NFL Draft Risers: DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 10: Aaron Murray #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs is hit by Melvin Ingram #6 and another defender of the South Carolina Gamecocks at Sanford Stadium on September 10, 2011 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Look, I realize that talking about Melvin Ingram is becoming a bit repetitive, but where Ingram was probably a distant third behind Courtney Upshaw and Quinton Coples prior to the Combine in a lot of our minds, recent talk from certain respected analysts has me reconsidering a bit. I also realize that placing too much stock in the Combine is foolhardy - ultimately, the tape is where the Seahawks are going to focus the most -, but when guys like Tony Pauline, Russ Lande, Charley Casserly, and Rob Rang start singing a guy's praises it's piques my interest. Pauline is one of the most respected draft analysts in the game, Lande is a former NFL scout, Casserly is a former NFL executive (24 years as an executive, 16 of them as a GM), and Rang is respected for his reporting free from agenda or influence from agents or teams.

Pauline:

Risers - Melvin Ingram, South Carolina: Ingram continues to impress NFL teams, and his combine workout will push him further north on draft boards. He ran under 4.7 seconds on his first attempt in the 40, which included a quick 10-yard split of 1.65 seconds. Ingram was near flawless in position drills. He displayed great lateral movement skills, lost almost no momentum changing direction and was always on balance. His hands violently struck the bags in defensive line drills and Ingram looked incredibly athletic during linebacker drills. Don't be surprised if Ingram breaks into the draft's first 12 picks.

Top TWELVE picks, eh? TWELVE? Interesting number there Tony.

Lande:

Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina, 6-1 1/2, 264; new likely draft position: Top 15. Ingram came to Indianapolis battling Courtney Upshaw for top outside linebacker and Quinton Coples for top end. His strong showing proved to us that he is the best at both. He displayed the smooth and fluid movement skills, natural explosiveness and balance that excite NFL teams. Combined with his excellent hand use and pass-rush ability, Ingram proved he can be a highly productive 4-3 end or 3-4 outside 'backer.

Casserly:

Biggest Risers: South Carolina DE/OLB Melvin Ingram: He recorded a 4.79 40-yard dash at 264 pounds, but his drill work actually impressed me the most. Ingram moved well for his size in both the LB and DE drills. He showed good quickness and change of direction.

Rang:

Blessed with extraordinarily light feet for a 6-2, 276-pound man, Ingram's impressive agility made him a star at defensive tackle for the Gamecocks in 2011. His athleticism is good enough, in fact, to make the transition to defensive end or even outside linebacker in the 3-4 in the NFL. Ingram's stock is limited by the fact that he has very short arms (30½ inches), which could limit his ability to break free of blocks at the next level.

In another piece...

Ingram's footwork is excellent and the high school quarterback, running back, wide receiver -- and point guard -- was used in a variety of roles at South Carolina. He exclusively played linebacker as a freshman with the Gamecocks and continued to get reps at outside linebacker during his last two seasons and said his height gives him a leverage advantage. "I feel like when I come off the ball I already have leverage. So I just try to counter-move off whatever the offensive linemen do," Ingram said.

Ingram can also comfortably drop into coverage and match athletic ability and lateral movement to cover a tight end in space. He had two interceptions and scored three touchdowns in 2011. While he'll be classified as a pass rusher by decision-makers, he's more accurately labeled a football player.

There are similarities between Ingram and 2011 No. 2 overall pick Von Miller, an outside linebacker who ran a 4.42 40 at 6-2 5/8, 246 with 33 1/4-inch arms. A dervish off the edge, Miller had 11.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for the Broncos as a rookie and is now tutoring Ingram in California. "We just try to compete against each other every day," Ingram said. "Obviously, he's the Defensive Rookie of the Year. So I just try to pattern myself after him because I feel like he's had a lot of success in the NFL."

In that same article, Rang quotes Falcons' coach Mike Smith, who points out that production can be more important than physical measureables. "We are all searching for that and they come in all different kind of packages. They don't all have to be 6-4 and 270 pounds or 265," Smith said. "They at times can be 6-1, 6-1 1/2, 230 pounds. It depends on the system that you are playing and there are certain systems out there that allow some to rush out of a wide-tackle nine and be very productive. Those same players might not be very productive in another system."

'Wide-tackle nine' refers to rushing from the nine-technique position, which is what Chris Clemons and the Leo do a lot of the time.

In terms of my opinion, I'm beginning to come around to the idea of Ingram after seeing the success that K.J. Wright found last year with this defense as an OLB/DE hybrid type of player with an amazing amount of versatility. Ingram has the ability to potentially play outside linebacker in some looks, move to the middle as a DT a la Aaron Curry nickel/dime situations, and put his hand in the ground opposite Chris Clemons in Red Bryant/Raheem Brock's stead in other situations. In other words, his versatility could potentially allow the Seahawks to use him more often, and early. A lot of people cringe at the idea of drafting a situational pass rusher with the 12th pick because you'd like to see that much of an investment in a three-down defensive player. So, not like the 49ers used Aldon Smith, for instance. Of the choices available, Ingram might be the most complete player.

As we talked about the other day, I'm not sure that Courtney Upshaw has the speed that Pete Carroll wants at the linebacker position so may be more of a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end only. The problem that arose in the last few weeks was the idea he may not have the explosiveness to be a three-down pass rush end and may have issues with getting by NFL offensive tackles.

Now, I'm still a little skeptical of Ingram for the fact that he does have short arms and is a tad short when it comes to rush defensive ends. Since I used the K.J. Wright comparison, the hole in that argument comes from the fact that Wright is extremely long limbed and tall, something that John Schneider and Pete Carroll talked about constantly after the draft and during the season. Wright stands 6'4, with nearly 35" arms, giving him 8-10" more wingspan than Ingram. I do believe that matters to Carroll and Schneider, especially when it comes to running with running backs and tight ends in pass coverage. Longer arms, easier to disrupt at the line, easier to knock passes down, easier to wrap up, etc. I don't know if that takes Ingram out of the equation, I doubt it, but it makes him a little less desirable from a physical standpoint.

On the other hand, Ingram's 4.79 40 was impressive, as were his 6.83 3-cone drill (2nd only to Bruce Irvin in the DL and LB groups, which is extremely impressive, honestly) and his 4.18 short shuttle (6th among all DL and LBs). This short area burst and explosiveness is desirable to teams from a pass rusher, especially for a guy that's 265+ pounds. It piques your interest, especially when it comes to his reaction times and fluidity dropping back into coverage.

To the point that the Combine should not and probably does not matter all that much to this front office, especially when it comes to their high picks, I'd recommend re-visiting Rob Staton's take on Courtney Upshaw that favors the Alabama DE/OLB over Ingram (and Coples) based on game-tape, and that offers a bit of perspective on the difficultly in identifying the clear leader in this trio.

Then, watch the scouting videos on Ingram below.

Big thanks to DraftBreakdown for the excellent scouting videos they put together, JMPasq, MARI0clp, Aaron Aloysius, and the whole DraftBreakdown crew.

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