After watching Kevin Dodd play in four games I can definitely see why some teams have him pretty high on their draft boards as an edge rusher. He isn't all that explosive off the ball, but he has developed this window-wiper move that is both efficient and very effective. In a class that doesn't have many pass rushers that can consistently win around the corner, that makes Dodd a hot commodity.
It doesn't hurt that he also has really good size at 6'5 and 277 pounds with arms that are 34 inches long. His physical dimensions give him a scheme versatility advantage over a guy like Noah Spence, for instance, who might be a better pass rusher, but at 6'2 and around 250 can only fit on the outside for now and may even get physically overwhelmed by some of the bigger tackles in the NFL on the edge sometimes. Whether you run a 3-4 or a 4-3, there is somewhere for Dodd to fit and play well.
Dodd wasn't exactly He-Man out there against the run, but he was able to set the edge and hold his ground for the most part. He actually did a really good job of coming off and getting full extension of his arms when he took on offensive tackles, which allowed him to both control the tackles and also force the running back to try to cut back on off-tackle plays, but I figured I wouldn't bore you by posting a bunch of clips of him doing that, because while it was really good technique, he wasn't usually making the play.
Where Dodd really made money was when he stunted inside the tackles on running plays. On most of those plays he actually beat the would-be blockers clean with the kind of quickness that is uncommon for a man his size. Several times that resulted in a tackle for loss, two in particular stand out against Alabama and their Heisman Trophy-winning tailback, Derrick Henry.
Against a pretty good offensive line and a damn good running back, Dodd was able to rise to the occasion and wreck shop in the backfield.
It was that cat-like quickness of his that really stood on tape the most. That goes not only for when he was playing the run, but also for how he rushed the passer.
Back to the wiper move I referred to earlier. The reason why Dodd is so effective with it is because he has figured out how to hit that move at a moment's notice. No matter where he was on field or who he ended up pass rushing against, Dodd would not hesitate to try that move as soon as he saw an opening. That's a good thing for two reasons.
For one, the whole point of the wiper move is to knock the offensive tackle's hands down before they can make it to your body as he tries to throw his two-handed punch at your upper torso. If you go into the move too early, miss their hands or, worst case scenario, you're late with trying to knock their hands off, then you could end up locked down for the rest of that play, which is never a good thing.
But the thing that's so tricky (read, difficult) about using the move is that offensive linemen throw their punches at different times. Some guys will shoot them early, after a kick step or two. Some guys will shoot them late, especially if they know the pass rusher likes to try to knock hands down. Others, and I would argue the best blockers, learn how to throw their punch off rhythm, which makes it harder to time up the wiper move as a pass rusher.
That Dodd was able to adjust to the different right tackles he saw in those four games and still be consistently effective with that move shows me that everything doesn't have to be perfect for him to win as a pass rusher. He is fluid enough and has enough quick twitch about him that he can hit his go-to move in the blink of an eye, and that will transfer well to the next level.
The second reason why it was good that Dodd was able to get into that wiper move quickly is because the wiper move is usually most effective when the pass rusher is at least level with the offensive tackle's front foot before they start making the move. If the pass rusher tries to start a wiper move too early and an offensive tackle is bailing out of there, then more than likely even if the move works the pass rusher still won't be able to turn the corner because the tackle will still have leverage on them.
That leverage would give the offensive tackle the opportunity to recover even if his hands had been knocked off clean initially.
With Dodd not having blazing speed, it took him an extra step or two at times to get level with offensive tackles who started bailing out after he beat them around the corner a time or two. His patience in waiting to throw the move until he was in position to win paid off several times where, even though he turned the corner a little deeper than I would have liked, he still was about to come free and get to the quarterback.
Of course that wasn't always the case. I know I'm beating a dead horse at this point when I talk about wanting an edge rusher to be able to turn the corner at around 7-8 yards' depth, but that really is the difference between a pressure and a sack a lot of the time, especially in the NFL. That is where I did see a problem with the way Dodd pass rushed most of the time.
See the wiper move wasn't just Dodd's best move, it was damn near the only pass rush he ever tried to use. And I'm talking about play after play after play, just nothing but wiper moves. It's great that he has gotten so good at it, but all too often I saw him get a little too far up field waiting either on the tackle to throw his punch or to get close enough to do the move, and the results were near-sacks that Dodd missed by just a hair.
If he could've turned the corner just one yard sooner, maybe even just a half-yard at times, Dodd turns these hits and pressures into more sacks. Pressures are great, but as I've said before, sacks are fucking greater. Anybody that tries to devalue sacks is full of shit, man -- there aren't many things more demoralizing to an offense. Call me crazy, but I want the big-time sack guy not the big-time pressures guy, unless the pressures guy also has a bunch of sacks.
