Dorance Armstrong Jr. represents one of the more confounding EDGE prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. As a sophomore, Armstrong broke out, posting 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss on a dreadful 2-10 Kansas team. As a junior, Armstrong’s production dropped significantly as he posted just two sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss on an even worse 1-11 Jayhawks team.
After declaring for the NFL draft, Armstrong did his best to buoy his draft stock, performing well at the Scouting Combine. With a strong three cone and short shuttle, teams running a 3-4 defense could put faith in his ability to excel as an outside linebacker rather than as a defensive end.
Armstrong’s get off is average, something reflected in his combine testing. His 10-yard split of 1.73 seconds was one of the worst among defensive ends and the same as Andrew Brown, a (albeit quick-twitch) defensive tackle that has nearly 40 pounds on him.
While Armstrong lacks an above average get off, he does possess great short area quickness. He can make up ground in great time on stunts and twists inside, and has the quickness to close on quarterbacks on free rushes.
However it’s worth noting: Not only was Armstrong’s sack numbers down in 2017, but he did a poor job of finishing when he did get to the quarterback.
The quickness shown before the attempt to finish is great, but Armstrong must finish those types of plays, especially in the midst of a two-sack campaign.
Armstrong’s lean frame and lateral agility serves him well as the backside defender against the run, where he can work across the line and make plays like this:
With a long, lean frame, Armstrong is susceptible to getting knocked off balance or pushed off the ball with some regularity as he plays high. He can be steered wide easily and at times looks completely useless defending the run.
However during his final season at Kansas, there were flashes of great strength at the point of attack. They didn’t happen often enough, but there were moments that could make a team think with his length and athleticism, he can at least be a competent run defender and set the edge.
Here, he uses his length to get into the tackle’s chest, pushes him back at the point of attack and ruins the play for the offense.
These flashes are few and far between, but they’re the type of moments that are encouraging from a late day two, early day three developmental pick.
Armstrong uses his length well to keep offensive linemen off his body when working laterally. He has active hands and will do a good job of setting up his swim move — his go-to pass rush move. But similar to Armstrong defending the run, he is too easily controlled by the tackle across from him. At times it looks like he’s trying to do 100 things at once when engaged, rather than executing one concerted move.
If Armstrong is going to ever come close to his sophomore season production in the NFL, he is going to have to develop an effective second move rushing the passer. With the Jayhawks, he would try to utilize a spin move, but it’s projected and comically easy for a tackle to deal with.
Either when he gets into a tackle’s chest or executes his swim move, Armstrong doesn’t do a good enough job dipping his shoulder and bending around the offensive lineman. Both against the run and the pass, his long, high frame does him more bad than good.
Consistently beating tackles with good bend is something Armstrong will have to improve upon. Interior pressure gets to the quarterback (although there’s a flag), but this sack would’ve been Armstrong’s if he was able to bend around the tackle after beating him. Instead, it takes him nearly a half-dozen more steps to fully get around the tackle.
Overall, Armstrong is a raw EDGE who lacks a refined pass rush game and will be pushed around against the run. He has the ability to move in space that may lead to a switch to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but regardless of the defense Armstrong lands in, he will need to develop as a player in both phases to become an every-down defender.