The Texans draft watch series continues with a look at Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan. At 6-4, 255, Kerrigan is a Brian Cushing sized outside linebacker candidate who worked exclusively as a defensive end in college.
Dropping into coverage and working in space wasn’t something he was asked to do.
Nonetheless, Kerrigan is being projected by many as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. But like many ‘tweeners’ the jury is still out whether he can make the conversion.
I traded tweets with Chad Reuter of CBS Sports last week and he had this to say about Kerrigan: “won’t bet against him at LB, but haven’t seen anything yet to be confident about it.”
That seems to be the general consensus on Kerrigan, meaning that scouts and coaches of 3-4 teams will have their outside linebacker goggles on when they watch him run drills during the scouting combine and at his pro day.
You may have heard the Kerrigan comparisons to Aaron Kampman and that should be a concern because Kampman didn’t fit at OLB in Dom Capers’ 3-4.
But there’s also the Mike Vrabel comparisons and he made it work in a big way at New England. Don’t you just love those comparisons?
At any rate, there’s no doubt Kerrigan has the motor, and he’s from Purdue, which gets him a +1 grade from the Texans GM.
John Harris of thesidelineview.com had this to say in a recent column: “If Kerrigan can prove that he can drop into coverage at all—just show the smallest bit of ability—he’ll be a steal at OLB for a 3-4 team.”
Here’s a sample of Harris’ likes and dislikes about Kerrigan (I highly recommend reading his entire article):
“Burst off the snap . WOW. Gets upfield in a hurry. Relentless motor. Pursues from the backside all day long. Has the ability to close quickly on the quarterback or the ball carrier.”
“Not sure where he fits best. Can play both 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB, but can he hold up against the run in a 4-3? Can he drop into coverage at all in 3-4? Was used to either rush the quarterback or play the run, never used in coverage. If a tackle gets his hands on him, he’s finished in the run game.”
Mike Mayock of NFL Network has Kerrigan ranked as his #4 defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.
Draftbreakdown.com ranks Kerrigan #3 among 3-4 outside linebackers and #4 among defensive ends.
Rang and Reuter of cbssports.com both have Kerrigan going #16 to Jacksonville in their latest mock drafts (the Jags run a 4-3). Coincidentally, Kampman is a starting defensive end for the Jags.
Given the Texans conversion to a 3-4 defense, it makes sense that linebacker is a top priority in the draft, if nothing else because of a lack of bodies.
While it hasn’t been made official, I would expect Brian Cushing to work inside next to DeMeco Ryans. It’s clear that Cushing needs space to work based on the failed experiment last year when the Texans moved him inside to sub for an injured Ryans.
But the inside linebacker positions in a 3-4, especially the weakside inside, are less restrictive in terms of inside gap responsibility than playing middle in a 4-3.
Update: (Feb 18) Check out the note on Kerrigan in this article by Wes Bunting of The National Football Post. Not exactly encouraging.
Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB Purdue (projection and position rank from nfldraftscout.com)
- 6-4, 255
- DOB: Aug. 16, 1988
- Projected draft round: 1-2
- Position rank: Rated #6 out of 183 DEs
- 2010 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year
- First team All-Big Ten
- Academic All-Big Ten
Video highlights of Kerrigan
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