If Dodd would've just done a few more power rushes, he could've gotten those tackles to start sitting down earlier. That would have made his wiper move even more effective and his sack totals would've gone through the roof. No matter how well you develop one move, you have to have something to counter it with or NFL offensive tackles will find a way to block that one move.
People talk about Dwight Freeney and his spin move a lot, for instance, but what makes his spin moves so effective is the fact that he has always been a superb speed rusher. If an offensive tackle doesn't respect his speed around his corner he will get left in the dust. At the same time, if he jumps way out to stop the speed rush, BAM here comes the spin move. The moves complement each other and put offensive tackles in a bind.
With Dodd, the few times I did see him try a power rush, he actually looked pretty good doing it. He just needed to do it more, especially when tackles started to bail out on him to make sure that even if he beat them with the wiper move, it would be at a level deeper than their quarterback.
This is probably going to sound crazy, but I actually see some Jared Allen in Dodd. Allen was a guy that liked to do a lot of different variations of power rushes. He might give you a full-fledged bull rush or maybe a long arm instead to stay on the edge of a guy. But when he wanted to try to turn the corner with speed, Allen also had that wiper move that he could go to on cue. His power rushes had tackles sitting down and punching so hard that when he slipped that wiper move in, the tackle's feet would usually be stuck in the ground like quick sand.
If Dodd can diversify his pass rush repertoire and find a move that really complements his wiper move, whether it be a power rush or a better inside move than I saw from him on tape, he could be a handful to deal with as a pass rusher in the NFL.
This kid is just fluid as hell. Once he gets a little more technique in all phases of his game, he is going to be a beast. Hell, just look at some of the rushes he was able to pull off when he stunted inside the right tackle and ended up having to rush the right guard on the move.
I can promise you it isn't nearly as easy of a feat as Dodd made it look at times. You're off balance and trying to redirect and then here is this big lug in your way. And yet, somehow Dodd just changes directions and hits his move like it's nbd.
This play, in particular, was just incredible. Check it, Dodd comes inside of the offensive tackle, beats the right guard outside, then he beats the running back who is just all in the damn way and then he beats the right guard again before he is finally awarded for all that effort with a sack.
Like I said, incredible.
Even though Clemson didn't line Dodd up as a defensive tackle in the games that I watched, the way he was able to rush the right guard after coming inside on some of these plays makes me think whichever NFL team takes him might want to give him at least a few reps at three-technique to see what he can do. With his size and quickness, he just might be unfair as an interior rusher.
Guards usually can't wait to get their hands on you, so that should make Dodd's wiper move even more effective inside. He is also tall enough to be able to develop a decent arm-over move inside as well. I'm not sure he is strong enough to hold up inside on early downs, but on passing downs he has the potential to be a straight-up cheat code.
With his frame he may be able to pack on a few more pounds and spend even more time inside too, you never know.
Dodd only played on the left side in the games that I watched, so I have no idea how effective he might be on the right side. With his quickness, if he can turn around and do that wiper move just as well as the right defensive end, I see no reason why he couldn't excel over there, too.
Former Ohio State edge rusher Joey Bosa is much more polished than Dodd coming out, so Bosa has a much higher floor. However, Dodd has the higher ceiling of the two. While Bosa has all the moves in the world, Dodd is a lot more fluid and more athletic on the field. If and when Dodd learns a wider array of pass-rush moves, he'll be a much better pass rusher outside than Bosa on the next level.
That's a big if.
If you are going for the sure-thing, high-floor player, then Bosa is definitely your guy. But I have to say, after Noah Spence, I'm not sure that Dodd won't end up being the second-best edge rusher to come out of this draft class. Yes, that includes his former teammate Shaq Lawson. That kind of size and length combined with quickness and coordination is just not something that you see every day.
If he commits to improving and expanding his technique, Kevin Dodd is going to be a monster in the NFL in a few years.
Since I don't have access to all-22 for college football games, I use the next-best thing for my draft profiles, Draft Breakdown. They the TV copy of a bunch of top prospects already cut up and ready to go. Also, their site is compatible with the new NoHuddle app that turns your cell phone into a "cowboy clicker," which is pretty damn neat. For the purposes of this breakdown, I watched the former Clemson edge rusher play against Louisville, Wake Forest, Oklahoma and Alabama. Those represented the third, 11th, 14th and 15th games on Clemson's schedule last season, respectively.