20. New York Jets: Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky
Jets head coach Todd Bowles has talked about wanting to get faster on defense next season, and Spence would be a start in that direction. He's arguably the draft's top pure pass rusher after Bosa and would slot in at outside linebacker in New York. Georgia's Leonard Floyd makes some sense as well.
I will be producing a scouting report on Spence at a later date, and I've already seen a significant amount of tape on him due to his situation.
Spence was a highly prized recruit of Ohio State, expected to go on to great things. Unfortunately he let his life spiral out of control, finally admitting that he had a serious drug problem, was addicted to Ecstasy and needed help. He entered drug rehabilitation after getting permanently suspended from the big 10, and resurfaced in Eastern Kentucky. He has been tested for drugs on at least 5 separate occasions while at Eastern Kentucky, he has passed every single one of them. He has asked to be tested to prove that he is clean, and that he is very serious about his football future.
A five star recruit at Ohio, he sparked the Buckeyes to a 12-0 record...with 14.5 tackles for a loss and 8 sacks. He was first team all big-10 as well as academic all big-10. His grades were fine, in fact he was considered a very bright student, in the class room and on the field. His drug secret didn't seem to effect him and as such he lied about it for a long time.
He resurrected his career in Eastern Kentucky this year instead of electing to catch on late in the 2015 NFL draft. He finished the year with 22.5 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks, 63 tackles, 15 QB hurries and three forced fumbles. Quite the comeback for a player once considered a problem child who's life would spiral out of control, landing in a spot that he couldn't crawl his way out of.
"I will never in my life forget that feeling," Spence said. "That feeling right there is always in my head whenever I do anything because I know I don't ever want to go back again, hit rock bottom -- and I know I won't be back there ever again because I will always have that feeling in my mind."
I like giving players a second chance, as long as they have proven they want to make a change themselves. Spence will need to answer several questions about his past during the pre-draft interview process, but his talent speaks for itself. He plays with excellent balance, quick change of direction ability, exceptional instincts and a non-stop motor. He has played with his hand in the dirt and standing up, his closing speed is excellent and he has something to prove.
If the Jets wanted to get quicker from the edge, with a player who can rush the passer...they should seriously consider Noah Spence. It would be wrong to write this man off based on the drug history, he has shown a willingness to change his life. This isn't a degenerate with no hope, he's a young man who lost his way but battled his way back into the light. Oh, he's also an exceptional football talent.