Noah Spence, EDGE, Eastern Kentucky
Ht. 6'2½", Wt. 251, Arm: 33", Hand: 10 ¾", Bench: 25
40 yd: 4.80, 10 yd.: 1.62, 3 Cone: 7.21, Vertical: 35", Broad: 10'1"
Games Watched: Penn St. (2013), NC State, Kentucky
Noah Spence signed with Ohio State as a five-star edge rusher prospect out of Pennsylvania and contributed immediately, playing in 11 games as a true freshman. In 2013, he racked up 8 sacks and 14.5 TFL for the Buckeyes, but missed the team's bowl game after reportedly testing positive for Ecstasy.
A few months after Spence's suspension, he was suspended indefinitely after reportedly failing another drug test. He transferred to Eastern Kentucky a few months later in response to being ruled permanently ineligible by the Big Ten. In one season for the Colonels — after sitting out the 2014 season — Spence recorded 11.5 sacks and 22.5 TFLs and was named the Ohio Valley Conference co-Defensive Player of the Year.
• Bend - Around the edge is where he wins
• Burst - Explosive off snap
• Motor - Relentless toward ball carrier
• Speed - Closes quickly
• Agility, Change of Direction - Terror in space
• Hands - Still inconsistent, but flashes hands
• Intelligence - Understands assignments, quickly diagnoses plays
• Work Ethic - Improved in year away from football
• Off the Field - Obvious concerns
• Length - Less than ideal, could have trouble disengaging
• Pass Rush Moves - Decent rip, spin, but not much else
• Speed to Power - Improved, but still average
• Anchor - Ibid
Verdict: First-Round Pick
Teams will need to vet Spence's off-field issues thoroughly, but there's no doubt he's a first-round prospect in the upcoming draft. He clearly spent his year off working, because he improved upon his deficiencies and gone from a pass-rush specialist to a more complete player. He still has work to do, but he's shown the desire and ability to become an elite edge defender.
Edge rusher is one position the NFL has figured out, so you generally have to pick the good ones early. Spence will not likely be the top player on my board at No. 4, but I wouldn't argue with the Cowboys gambling that pick on his upside. The Cowboys had a good look at Spence while coaching him at the Senior Bowl, so they're likely in the best position to decide if he can reach his potential.