By Jack Rieger
On Thursday, April 28, the NFL draft begins its three-day frenzy, signaling the transition from NFL offseason to preseason. It’s a day filled with excitement and hope, as every team is searching for the next franchise player to round out its roster.
The draft is special because every team in the league, no matter how pitiful or spectacular, participates in the carousel. Teams on the fringe of Super Bowl contention have a chance to get the one player holding them back, and teams in the bottom third of the league are looking for their quarterback of the future to bring their team back into relevancy.
On the other end of that transaction is the college athletes themselves, one of whom is Nevada’s Ian Seau. Seau is a 6’2”, 250-pound senior defensive end from Oceanside, California, who’s played for the Wolf Pack since his sophomore season. Seau is one of the few, if not the only, Nevada player who has an outside chance of being drafted this season.
Seau has appeared in 37 games in his three-year career at Nevada, finishing with 100 tackles, 31 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles. He was an All-Mountain West first team player this past season and Nevada’s most dominant defensive player.
Seau has explosive quickness off the ball and anticipates the snap very well as a pass rusher. Although he’s an undersized defensive end, Seau is a powerful tackler and often leaves his feet to bring down ball carriers. His smaller size allows him to be flexible and elusive in the trenches.
He has two basic moves when rushing the passer. Seau primarily uses a speed rush where he tries to beat the offensive lineman to the outside by anticipating the snap count. His secondary move is a swim or rip move back to the inside, which is a productive counter to his speed rush. He has an excellent motor and refuses to stop pursuing until the whistle blows, something he’ll need at his size.
Seau’s greatest advantage might be the premium placed on pass rushers in today’s NFL. If you can get to the quarterback, a team will find a way to put you on its roster, and Seau has proven his ability to break through the line. He also has a knack for forcing fumbles, as he ripped the ball loose seven times in 37 games.
If you want to play on the defensive line in the NFL, you need size and Seau is small for a pass rusher at 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds. His lack of size was a problem when it came to defending the rush, as Seau was often overpowered. He also doesn’t have great change of direction skills, so pass coverage might be a challenge, and certainly at the NFL level there will be a learning curve.
His best shot in the NFL is probably as a third-down rusher on a team that employs a 3-4 defense. He’s a little stiff-legged and therefore his technique has to be excellent for Seau to remain on the field. He’s not considered an excellent tackler by scouts and isn’t quite athletic enough to play in space.
Prediction: Undrafted free agent, Cleveland Browns
Most websites covering the draft have Seau going undrafted, with a few having him in the seventh round. The Cleveland Browns have a serious need for multiple pass rushers, and they’ve also cultivated a Polynesian culture over the past few years, which is the country Seau is from.
Jack Rieger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JackRieger.