Hayes Pullard, the four-year starter for the USC Trojans, enters the 2015 NFL Draft after a 2014 season that was consistent with his career production. He totaled 95 tackles and 5.5 TFLs last year, bringing his career totals to 377 tackels and 25.5 TFL. He was named Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 in 2014 after being named Second Team All-Pac 12 in 2013 (in 2012, he was acknowledged once again as an Honorable Mention performer.) Physically, Pullard is an undersized guy from both a mass and length standpoint. He has short limbs and his 235 lbs is light for an inside linebacker in the NFL. He’s a pretty muscular and thick guy, so I have concerns about his ability to add more “good” weight. Athletically, Pullard possesses solid short-area quickness and has a good initial burst once he identifies the play’s design. He doesn’t have the greatest range, however, and is unlikely to be able to handle sideline to sideline duties. Pullard displayed good footwork and fluid hips when dropping into coverage, but I’m not sold on his ability to hold up against NFL-level tight ends. Pullard is pretty quick to read his keys and get moving downhill in the run game, but he has an awkward hitch/hop before he gets going; it causes him to be a step too late at times. He’s a slip and slide defender who can penetrate from time to time, but he struggles to work himself free from oncoming blockers. In the NFL, he could get overwhelmed in the trenches. Against the pass, Pullard is a fluid guy when dropping into coverage and can stay in his assignment’s hip pocket, but his physical limitations are concerning.
BOTTOM LINE: Hayes Pullard is an experienced leader on defense who has seen a lot of snaps as an inside linebacker. His physical makeup is a concern for NFL play, as he simply doesn’t have the kind of size required for the position. He’s likely best suited for WLB in a 43 front which will limit his overall appeal and draft value. I wouldn’t rule out the option of Pullard dropping some weight and kicking back to SS, as he does have the kind of fluid movements to potentially play on the 3rd level. That said, he’s a late-Day 3 guy who will likely make his biggest impact on special teams in the NFL.
GRADE: 5.3 (7th Round)
-Submitted by Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade)