6' 5" 288 lbs.
Strengths: Size, Athleticism, Versatility, Quickness
Weaknesses: Technique, Run Defense, Awareness
Projection: 1st Round 15th to 32nd
Son of former NFL running back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, the younger Heyward comes into the 2011 NFL Draft with a lot of promise and could end up being a star in the NFL after a few seasons in the NFL.
He has the size and ability that most NFL teams will want in a defensive end and what is nice about Heyward is that he has the ability to flip inside and play defensive tackle. He might work better in a 3-4 defense as a result of this.
So what does Heyward bring to the table in terms of talent and ability? What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses? Let’s find out as we dig deeper in to Heyward’s ability and find out just how he might fit in the NFL and in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Looking at his upside you will first notice that Heyward has the size to play both the defensive end position and the defensive tackle position which makes him very versatile (and probably a better fit in a 3-4 defense than in a regular 4-3 scheme). He has the size that you would want in either a defensive end or a defensive tackle and has that size to play inside or outside.
Heyward gets good leverage when he plays and is able to recover from chip blocks well along with being able to recover from the first strike delivered by offensive linemen. He also uses his hands well as he breaks free of blockers and can keep blockers from getting their hands on him (and controlling him or keeping him out of the play). With that good initial punch he gives to blockers he is able to set them back far enough at times so that they can’t get their hands on him and take him out of the play.
Teams have struggled to block Heyward with just one blocker in the past and knows how to work through and around blocks. There aren’t going to be too many running backs or tight ends that can block him.
Heyward is an instinctive player that can read and react to plays quickly. Along with that, he has very nice speed and can change direction easily when he is moving down the field at full speed. He can also use his speed to get up the field in a hurry and create pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Heyward can get up and down the line of scrimmage in a hurry and has great explosion when coming off the snap.
Heyward is going to end up as one of the strongest players at both the defensive tackle and defensive end position in the draft and he uses that strength to his advantage in games. He also has very strong hands and a good punch to put the offensive player back on his heels at the snap. He can also use his hands to gain control of the offensive player on the edge.
Heyward also has good technique and is well adept at anchoring himself and working against runs both in the middle and along the edges. He doesn’t have too much of a problem taking on double teams and has a lot of experience with that having been constantly double teamed in college.
When you look at Heyward in the physical sense, you will see that he is tall and very muscular. He has long arms that allow him to lock onto and control opposing offensive linemen. His initial strength (off of the ball) when first coming out of his stance is big and he can dominate blockers at times. He has the speed and ability to get off the ball quickly and beat the opponents across the line from him.
With his speed off of the line Heyward can easily work his way through double teams and provides enough punch to knock the blocker off of balance and give Heyward a chance to get up the field and make the play.
Heyward could add some additional weight and still be effective which is going to be a plus for NFL teams that are interested in him. If he does end up gaining some weight it will probably be because he’s been relegated to end duty in a 3-4 defense.
When Heyward is in action he gets low to the ground and has the strength to anchor against the run. He is very agile and has quick feet. He’s a hard worker as well and never quits when he’s on the field and will play 100 percent all of the time.
Heyward is well adept at making tackles on the line or just past the line and can make tackles in a crowd. He closes in on the ball carrier quickly and can adjust to shifts and moves made by the ball carrier. Heyward also comes into the tackle with a lean so that he can wrap up the ball carrier well and not let him get away. He can get down the field quickly to make the tackle and can chase ball carriers from sideline to sideline.
When it comes to experience Heyward has a lot of it. Not only does he have experience playing in multiple positions (defensive end and defensive lineman) but he also has been a starter since he was a freshman at Ohio State so he has a lot of experience playing college football.
Heyward is a high character player who is a hard worker and well liked by his teammates and the coaching staff. He is willing to give 100 percent all of the time both on the field and off, watches a lot of tape and spends time in weight room. Heyward’s father, Craig “Iron Head” Heyward played running back in the NFL and his stepfather, Cory Blackwell, played at the University of Wisconsin.
In looking at some of things that can be considered negatives with Heyward, one thing that you will notice is that he doesn’t overpower players that are better than he is and he may also struggle breaking free of double teams in the NFL. Some scouts also feel that Heyward may not play to the best of his abilities and needs to use his body better.
While Heyward does possesses some good speed some scouts say that he doesn’t use his speed all of the time and can slow down when he’s not supposed to. This may take him off the draft boards of teams that require that their defensive ends and outside linebackers be fast enough to help keep containment on the edge. He tends to slow down when he runs further and can’t catch faster players from behind.
Heyward didn’t have a solid season last year and wasn’t as consistent as he had been in seasons past. While this may not reflect too much on his draft position it may cause him to drop in the eyes of some NFL head coaches and general mangers.
Like almost every player coming into the draft, Heyward has some issues with his technique that he needs to work on but he should be able to get that under control when he get’s into the NFL. He has also struggled against the run at times because he doesn’t seem willing to play the run as much as the does the passing game so he will have to make some adjustments there. Learning some new moves to get him past blockers would be nice as well.
At times, Heyward will over run the play and take himself out of it. He needs to be much more careful about recognition and not take himself out of the play.
While Heyward was able to play inside in college he is probably too light to play inside in the NFL unless he is told to gain some additional weight.
While at the University of Ohio, Heyward earned the following honors:
2010: Named one of 12 finalists for the Lombardi Award.
2009: Named second team All-Big Ten, nominated for the Lombardi award, named Big Ten Player of the Week verses Penn State, Defensive Player of the Week against Penn State, given the Attack Force Award for outstanding performance against Toledo and USC, given the Jack Stephenson Award for the most outstanding defensive lineman and named a Top Ten Tenacious player five ties.
2008: Given the Attack Force Award in games against Michigan and Penn State and earned the Jack Tatum honor for a big hit he had against Penn State.
2007: Named a Freshman All-American by the Sporting News, Rivals and Scout.com, named Freshman All-Big Ten by the Sporting news, given the Attack Force Award for his play against Penn State, given the Jack Tatum Hit of the Week for hits given against Penn State and Michigan state and was named the team’s Outstanding First Year Player on defense.
High School: Heyward rated as the number 15 prospect in the State of Georgia and was rated the nation’s number 20 defensive tackle. He was named Georgia’s class 5A Player of the Year in 2006 and was ranked the 13th best defensive tackle in the country.
The following are some of the statistics that Heyward had during his time at Ohio State:
2010-Recorded 48 total tackles with 25 solo and 23 assisted. He had one interception, one fumble recovery, 13 tackles for a loss, two and a half sacks to go with one pass broken up and three quarterback hurries.
2009-46 total tackles, ten tackles for a loss and six and a half sacks.
2008-36 tackles, four and a half tackles for a loss and three sacks.
2007-33 total tackles, ten tackles for a loss and two and a half sacks
The Final Word
One interesting thing of note is that Heyward had surgery (shortly after their bowl game) for Tommy John type injury that shouldn’t affect his draft stock too much. Reports say that he is healing fine and the injury won’t hold him back in the draft.
Heyward would be the ideal fit for a team that runs a 3-4 defense because he could play either defensive end of move outside and play linebacker. He’s got the demeanor and the skill to rush the passer on a consistent basis and could help a team play well against the run.
It’s likely that he will be a later first round pick and could go to a team like the Baltimore Ravens, who need pass rushing help or possibly the New Orleans Saints.
Look for Heyward to go somewhere from the 16th pick to the 28th selection in the 2011 NFL Draft and have a nice career wherever he lands.