Who The Hell Will They Draft? South Carolina DE/LB, Eric Norwood

Freshman All-American followed by 3 straight 1st team, all-SEC selections, 31 career sacks with an additional 34 QB hurries, 55 tackles for loss, he even blocked 3 kicks in his career...and he might not even be a top 75 pick. The problem is finding a position for him. Like current Colt Phil Wheeler, Norwood began his career at defensive end. While Wheeler saw little action at that spot, Norwood had 13 sacks in two years at defensive end (one as a starter, one as a reserve) before moving to OLB where he continued to terrorize passers. Measuring 6'1" 245lbs at the combine he's smaller than NFL teams like their defensive ends, but he does not have well developed coverage skills. His pass rushing skills will be in high demand, but needing to find a place in the scheme that suits his size and hides his coverage flaws will give teams a lot of pause.

Wheeler was taken by Indy despite a weakness in coverage so a future at SAM in Indy isn't impossible, but the best fit for Norwood would seem to be as an understudy to Robert Mathis, who is comparable in size now and came into the league even smaller than Norwood.

Mocking the Draft

He does not have great awareness in zones but isn’t awful, and probably need more practice and film time, as his awareness as an edge rusher and run defender are good. Norwood possesses average qualities going backwards as a LB, but he demonstrates good diagnostic skills reading action in front of him. He uses a tremendous rip move and bends off the edge well.  Norwood also shows great hand use while moving, synching his hands and feet well.  Norwood has good speed and immediately closes into the blocker’s body, and then overpowers the blocker who can’t extend his arms.  This makes him almost impossible to single block at the college level. He shows a good burst off the ball, but it’s not elite.  Norwood makes up for this by being relentless and in great condition.  He goes the same speed all game, and simply wears down opponents.  It’s really noticeable later in game when he seems to be moving a step fast than everyone else on the field.

NFL Draft Scout

Lacks the bulk to stack and shed as a defensive end, but flashes an explosive pop and good lateral agility to disengage as a linebacker. Slow, choppy backpedal. Marginal straight-line speed and change-of-direction agility to remain with tight ends and running backs in coverage. Lacks the straight-line speed and fluidity for coverage but shows good instincts and has a knack for being at the right place at the right time. Effective pass rusher either standing up or with his hand on the ground. Thick build with solid overall musculature. Good burst off the line of scrimmage at the snap. Can pressure the tackle's outside shoulder and consistently threaten the pocket off the edge. Natural leverage advantage and good strength to get under the pads of the offensive tackle for an effective bull rush. High-effort defender and leader on and off the field. Voted team captain for the 2009 season. Earned his degree in criminal justice in 3 1/2 years despite not gaining admittance to South Carolina on his first three attempts. Is the first from his family to graduate.

NFL.com

He’s a tough, competitive player who was highly productive in college. Doesn’t have any durability questions. Is an efficient tackler who can really break down in space and wrap up. Solid athlete and effective blitzer who displays good hand use and has a great motor in pursuit.

For a player who loves to rush the passer, Norwood lacks ideal height. He can take inconsistent angles and needs to improve defending the run on the edge. Plays undisciplined at times within the defensive scheme.

Norwood definitely has the tools to contribute to a NFL defense, but the big question is where? He's an elite pass rusher and played the run well as a linebacker, but such raw coverage skills really limit how he could be used. Norwood could be taken by Indy to try to teach him enough cover skills to play SAM (a-la Wheeler), but a move back to DE could suit him well. Without adding any weight from the combine he'd be slightly bulkier than Robert Mathis, but still severely undersized. Norwood is projected from the mid 2nd all the way down to the 5th round. At pick #95 he'd worth a pick even if they aren't sure where to play him yet. If they are sold on him as a DE or SAM he could be the 2nd rounder.

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