** This Scouting Report was published in February 2016. It has been reposted after the Jets selection last night**
Hometown: Chattanooga, Tennessee
High School: New Albany (OH)
Recruitment: 4-Star Recruit Scout, 3-Star recruit by Rivals
Injuries/Discipline: Medical redshirt in 2013
Projected 40 Time: 4.65
2015: 66 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles.
2014: 80 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
Fiesta Bowl Champion (2016)
CFP National Champion (2015)
Sugar Bowl Champion (2015)
Big Ten Champion (2014)
2015 Sugar Bowl MVP
• Excellent range
• Excellent production
• Very good pass rusher
• Has experience dropping into coverage
• Good technique with tackles
• Always shows up on the big stage
• Good open field agility
• Excellent instincts
• Good anticipation off the snap
• Plays with confidence
• Comes down to play the run well
• Has the ability to run with slot receivers
• Good speed
• Good acceleration
• Long arms
• Doesn't have elite size
• Can struggle to get off blocks at times.
• Needs to use his hands more
• Needs better technique when engaged
• Draws some needless penalties
• Not the strongest athlete out there
It surprises me that Darron Lee isn't getting more coverage. He's certainly a candidate to be a first or second round selection and with the effectiveness of the Denver defences, I thought a linebackers who could do it all would be getting rave reviews. Lee went from a small undersized high school QB, to a college safety, to finally a college linebacker. He burst onto the scene in 2014 and continued to improve through his two years of starting experience.
Here is the thing, people criticise his technique, say he needs to play with better balance and become more "natural" for the position. All of that is 100% true. He's lean, he gets eaten up by some blockers. Sometimes he can run himself out of a play and sometimes he makes some dumb decisions, being flagged for them and hurting his team. However, he's only been playing the position for two years. He has so much room to grow, and although he may not get any bigger, or any taller, he will get better; he has too much desire not to.
I really like him as a prospect. A lot of college players spend all their time rushing the passer with little else. Lee is the exception, the role that Meyer had him playing in Columbus called for him to rush the passer, drop into coverage and come in and play the run, and he did that all well. His agility in the open field is exceptional, his change of direction is top-notch for an outside linebackers. He's been hugely productive, and he shows that rare instinct for the tackle.
His performance in the Sugar Bowl showed his ability to make plays when the lights were at their brightest. He's confident and he has swagger, he has good technique on tackles and he hasn't missed a game since becoming a starter. There is a lot to like about Lee, and if you haven't already guessed, I'm a big fan.
Draft Grade: 85
90-100 = Exceptional Talent
80-90 = Impact Player
70-80 = NFL Starter
60-70 = Solid NFL Potential
50-60 = Draftable - Lot of work needed
>50 = Undraftable, - Long Shot To Stick