ground that much and obviously they want me to play the 3-4 outside linebacker position at the next level, so they want to see me drop.”
Beasley could be a sure-fire quarterback wrecker at the next level, but it will have to be in the right scheme that best shows off his base attributes.
Strengths: Beasley's most obvious attribute is his quickness off the snap. Whether in a three- or four-point stance or with his hand on the ground, he moves quickly and violently into the pocket with tremendous acceleration. Has an impressive bull-rush for his size—knows how to use leverage to push blockers back on their heels. Stacks and sheds decisively against the run and moves to tackle with form and authority. When he moves on the tackle's outside shoulder, especially as a pure outside linebacker in a 3-4 front, Beasley is very tough to stop once he gets past the tackle's first move. Has a second gear once he turns the corner and closes on the quarterback very well. Persistent player who will move through blocks to the edge of the field on plays that develop outside. Always looks to disrupt, even when it looks like he's out of the play.
Weaknesses: Like many of the pass-rushers in this draft class, Beasley lacks the full array of hand moves and counters that would aid his speed. As a result, he gets caught up in blocks unless he has an obvious free gap. Bull-rush is good, but not good enough against tackles who outweigh him by 60 to 80 pounds. Will move to the ball too upright and stiff on a high percentage of plays—needs to develop more of a dip-and-rip around the edge. Doesn't really have a consistent answer against double teams. Doesn't have heavy hands; Beasley will win with speed and leverage as opposed to pure power. Can be blocked to either side too easily; tackles will find it simple to set the edge against him. Will need to be in a 3-4 base front to bring out the most in his game.
Conclusion: In many ways, Beasley is a finished product with a great deal of potential, which makes his future so exciting. At Clemson, he played predominantly on the right side in a highly effective, multi-front defense that mirrors many schemes he'll see at the next level. That's the finished product part. The unfinished part has to do with his limited technique palette. It's very impressive that Beasley has been able to get this far and put up these kinds of stats without any sort of a signature move. When he learns to move blockers where he wants them to go with his hands and can fake them out with foot movement and inside counters, Beasley could become a very dangerous individual.