Oakland Raiders Draft Profile: Vic Beasley, OLB/DE, Clemson


Sep 27, 2014; Clemson, SC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams (12) is brought down by Clemson Tigers defensive end Vic Beasley (3) during the second quarter at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2015 NFL Draft fast approaching, NFL front offices are finalizing their draft boards and trying to squeeze the last drops of information they can about to prospects as they prepare to bring in the next generation of NFL players. For the Raiders and Reggie McKenzie, nearly every top prospect is being examined for ability to play football and ability to fit into the Raiders system and culture. The Raiders hold the 4th overall pick in the draft and McKenzie is looking to put together a top-tier draft class like the 2014 class that found four starters in a row (Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson, and Justin Ellis). With nearly every position on the field in need of a long-term upgrade, McKenzie can take the best players available at nearly any spot besides quarterback (that position is filled) and expect them to get on the field and contribute as rookies in 2015.

In this years’ draft class, no position group is near as loaded with potential starting NFL talent than that of edge pass rushers. Listed either as 3-4 outside linebackers or 4-3 ends, this group could see as many as five first round selections this year. One of those players is Clemson’s Vic Beasley.

Stats and Facts

Vic Beasley is a four-year player at Clemson, and has played mostly as a defensive end in their 4-3 alignment all four years, despite being less than 230 pounds as a freshman. Beasley began to see serious reps as a sophomore for Clemson, and in nine games in 2012 logged eight sacks. In 2013, Beasley played all 13 games as a starter for Clemson, amassing 13 sacks and 23 tackles for loss as well as four forced fumbles on the year, good enough for a consensus All-American selection. As a senior in 2014, he managed to add 12 more sacks and 22 tackles for loss to his impressive career stats, and was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Beasley does not have the size to be a full-time NFL defensive end, not even in a LEO/Elephant alignment. At 6’3″ and 246 pounds, he physically resembles Denver outside linebacker Von Miller, whom Raider head coach Jack Del Rio used in a variety of ways to great effect over the past three seasons. Miller was a Pro Bowler twice and a first team All-Pro once under Del Rio (he was injured for much of the 2013 season) and recorded 37.5 sacks, including 18.5 in the 2012 season.

Beasley and Miller are not only of similar size, but also of a similar athletic profile: both ran 4.53 second 40-yard dashes at their respective combines, and had similar results in the cone and shuttle drills. But Beasley, who has shorter arms than Miller by a full inch, did much better in the bench press (35 reps, on par with the strongest players in this draft class), and outperformed Miller somewhat in the vertical and broad jumps. Beasley put together probably the best Combine performance of any pass-rushing prospect in this draft, showing an uncanny mix of speed, strength, agility and athleticism.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Beasley is an athletic phenom who has used his physical prowess to be a standout defender at the college level, and he has all the physical tools to be a standout edge rusher at the next level. He has an amazing first step, able to get well into his pass rush before an opposing blocker can even get set to block him, and can make a move and be right by you in the blink of an eye. This first step will translate immediately to the next level, and help him make use of his athletic talent against bigger and more agile NFL offensive tackles and tight ends. A former running back, Beasley has great ankles and hips to make difficult turns and get around the edge, and he can also get off blocks with his quick hand strike and athletic spin move. He also has the ability to stand up and get in space well, either in contain against the run or even in rare pass coverage situations.

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  • Beasley is, however, too small to be a hand in the ground edge player on every down. With his lack of bulk, he can easily get washed while trying to set the edge in a run defense, and will get swallowed up in traffic. He also shows a lack of motor or desire at times on tape, often settling for being blocked if his first move is properly countered, and despite his strong showing on strength drills, he doesn’t show the strength on tape to bull-rush opposing blockers, even tight ends. The major concern with him is that he appears to lose track of run plays too easily, and can be seen on tape essentially quitting on plays run away from him.

    Fit for the Raiders

    Beasley doesn’t appear on the surface to be a fit for the Raiders defense, since he’s basically a smaller Khalil Mack with less ability against the run. That said, Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton are already shaking things up on defense, and that may open the door for a player like Beasley. Rumors have come out of the Raider camp that Khalil Mack might be playing more defensive end this season, specifically LEO or Elephant end, a position that he has the minimum size to play and the skill set against both run and pass to excel at. Mack was used frequently as a hand-in-the-ground end in passing situations last year, and Del Rio may decide to make him the full-time guy at the weakside end spot, essentially acting as a 3-4 edge rusher, but with his hand in the ground.

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    If that were to occur, then it stands to reason that Del Rio would want to find another Stud outside linebacker for the 4-3 Under front, a player who can dominate as a stand-up edge rusher but who presents a viable threat against the pass, and isn’t required to necessarily set the edge in the run game. Essentially, a player like Von Miller, who Beasley reminds many scouts and observers of and whom Del Rio has a lot of experience coaching. If Beasley is brought in, he would ideally replace Mack as the “under” linebacker while Mack moves over to be a LEO end, and the two could be the bookend 3-4 outside backers if and when Norton or Del Rio decides to run a 3-4 look.

    Just because it’s feasible or possible doesn’t mean it will happen, of course. Beasley is a great talent, but most observers would say that taking him at #4 is a stretch, especially if the much more dominant and versatile Leonard Williams is still on the board, or for that matter the bigger Dante Fowler, Jr. But still, keep Beasley in mind as a potential surprise pick for the Raiders at #4, or a strong contender if the Raiders decide to trade back toward the middle of the first round.