NFL Draft Scouting Report: Mario Edwards, Jr.

Former FSU defensive lineman Mario Edwards, Jr. is one of the NFL Draft's biggest enigmas.

Mario Edwards, Jr. is as big an enigma as there is in the 2015 NFL Draft. Is the team that picks him getting the 275-pound freak who handled last year’s second overall pick on college football’s biggest stage or will they get the out of shape, 310-pound player who mails in more than half his snaps like the player we saw through most of the 2014 campaign?

Because of the gap between those two images of Edwards, the former FSU defensive lineman could go anywhere between the teens and the mid second round. His draft position will be determined by whether Edwards has convinced a team that he is motivated enough to live up to what could be the highest ceiling of any player in the NFL draft not named Winston. Teams will be wary of a player who was never really in shape during his college career but got into tremendous shape just in time for NFL workouts.

Will that work ethic remain after he signs a fat NFL paycheck? That’s what NFL teams will have to answer when they go on the clock.

Production

Edwards was the top ranked prospect in the nation coming out of high school in the class of 2012 and was a two-year starter. He played a key role in the 2013 Seminoles’ BCS National Championship victory over Auburn as he won his matchup against eventual #2 overall NFL draft pick Cam Robinson and made several key plays in the backfield against athletic Tigers QB Nick Marshall.

Edwards came into the 2014 season overweight and out of shape, and he was sluggish and unable to sustain a consistently high level of play as a result. As a result, Edwards’ on-field production never matched his enormous talent level, though he definitely made a number of splash plays that further tantalized Seminole fans.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2012 8 9 17 2.5 1.5 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
2013 12 19 9 28 9.5 3.5 1 4 4.0 0 1 0 0 1 1
*2014 13 25 19 44 11.0 3.0 0 0 0 5 0 0 0 2
Career 52 37 89 23.0 8.0 1 4 4.0 0 7 0 0 1 3
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table
Generated 4/29/2015.

Combine and Pro Day Results

NFL Combine Results

Ht

Wt

Arm

HD

40y

20y

10y

Bench

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6’3

279

33.25

10 7/8

4.84

2.84

1.76

32

32 1/2

10'0"

4.55

7.44

Edwards’ workout numbers were very good, showing unusual explosiveness for a player his size.

Here is how his numbers compare with other defensive end prospects (highlighting his unusual size and power at that position):

On the other hand, here is how he stacks up against other defensive tackle prospects, highlighting his explosiveness for a player his size:

He was an even trimmer 273 pounds at his pro day and put on a tremendous display of athleticism in on-field drills, looking more like a top-10 prospect than a second-day pick.

The bottom line for Edwards is that he shows tremendous athleticism and potential when under 280 pounds, but his stamina and performance drop significantly for every pound he gains above that threshold.

Scouting Report

Strengths

Rare jumbo athlete with unusual combination of bulk and explosiveness. Possesses good but not elite length with longer than usual arms given his 6’3 height. A naturally thick build with large thighs and a thick midsection with a large bubble and has plus explosive power when in shape.

Very explosive with plus short-area quickness and can disrupt plays with quickness when playing inside. Typically plays with good leverage and a low pad level, particularly when two-gapping or crashing inside on the B gap. Disruptive against the run and can set the edge with power. Can be a dominant player against the run when he wants to be. Has the speed and quickness to run to the sideline with most skill players. Showed natural instincts when tuned in and was outstanding against option and read plays, as illustrated against Georgia Tech in 2012 and Auburn in 2013.

Very scheme versatile. Can play in both two-gap and one-gap schemes and projects well as either a 3-tech, 3-4 DE, and 4-3 DE, though probably fits best as a 3-4 DE in a multiple scheme front. Has even showed the athleticism and ability to be a reasonable coverage player in fire zone techniques and was able to run with college tight ends at over 300 pounds. Does a good job getting his hands up and obscuring passing lanes.

Room for Improvement

Has to keep his diet under control as his production suffered due to being significantly overweight (as high as 310 pounds as a junior in 2014). Only marginally above average against the pass at this point. Will never be a speed rush option as a one-gap 4-3 end and still has a lot of room to develop in the finer points of hand position and secondary rush moves. Was not asked to rush the passer a great deal in college and is not a prototypical pass rusher despite his athleticism. Tends not to be one of the first hats off the ball and sometimes catches rather than delivers the blow at the LOS.

Was not in optimal physical condition in 2013 and was then woefully overweight in 2014, raising red flags about his motivation. Showed an inconsistent motor (largely owing to poor conditioning) throughout his college career. FSU’s excellent red zone defense in 2014 was due in part to Edwards (and fellow prospect Eddie Goldman) flipping the switch only when necessary. Must play with a more consistent motor to match the ceiling he has flashed at times.

Floor/Ceiling

Edwards has an extremely high ceiling and could easily wind up the most disruptive defensive player in this draft. With his combination of size and explosiveness, he could be a multiple Pro Bowler at the defensive end spot, with equal effectiveness against the run and pass.

On the flip side, Edwards could easily eat himself out of the defensive end position and lose much of what makes him a special prospect. In that case, he would wind up moving inside to the 3-technique and being a multi-year starter but without the consistent motor to be a great player.

Compares To

Former LSU, Dallas Cowboys, and Baltimore Ravens defensive end Marcus Spears, who was a little bigger than but not quite as explosive as Edwards.

Overall

Overall, Edwards grades out as an early second-round prospect and rookie starter, but he falls on the higher-ceiling side of that group and therefore is classified as a player worth potentially reaching for if a team believes they can keep him motivated and has a need in that area. I do think Edwards is a player whose best football is in front of him, and I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if he wound up the most impactful non-QB in this draft class five years from now.

Grade: 6.99 (Rookie starter)

Draft Prediction

Range: Mid 1st round to mid 2nd round.

Rumblings around the league the last few weeks have Edwards going as high as the 11th pick in the draft, as some teams have reportedly been convinced that his high ceiling is worth the risk of his appetite forcing him inside. I don’t think he goes quite that high, but I would not be surprised to see him off the board by the end of the first round at this point.

The bottom line is that Edwards brings an athletic skillset to the table unequaled by any other defensive lineman in this draft other than Leonard Williams, and if his work ethic and motivation ever start to approach to his talent level, he will be a steal for whoever gets him at that point. NFL coaches notoriously believe they can motivate players who had questionable motors in college, so don’t be surprised if someone reaches a bit higher for Edwards.

NFL contracts are also generally structured to include weight clauses that require a player like Edwards to weigh under a specific amount in order to get his full paycheck—something I would most certainly do in his case. Given significant enough monetary motivations to keep him in shape, he could be a better player than his tape grade, and teams know that.

His ceiling is higher than that of former Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead (who I like quite a bit), and Armstead is expected to be off the board by the mid-teens. In this draft, which lacks a high number of guaranteed top players on the defensive line, I’m betting one of the teams at the bottom of the first round—perhaps a multiple-front team like the Arizona Cardinals at 24 or the New England Patriots at 32—decides to reach a bit and gamble on his upside.

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