Zach Hodges, the standout performer for the Harvard Crimson, enters the 2015 NFL Draft as one of the highest-profile IVY prospects to enter the NFL in recent years. He finished his college career as a 3-time First Team All-IVY defender and the only player in IVY history to win the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year twice. For his career, Hodges totaled 118 tackles, 26 sacks and 41 TFL. In 2014, he contributed 26 tackles, a career-best 8.5 sacks and 10 TFL. Physically, Hodges is a lean and athletic looking guy who will have to bulk up regardless of what position he ends up playing in the NFL. He certainly has the frame capable of adding weight, especially in his lower half where his legs are a bit underdeveloped. Athletically, Hodges presents with good movement skills both in his straight-line quickness and lateral agility. He’s comfortable in space and is smooth when asked to drop into coverage. He has good hips and coordinated feet and appears capable of being groomed as an OLB in either a 43 or 34 scheme. Hodges has a nice, quick get off at the snap of the ball and is the ultimate challenge for IVY offensive linemen; his burst and quickness is beyond IVY play. As a pass rusher, Hodges wins with speed and quickness to the edge and complements those traits with a quick and effective spin move. He’s a crafty pass rusher who fakes inside power before exploding to the edge with speed. That said, he does not possess the necessary raw power to be effective as a bull rusher at this point; he is a speed and finesse rusher only. He is relentless when pursuing the quarterback and continues to work even when he’s tied up at the LOS. His effort lead to some clean-up sacks. There were times, however, that he failed to finish in the backfield. His sack totals could have been higher if he was a bit more controlled and consistent as a tackler. Against the run, Hodges generally displayed a sound ability to set the edge and held his ground versus IVY linemen when run at. He seemed to lag a bit when plays were run away from him, although he did flash the ability to chase down the ball carrier from behind.
BOTTOM LINE: Zach Hodges is a prospect who clearly outplayed his level of competition. That said, he didn’t dominate on a down-to-down basis like you’d expect a highly graded small-school prospect to. He certainly flashes the athletic traits that suggest NFL competency, but he will have to prove that the massive jump from IVY to the NFL isn’t too big for him. IVY players are some of the toughest to evaluate, as you’re looking for the superior athlete with a baseline set of skills that can be groomed and developed by an NFL staff. Hodges has that, but he doesn’t appear to be a prospect that warrants a selection before Day 3.
GRADE: 5.7 (6th Round)
-Submitted by Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade)