The Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Eastern Kentucky DE/OLB Noah Spence with the No. 39 pick in the 2016 NFL draft.
Spence was scrubbed out of Ohio State for off-field issues, but cleaned himself up, did a year at Eastern Kentucky, and comes into this draft as one of the most intriguing prospects. If he keeps everything together, he could be a DeMarcus Ware-level difference-maker over time.
Strengths: Long-legged player who stays low in his stance and uses his body to create impressive leverage. Snaps to the point of attack out of two- and three-point stances. Has a rare ability to get up to full speed from his first step. Will run right around tackles if they don’t turn to start their arc right off the snap. Bends the edge with footwork more than a natural dip-and-rip, but it’s very effective in his case. Hits his first inside angle move with true suddenness—it’s tough for blockers to catch up. Moves to the quarterback at a consistent inside angle, reducing pocket room and forcing edge blockers to pinch inside. Once he gets to the tackle’s inside shoulder, Spence has a natural ability to turn inside, beat the block and close to the quarterback very quickly. Eagerly gets his hands up to deflect passes if he doesn’t get to the quarterback—a big asset against quick passing games.
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Doesn’t possess an inside counter, but will use foot fakes to juke tackles into taking the wrong side and letting him by. Can leverage his way inside with speed and power. Very persistent pass-rusher who will work through multiple blockers and double-teams. Played in a four-man front, but his speed rush out of a wide-nine set will have 3–4 and hybrid teams easily projecting him as an outside linebacker. Upper-body strength allows him to use a raw swim move to push forward, and he’s able to stand up to blockers who outweigh him by 50 pounds. Can play strongside and weakside end effectively—isn’t tied to a pure pass-rushing role. As a run defender, will move laterally and sift through trash, and he has true potential as a sideline-to-sideline chaser. Spence has the adjustment skills to re-direct quickly to the ballcarrier after starting upfield on the pass rush.
Weaknesses: Spence’s game is mostly about speed and power at this point as opposed to technique, and that may leave him open to being eaten up in the NFL for a while. Taller, wider tackles can rag-doll him too easily at times. He desperately needs a credible inside counter to make the most of his get-off at the snap—when he’s boxed out of the arc, he tends to stay there. Has the strength to use rip and swim moves very well, and has the agility to work a spin move into his repertoire, but he’s not there yet. Plays frantically at times, allowing opponents to use his momentum against him. May be too stiff in the hips to create a real bend around the edge. Can drop into coverage, but it’s not a strength at this point. Play strength can be hit-and-miss against tackles with better feet who can mirror him around the pocket—arm length (33 inches) leaves him at a disadvantage, and has him letting blockers into his body too often.