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2012 NFL Draft: Derek Wolfe Scouting Reports

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The Broncos have just selected defensive tackle Derek Wolfe out of Cincinnati with the number 36 pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Wolfe recorded 70 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks during his 2011 campaign. Jeremy Bolander reports:

Wolfe was a 3 year starter in Cincinnati who was a relentless force inside. He has a great motor, great football desire and drive, with excellent technique. He stays low, bends his knees consistently and plays with leverage on every snap.

He pushed the pocket hard and can disengage without surrendering a running lane, and is rarely blocked one on one. His senior year he led all DT's with 21.5 tackles for a loss and has one of the bets first steps in the draft. Big East co-defensive player of the year. He was in the top 5 of DTs grading out athletically this year as well.

Denver will use him in a NT role in the nickle, where he had his best production and most experience in college. Perhaps his greatest asset is that he never shows any quit and competes until the play is over.

More scouting reports after the jump.

Wolfe was a late bloomer as a draft prospect, but enters the 2012 NFL Draft having played a dominant season. Wolfe was one of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles in college football in 2011. He was a violent, disruptive force for the Bearcats. He entered the season as a mid-round pick having flashed at times for Cincinnati, but he put it all together as a senior.

Wolfe was said to grow up a lot prior to his senior season and really dedicated himself to improving his game. The result was a phenomenal senior season with 70 tackles, 21.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and 9.5 sacks. Wolfe routinely tossed guards aside and blasted into the backfield to blow up runs or pressure the quarterback.

Wolfe has a lot of power to his game. He is a good pass-rusher who closes on the quarterback quickly. Wolfe has a fantastic rip move. He gets under guard and uses the leverage to push by them towards the quarterback. He also has a powerful bull rush and can toss linemen to the side after collapsing the pocket. Wolfe has more speed than one would think and he closes on quarterbacks or running backs faster than they expect. Another skill of his is the ability to time snaps well to help him get a good get-off.

As a run defender, Wolfe is stout at the point of attack and holds his ground. He showed a good motor and pursued downfield. He found ways to impact the game. Against Rutgers, he didn't get good pass-rushing opportunities, but he made 10 tackles in run defense. In the regular-season finale, Wolfe had a three-sack game against UConn. He also had a one-man goal line stand where he stuffed the running back on first and second down before sacking the quarterback with a left-handed rip move on third down.

Wolfe was a late invite to the Senior Bowl and he had a solid performance. He had a quality week with his share of wins in the pass rushing one-on-ones. He then ran well at the Combine with a 40 time at 4.94 and a respectable bench press total at 33.

Wolfe is a physical, powerful player and his skill set can be better seen in games as opposed to the track activities. He could be an excellent fit as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense. He really could be a stand out as an edge defender. He would help free up outside linebackers by battling the offensive tackle. He also could get his share of sacks going against tackles or guards in the NFL.

If Wolfe is drafted in a 4-3, he could be a versatile defender. He could add some weight and stay at defensive tackle, or he could be a power left defensive end on running downs who moves inside to rush the passer at tackle on passing downs. Wolfe could thrive in either system. He may take a little more development time, but it wouldn't be surprising if Wolfe turns into rock solid pro; a blue-collar defender who does the dirty work to make his defense successful.

Wolfe shouldn't get out of the second round. Mel Kiper recently had him in the first round of a mock draft, while the consensus view has him as a third- or fourth-rounder. Part of that could just be Wolfe being underrated as a sleeper prospect. It wouldn't be surprising if he goes sooner than most pundits project.

Sideline Scouting

Positives -- Very good first step off the line, can knife through gaps and quickly work his way into the backfield, plays best when he can operate with room to roam, very good rip and swim moves... Solid leg drive, keeps his legs moving, can generate a push on the pocket... Has some natural power and slightly thicker than his weight would indicate, can occupy blockers and free up others around him to make plays... Gets his arms up to affect passing windows when he can't get to the quarterback... Plays with a lot of physicality and energy and has a mean streak, has a strong motor; high character player who loves the game, makes a lot of effort plays... Offers some schematic versatility, has been used in multiple roles, can move around for a defense and wear multiple hats in the NFL, projects best to a one-gap 3-4 defense, would fit well with a hybrid defense... Has been quoted saying he enjoys playing defensive end in a 3-4 alignment because he "gets a lot of space to work on one guy"... His stock has been climbing due to an excellent senior season (9.5 sacks), had a very good performance at the Senior Bowl and did well at the combine... Is a very similar, yet less-heralded, prospect to Nebraska's Jared Crick.

Negatives -- A bit of a straight-line athlete, lacks fluidity and doesn't change direction very well, tight in the hips, can struggle to redirect to put himself in position to make a play, often over-pursues on run plays, can be slow to locate the ball... Doesn't have a real position in a four-man front, may not hold up well enough versus the run as a full-time defensive tackle in a four-man front... Shorter than ideal arms, needs to be more consistent with his hand usage, especially against more powerful offensive linemen, is easily handled when he doesn't win off the snap... Can be washed out of plays when he gets too upright, plays too high when fending off inside blockers and becomes a non-factor versus the run... Doesn't anchor very well, struggles to hold the point of attack, can be washed right out of the play by double teams, gets overpowered by larger blockers, struggles to disengage at times and doesn't make many plays off his frame... Lacks balance, ends up on the ground too often, loses control at times and allows momentum to get the best of him... Can get upright when he tires and expose himself, fatigues easily... A bit of a late bloomer who never really dominated the collegiate level until his senior year.

Interesting backstory on Derek Wolfe from NFL

04/02/12 - The best season of Derek Wolfe’s career almost didn’t happen. Last January, the Beaver Local High graduate had just completed a successful junior season at Cincinnati. He had $7 to his name and the mid-January deadline to apply for the NFL draft was looming. “I was tiring of living the college life where you’re broke all the time,” said Wolfe, speaking by phone on Thursday from Cincinnati. “It was rough.”

After talking to his coaches, he decided to stay. He then erupted for a conference-best 19.5 tackles for loss last season, leading the Bearcats (10-3, 5-2) to a share of the Big East title while earning co-conference player of the year honors. He ranked 12th nationally with 9.5 sacks. “It was a good decision,” Wolfe said of staying. “I improved in all aspects of the game. I think I played a lot harder and a lot faster, I grew up as a player and I improved my football intelligence. “Everything ended up working out.”

More than a half-dozen Mahoning Valley natives have a good chance of either getting drafted later this month or getting a free agent deal soon afterward. Wolfe (6-5, 295) is a near-lock to be the first one of those picked, with several draft sites projecting him as a second- or third-round pick. He would be the first Beaver Local graduate to play in the NFL. “That’s huge,” said Wolfe, who joined Ohio State running back Dan Herron (Warren Harding) as one of the two Valley natives at February’s NFL combine. “After my sophomore year, I started getting some interest and saw scouts coming around, asking about me and this and that. “You hear the buzz. That’s when I realized I could actually do it.”

-Joe Scalzo, The Youngstown Vindicator

Film Study:

How will Derek Wolfe fit in to the Broncos defense? Check out this film study on the Cincinnati Bearcats defense that showcases Derek Wolfe in the Bearcats third down hybrid nickle package.


Wolfe brings to the Broncos an exciting, intense attitude and promises to add yet another weapon at the edge rush combined with a stout run defense. Wolfe is 6'5" and weighs in at 295lbs. Quicker than expected and powerful off the snap, Wolfe can add an immediate run-stopping, QB pressuring threat in certain down situations that the Broncos hope to make commonplace in the Peyton Manning era. Combined with the already devastating duo of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, Wolfe adds yet another dangerous facet to a defense that wants at other team's QB's.