Leading up to the 2017 college football season, the CFB Film Room Scouting Dept. is putting together a summer scouting series. We’re focusing on the top draft-eligible prospects entering the 2017 season and will be reviewing their strengths and weaknesses from an NFL scouting perspective.
Ohio State defensive end Tyquan Lewis is returning for his senior year, his third season as a starter for the Buckeyes. For a program that churns out NFL talent year after year, it’s rare to have such stability at a position and Lewis will be relied upon as a leader on and off the field for Ohio State.
Having already racked up 60 QB pressures over the past two seasons, Lewis is among the most accomplished defensive prospects in the nation and has high expectations for his senior year.
As a part of our summer scouting series, here’s a look at a few key areas of Lewis’ game.
Let’s start by acknowledging Lewis’ physical limitations. He doesn’t have the raw strength of former teammate Joey Bosa, or the freakish athleticism of Myles Garrett.
It’s rare to see Lewis fly off the edge and into the backfield, as he simply lacks the explosion to be that type of pass-rusher. In 2016, Lewis led Ohio State with 36 quarterback pressures (including seven sacks). It was a decent season, but a steep dropoff from Bosa’s 53 the previous year.
It’s tempting to compare Lewis is Bosa, since Lewis frequently lined up in Bosa’s spot as the left defensive end for the Buckeyes. But we have to set aside those unrealistic comparisons and focus on what Lewis does well. He isn’t in that elite category as a physical specimen, but he does plenty to make up for it.
Winning with power
Tyquan Lewis might not be the most physically gifted pass-rusher in terms of his raw athleticism, but he makes up for it with a balanced skill set. While he has enough speed to win off the edge in certain matchups, he also has the strength to drive his opponent into the backfield.
This third down play against Michigan came at a pivotal moment in the 4th quarter. Lewis is initially covered up by the tight end, who runs a route, giving Lewis a few steps to build up momentum before converting that speed to power against Michigan right tackle Erik Magnuson. As an added bonus, he’s able to keep his eyes in on the quarterback and get his arm up for the batted pass.
Pass-rushers who win with speed get the most attention because they generate the flashiest sacks, but there is enormous value in versatility. Lewis can beat his man around the edge, but he also has the skill set to convert that speed to power.
It’s particularly encouraging to see these types of plays from college defensive ends, because so many collegiate pass-rushers rely on their ability to avoid engaging with offensive linemen. A player like Lewis who can fight through his opponent is one step ahead of the game in terms of his development as a pass-rusher.
Defending the run
As football increasingly becomes more focused on passing at all levels of play, young defensive linemen are becoming less polished in their ability to handle the run game. That’s why edge defenders like Lewis, who have a balanced skill set at such a young age, stand out as prospects.
Lewis isn’t dominant against the run, and he could certainly improve his ability to hold his ground by adding to his functional strength. But he consistently knows his role on the field, puts himself in position to set the edge, and has enough strength to typically get the job done.
Here’s a play against Oklahoma which highlights Lewis’ ability to set the edge, an underrated trait in his game:
Two things stand out in this play. First, Lewis is able to get on the outside shoulder of the right tackle, positioning himself to shed the block and attack the ball carrier if the run bounces outside. Additionally, Lewis holds his ground and doesn’t get driven off his spot, which proves to be critical to the success of this play. While Lewis doesn’t make the tackle, his ability to hold his ground on the edge creates a tight hole for the running back, which Dre’Mont Jones is able to slide into and close off the gap.
This play demonstrates Lewis’ physical strength, but also his awareness to properly position himself—likely among the reasons he was a team captain in 2016 (and presumably will be again in 2017).
There is a ceiling to what Tyquan Lewis can become due to his somewhat modest physical skills, but his game is polished for a young lineman which should allow him to make a smooth transition to the NFL. He will likely be one of the prospects to benefit from the “NFL ready” label next spring.
At this stage of his development, Lewis looks like a Day 2 prospect, but he could elevate his stock by improving his functional strength and/or quickness on the field. If Lewis proves that there is untapped potential in his physical tools, he could rise up draft boards during the 2017 season.