Scouting Michigan’s Chris Wormley: Where should the defensive end play in the NFL?

By Chris Burke
March 23, 2017

What you need to know: Wormley was the state of Ohio’s co-Defensive Player of the Year as a high school senior in 2011, the same season that Mitch Trubisky was Ohio’s Co-Offensive Player of the Year. (Ex-Missouri and Eastern Kentucky QB Maty Mauk was named Mr. Ohio, as the state’s top player.) Wormley was expected to contribute early at Michigan, but he tore his ACL prior to his freshman year and wound up taking a redshirt. He eventually made his way back, starting 30 games total from 2014–16. Wormley finished the 2015 campaign with 14.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, then added another 7.5 and 5.5, respectively, as a senior. Of his 5.5 sacks last season, Wormley had at least one each against Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State.

Strengths: Step one in assessing Wormley’s potential NFL value is to stop thinking of him as a "defensive end," at least so far as that designation brings to mind players like Myles Garrett or Wormley’s former teammate, Taco Charlton—quick-twitch athletes that fly around the edge to pressure the QB.

Wormley (6' 5", 298 pounds) played the vast majority of his Michigan snaps at defensive end and he could land there in the NFL. But he does more damage between the tackles than he does encircling the pocket. He is a DE-DT hybrid, with an emphasis on the DT skill set.

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Wormley wreaked havoc most often for the Wolverines when he had a clear shot at a guard or center. When Michigan slanted him inside, he frequently rocked interior O-linemen back on their heels and collapsed them into the pocket. On the occasions when he lined up as a 1- or 3-tech, his quickness/power combination allowed him to occupy multiple blockers ... or to split them to make a play.

“I’ve heard a lot of different things—4–3 defenses can see me as an end or a 3-tech tackle, and 3–4 defenses see me as a left end,” Wormley said at the combine, “so there’s a lot of versatility I think within myself, and that’s what a lot of teams see as well.”

At minimum, in part because of his bulked-up frame, Wormley could help any defense set an edge vs. the run. He rarely gets driven back off the line at the snap, and he keeps his hands up and active in an effort to lose blockers.

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Weaknesses: He is not, and likely never will be, an elite pass rusher in the traditional sense. Wormley can turn the corner and get after QBs—he dropped Penn State’s Trace McSorley for a sack bending the edge from McSorley’s blindside, for instance. However, he’s not a DE that’s going to blow by tackles on a consistent basis.

Because of that, among the most important points of his development will be building out his repertoire. Wormley is a speed-to-power dynamo at the moment, but his successful counter-moves are lacking if he’s stood up. How well he shows he can penetrate at the NFL level from an interior alignment will dictate whether he is a productive, versatile three-down defender or a physical run-stuffer who comes off the field in sub packages.

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