Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, there were three primary needs for the Colts roster. The team needed to address linebacker because of major scheme changes; the team needed to address the offensive line to be sure Andrew Luck has a talented group in front of him as he returns; and the team needed to address its inability to create consistent pressure on the quarterback.
In Round 2, Chris Ballard took Kemoko Turay and traded up from the third round to select Ohio State defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis.
While Turay is a bit more of a project who was selected for his upside, Lewis was a reliable four-year player for Ohio State. After producing only a 0.5 sack as a freshman, Lewis averaged over 7 sacks per year in his final three years — good for fifth all-time for the Buckeyes. During his time in Columbus, Lewis played in 55 games, which is tied for most all-time in school history. In total, Lewis finished his career with 112 tackles, 37 tackles for a loss, 23.5 sacks, 5 passes defensed and 5 forced fumbles.
At 6-3, 270 pounds Lewis can be used on the defensive interior in a 3-tech role or moved outside to defensive end in certain situations. His performance at the Combine and his pro day showed that he brings a lot of explosiveness to the field. His broad jump of 10’2” and his pro day 40-yard dash in the 4.6-second range are impressive for any player his size. On tape this explosiveness is easy to spot as he is very quick off of the snap and can get by offensive linemen before they can get out of their stance.
Geoff Hammersely at Land-Grant Holy Land went into detail about Lewis as a prospect. Included in his analysis was commentary from NFL Network draft expert Ben Fennell, who discusses how Lewis can play at defensive end or shift inside to 3-tech on sub-packages.
Lewis’ knack for getting to the quarterback shows off his versatility. Regardless of how he lines up or the formation he’s put in, the Tarboro, N.C., native has proved time and time again that he can succeed.
Ohio State’s Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewis will have some added value by being able to rush off the edge or kicked in at 3tech in subpackages... Both win here at 3T (also never seen 4 defenders meet at QB like this)..— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) April 22, 2018
Lewis reminds me of Brandon Graham in flashes... pic.twitter.com/CfqeyM2dPU
The tweet by Ben Fennell, who is one of the draft experts for the NFL Network, alludes to what Lewis could be at the next level. Brandon Graham was part of the Super Bowl winning Philadelphia Eagles, and has been part of the team since being drafted with the 13th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
What is possibly even more encouraging is that Lewis has managed to stay so healthy throughout his career. No ability is more important than availability, and his 55 games played over his career at Ohio State is impressive. He also showed signs of continued growth and improvement throughout his entire career.
Consider that Lewis started his career with 0.5 sack as a freshman, tallied 7 sacks as a sophomore, 8 as a junior and another 8 as a senior. While it might appear as though he leveled-off in production in his final two seasons, that doesn’t tell the whole story. As Hammersley points out, a loaded Buckeyes roster cut into Lewis’ reps in his senior season, but he still remained a highly productive pass rusher.
With Sam Hubbard and Nick Bosa in the fold for snaps during the 2016-17 season, Lewis lost out on in-game chances. However, he showed improvement after the Buckeyes secured the Cotton Bowl victory in early January.
Weigh-in...— Chase Goodbread (@ChaseGoodbread) January 23, 2018
OSU DE Tyquan Lewis:
6-2 3/4, 276.
Looks like he weighs 250. Ripped.#SeniorBowl
In one last contest against other prospects hoping to increase their draft stock, Lewis put together a highlight reel in the Senior Bowl. In the tweet below, he continued to do what he does best: sack the quarterback.
Ohio State DE Jalyn Holmes with the SACK pic.twitter.com/qLOyaTUeBo— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) January 27, 2018
Constant improvement is what you want in a guy you draft. With Lewis, that’s exactly what you’re getting. If he keeps with the upward trajectory, he has the chance to move up from situational pass rusher, to a mainstay on the defensive line.
A final observation from Hammersley that should excite Colts fans is that Lewis loves football and is highly competitive. Even though he graduated in the fall of 2016 and could have easily chosen to move on to the NFL, he returned to Ohio State for his last year of eligibility to play for one last chance at a national championship. Hammersley explains:
Leaving unfinished business on the table is something Lewis doesn’t take lightly. He graduated from OSU in December 2016, but used up his remaining year of in Columbus because, according to his draft bio from OSU, he was “hungry for more”.
Instead of following the scintillating lights of the NFL Draft—and the accompanying images of making money in professional football—he chose to make another run for a national championship. If someone has intrinsic drive, then it’s worth investing in them.
With Lewis being taken off the board, obviously this front office must see the same thing: drive isn’t a problem from for this Buckeye alum.
Clearly, there is an awful lot to like about adding Lewis into the fold. He has worked hard to be a productive pass rusher throughout his career. He stayed with Ohio State because of his competitive drive to have a shot at a national championship. He has position versatility and has not missed time during his college career due to injury. He also has maintained a high level of production even despite losing some snaps to other NFL prospects who demanded snaps in his senior season.
The biggest downside for Lewis is that he is not particularly strong as a run defender. Hammersley explains concerns in this area and that this could be an area Lewis will need to really grow.
One concern with Lewis on the D-Line is his ability to halt the running game. In the NFL, he’ll be facing some of the best running backs in all of football—which are much better than what he’d see week-in and week-out in the college game. If a running back makes a cut to the outside (or inside) of Lewis, will he be able to get his feet situated and make the tackle? His NFL.com draft profile weaknesses included “not a force against the run,” so we’ll see if that will change at the next level.
Some attribution to that weakness comes from being part of a rotational line that included Sam Hubbard and Nick Bosa. However, Lewis was drafted ahead of Hubbard, so the Colts front office saw something they liked in the North Carolina native.
It will be worth monitoring how quickly Lewis can develop in this area. His improvement as a run defender will cap his upside as an NFL player. He can either be used as a situational pass rusher or stay on the field and move inside on passing downs because he can hold the edge on early downs.
Matt Danely Profiles Lewis Pre-Draft
Lewis was the 2016 Smith-Brown Big 10 Defensive Lineman of the Year award winner and has a great mix of initial and secondary tactics, and is quick with his counters allowing him to collapse the pocket from a bevy of different angles.
Lewis put together an impressive final two games of his collegiate career as well. In the Cotton Bowl against USC he put up 5 tackles, a sack and forced a fumble, and Saturday in the Senior Bowl Lewis amassed 3 more tackles with 2 of those being tackles for loss and adding another sack. His combination of speed and power while adding some of the technical aspects of the position is going to have him in high demand come late April.