Update: The Seahawks grabbed McDowell with the 35th pick.
Malik McDowell is a very interesting prospect if for no other reason than — and this happens sometimes when you're breaking down a guy's film — it was apparent a game or two into watching his tape that he was playing out of position at Michigan State. Which isn't an excuse, it just ... is. You don't normally put a guy who is 6'6, almost 300 pounds and with arms that are almost 35 inches long inside.
It would be a waste, because it’s hard for a guy that size to stay low, it’s hard for him to hold up against double teams inside where everything happens faster, it’s hard for him get those long ass arms into full extension on guards who are much closer to the line of scrimmage than, say, offensive tackles.
That's why normally you'd want to put a guy that size outside.
Out there he will see more favorable opportunities to make big plays against offensive tackles who are, again, further off the ball in general and where the double teams are usually done by a smaller tandem of a tight end and a tackle rather than having to take on two 300+ pounders at center and guard
My gripe isn't just that he played inside, but more so that so much of the time it was as a 4-3 nose tackle on the center or a 2i (inside shade) of the guard, rather than as a three technique.
You couldn't possibly put a guy that size, with McDowell's physical gifts and tools and his athleticism and his array of power and finesse pass rush moves, in a worse position than having him line up in the A gap play after play.
On the rare occasion when they actually did stick McDowell out on one of the edges to pass rush, the guy looked amazing at times. When Michigan State matched him up against an offensive tackle, he was opening up cans of whup ass all over the place.
Why yes, that was probable first-round pick Ryan Ramczyk that McDowell beat like a drum, why do you ask?
It was remarkable how much McDowell would win out on an edge as a pass rusher considering how little time he actually spent out there.
Unfortunately for him, the quarterback either ended up completing the pass — meaning no hurry by my definition — on several of those plays which happened to be some of his best pass rushes.
If you only look at his stat sheet in the five games I watched the guy had no sacks and just five hurries (by my count) in five games, so it might seem comical to even be considering him some kind of big time pass rusher, let alone a first-round pick, but over and over again I was watching McDowell making these good moves.
He is exploding to the quarterback.
And just as he is hitting the quarterback, the ball is released and ultimately ends up as a catch.
How about this play where McDowell knocks the shit out of the Indiana quarterback just after he throws the ball. It ends with the opposing team scoring a touchdown to go up 21-14 late in the fourth quarter and McDowell ejected for targeting.
Michigan State would go on to lose that game.
With a little bit better coverage behind him, McDowell's stats could have been a lot better, especially in the hurries department. That's even with him playing in the A gap so much.
Fate just didn't give a fuck about him is all.
As an evaluator, it’s much more important for me to see a defensive lineman beating the offensive lineman with a good pass rush move than whether he gets credit for a sack or a hurry on that particular play in most instances.
It’s not easy to get a sack or a hurry. It’s fucking hard.
And it is even fucking harder to rack up those stats when you are McDowell's size and lined up in the damn A gap all the time.
I don't think y’all hear me, doe.
Just understand that McDowell's stat sheet tells you next to nothing about what his potential is on the next level.
Pay close attention when his name comes up and analysts give you their view of him. Because opinions on McDowell's potential are likely to split between those who know what the fuck they are talking about and who don't.
I'm just being honest with you.
And I'm not talking about whether they think he will go in the first round. I'm talking about where they see his fit in the NFL and the kinds of things they project he will be able to do versus the things they think he will struggle to do.
Somebody who watches this kid play could certainly have a lower opinion of him, but if they don't mention him being more of an edge guy in the league and how his size doesn't really fit the mold of most dominant interior players, well ...
Look man, even with McDowell lining up in the A gap so much, fighting against double teams and taking on scoop blocks, he was still disruptive as hell! I'm sure he knows that he is better suited to play on the edge, but I damn sure didn't see him feeling sorry for himself on tape.
McDowell was getting after it. When a guard or a center ended up one-on-one with him, it didn't usually end so well for that offensive lineman.
He may not have always gotten full extension with those long arms, but he still played strong enough to push whomever was trying to block him, back into the backfield.
Or at the very least not lose much, if any, ground.
McDowell is going to give whichever team drafts him a lot of position and scheme versatility which means it’s going to be harder for a bad team to ruin him. If that bad team that drafts him and lines him up in the A gap a lot, I will likely pull all my dreads out.
I'm not knocking Michigan State for where they played McDowell, because I don't know what their motivation was for putting him in the A gap. College teams are going to be focused on winning games more than showcasing guys for the NFL. If both happen to happen simultaneously, cool, but coaches who don't win games but have a bunch of first- and second-round picks aren't going to last as a coach very long these days.
It’s frustrating because I would have loved to have seen McDowell out as a five tech or even a three technique more.
Any situation that would have forced a lot of single blocking would have been favorable to what I watched.
But I'm not going to whine about it. With what I did see, I feel pretty confident in my assessment that he is going to kick ass in the B gap or C/D gap in the NFL.
Especially considering how much dog I saw from him in five games. That kind of tenacity out on the edge against a left tackle who is used to guys running around him?
Or a quick hands move on a guard who is used to someone trying to run over them.
I mean, take your pick, bruh.
Which way do you want to die?
I will say that McDowell did have a few loafs, but not so many that I am worried about his effort.
Certainly not nearly as many as Solomon Thomas. And truth be told, I'm not sure if I was on the clock and Thomas and McDowell were still available that I wouldn't pick McDowell. I understand that McDowell's combine numbers don't blow you away the way Thomas’ did, but his tape does it for me.
Poor Furman didn't know what hit ‘em, SMDH.
And that aforementioned loss to Indiana? Yeah, he was dominant in that one.
I imagine it made that loss sting even more.
My NFL doppleganger for McDowell is David Irving's flashes, but consistently. Yeah, yeah, I know Dallas uses Irving some in the A gap, too. I wish I had the :eyeroll: emoji right now.
Anyway, Malik McDowell is going to kick some ass in the NFL and you can beleee dat! Some may laugh at my comment about picking McDowell over Thomas today, but don't be surprised if three years from now McDowell is the more productive player. Regardless of when he is drafted, you can expect McDowell to be ready to play from day one and to keep getting better the more he plays.
McDowell's best days are ahead of him and, barring injury, I see him being a Pro Bowl type player by his third year, if not sooner, and a double digit sack guy maybe in his second year if he goes somewhere with a good to great 3-4 defensive coordinator. If you don't know the name by now and your team has a pick in the first round, I would suggest you get very familiar.
Since I don't have access to all-22 for college football games, I use the next best thing for my draft profiles and go to Draft Breakdown where they the TV copy of a bunch of top prospects' already cut up and ready to go. Also, their site is compatible with the NoHuddle app which turns your cell phone into a "cowboy clicker," which is pretty damn neat. For the purposes of this breakdown, I watched Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell against Furman, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Indiana and BYU. Those represented the first five games on Michigan State's schedule last season, respectively.