Nate Orchard is underrated, could be a mid-round pick

Utah’s Nate Orchard could be a nice option

When I watched Utah beat UCLA, one player stood out. Nate Orchard had four sacks in the game. He dominated from start to finish. But it wasn’t a surprise.

Brett Hundley has been sacked over 100 times at UCLA in just three years. The Bruins offensive line is a shambles. It’s any wonder Jim Mora hasn’t made a few ‘dirt bag’ references since moving to L.A. So watching a guy like Orchard fly around the field and make plays wasn’t a shock. I kind of chalked it down to a ‘right time, right place’ type of situation.

And then I watched the Oregon State game. It was no fluke. The guy can play.

He has 17.5 sacks on the season so far with a Bowl game to come. He’s about 6-2 and 250lbs — so he doesn’t have great length. And that’s going to be a problem for a lot of teams. He doesn’t have the size to be an every-down pure end in the 4-3. He might be pigeon-holed as an outside backer in the 3-4. But if he’s quick enough he might find a role in Seattle’s rotation.

It’ll be interesting to see what his wingspan is. You wouldn’t expect long arms at 6-2. He consistently flashes a nice get off and the ability to get off blocks. The way he disengages is top notch. While a guy like Shawn Oakman will linger on a block far too long, Orchard has a real ‘get off me’ mentality. That’s encouraging, particularly if the arm length is at least average. It’s more likely to translate.

His pad level is always spot on and he understands leverage and hand placement. Despite a lack of great size he’ll offer a real jolt to the body to stun a tackle. You can have all the speed in the world but when a pass rusher is converting to the pro’s he HAS to show this kind of ability. Defensive end is one of the toughest positions to project for the next level. Think of all the high-profile busts in recent years. Just because you’re a great athlete who wins with speed in college doesn’t mean it’ll translate when you take on better, tougher offensive linemen. You simply have to show you can get off a block with hand placement. It’s a necessity.

You also need to show you can convert speed to power. Orchard does that too. He’ll feign the outside rush and deliver a fantastic bull rush right into the body of an unbalanced tackle. There are times when he gets engulfed but that shouldn’t be a surprise at 250lbs. You’ll take that. He isn’t going to win every play, nobody should expect him to.

I’m not convinced he’ll be an explosive runner at the combine and that could hurt his chances of landing in Seattle. They are big on the 10-yard split. Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin both ran explosive splits. But Orchard’s first step quickness is good enough to be a threat and he does round the edge nicely. In one rush against Oregon State he left the tackle for dead to fly around the edge and get to the QB. He can get stronger — add some muscle tone to his upper half and really improve his lower body power. I think that’d be the way to go given he probably isn’t going to be a 1.50 runner over ten yards.

For me he’d be a very solid mid-round selection. You have to temper expectations because of the size and the lack of brilliant athletic qualities. He doesn’t have the same athleticism as some of the other prospects who will go in the first — or necessarily the upside. But he’s technically superior and has the production. If he performed above expectations at the combine his stock could go through the roof, much like Marcus Smith this year. Don’t rule that out. If Seattle did want to add a little more depth to the edge rush, this is definitely a guy to monitor.

In the aftermath of the Avril extension, Seattle is possibly less likely to go DE early. The offense needs work — particularly if they lose Marshawn Lynch. But they’re likely to add a pass rusher at some stage. Orchard is an option. He’s also a team captain at Utah and he’s already married with a child. He’s a mature guy who will impress teams with his character.


  1. redzone086

    He also played wr in high school as a two way player . I really like his motor. Kind of a Chris Clemons type to me.

  2. Volume 12

    Yeah, he an interesting guy that’s for sure. I have to say though my favorite pass rusher or one of them I should say, is Arkansas DE-LEO Trey Flowers. This is a guy who converts speed to power, , strong as a bear, has a repertoire of pass rush moves, is a great run defender, has the ideal measurements, former b-ball player, and as you said Rob, he’s tenacious, high character, energetic and that seems to be infectious. After watching that 55 in. Box jump (my knees are still hurting from watching that) I have no doubt this dude is going to have the great athletic numbers at the combine Seattle likes. I’ve also heard a rumor he takes in under-privileged/homeless kids and or families and mentors them, but I can’t find anything on it.


  3. Volume 12

    Damn it! I hit ‘submit comment’ too soon. Since we’re on the subject of mid round/tweener type guys, Rob, what do you think or who do you like the most out of K-St. DE/OLB Ryan Mueller, Michigan St. DE/OLB Marcus Rush, and Chattanooga-Ten. DE/OLB Davis Full? I see these guys as more of the late round SAM or rush LB’s. I know it’s a few names, but I do value your opinion Rob.

