When doing some offseason work earlier in the year, I fell in love with a player named Malik McDowell sporting a Michigan State Spartans uniform. McDowell helped lead the Spartans to last year’s College Football Playoff, and while Michigan State wasn’t even bowl eligible this season, he was the bright spot during a disappointing campaign in East Lansing. He elected to forego his senior season and declare for the 2017 NFL Draft, a very smart move as he should be one of the first names called come April.
Name: Malik McDowell
School: Michigan State
Draft Grade: Top 5
Positives: Rare combination of: size, length, athleticism, power and strength. Great burst off the snap and quick first step. Powerful and physical when engaging blockers. Persistent bull rusher. Possesses a good repertoire to beat offensive linemen on the interior or outside. Can go underneath or beat you with pure strength and athleticism. Long arms benefit him when shedding blocks to corral ball carrier. Looks to shed blocks almost effortlessly. Big, powerful mitts. Plays with great pursuit – will surprise you with his closing speed and ability to cut off angles, even when you think he’s out of the play. Moves like a linebacker at 280 pounds. Good motor. Displays good lateral movement and quickness. A big guy who plays a big man’s game – very physical and tackles hard. Manages double-teams better than most. Intimidating, disruptive force in the trenches. Versatile player who even played on the edge in 3-4 fronts.
Negatives: Fails to get leverage at times due to his size. Sealed off running plays more than you would like to see. Sloppy footwork when engaged with blocker. Doesn’t deal well with shift blocks. Plays a bit reckless at times – penalized more than most players. Rumored to have given up on his team when playing from behind this season, but some speculate he was playing through injury. Will be clarified through the draft process.
Outlook: A premier talent. Malik McDowell has been the #2 overall prospect on my big board since early Summer. A prototypical defensive linemen who has it all and then some. Better fit as an interior linemen in a 4-3, but possesses the versatility to play end in a 3-4. Should be a lock in the top 10 and perhaps even higher. Expect him to test well at the combine which will see him skyrocket up draft boards even further. The sky is the limit for this kid.