2017 NFL Draft
Prospect: Malik McDowell
Prospect: Malik McDowell
School: Michigan State
Ht: 6'6" Wt: 280
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Perhaps one of the players with the highest potential in this class is McDowell. His combination of size and athleticism is incredible and makes him a prime candidate to be picked in the top five. Still, there is a lot of coaching to be done with this player. He shows flashes of brilliance but also some stretches where you worry about him having the highest bust-potential in this draft. He also shows as much versatility as any defensive lineman in the country, and it will be interesting to see who drafts him, and where they intend to play him.
The first time I took a look at McDowell, I told myself he would be the first player I wanted getting off the team bus. He just looks like a monster at 6'6" and nearly 280 pounds. His reach is incredible, and his first step quickness is impressive. We often talk about players who have played everywhere on the defensive line but not like McDowell. I have seen games where he plays equal snaps standing up as an edge rusher, as a nose tackle, as a 3-technique, and as a true defensive end across from the left tackle. That kind of versatility puts him on every teams' draft board. He has skills that make him adept at playing every position, and he's had success at each of them.
Despite my feelings that his best position in the NFL will be as an end in a 3-4 scheme, his most consistent snaps come as an edge rusher. His first step gives him the ability to win the edge, and if he gets his opponent off-balance, he can finish in a variety of ways. He can bull-rush his opponent into the quarterback's lap or turn the corner on him. He is also one of the better players that I have scouted at running stunts, and he can do it as a tackle or end.
On the inside, he is a much different player against single blockers than double-teams, and that leads me to some of the negatives. In the film against Illinois where I was scouting him and defensive end Dawuane Smoot, the film wasn't great quality. Still, it was easy to spot McDowell because he was consistently the player lined up the highest on the defensive line. That is a huge problem for him. He is very inconsistent because he often plays too high, and it starts when he is lined up. He is bent at the waist with very little bend in his knees. That results in offensive linemen getting under him, and he sometimes compounds that issue by popping straight up at the snap. If this were how he always played, I wouldn't have him so highly ranked, but on crucial downs, like short-yardage situations, he lines up as a nose, and his butt is down. On those plays, he fires off low and drives his opponent into the backfield. I know he is capable of doing this regularly, but my question is why isn't it the norm? I hate to question a player's passion, but it is a red flag for me when I see different effort and discipline on crucial and non-crucial downs. First and ten is a crucial down if you give maximum effort and force the team into second-and-long situations because it makes the offense one-dimensional. If discipline or effort are an issue, then his bust potential starts to reach "Dion Jordan" territory.
Against double-teams, he struggles, and it bothers me to see him shut his motor down when he has been neutralized. The best players at his position excel in this area and often make plays 5-8 yards down the field. Being initially beaten is one thing, but giving up on the play is another big red flag. He has to learn to play to the whistle because when he finishes good things happen. Big hits can energize a defense, even when the outcome of the play went in favor of the offense, and with his size he has the ability to cause fumbles with his power and a running start. Second effort is crucial in football, especially among defensive linemen.
Overall he has the abilities to be one of the most disruptive defenders in the NFL, but there are some issues to get sorted out. He has to play low on a regular basis, and his motor has to run from snap to whistle. If he does those things, it doesn't matter where teams want to play him. From there he needs to dedicate himself to the smaller things. He uses his hands fairly well as a pass rusher, and if he can learn a variety of moves, he should be a nightmare for offensive linemen. I'd also like to see him get his hands up more often when he knows he is running out of time. Little things like that can take him from a good player to great.
Compares to (Current NFL Player): Carlos Dunlap (Cincinnati Bengals) or Calais Campbell (Arizona Cardinals)
- Elite combination of size and athleticism
- Heavy, violent hands
- Can play anywhere on the line
- Great first step for his size
- Unlimited potential
- Plays too high
- Motor stops too early too often
- Raw at the finer points of playing the position
- Could add lower body strength to hold up against double-teams
1)   Malik McDowell says Michigan State's struggles won't impact NFL draft decision   - MLive.Com |
2)   Michigan State Football: Will Malik McDowell go pro?   - Fansided.com |
3)   Malik McDowell is nothing if not flexible
- ESPN.com |
4)   Malik McDowell Twitter|