  4. Ukhawk

    Hope they are over him post-R1, has the character, work ethic, drive and athleticism

  5. rowdy

    He misses a lot of tackles on run plays. I looks like it’s probably scheme but he waits for plays to come his way.

    • redzone086

      Yeah it looks like it’s a coaching philosophy to contain the edge.

      • rowdy

        It probably didn’t help that I was watching bud Dupree earlier today.

        • Rob Staton

          Dupree is awesome.

  6. Jim Q

    Do you mean an underrated player as a potential mid FIRST round pick, which I understand and agree with.
    Do you mean a mid round pick as in round 3 or 4, which implies that he is currently a late round pick that is underrated? Your title could go either way.

    • Rob Staton

      I think he’s underrated in that he doesn’t get much attention. He’s hardly ever talked about. I’ve seen him graded as a late rounder on and by Scouts INC. I think he’s better than that and a solid mid-rounder.

      • Jim Q

        Obviously it’s very early in the draft evaluation process and w/o all of the pertinent data yet available. I see a lot of rating sites that are infrequently updated and/or not current at all. My go to rating sites (that I trust) currently show the following for the 6-3.5/255 DE-Nate Orchard.
        #32-overall at:
        #53-overall at:
        #32-overall at:
        IMO, it looks like Orchard will likely be a 2-nd round pick, and yes he’s not mentioned much, however the announcer in todays Utah game mentioned that the Seahawks & PC should be taking a long look at Nate Orchard. pre-draft.

        • Volume 12

          Jim, I noticed the announcer say the same thing. I think it was Verne Lundquist. Anyways, yeah I’m sold on this kid. He dominated Ty Sambrailo, who’s a potential late first or early second round pick. He had his way with Andrus Peat, after watching today’s bowl game I’m 100% convinced on Orchard. He seems to show up most when it counts/ in big games, which is like a lot if not most of Seattle’s roster. UKHawk said he does have a great work ethic as he’s put on 50 some odd lbs. since being recruited.

          He’s got a great story. Formerly Nate Fakahafua, he’s from Inglewood, Ca. and knew he had to get out, his mom wasn’t in the best situation (drugs?, etc.) so he was going to move in with his brothers family, but there wasn’t enough room for him. So he ends up in Salt lake City, Utah with a guardian family who’s last name ‘Orchard’ he took. He has a little girl, who he hardly ever gets to see and has some type of disability if I’m not mistake. I’ll stop, because I have trouble embedding articles and whatnot. It’s on SI.COM I think.

          Rob, have to disagree with you on a couple things. There’s no way this dude is 6’2. He was not 3 in. Shorter than Sambrailo and in the picture above your article he’s standing next to S Brian Blechen who’s 6’1 or 6’2, he’s easily got two inches on him. And while his arms may not be the longest I don’t think their short or a hindrance to him by any means. He can get under guys pads and get leverage.

          I wouldn’t be surprised as well, like you said, if he puts up great combine numbers. He’s not underrated, but I do think his athleticism is. He’s a former WR and Basketball player and almost every one of his teammates say he’s an ‘athletic freak.’ In my opinion I think he’s got damn good athleticism.

          Agreed he probably isn’t a 1st Rd. pick, although it wouldn’t shock me if he ends up one, because we know how NFL teams ding ‘tweener’ guys and guys who aren’t huge, I’m not sure if he’s a mid round guy though. 2nd round or 3rd at the latest seem like his range.

        • Rob Staton

          #32 overall looks a bit rich to me, a bit stats-based. CBS and Draft Scout is basically the same by the way. Same people do both.

          • OZ

            #32 is way rich. Too many missed tackles and not enough down-field hussel for me. Doesn’t play with his hair on fire. Is he saving himself for the Pro’s ? You have to wonder about those kind of players. Who knows he may turn it on at the combine. Mid 2nd or 3rd for me.
            Looking forward to a great day Rob…. GO HAWKS!!!!!!!

            • OZ

              Kikaha plays with his hair on fire. Total Seahawk….

            • Volume 12

              This guy has a great motor! Kikaha is one who I’d say doesn’t have much length, and his athleticism is nowhere near Orchard’s. Seattle has their back-p DE who can play the run as well as rush the passer in Cassius Marsh. To me, their going to be looking for that guy who provides a rush off the edge in passing situations and comes in for probably Avril. Bruce Irvin couldn’t stop the run to save his life his rookie year either. Every prospect has flaws, to PC it’s not what you can’t do, but what can you do. I do think they need that Jason Jones type. The guy who’s built like a Big DE, but can line up there and more specifically at 3-tech. I’m hoping they add that type with one of their 3 4th Rd. picks.

