This is a good draft class.
It’s been described as the opposite for a long time because it simply doesn’t have legit top-10 prospects at the top of the board.
Yet the depth of talent available is attractive and value will be available going into day three. You can build a foundation from this class.
Kentucky defensive lineman Joshua Paschal is the latest example as to why.
I would describe him as a violent, aggressive run defending specialist who could develop into a league-leader in that regard. He is not a twitchy, dynamic EDGE using speed to attack offensive tackles and threaten quarterbacks with bend or balance. If you want someone to play the run on early downs, dominate their 1v1 match-ups, set the edge, fly to the ball and then provide some interior pass rush on third down — Paschal ticks those boxes.
He’s a running backs’ nightmare. So often on tape before they’ve even had a chance to read their blocks he’s in the backfield making a tackle. It’s highly impressive.
You need warrior type players. People who complement your athletic freaks. Paschal is that type. I can’t vouch for him solving Seattle’s pass-rush issues. Yet I want him on the team as an extra. A bonus. To elevate the physical toughness of this team, make them harder to play against and pair with the athleticism of Darrell Taylor.
He’s incredibly explosive, perhaps the most explosive defensive linemen I’ve watched so far. There’s so much power in his frame — backed up by a 39-inch vertical jump at SPARQ and an overall score of 120.24, complemented by a 4.30 short shuttle.
Those kinds of numbers put him in a rare category.
He is just so powerful and there are no concerns about him shifting inside.
His Georgia tape is excellent at times. He was physically imposing, knocking around Georgia’s line in a way few managed last season. He dumped Justin Shaffer on his backside on one snap. You see this quite a lot. He’s simply far more explosive than most opponents. Bigger offensive linemen bounce off him. Against Florida he was violently abusing the tight end trying to contain him and seal an edge. He is constantly in attack mode.
Paschal has a really underrated feature in his profile. He’s so explosive that he can engage and hold position extremely well. It means he can focus on keeping his eyes on the ball-carrier, reading the play and two-gapping with ease. He can read any stretch runs or misdirection, let things develop then just throw off a block to attack the area he needs to get to.
He’s also quick to knife through gaps against Georgia and break into the interior. He does this against everyone though. That 4.30 short shuttle time shows up in the subtle way he dodges blocks from the interior and just ends up in the backfield time and time again. For a player who plays like a bull on the loose — he’s got the burst and agility off the snap of a leopard.
If you give him a shot at the ball-carrier he chases them down, stalks them, like the T1000.
There is some stiffness and he’s not a bendy pass rusher. His hips are tight and there’s not a great deal of flexibility changing direction. Running in a straight line — he’s excellent. I’m not sure his three-cone will be that impressive though. That will provide a challenge working the edge but you’re not drafting him to be Darrell Taylor.
His frame is a curious one. He’s 6-3 and 278lbs. I’d like to know his arm length but the sense I get is it’s not going to be good news. He’s more of a compact ball of power and quickness. He’s a run-defense / TFL specialist who can make plays from the interior on passing downs rather than someone who notches 8-10 sacks consistently as a defensive end.
His college production backs that up. He only had 5.5 sacks in 2021 and that was a career high. He did have 15.5 TFL’s though. He had only one sack in 2020 with 6.5 TFL’s. In 2019 he had 9.5 TFL’s and 3.5 sacks.
Still, those TFL numbers are worth noting. Since 2019, he had by far the most TFL’s or tackles for no gain in college football (per PFF):
Josh Paschal — 37
Yasir Abdullah — 29
Kayvon Thibodeaux — 27
There’s no real evidence of speed rush or natural EDGE production. Even L.J. Collier could rush the edge effectively at TCU. Paschal’s more of a powerful destroyer — which means you’ll need to be creative to move him around the line and accept that as a pure EDGE he’s going to have limitations.
He’s maybe a little bit undersized to play five-technique but he could be a natural inside/out rusher. Kentucky moved him across the line and he’s had success in space and working through the interior. There are snaps where he drives interior lineman backwards and there are snaps where he plays the run brilliantly at defensive end or slightly off the line operating in space.
His first-step quickness really flashes. He regularly crosses the face of a tackle from end to attack the B-gap and just flies into the backfield. He can catch slower, bigger linemen off guard. He also shows evidence of an effective swim move from the interior and I’ve seen a good push-pull operating from the edge.
Paschal fights off blocks as an edge setter vs the run and is a real warrior to disengage and fight to the ball-carrier. There are no concerns about him as a run-defender and he’ll handle those duties at defensive end with aplomb.
His motor is relentless and his tackling impressive. He sets a physical tone and has the potential to become a ‘heart and soul’ type on a defense if he can develop into a starter.
If I was going to use him it’d probably be as a bulldozing chess piece. I think he needs to operate in an attacking front where he’s moved around the line to seek out opportunities. He can probably play power end on early downs then on third down he can kick inside and provide dynamic interior rushing.
He could be what Seattle hoped Collier was going to be.
Paschal was diagnosed with malignant melanoma on his foot in 2018 but has since undergone treatment and been cleared. So he’s also faced a degree of adversity and battled to make a success of his time at Kentucky. He was recently named the ‘Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year’ for 2021.
I’ve put him in round two on my horizontal board, with the idea he might be available later and provide value.
The Seahawks need to go and land another dynamic EDGE in free agency for me — plus a defensive tackle who can legitimately create pressure. However, someone who can do what Collier was supposed to would also be a benefit to this defense.
Put Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell and Josh Paschal on this D-line and you might have the most aggressive, bullying line in the NFC. I wish Seattle had more picks because clearly there are other really attractive trench players in this class that would also add even more. As I said, you can build a foundation in this draft.
Paschal is a player to watch at the combine. Length will be important — we know Seattle doesn’t draft D-liners with sub-33 inch arms. If he passes that threshold, he could be the kind of powerful inside/out rusher they lack.
A final quick thought for today. It’s been revealed that around 150 players, many of them top prospects, are threatening to skip the combine due to the NFL’s rules on creating a strict ‘bubble’ at the event.
The Super Bowl has just been played out with thousands huddled together for a week — including players, media, fans and people just looking for a good time. They literally had an enormous concert on the field at half-time.
If you won’t let players have a trainer with them to do their best at the combine, then the league is a total and utter disgrace.
The NFL wants the combine to be a primetime event. It needs to start listening to the players and drop this ridiculous notion of a bubble immediately.
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