Scouting Report: Cameron Heyward
Cameron Heyward is one of the rare players in this draft that I would refer to as a “safe bet.” Sure, it’s easy to look at Heyward and say he possesses a solid combination of size, speed and strength, or point out his bloodlines, character and work ethic. At the end of the day, Cameron Heyward will be drafted due to the versatility he’ll be able to provide an NFL team. Ohio State did a terrific job of moving Heyward across the defensive line. In fact, Heyward lined up at both defensive tackle and both defensive end spots in a 4-3 alignment as well as lining up at both 5-technique defensive end spots in a 3 man front. Players with this kind of background are rare enough and when you match that with an extremely savvy football mind and great work ethic, any NFL team would love to have Heyward on their roster. Expectations were quite high for Heyward’s senior season and many feel that it was a bit of a disappointment. However, Heyward played through an injured elbow and was still able to embarrass DeMarcus Love and the Arkansas offensive line in the Sugar Bowl this January. If it wasn’t for the injury and a few issues that Heyward needs to work on, I’d have him graded higher. However, I still believe Heyward will be a solid pick in the 25-32 range that will make any of those teams very happy and should be an instant contributor. He probably projects best as a 5 technique in a 3-4 defense, but has the ability to play in various NFL schemes.
Heyward is relatively solid against the run. His lower body strength is evident on tape as he anchors well in the run game, remaining stout against most run blockers. Rarely has Heyward been driven off the ball when playing straight up and often requires a double team, but he often relies more on his quickness and hand usage than his strength. Heyward can get over powered by stronger, “mauler” type linemen. The best example of this was against Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin this year, a game that Heyward would love to forget about. He can guess at times when playing inside, attacking the wrong gap and leaving the runner open for an easy cut back. When playing end, Heyward can set the edge, keeping his outside shoulder/arm free against the blocker during outside rushes and shows the ability to stretch the line of scrimmage and make the tackle. Does a solid job of working through trash along the line and fighting into the flow of the blockers.
Possesses a solid first step and does a nice job of anticipating snap count. However, Heyward can be a half-beat late off the ball later in games, especially when he’s been engaged in matchups with strong, physical blockers all day. Heyward has a fairly wide array of pass rush moves for a college player and at times, looks to have the hands of a 3 year NFL veteran. Has an excellent bull rush and swim move and will often break out an outside dip/rip, spin and a club/rip. The best thing about Heyward’s pass rushing game is his ability to use counter moves. It’s rare to find a defensive lineman in college that can go to a second and third move when their first doesn’t work against the blocker. Rarely does Heyward end in a stalemate due to his savvy play and high motor. Flashes the ability to be a disruptive defensive lineman in passing situations but doesn’t possess the “sudden violence” I like to see from defensive linemen. Knows how to get skinny and shoot the gap and then come back with a straight on bullrush, keeping the blocker guessing every time. Displays excellent short area quickness and when he gets a line of the quarterback, he shows a great burst.
Heyward keeps his head up and eyes open and appears to locate the ball well. Knows when to get his hands up and times the QB’s throw well. Reads screen passes and draws well, though got caught guessing against option teams a few times. Heyward looks like a vet when he’s being held and knows how to do just enough acting to get the ref’s attention. He clearly understands the rules of backside pursuit when flow is away from him and this was very evident against Illinois during his senior season. In the 1st quarter, Illinois ran a bubble screen to the far-side, trips receiver. Cameron came free around the left tackle and immediately saw the bubble screen. Any defensive line coach will tell you that the number one rule for defenders in backside pursuit, especially against teams with athletic “jail-break” style players, is “slow to go.” This means that the defender isn’t supposed to blast around the corner at full speed and chase the ball like a wild man. Their job is to pursue slower and under control, keeping their eyes open for cutbacks and reverses. In this case, Heyward saw the receiver catch the ball and immediately look back towards the QB, at which point he knew what was coming. Heyward stopped in his tracks and turned to get to the QB, but fell when changing directions. The receiver threw the ball back to the QB, who ran for a 20+ yard gain. However, Heyward didn’t give up. He quickly got up after falling down and chased down the runner. Over 20 yards of pursuit for a guy that is almost 300 pounds is pretty impressive, which goes to Heyward’s motor and conditioning. The point is, it’s rare to find a defensive lineman that has the awareness to recognize that type of play, let alone the discipline to actually perform his responsibility.
Excellent use of hands for a college defensive lineman. Rarely lets blockers into his pads. Displays active hands but doesn’t appear to have the strong hands you’d like from an interior lineman. Needs to be more violent with his hand usage and when engaged with blockers. Heyward’s hands and overall athleticism show up when lineman try to cut block him. If you’ve ever watched NFL defensive lineman in training camp, you’ll see them going through drills where the line coach rolls giant rubber balls at them after they’ve come out of their stance. This is designed to get the player to use their hands to deflect the ball and keep it away from their legs, which simulates defeating a cut block. When linemen try to cut block Heyward, he doesn’t flinch, uses his hands and stays on his feet.
I usually don’t use the tackling category when scouting defensive linemen, but after watching Heyward tackle on tape, I felt it was necessary to point it out. Heyward is a thumper. He’s not one of those defensive linemen that “belly tackle” or try to throw runners to the ground. Heyward tackles with violence and is fundamentally sound when doing so. He’ll lower his shoulder when taking on a runner in the hole and deliver a violent blow. More than that, he consistently wraps up when tackling, which is becoming a rare trait in today’s game.
Size, Speed, Strength & Agility
As I’ve stated above, Heyward has great quickness in short areas and displays an excellent burst when he gets a line of the ball carrier. His motor runs hot and he shows great persistence while pass rushing. These were all easy things to see when watching the tape. However, one thing that really stuck out to me while watching Heyward was how well he does when stunting. Heyward doesn’t round off his angles during stunts and shows an excellent burst through the hole after the blocker commits to one side or the other. Ohio State frequently used stunts to allow Heyward to create havoc in the backfield, keep offensive linemen guessing and keep quarterbacks worried. When a man Heyward’s size is coming unblocked and with a full head of steam after executing a perfect line stunt, quarterbacks should be worried.
It’s hard to ignore the bloodlines for Heyward. Cameron is the son of Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, who had a tremendous career in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints. Cameron’s step father, Cory Blackwell, played at Wisconsin.
Heyward is known as a high character player with a tremendous work ethic. He did suffer an elbow injury which required surgery to repair tendons this offseason. However, Heyward bounced back and by all accounts, had a solid pro day on March 30th. He didn’t perform the bench press for scouts but his upper body strength will return in time. Heyward also had a slight ankle injury before the 2009 season.
2010: Played in 13 games with 13 starts
2009: Played in 13 games with 12 starts
2008: Played in 13 games with 13 starts
2007: Played in 13 games with 8 starts
Human development major at Ohio State.
Awards & Honors
2010: 1st team All-Big 10.
2009: 2nd team All-Big 10. Lombardi Award nominee.
2007: Freshman All-American (Sporting News, Rivals, Scout). Freshman All-Big 10 (Sporting News).
Prospect Video Clips
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