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Nate Orchard, the senior defensive end from the Utah Utes, enters the 2015 NFL Draft after an extremely productive 2014 season resulting in First Team All-Pac 12 honors. Orchard was named an All-American defensive lineman by several national outlets. He totaled 17.5 sacks last season, bringing his career total to 24. He also wrangled 20 TFLs in 2014, with 37.5 total TFLs during his tenure at Utah. Physically, Orchard presents with a perfect frame to fit any system. He is big and long enough to line up with his hand in the dirt as a DE in a 43 scheme, and he displayed some sound movement skills that are needed to drop into coverage as an OLB in a 34. His 255 lbs is comprised of lean muscle; He should be able to bulk up if needed in the NFL. Athletically, Orchard is a coordinated and smooth player who displays a solid burst and good overall quickness at the POA. He tends to play a little high at the snap of the ball which can limit his ability to penetrate at the next level. But he’s an active and aggressive guy who uses his hands well; He displays the ability to shed blocks pretty well, and stays involved and active in pursuit of the ball carrier. Against the pass, Orchard is a sound pass rusher who possesses a good array of pass rush moves; I noted an effective swim move as well as a good rip and the ability to convert speed to power. While not the most flexible guy when bending the edge, he does have the kind of first step and enough initial quickness that threatens offensive tackles immediately out of their stance. Orchard is a good finisher in the backfield, too, consistently completing the sack when he’s in the position to make one. Against the run, Orchard is a nice combination of power and agility; He’s strong enough to stack and shed when the play is run at him while also possessing the kind of length and burst needed to chase a man down from behind. He’s the kind of defender who will be an asset on all three downs.
BOTTOM LINE: While Nate Orchard isn’t one of the flashiest defenders in the class, he is one of the most well-rounded. His 17.5 sacks in 2014 might be a tad inflated, as I don’t expect that he will be that dominant of a pass rusher in the NFL. However, he does have 10 sack potential while also being a strong defender against the run. Orchard is most likely to succeed in a 43 front, but he has the baseline athleticism to appeal to any scheme. He has the kind of overall game that warrants late first-round consideration.
GRADE: 7.8 (2nd Round)
-Submitted by Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade)