At first glance, South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram appears to have the perfect resume for the Browns' vacancy at right defensive end. The stocky pass rusher piled up sacks over the last two seasons, reaching double digits during his strong senior campaign.
In addition to filling up the stat sheet, Ingram showed marked improvement in his pass rush skill set. As a junior, Ingram routinely was the last guy moving off the ball. Though still inconsistent, Ingram more frequently exploded off the ball last fall, after which he'd use his quick hands to keep linemen from obstructing his path to the quarterback.
Ingram added a nice swim move to a pass rush repertoire that already included an excellent spin move. And when he took those skills to the Senior Bowl, he managed to have one of the most impressive weeks of any defensive lineman in attendance.
With his solid tape and promising upside, it's no surprise that Ingram has made his way up into first round consideration. Some have the Gamecock projected as a potential top ten pick, while others have him being selected more towards the end of the frame. The flashy pass rusher has become a semi-popular mock pick for the Browns' 22nd overall selection.
However, a closer inspection of Ingram's tape suggests that the sack artist may not be ready to step in and take on blind side blockers. At South Carolina, Ingram wasn't asked to battle snap-for-snap against left tackles.
His success was predicated on being placed in favorable matchups, ones he won't necessarily be afforded in the NFL.
Some teams will prize Ingram's versatility, as he has experience playing with hand up and down, lining up both inside and out. Unfortunately, his pass rush success wasn't evenly distributed between those positions. Instead, most of it came lined up inside at defensive tackle.
When matched up against slow-footed offensive guards, Ingram was able to spin and explode his way into the backfield. He was especially adept at out-quicking interior linemen late in games when they were even more lead-footed. Ingram also did a disproportionate amount of his damage against mediocre teams with poor offensive lines; the first-team All-SEC defensive end notched a majority of his sacks against squads that had a sub .500 record or worse within the conference.
As a result, it is still unclear whether Ingram can consistently turn the corner against NFL-caliber offensive tackles. Indeed, in his biggest test of the season, Ingram was neutralized by a legit big league talent. Georgia left tackle Cordy Glenn may move inside to guard in the pro's, but he looked rather comfortable handling the blind-side against Ingram.
The South Carolina end's spin move was ineffective against Glenn, as was his outside speed rush. On multiple occasions, Glenn ended up putting Ingram on the ground. Unsurprisingly, Ingram's bull-rush wasn't effective either; the nearly 350-pound big man easily stood his ground.
Ingram wasn't even that effective when he moved inside and battled offensive guards, only managing one quarterback pressure. While his fake punt touchdown run in the game drew plenty of headlines, it was a deflating defensive performance for Ingram – one that raises questions about how he projects to the next level.
In the end, Ingram may possess more of a niche skill set, one distinct from what the Browns need at right defensive end. At least initially, his pass rush ability will be harnessed best by lining up inside on passing downs.
While that skill set is highly valuable – subbing out Phil Taylor or Ahtyba Rubin in obvious passing situations wouldn't be a bad idea – it's unclear whether Ingram ever will develop into a very disruptive outside pass rusher.
As a result, unless Marcus Benard or one of the other young'uns on the roster rapidly develops, a Browns team with Ingram on board may still lack a strong passing downs bookend opposite Jabaal Sheard.