          • Jim Q

            Stat driven ranking? I’m trying to figue out why this player is currently ranked predominately as a Rd 7/UDFA pick at best. He’s currently ranked at #320 overall at and isn’t listed at all at I’m thinking his production hasn’t been noted at all by the various “experts”. This kid isn’t perfect but IMO he should be a true mid-round 3/4/5 draft pick. Completely overlooked?

            ILB-Zach Vigil, 6-2/240, Utah St. His stats, including yesterdays (his 14th) game:
            (he had 9-tackles and 1-PBU.)
            154 tackles (11.0/avg per game), (79-solo), Tied for #1 in FBS with Texas St. LB David Mayo.
            19.5 TFL for 100-yds. (1.39/avg per game), Tied for #8 in FBS.
            9.0 Sacks for 62-yds. Tied for #20 in FBS.
            4 PBU, 1-FF & 1-Interception for 35-yds/TD.

            • redzone086


            • Rob Staton

              I haven’t watched him personally so can’t comment. As for Orchard at #32 and the stat drive ranking remark… it wouldn’t be the first time a player was ranked too highly because of production on an internet draft site. And because one player is rated too highly because of this, it doesn’t necessarily mean every player with good stats will be ranked too high.

  7. Ukhawk

    Orchard is not underrated by his peers…..

  8. Sheryl

    Is Rob Rang reading your column? Just sayin..

  9. Michael M.

    I don’t understand why being married with children is always pointed to as a sign of maturity. I would guess that for each “old soul” who really just wants to settle down and have a family, there are just as many dumb kids who knocked up their girlfriend because they were too stupid to prevent it, then got walked down the aisle with the barrel of her daddy’s shotgun in their back. I don’t know Orchard’s story, so maybe he’s the former, but unless the specifics are known I don’t think it adds much to the evaluation of a prospect.

    • Rob Staton

      I can only speak from my own experience… but I know how mature I was as a single guy vs now being married and with a son. I think your priorities change in life and it does make you more focused to succeed. That’s not to say single guys aren’t focused, but when you have the responsibility of a family you go to work every day knowing you can’t afford to mess up.

      • Alaska Norm

        Very good point about the married with kids…. Could Orchard develop into the Irvin role eventually? Or is he strictly a pass rusher.

        • Rob Staton

          He’s not close to the same kind of athlete as Irvin so I’d say it’s unlikely.

  10. Michael M.

    The discussion of the “length” problem paired with big production (and probably seeing the Chargers play last night) brings Melvin Ingram to the front of my mind. I crossed him off my personal Seahawks wish list after the 2012 combine revealed his T-Rex arms and lack of elite speed, but I haven’t seen him play enough as a pro to determine whether or not he’s panning out. His stats are underwhelming, but they don’t always tell the whole story. Has anyone formed a well rounded opinion on Melvin Ingram the pro? Is this even a comp worth looking at?

    • Rob Staton

      He’s been hit and miss, had some injuries. I wasn’t a big fan of Ingram at South Carolina and nothing I’ve seen so far makes me feel like it was the wrong opinion to have.

  11. Ed


    1. If/when Wilson, Wagner and Irvin get done, how much does that leave us? Possible to keep Maxwell assuming he gets 5-7?

    2. I know you say we keep Unger and Okung, so besides Miller and Mebane, where can we save more money?

    3. Probably not Bevel (to my shagrin), but does Quinn leave (Jets/Raiders/Bears/49ers/Giants/Falcons/Panthers possible fires)

    • Rob Staton

      1. I think Maxwell might have to test the market (and could easily just land in Jacksonville) but I believe they could do it if they want to. That’s the big question. How highly do they rate him? If there’s one position they trust their ability to re-load it’s corner. They might feel they can save money by just replacing Maxwell and collecting a high compensation pick a year later.

      2. I’m not sure they have to save too much money. They have a lot of cap space still. If they move on from Lynch per the rumor they save $7m.

      3. I’m a huge fan of Bevell and personally hope he stays. I’m not sure on Quinn leaving. I think teams know this is PC’s baby. Pep Hamilton and Todd Bowles are going to get a lot of looks. Harbaugh probably takes one job. I think Tom Cable could end up in Atlanta. I suspect Coughlin and Rivera will survive. IMO Todd Haley should get a couple of interviews. Not a charismatic guy but he’s done a heck of a job with Pittsburgh’s offense. Has a bit of Belichick about him.

  12. Michael (CLT)

    So many good DE. Schofield would be easily replaced. Not sure that is necessary, but why fight the draft.

  13. Michael (CLT)

    Just for the hell of it: Jay Ajayi: 🙂

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