Boston College pass rusher Harold Landry brings 1st-round grade into 2017 season

Harold Landry

The ideal situation for any player with NFL aspirations is to have a monster season in their final year of college play. A 16.5-sack year would seem to qualify as such.

When Boston College defensive end Harold Landry finished 2016 with that many sacks to go along with 22 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, seven quarterback hurries and an interception, it was assumed he would turn pro and enjoy the riches of being a first-round pick.

Instead, he decided to return to B.C. for his senior season. It’s a risky choice because it’s almost unfathomable to think he can match his level of production from a year ago.

Regardless, Landry — assuming he can stay healthy — will be a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft if he comes anywhere close to the impact he had as a junior.

Landry joins LSU’s Arden Key as this year’s premier pass rushers. The premium placed on players who can get after the quarterback means he’ll be in contention to be a top-10 pick next April. If his tape at season’s end matches what I’ve seen so far, he’ll be deserving of that kind of grade.

In fact, Landry’s ability to hold up against power in the run game could push him past Key by the time draft season is over. It’s not that Landry is an elite defender against the run, but he’s less of a liability than Key at this point in their development and projects as a more well-rounded pro.

Landry is a natural athlete at 250 pounds (estimate). He’s twitchy off the snap and has the kind of pop in his hands to put offensive tackles on skates. His hands complement his speed really well; Offensive linemen are already on their heels in an effort to catch up with Landry’s first step, so when he strikes their chest, it’s game over.

He also has a nice set of developed pass rush moves. I noted victories with speed, power and an effective swim move. He has a really good motor, too. Quarterbacks can’t get comfortable when he’s on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

Landry looks the part of a 3-4 outside linebacker. While he wins with his hand in the dirt on Saturdays, I think he’ll find his home as an outside linebacker in the NFL. A lot will depend on his physical make-up this season. If he bulks up into the 260 range, he’ll be a scheme-diverse prospect and an even more appealing early first-rounder.

I like the fact that Landry decided to play another year of college football. It’s evidence of the confidence he has in himself and the commitment he has to his teammates and the program at Boston College. That’s going to score highly with scouts.

It also gives him another year to iron out some of the wrinkles in his game. Notably, his instincts against the run need improvement, and that generally comes with more reps. He’ll get them this year.

When it’s all said and done, Landry will be one of the top-tier prospects in the cluster of first-round non-quarterbacks this spring.