Many believe that an NFL team’s top assets are its quarterback, its offensive tackles, and its pass rushers. As a result, the “EDGE” position - which includes 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers - has become a heavily analyzed and scrutinized group in the annual draft process. The 2023 NFL Draft class features a list of intriguing talents at the EDGE position. Beyond Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr., arguably the top player in the prospective 2023 NFL Draft class, the 2023 EDGE group includes several athletes with rare athleticism. Auburn’s Derick Hall is one such defender, a pass rusher with stellar upside.
Born March 19th in Gulfport, Mississippi to parents Stacy Gooden-Crandle and Cedric Crandle, Hall was a well-rounded student and athlete at Gulfport High School. He was a member of the honor roll, the French Club, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Construction Club. Moreover, Hall started for the school’s basketball team and was a state finalist in the 200-meter event in track. As a junior at Gulfport, the athletic defender put up 80 tackles in 10 games. As a senior, Hall recorded 83 tackles on his way to Sun-Herald All-South Mississippi First Team honors and the Under Armour All-American Game. He has one sister, R’hana. Hall enjoys fishing and hunting in his spare time.
An exciting and talented high school athlete, Hall was a highly sought-after recruit. 247Sports Composite Rankings named him a four-star player, the 148th-best recruit in his class, the eighth-ranked weak side defensive end that year, and the ninth-overall senior from the state of Mississippi in 2019. Hall chose Auburn over notable programs like Florida, Florida State, Ole Miss, LSU, South Carolina, and Tennessee. He enrolled early in Auburn’s College of Business.
Some collegiate athletes make an immediate, noted impact; others flash for years before what, in hindsight, felt like an inevitable breakout. Hall played in just seven games as a freshman while recording 13 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. As a sophomore in a COVID-affected season, he played in eight games. Though he was not the team’s top prospect, he was hard to miss on film thanks to his stellar athletic profile. That year, he put up 21 tackles, four tackles for loss, four sacks, and one forced fumble. He was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his performances against LSU (four tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble) and Mississippi State (three tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks). He was selected to the Preseason All-SEC Third Team by SEC media before his junior year. In 2021, Hall stepped into a prominent role and established himself as one of the top pass rushers in the nation. In 13 games, the exciting defender recorded 52 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks, and two forced fumbles. He was named captain in the games against Georgia and Houston. Hall ended his 2021 campaign as the Great Southern Wood team lineman of the year and a member of the SEC Coaches All-SEC Second Team.
After his promising 2020 year and a breakout 2021 season, Hall is seemingly a top prospect at his position entering the 2022 college football season. The Tigers’ standout boasts excellent size and length for the position at 6025 and 255 pounds with 3468 arms.
Arguably the traits that most helped Hall flash early in his career and find consistent success as a junior were his rare movement and flexibility at his size. The Auburn star is an explosive athlete both linearly and laterally. He has above-average speed to chase down runs and screens. Further, he changes direction cleanly. Hall’s bend is unique for his 255-pound frame.
A testament to his excellent athleticism, Auburn’s 2021 breakout defender has experience dropping into coverage and even playing off-ball. He regularly works to the flats and shows respectable awareness and instincts in shallow zones. At the next level, Hall may be seen as a versatile athlete who can develop into a contributor in all phases of the game. He can play on special teams early in his career.
Above all else, Hall offers special potential as a pass rusher. The athletic defender has the tools to keep offensive linemen guessing by threatening all three tracks with speed and power. Hall has the flexibility to win leverage consistently and should do so with further development. He penetrates and shoots gaps well thanks to his impressive burst. Moreover, he has the change of direction ability to take advantage of a lineman’s overset. He can succeed with leg drive and angles while engaged, working his way into half-man and churning his lower body to finish. Hall has the suddenness to win with counters.
Some players possess athletic traits that give them a reasonably-high chance of making plays in the NFL without much technical refinement. Hall’s burst and bend are such tools. He employs dangerous dip-rip, chop to dip-rip, and ghost moves. He gets below blockers’ reaches with ease and can finish with powerful bend and a rip to finish. When rushing with speed, Hall’s hands and overall technique are ostensibly better than they are in his power rush - perhaps partly due to his exceptional talent in that approach.
As his size indicates, Hall has a solid power profile upon which he can capitalize in the league. When his hands are accurate and he plays with proper leverage, the Auburn standout’s strength is a notable trait. He displays an effective speed-to-power move that puts offensive tackles off balance. What’s more, his length enables him to manage distance against blockers. He flashes an effective long-arm bull rush. Hall attacks the inside shoulder with length and power at times. He has the upper body strength to, with technical play, bench press and shed. He can drive through full-man engagement when he wins pad level.
Though pass rushing is the EDGE position’s flashiest task, run defense is crucial to a prospect's eventual success in the league. Hall flashes patience and discipline, deliberately reading the mesh point while avoiding biting or overcommitting early. He can stack, set the edge, bench press, window, and anchor when he plays with leverage. Likewise, Hall mirrors through engagement when he initiates with proper technique. He has the athleticism to chase runs down from the backside. Hall’s ability to penetrate allows him to disrupt runs quickly. He explodes to the tackle point and is reliable once there.
For his many strengths, Hall’s projection to the NFL is an unclear one. His fairly coverage-heavy usage at Auburn took from him chances to play at what will be his position in the league - on-ball 3-4 outside linebacker specializing in pass rush. That said, he should not be trusted in coverage consistently at the next level. Additionally, Hall is out of place anywhere inside of a five-tech spot on the defensive line. He is an incredibly raw prospect whose improper technique will allow NFL athletes to beat him more often than not early in his career.
In some cases, stellar athletic tools can ostensibly serve as a negative influence on a player’s development. Hall may have fallen victim to this phenomenon, as he has proven capable of winning despite his underdeveloped technique. His hands are far too inactive. He rarely employs counters and struggles to break his opponents’ grips. He gives up his chest far too often with a high pad level and improper hand usage. Hall sometimes leads with his shoulder, further opening up his frame.
Unrefined play can limit a player’s athletic traits. Hall, for example, loses functional power due to his poor technique. He is stifled too easily once blockers latch on. Against linemen, Hall is regularly thrown around and locked up. He even struggles against some tight ends.
A raw-but-promising pass rusher, Hall must play with more intent and care to find consistent success in the league. The Auburn product lacks a pass rush plan, opting instead to over-commit to a single move each snap. He does not employ salesmanship in his rushes. NFL offensive linemen will capitalize on his one-track style early in his career.
Perhaps the greatest detriment to Hall’s draft profile is his inability to understand and capitalize on his best traits. The Tigers’ star uses his power rush too often when his strength should be a complementary option to his speed; he, thus, renders himself predictable and blockable. He limits his functional power by playing with a high pad level and, therefore, reducing impact. He does not always finish power rush attempts because of his sometimes non-existent hand usage.
In run defense, Hall’s excellent athletic traits and flashes of patience are overshadowed by generally inconsistent play. His unrefined technique causes an unreliable anchor. Additionally, he sometimes focuses too much on beating the run blocker in front of him; in doing so, he sacrifices position and loses track of the ball carrier. Hall misreads the mesh point at times and fails to shed blocks consistently. Hall’s effort in run defense is underwhelming.
Like so many other areas of his game, Hall’s tackling is a mix of promising flashes, intriguing athleticism, and incomplete technique. The Auburn defender does not break down in space and whiffs far too often. He misses sacks in a similar fashion. He does not exhibit notable stopping power at the tackle point. He cannot shed blocks to reliably tackle in the hole.
Entering what may be his final season at the college level, Derick Hall has worked himself into the conversation as one of the top EDGE prospects in the prospective 2023 NFL Draft class. As a senior, he would be best served playing a more consistent on-ball role. In so doing, he would gain snaps and valuable experience at his future NFL position both in run defense and as a pass rusher. What’s more, Hall must play with a more clearly-formed pass rush plan. He currently employs very little strategy in his approach to the point of engagement. Hall should also work towards a style that features his speed, as his power is best served as a complementary trait. To perform at a high level in the league, the talented defender needs to improve his hand placement, hand timing, and pad level. That said, Hall is a borderline-elite athlete with high-level burst and bend and a respectable power rush profile. His film in 2021 was that of a late day-two player as a result of his enormous upside. Derick Hall has the potential to find his way into the first round in April.