I know, I know, we’re only five weeks into the NFL seasons so why are we talking about the draft already? Well, the saying goes that there is no offseason, and that rings truer than anything for those of us who follow the draft closely. Like last year, we’ve been charting mock drafts, and there are over 200 of them already. As the Lions have slid down the draft order due to winning, one player who has seen his name rise up to meet them is Dorance Armstrong of Kansas.
Dorance Armstrong Jr.
Weight: 246 pounds
Current Projection: Rounds 1-3
Armstrong doesn’t fit the size profile of Teryl Austin’s pass rushers (6-foot-4 or higher, 265+ pounds), so there are going to be immediate questions about his fit in Detroit if Austin is still the defensive coordinator. Armstrong appears to have the requisite athleticism to play the position and will probably match or beat his projected 4.74 40-yard dash time due to a strong get off and explosive lower body. He doesn’t bend as well as some other prospects and looks similar athletically to recent Atlanta Falcons first-round pick Takkarist McKinley.
2015 - 23 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 5.0 TFL, 4 PD
2016 - 56 tackles, 10.0 sacks, 20.0 TFL, 3 FF, 2 FR
2017 (so far) - 31 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR
Armstrong was well regarded as a freshman in 2015, and he didn’t disappoint with his 10-sack sophomore campaign. Adding in an additional 10 tackles for a loss that year, he was expected to take that next step forward coming into 2017. I’ve only watched a little bit of Armstrong, and his best days are certainly enough to put him in first-round consideration. His 2017 hasn’t been quite as impressive as his previous year, but there is plenty of time for him to turn around the stat sheet, and Kansas isn’t exactly loaded with defensive stars to take attention away from him.
Outlook for the Lions
Like most undersized pass rushers, I’m skeptical he would be considered more than a second-round pick by a Teryl Austin led defensive team (a similar range to where they listed Takk McKinley). Austin has notoriously and nearly religiously prized defensive ends with size and length, two traits that, despite all his other gifts, Dorance Armstrong does not possess.
While there’s plenty to like, Armstrong doesn’t possess the type of elite-level athleticism that Vic Beasley did, enough to make me think a team with strict thresholds would overlook them to take that top-tier talent.
Armstrong has started a bit slow this season, but he’s still one to keep an eye on if he turns on the jets and goes on a tear as a pass rusher. With Anthony Zettel looking to be more and more legit, taking someone like Armstrong would be a bad sign for the slumping Ezekiel Ansah, though he may be kept around for another year on the tag to help with the transition.