With the Colts moving to a 3-4 Defense sometime in the near future, they'll slowly need to start putting together the right pieces to run it successfully. One such guy, who may need a few years to develop, is Oklahoma DE Ronnell Lewis. Even though Lewis played 4-3 End for the Sooners, he's a 3-4 Outside Linebacker, and made that perfectly clear at the Combine when he was asked about it. His body type agrees that he's a 3-4 OLB as well.
Lewis is an early-entry Junior who had 118 tackles in 34 career games at Oklahoma, as he played in all 12 games as a Freshman. Not exactly easy to do at a place like Oklahoma. Last season was easily his most productive season, collecting 59 tackles, 13 for loss, and 5.5 sacks in just 10 games. He did suffer a knee injury late in 2011, but he's back at 100%, as he competed fully at the Combine. As far as dropping into pass coverage, he did have two career interceptions, one he returned for a TD in 2010 against Robert Griffin III and Baylor, and had nine pass break-ups in his three years. All around, pretty solid numbers.
Why exactly did Lewis leave early? Look no further than why he didn't play in either of the Sooners' final two games: academic reasons. He was suspended from their game against rival Oklahoma State for missing too many classes, and from the Insight Bowl against Iowa due to academic reasons, most likely because he didn't attend classes. My immediate thought is that he knew he'd be turning pro this season, so he just stopped going to class because it didn't matter to him any more. Clearly I can only make assumptions as to what happened, so I won't make excuses or go hard on the kid, as I don't know the circumstances.
After the jump we have what some draft sites have to say about Lewis, as well as all his measurements from the Combine, audio from his media session, and my thoughts on him.
Possesses an impressive physical/athletic skill set, a "plus" motor and a real passion for the game. I don't think he's ever going to be a top end pass rusher in the NFL. However, as a 6-8 sack guy long term who can help out on special teams and give you all he has play in and play out.
Shows flashes of speed, burst and athletic ability that cannot be taught and has upside as a pass rusher. However, overall game is still raw, incomplete and lacks consistency. Has yet to adopt a professional approach to become successful at the next level.
He played the defensive end position his last two years at Oklahoma after coming in as a linebacker, and his frame bodes well for a move. He was a productive player for the Sooners who could even make the extreme jump from end to outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, considering that rushing the passer is not a key asset in his arsenal.
Combine Media Session (4:03)
Much like Mohamed Sanu, I think Lewis could end up being a really good player in a few years, which is why he's being talked about in the second round. However, I think the position need isn't great enough for pick #34, and he's going to get taken before the Colts choose again at pick #65. It's unfortunate, as I think he could grow into a really good OLB with the coaches on staff. Just don't think the need and value match-up well.
For a complete list of prospects and profiles, check out our 2012 Draft Profiles Page.