Shilique Calhoun, the talented underclassman defensive end from the Michigan State Spartans, enters the 2015 NFL Draft after being named First Team All-Big 10 in 2014 (was named First Team All-Big 10 in 2013 as well.). Calhoun managed to collect 15 sacks during his career (6.5 in 2014) while also managing 27.5 career TFLs. Physically, he’s a bit of a tweener who will have to bulk up a bit in order to play a traditional 43DE role. His body-type tends to suggest OLB in a 34 scheme, but he’ll have to prove that he can be effective in coverage. It appears to be in his best interest to add about 5-7lbs to his frame. While he’s a bit lean, he possesses great length. One of the key elements for a pass rusher’s success is natural length that gives him a leverage advantage over the offensive tackle. Calhoun has that. In addition to his (+) length, Calhoun displays sound athletic ability. He’s quick to react off the snap of the ball and is generally one of the first defenders moving. He gets a good jump on the offensive tackle and complements his athleticism with some really nice hand use. Calhoun is still a developing player, so it’s nice to see a guy with (+) length who really takes advantage of it with hand play. I noted several occasions where Calhoun was able to violently slap the tackle’s hands away in an effort to get to the quarterback, as well as get into the tackle’s chest and really control him (able to shed and get into pursuit.) And while Calhoun doesn’t appear to have the lightest or quickest set of feet, he does have deceptive closing ability because of his long stride. He’s a pretty good lateral movement guy, too, who recovers and responds well to dekes and cuts. On the negative side, he’s going to have to get a bit stronger in order to have a chance as an every down 43 DE. It will help if he bulks up a bit. But if he stays in the high-250’s, he could face some early-career struggles against NFL offensive tackles. Versus the run, Calhoun is more of a shed and chase defender than he is a player that can be expected to hold the point. As stated above, he’s simply not strong enough to be consistently relied upon as a space-eater or as a guy that can take on blocks within a power setting. That’s not to say that he can’t win in a one-on-one situation with his athleticism and quickness (he can beat/slip blocks from an athletic standpoint). Calhoun flashes the ability to penetrate and disrupt a play in the backfield. In addition, he has the ability to run and chase a running back or scrambling quarterback down from behind. And while I’d like him to be going at 100% a bit more on a down to down basis, he does do a nice job cleaning up as a trailing defender when he’s at full speed. He also displays a good IQ and overall awareness in the running game, rarely being beaten by play action fakes or other play designs. Versus the pass, Calhoun is one of the premier pass rushing prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft class. His pass rush arsenal is pretty well developed, especially in his coordinated and effective hand use. Calhoun does a nice job as a speed rusher beating the tackle to the edge. He complements his speed well with lateral movement skills (he’s effective with an outside/inside pass rush). He has a nice punch at the POA that he uses to and gain the leverage advantage. He can rip off that advantage as well as simply hustle and shed the offensive tackle while pursuing the passer.
BOTTOM LINE: If Shilique Calhoun can add some more bulk, he’d remind me a lot of Chandler Jones (Patriots). He has that kind of potential, and could eventually emerge as one of the best players from the 2015 class within the next few years.
GRADE: 8.2 (1st Round)
-Submitted by Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade)