College: Eastern Kentucky
Position: Defensive End
College Stats: 125 tackles, 37.5 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, 4 forced fumbles. 62/15/8.5/4 forced fumbles at Ohio State. 63/22.5/11.5/3 forced fumbles at Eastern Kentucky.
An incredible talent, Noah Spence started at Ohio State before running into trouble with multiple failed drug tests that got him permanently banned from the Big Ten. Spence has proven himself as a terror on the field at the highest level in earning All-Big Ten honors in 2013 with 14 tackles for loss as a sophomore.
After accepting his banishment from the Big Ten, Spence decided to spend one year at FCS program Eastern Kentucky to prove that he had matured and his drug problems were over. Spence was excellent in his time with the Colonels, accumulating 63 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles. His decision to go to EKU turned out to be worthwhile as many teams have the former five-star recruit graded as a first round draft pick.
The case for Spence going in the first round:
Spence has the ability to play with his hand on the ground or as an outside linebacker. His versatility would fit in great with a 3-4 defense looking for a pass rusher on the outside. He plays hard and rarely takes plays off with an endurance that is hard to match. The team that drafts Spence will get a player that will look nearly as fresh in the fourth quarter as he does in the first quarter.
His quickness and tenacity allows him to make tackles from the backside on multiple occasions. He understands taking correct angles in pursuit of the ball carrier. While going hard after the ball on the backside, he understands his responsibilities and does a good job of keeping the ball carrier from reversing field.
While his character issues are of his own doing, Spence has shown regret for his actions and a willingness to put that part of his life in the past. His time at EKU was spent maturing and becoming a better football players. It may have been the best thing to ever happen to Spence.
The case against Spence going in the first round:
His size to play defensive end is not ideal. Because of his size, Spence can be moved off the ball by the upper echelon of tackles. Spence has to develop more moves as a pass rusher to be effective on a regular basis. Traditionally, defensive ends with a 4.80 40 yard dash are not able to get the edge on a regular basis. He has to learn some inside moves to make his outside moves more effective.
Spence must work on his hand usage as he does not have that violent punch at the point of attack. He also has to prove that he can play as a 3-4 outside linebacker in pass coverage. Everyone knows he can rush, but can he drop into coverage and not be a liability?
Spence's character issues at Ohio State will always be part of his profile. He seems to have moved on, but teams will always wonder how he will handle his first payday after signing an NFL contract. Some teams have completely taken him off the board due to that, but he has done an excellent job in showing that is all behind him.
What are others saying about Noah Spence:
NFL.com loves his ability to rush the passer and have compared him to Houston Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus. As with Mercilus having his best season as a pro in year four, it may take time for Spence to find his comfort level in the NFL.
Sports Illustrated sees Spence as a player that could end up being the best pass rusher of this draft if given time to adapt to the NFL. They are very high on him and compare him to Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo.
Where are mock drafts selecting Spence?
According to the most recent mock drafts available, Spence has over a 55% chance of getting selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. The most likely home for Spence is at #18 with Indianapolis (12.5%), Buffalo at #19 (9.6%), the Jets at #20 (10.6%), Green Bay at #27 (3.8%), Kansas City at #28 (3.8%), Arizona at #29 (8.7%), and Carolina at #30 (4.8%).
My prediction is Spence getting selected by Indianapolis with the #18 pick. The selection meets the needs of Indianapolis and makes too much sense so I will probably be wrong.