Before the 2016 season started, scouts were expecting defensive lineman Malik McDowell to be a top ten pick in the draft. But his junior season did not live up to expectations. Scouts were then unsure where he would be drafted.
McDowell exploded onto the scouts’ radar after a strong sophomore year at Michigan State. He gathered 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks during that 2015 season. Many were expecting him to have a similar, if not better, junior campaign.
However, McDowell struggled with an ankle injury throughout the whole year, hurting his play. He was also playing nose tackle, which is not a strong fit for his style of play. He played with a different supporting cast on the defensive line, including losing All-Big Ten defensive end Shilique Calhoun the year prior.
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McDowell was only able to play in 9 games for the Spartans, missing the last three games of the year due to an ankle injury. He was only able to make seven tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks during the season. This led to scouts questioning his motor and if he can deal with injuries and playing on a bad team.
The Seahawks did not see his motor as an issue. Seattle picked McDowell with the 35th pick in the second round in this year’s draft. Even if his motor is an issue, Pete Carroll does well in getting through to those types of players and get the best out of them.
McDowell will go from playing as a 3-4 nose tackle at Michigan State to playing as a 3 technique and 5 technique in the 4-3 Seahawks defense. McDowell is a long, athletic player that can get to the quarterback. He will see success on a defensive line that will mesh well with his talents.
As an interior lineman that can rush the quarterback, he will combine well with Jarran Reed, should Reed be in the clear of the assault allegation. Reed is better at stuffing the run instead of rushing the quarterback. These two will be able to complement each other up the middle and be able to succeed in both the pass and run game.
Next to McDowell will be either Michael Bennett or Cliff Avril. Both players can get to the quarterback, but do their part in the run game. As the two best defensive linemen on the team, Bennett and Avril will draw more attention than McDowell. This will allow McDowell to mainly face single man blocks.
McDowell was not able to work well against double teams in college. This could have played a part in his poor junior season. After teams saw what McDowell could do as a sophomore, they would gameplan around him and double him so that he would not be able to work through the offensive line as easily.
With McDowell facing more single man blocks, he will be able to use his athleticism and get into the backfield. If McDowell can make an impact right away, teams will have to decide who to double, the rookie McDowell or seasoned vets Bennett and Avril.
Teams will usually decide that track record is better to gameplan against instead of a rookie. McDowell will continue to be able to make plays while Bennett and Avril draw the attention of offensive coordinators.
McDowell is a talent that the Seahawks could not pass on. If Carroll can get McDowell to work, he can have a strong rookie campaign. He has enough talent that he can become another star on this defense.