In this installment of the FRG Summer Scouting Series, we’ll be taking a look at one of the top defensive end prospects eligible to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft. While our preseason rankings for the position group won’t be posted until after we review the 12 players mentioned here, you’ll be able to get a good sense for who we like a lot and who we like…a bit less.
The players are being evaluated in alphabetical order (based on last name.) The 12 that have been selected were chosen based on their general preseason hype across the NFL Draft media landscape and scouting circles. Some of these players are already familiar to FRG, while others are being evaluated for the first time. Regardless of our preexisting knowledge of a player, this exercise is being completed with a clean slate approach; any preconceived opinions about the prospect are (to the best of my ability) being ignored as we embark upon a new season of football.
Shilique Calhoun, Michigan St. | #89 | Ht: 6040 Wt: 257 | Jr.
-Has played in 26 games, totaling 8.5 sacks (18 QB hurries) and 43 tackles with 16.5 TFLs;
-Named Big 10 Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2013;
-2013 2nd Team All-American, First Team All-Big 10;
-Ranked as the No.69 defensive end and No. 35 tight end recruit in country, and top-25 senior in New Jersey.
-Majoring in Criminal Justice
Calhoun is a fun player to watch and is a guy who has a chance to really elevate his stock in 2014. Assuming his measureables (taken from the Michigan State football website) are accurate (or close to accurate), he’s a bit of a tweener who will have to bulk up a bit in order to play a traditional 43DE role. His body-type tends to suggest OLB in a 34 scheme, but he’ll have to prove that he can be effective in coverage and play in space before projecting him in that role. It appears to be in his best interest to add about 5-7lbs to his frame.
The first thing I notice when watching Calhoun is his length. While a bit lean, he is long. And one of the key elements for a pass rusher’s success is natural length that gives him a leverage advantage over the offensive tackle. Calhoun has that.
In addition to his (+) length, Calhoun displays sound athletic ability. He’s quick to react off the snap of the ball and is generally one of the first defenders moving. He gets a good jump on the offensive tackle, and complements his athleticism with some really nice hand use. Calhoun is still a developing player, so it’s nice to see a guy with (+) length who really takes advantage of it with hand play. I noted several occasions where Calhoun was able to violently slap the tackle’s hands away in an effort to get to the quarterback, as well as get into the tackle’s chest and really control him (able to shed and get into pursuit.) And while Calhoun doesn’t appear to have the lightest or quickest set of feet, he does have deceptive closing ability because of his long stride. He’s a pretty good lateral movement guy, too, who recovers and responds well to dekes and cuts. On the negative side, he’s going to have to get a bit stronger in order to have a chance as an every down 43 DE. It will help if he bulks up a bit. But if he stays in the high-250′s, he could face some early-career struggles against NFL offensive tackles.
Versus the run, Calhoun is more of a shed and chase defender than he is a player that can be expected to hold the point. As stated above, he’s simply not strong enough to be consistently relied upon as a space-eater or as a guy that can take on blocks within a power setting. That’s not to say that he can’t win in a one-on-one situation with his athleticism and quickness (he can beat/slip blocks from an athletic standpoint), it’s just that he’s not entering the 2014 college football season as sure thing against the run. With that said, I do like how Calhoun flashes the ability to penetrate and disrupt a play in the backfield as well as his ability to run and chase a running back or scrambling quarterback down from behind. And while I’d like him to be going at 100% a bit more on a down to down basis, he does do a nice job cleaning up as a trailing defender when he’s at full speed. He also displays a good IQ and overall awareness in the running game, rarely being beaten by play action fakes or other play designs.
Versus the pass, Calhoun has a chance to emerge as one of the premier pass rushing prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft class. His pass rush arsenal is pretty well developed already, especially in his coordinated and effective hand use. Calhoun does a nice job as a speed rusher beating the tackle to the edge and turning the corner onto the quarterback. He complements his speed well with his lateral movement skills (he’s effective with an outside/inside pass rush) and he really excels when uncoiling his punch at the POA and gaining the leverage advantage. He showed that he can rip off that advantage as well as simply hustle and shed the offensive tackle while pursuing the passer. I would be shocked if Calhoun didn’t have double-digit sacks this year.
The only thing holding Shilique Calhoun back right now is his weight. If he can add, say, 8lbs to his 257lb frame, he’d remind me a lot of Chandler Jones (Patriots). He has that kind of potential, and could eventually emerge as a better overall prospect with a higher draft slot if he puts together another good year of film with some development versus the power running game.