Ohio State Senior
Shows good strength and power when working on the edge. Shows a very good bull rush when working against either the tackle or guard. Shows ability to beat tackle with an inside swim move and flashes some burst to close on the QB. Has a decent first step and is able to get upfield and be disruptive. Has the strength to hold up inside and get leverage against the run at the point of attack. Has a good motor and is able to give chase and work laterally down the line to make plays in pursuit. Is a nice athlete that does a nice job getting his hands up and batting down passes.
He is a bit of a one-note pass rusher, relying on his power and bull rush to beat blocker. Needs to improve his technique and hand usage to be a more consistent bull rusher. He needs to ddevelop more pass rush moves. He lacks the speed to really challenge the corner on the outside. Doesn't really get off blocks too well. Can lose battles at the point of attack and get engulfed by the double team or blown off the ball in short yardage.
Heyward is the son of former NFL player, the late great Craig "Ironhead" Heyward. He is a power player that played both end and tackle in Ohio State's hybrid 3-4/4-3 scheme the past few seasons. He was a four year starter that had pretty consistent production every year. His best season as a pass rusher came as a junior, where he had 6.5 sacks. That total dropped to 3.5 this past year. But overall, he combined for 163 tackles, 37.5 tackles for loss, and 15.5 sacks. He is currently sidelined with an elbow injury he suffered in January, but it is expected to be 100% by the time the season rolls around. He hails from Suwanee, GA.
When I watch Heyward play, i see shades of Richard Seymour. His strength and ability to dominate one on one blockers is why I'm reminded of that. Heyward doesn't get as much love as other defensive ends in this class because he's not a very dynamic pass rusher. But he has the potential to get better there. I'm not sure he'll ever be a great pass rusher, and be more of the type that gets 2-4 sacks. But if he does improve his technique and hands, coupled with his strength, he could be a productive sack guy that could get upwards of 5-8 a year. But he's more of a disruptor than a guy that is a closer like Seymour. But Heyward's true value is his ability to play the run. He needs to get better there, and again, improving his technique will help him do a better job getting off blocks. But he's got the size, bulk, and strength to be a force against the run and in the same way as Seymour and Aaron Smith, very difficult one on one matchups for most NFL guards and tackles. Like Smith, he's probably a guy that isn't going to make a ton of splash plays, but his ability to stuff the run and disrupt the passing lanes and free up his teammates should make him a real asset for any defense. He fits best in a 3-4 scheme of course, but can get looks in a 4-3 scheme at defensive tackle. But he's not as effective when playing inside against guys that can match his strength. He's a work in progress, and even if he makes no improvement from this point on he should be a good pro like Antonio Smith, but has the upside to be one of the premier 3-4 ends in the league like a Seymour or Smith.
Heyward isn't a great fit here in Atlanta unless the Falcons forsee him as an effort interior player. He could replace Anderson on the outside as a left end and play on running downs. But his primary long-term value in Atlanta is probably to bulk up and play defensive tackle. He wouldn't be a great interior pass rusher, and probably only be a threat to give the team 2-3 sacks a year, but he could potentially develop into a nice run stopper. But again, in a 4-3 scheme, Heyward's upside is limited and he's more of a role player than an impact guy because quicker, more explosive ends and tackles will eventually come along.
For a 3-4 team looking for a powerful end with upside, Heyward merits a selection in the middle of round one. He has Top 15 potential.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Pass Rush: 2.5
Point Of Attack: 3.5
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.