One of the hottest names right now on draftnik big boards is Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier. In a conference with at least three edge rushers ticketed for the top half of the first round (LSU's Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, and Georgia's Jarvis Jones), Lemonier is generating buzz with his physical play and all-around contributions to the Auburn defense. Let's take a look at just how he creates an impact in so many areas.
Lemonier is solidly built at 6'4" 246 lbs, but he is not an explosive quick-twitch athlete, nor is he a particularly fluid athlete. He does play with great power and a combative nature, and Lemonier's motor keeps him going even when the play isn't run to his side of the field. The defensive end generally finishes what he starts, although his lack of outstanding overall athleticism can cause him to get overmatched by superior athletes in the open field.
Lemonier is not a classic "shot out of a cannon" edge rusher who defeats his opponent with a lightning-quick first step. His tenacity and anticipation can still lead to sacks and game-changing plays. On this play, the offensive tackle attempts to cut block Lemonier low by going at his ankles:
Lemonier puts his hand on the ground and stays on his feet to defeat the attempt:
He closes on the quarterback and wraps him up:
Which leads to a fumble that his teammate recovers:
Lemonier does not display much of a variety of pass-rush moves or strategies, but he does possess one skill that every great pass-rusher has: turning the corner. Lemonier is one-on-one against an offensive tackle who is too heavy-legged to keep Lemonier from getting to his outside shoulder:
Lemonier fights off the block by getting low and twisting his hips ,so he can keep driving towards the quarterback while the offensive lineman is trying to knock him off course:
He wins the battle and gets the quarterback, even while the defeated lineman is hanging on his back in same fashion that Lemonier is taking down the passer:
Later in the game, LSU uses a running back to double-team Lemonier to prevent him from turning the corner again:
Lemonier isn't going to be a world-class sack artist in the pros, but he helps make up for that with a great presence in run defense. He does not back down from larger offensive lineman. On this play, he gets under the tackle's pads and drives him back off of the snap:
Lemonier's presence in the backfield causes the running back to take the play outside instead of up the gut:
While he isn't the quickest defensive end, Lemonier can use what quicks he has combined with great anticipation to disrupt plays in the backfield. Here, he eludes the tackle by getting inside of him off of snap:
Lemonier doesn't end up making the play, but that's only because he's being held:
His presence did end up causing the back to take the run outside, where he was thrown for a loss by one of Lemonier's teammates. Lemonier makes as much of a difference on run downs as he does on passing downs, with strength, energy and a zest for physical clashes in the trenches.
Read and React
Lemonier always seems very tuned into the play. He shows little hesitation recognizing the play and taking action on his observation. On this play, Lemonier spends a moment spying the quarterback and fullback:
As the quarterback has already faked a handoff to the fullback, Lemonier makes a beeline for the running back, who is breaking outside:
It's important to note that Lemonier took off as soon as he saw the back head for the edge. He didn't take a false step towards the fullback or otherwise spent a moment longer than necessary watching what transpired between the quarterback and the fullback.
Lemonier trusted his teammates to handle any run inside and made sure to neutralize anything the running back was going to do...in this case, throwing him for a four-yard loss. Lemonier thinks and acts quickly, and with great discipline. He has the look of an immensely coachable player.
More and more, being able to play multiple positions, or at least handle multiple responsibilities, is an important part of an aspiring NFL defenders résumé. Auburn is just starting to have Lemonier rush standing up, but it's not a stretch to see him fitting into a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker.
At the very least, he will allow his defensive coordinator to call aggressive zone blitzes, because he can cover a receiver if necessary. Here, you can see the linebacker getting ready to crash down on the snap:
Lemonier deftly follows the back to the flat and snuffs out any easy conversion opportunity for the offense:
In such a talented class of DE/OLB types, Lemonier will have trouble standing out enough to break into the top half of the first round. His all-around game and steady presence will still garner enough interest to possibly get him into the first round, and he certainly looks like a top-50 prospect, if the junior decides to come out this year.