Not every single draft prospect comes ready to be an instant influencer in the NFL. Some need a little time to grow once they get into the league. Bengals fourth-round defensive tackle Renell Wren falls into that category.
Wren has ALL the athleticism and attributes that teams covet when looking for defensive line prospects. At 6’5 and 318 pounds, Wren absolutely dominated the NFL Combine as one of the top performers of the weekend.
He was hovering around the 70th percentile in just about every workout outside of the three-cone drill.
Wren wasn’t always able to turn that athletic ability into on-field production during his time at Arizona State, however. In 29 games, Wren was only able to nab three sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Just to compare, fellow NFL prospect Ed Oliver matched those numbers in his final season at Houston — in only eight games.
This year’s draft is loaded with elite defensive linemen, but not every team can afford to use a premium pick on one. Wren, who will probably end up going in the middle rounds of the draft, could be a fantastic consolation prize for one team.
But Wren has a lot of work to do to become the dominant player his physical traits say he should be, and he knows it. SB Nation was able to catch up with Wren at the NFL Combine to talk about what he’s trying to improve and how he’s going about it.
Wren was clearly the best athlete on the field for Arizona State, but there’s room for development.
The talent Wren has is wildly apparent on tape. Watch him bull rush the center like he’s just a sled on the practice field.
While the burst is extremely impressive, Wren didn’t really attempt to disengage from the center and bring down the quarterback. That struggle to disengage showed up on his reps against the run as well.
Here’s another clip from Arizona State’s game against UTSA. Wren blows up the offensive line again, but isn’t able to get away from the blocker for a tackle in the backfield.
Wren is trying to get ready for the NFL by ... watching YouTube.
Wren knows that he has the ability to be a much more dominant player than he is now. One resource that he’s been using to try and get better? YouTube.
“I’ve really been looking at Chris Jones from the Chiefs and Fletcher Cox from the Eagles,” Wren said with a smile. “Just going on YouTube and looking at their pass-rush moves and getting in that extra work outside. I’m just doing the things that people aren’t seeing.
“I’ve been seeing them do in-and-outs. I’ve been seeing them do clubs, rips. Simple things, but seeing them at the snap of the ball attacking.”
Cox’s club move is a great move to study — at its peak, it can knock over even the biggest offensive linemen the NFL has to offer.
Wren also knows that his tactic of just bulldozing straight through offensive linemen likely won’t work in the NFL — a bit of nuance and finesse needs to be applied to his game to really unlock his full potential.
“I’m trying to work on taking on the shoulder [of the offensive lineman] instead of going straight down his chest. Just being able to prove that and show people that I can do more than just overpowering.”
Taking on the shoulder of the offensive line is what’s known as the “half-man” relationship. The science isn’t exact, but a lot of coaches will explain it as cutting the weight of the offensive lineman in half by just taking on one side of them.
If you’re battling against a 300-pound offensive lineman it makes sense, in theory, to take on 150 pounds of that player. Right now, a lot of Wren’s clips are him just trying to run over people.
The big thing he has going in his favor is that he’s just a much better athlete than other players at his position. If he’s used right, Wren could turn out to be the steal of the 2019 NFL Draft.