Over the past month or two, you probably caught wind of Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence. The former Ohio State Buckeye has seen himself skyrocket up draft boards after a dominant performance at the Senior Bowl along with a good showing at the NFL Combine. Spence has the game film to back up his recent rise in draft stock, but will his character concerns push teams away? Spence transferred from Ohio State after off the field issues forced his release at the program. Teams are taking a risk when they select Spence, but will it be worth it?
Name: Noah Spence
College: Eastern Kentucky
Projection: 1st Round
Comparison: Whitney Mercilus
- Explosive first step
- Quickness off snap
- Speed rusher
- High motor
- Closing speed
- Character concerns
- Anticipation – jumps snap a lot
Noah Spence has seen the biggest stock increase of any player in this year’s draft since the offseason, and for good reason. His film will jump out to anyone. While he didn’t play DI football this past season, in matchups against Kentucky and N.C. State he still shined. Even during his short stint at Ohio State he wreaked havoc in the Big Ten.
The biggest strength in Spence’s game is his explosiveness off the line. He has arguably the best first step of any pass rusher in this year’s class. However, that occasionally bites him in the back as he commits a lot of offsides penalties – he needs to improve his anticipation.
Spence offers tremendous upside as a pass rusher – along with his quickness off the line, he also uses his hands very well and has a non-stop motor. You’ll never see Spence give up on a play – he plays with 100% effort at all times. He has excellent burst, lateral quickness and tons of athleticism.
While he offers great versatility, I don’t believe he fits well in a 3-4 scheme. He doesn’t have much experience in coverage which is an area he will need to improve on. His run defense is solid, but nothing special. He does make a splash play every here in there against the run – forcing himself in the backfield. His production was off the charts, but I’d like to see him finish plays more often and display better closing speed.
With the upside as a pass rusher, there comes some baggage with drafting Noah Spence. Of course his off-field concerns are well documented. Teams will really need to evaluate whether or not he’s worth the risk in the 1st round – an investment of this magnitude could put someone’s job on the line. Bottomline, I really like what I see from Spence – you just have to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he can turn a new leaf as he begins his NFL career. I don’t like him as a 3-4 LB, but he can be lethal in a 4-3 scheme with his hand in the dirt.