Heading into the week-long event down in Mobile, Ala., people didn’t seem to know much about Notre Dame defensive end Isaac Rochell. Word on the street told us he was a big strong guy who held up nicely against the run, but that was the extent I could get out of draft experts and gurus alike.
The early morning weigh-in rang true about Rochell’s size at 6-4, 282 pounds. It was obvious this kid had the bulk to be a cornerstone in the run game. However, once the players put on the pads and got on the field, something happened. Rochell started turning heads as he was consistently winning his one-on-one battles with a surprising quick burst off the snap and outstanding hand technique to blow by his defender.
Coaches moved Rochell around all week both inside and outside where he looked equally comfortable and didn’t skip a beat. When mixed into the full team drills, Rochell validated the general consensus that he could hold up against the run with ease.
Entering the week, it would seem Rochell was nothing more than a Day 3 guy who offered some scheme versatility but would never wow you with any one attribute. Now, after watching him up close, I’m not so sure Rochell isn’t one of the best 10 linemen in this class.
With a rare blend of strength for the run and quickness off the line, Rochell was far more polished creating pressure in the backfield than I had heard anyone give him credit for previously. With his ability to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 thanks to his size, Rochell not only offers versatility from a scheme standpoint, but is also a guy I would move inside on passing downs, adding even more toys to his bag of tricks.
For a team willing to work on his pass-rushing technique and make the decision if it’s best to bulk him up or trim him down, Rochell will be an outstanding addition to a defensive line rotation. And while he may not be as polished as some of his peers and will find himself likely outside the top-100 players, Rochell is going to make some team very happy as a valuable fourth-round pick come draft day.
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