Southern California Junior
PROS: Has a dangerous first step with the burst and speed to challenge corner. Has good closing burst on the ball and delivers hit to quarterback. Flashes a good spin move and also inside counter move. Effective rushing the quarterback with his hand on or off the ground. Wraps up the ballcarrier and has the speed and burst to make plays in pursuit. Athletic, and has good hips for his size, able to cover the flat when working in coverage.
CONS: Needs polish when it comes to turning the corner, as he doesn't dip the shoulder and will take false steps. Needs to improve his hand use to disengage from blocker off edge. Overly relies on his edge speed and needs to develop more pass rush moves. Not as effective rushing when he's covered up by a linebacker or tight end. Needs to improve at the point of attack, both getting off blocks and as a tackler in space. Not natural in coverage and lacks burst out of his breaks.
OVERVIEW: Griffen is a pass-rushing specialist that plays the hybrid end-linebacker spot vacated by Clay Matthews. He's more end than Matthews was, but his role probably mirrors more of what NFL linebackers do than ends. Had 10 sacks his first two years despite not being a regular starter. Had 8 sacks this past year and 9.5 TFLs. But was considered a bit of a disappointment during his USC days his first two seasons with some questioning his work ethic.
NFL FORECAST: He reminds me a lot of Elvis Dumervil in terms of him being a shorter, thickly-built speed rusher. I don't think Griffen is going to impact as a true defensive end. Or I should rather say I think his length to impact is too long. He is just not effective at all unless he lines up wide outside the tight end. That's all fine and good on 3rd and 9 playing on the weakside away from the tight end, but on every other down that he may get reps, it's fairly worthless. He can develop as a more well-rounded pass rusher, but I think he's probably severla years off from that. In the mean time he can contribute significantly as a speedy edge rusher on passing downs, and like Dumervil be on eof the top situational rushers in the league, but he's not an every-down end. I think if you want him to contribute as more than a situational player in the first two or so years of his career, you're going to have to play him at linebacker. He best fits in a 3-4 scheme that will use him in the same manner the Broncos used Dumervil or Dallas uses DeMarcus Ware, which is to rush the quarterback 60% of the time or more. Neither guy is good in coverage, although I think Griffen has the potential to be better than either. He won't be a great run defender (like Dumervil), but can be effective there with some development. Like Dumervil, he can be a very valuable NFL palyer that is productive in his role. But he's not going to be the ideal every down player. I think in the 4-3 scheme, the best case for him is probably to play in a role like Orakpo did in D.C. this past year, where he played a stand-up linebacker on run downs and moved to rush end on passing downs. Orakpo wasn't a good run defender or good in coverage, but made up for it by having 11 sacks. I think Griffen can do the same, although he's not as fluid an athlete as Orakpo is/was. But I think he's more comfortable playing with his hand off the ground because he did it all this past year.
ATL FORECAST: In Atlanta, Griffen's best chance of success is to play that Orakpo-like role where he plays SAM linebacker on 1st and 2nd down and then moves to rush end on third down. Initially however, he'll probably be limited to just being a situational rusher as an end. In coverage, I don't think he'll be anymore a liability than Nicholas, as he'll struggle to match up with quicker backs, but should be able to stick with most tight ends. As a future linebacker, it's probably best for him to slim down to 260 or less to get quicker and more explosive. I think by his second year he could beat Nicholas for the starting job. He has the potential to significantly upgrade the pass rush, but if the Falcons were to try and make him into a full-time defensive end, I don't think he would have as much success because he's a fairly one-dimensional guy. And while he could be a productive sack artist by his second year (8-10 sacks), he's not going to truly replace John Abraham as a guy that can be a dynamic playmaker in a variety of situations long-term.
VALUE: Griffen is not a first round value except for a 3-4 team that will use him much the same way the Cowboys use Ware. In that role he would work well as a mid-to-late first rounder. For a 4-3 team looking to make him into a Brian Orakpo-type as a linebacker or a situational pass rusher, you'd get much better value for him at the beginning of the second round.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
PASS RUSH: 4.0
POINT OF ATTACK: 2.5
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.