DE Kenny Willekes, Michigan St.

6’4” – 252 lbs.

Redshirted, then played just four snaps the next season before taking over a starting role. Enjoyed immediate success, going 73-14.5-7.0 as a sophomore, 78-20.5-8.5 in a monstrous junior season, and 78-16.0-10.5 with an astonishing seventeen hurries as a senior; one of the most productive players in this year’s draft class. Has good height and adequate bulk for a pro edge rusher (weighed in eight pounds under his listed weight in Mobile), but arms measured just 31.25” at the Senior Bowl, so length leaves something to be desired. Takes snaps on both sides of the line, often playing with a wide alignment out of a four-point stance. Routinely of the first players off the line of scrimmage, firing out with a low pad level and getting up to speed quickly. Lining up so far outside the tackle’s shoulder gives him an early advantage on many of his rushes, and at his best is able to slap down an opponent’s hands and get to the passer. Overall bend and change-of-direction skills are very good; predominantly a speed rusher who will try to convert speed to power from time to time but doesn’t have a ton of strength to his game. Heads-up player who goes for the strip when closing in from the backside. Has an excellent motor and works in counters when his initial rush is unsuccessful but although he flashes an intriguing spin move, tends to win on his first move or not at all. Can sometimes be engulfed or slip when trying to bend the edge. Gives good effort in the run game as well, but isn’t as naturally suited to that type of role. Picks up some stops on hustle plays or by winning the leverage battle and controlling the interaction, but can also be sealed off by bigger opponents; a pass-rusher first whose tendency to win the edge can be used against him at times. Looks disruptive when using an inside rip move to knife into the backfield and blow up plays. Nice closing burst to finish when he finds a lane. Just like his jam-packed stat line would suggest, was very disruptive rushing from wide alignments which took advantage of his reaction times, speed, and acceleration, making his presence felt throughout games. Doesn’t really have ideal bulk, length, or raw power, but makes the most of his skillset and should be a good fit for a more aggressive, swarming defense which allows their defensive ends to pin their ears back.

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