Prospect: Zaire Patterson
Status: SI All-American Candidate
Vitals: 6-foot-6, 230 pounds
Position: Defensive End
School: Winston-Salem (N.C.) Preparatory Academy
Committed to: Clemson
Projected Position: Defensive End/Edge
Frame: Incredibly long with lean muscle definition throughout. Elite wingspan despite somewhat narrow build. Room to fill out in the upper and lower half.
Athleticism: Elite reaction time and explosive stride post-play diagnosis. Good top-end speed relative to size, covers ground in a hurry, even flashing as a tight end/red-zone option for his high school. Some lateral ability. Strong rebounder and defender as varsity basketball performer.
Instincts: Freakish first step and perhaps the best bend in the entire class of 2021 off the edge. Redirects very well to play down the line and factor into the zone-read game at prep level. Gritty against blockers despite raw, often high approach in close quarters. Wide tackle radius with some pop. Anticipates well off the line.
Polish: Speed to power off the line with great bound step and bend combination to put pressure on the passer. Dips without losing momentum or power, lowering pad level like a player much shorter than he. Comfortable with hand in the dirt and even more so as a stand-up rusher. Has several strong samples in pass coverage as well as playing passing lanes. Room to improve hand combat and disengaging skills.
Bottom Line: Patterson is among the most twitchy edge rushers in the class of 2021 with that rare blend of elite traits, yet room to grow, in projecting him at the collegiate level. He is too quick for bigger blockers to handle the frame to become a force in the power department down the line. Factor in strong awareness and effort and he projects as an instant-impact pass rusher at the highest level.