Corey Lemonier Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Auburn Defensive End
San Francisco 49ers (49ers traded 93rd and 216th picks for 88th pick)
Third Round, 88th Pick
The Auburn football program has fallen on hard times just two years removed from a national championship season led by the first overall pick of the following NFL Draft. That didn't stop Corey Lemonier from showing what he had for the pros on teams that were often on the wrong end of big deficits. Why should NFL teams be willing to spend a top 50 pick on this bright spot in a down year for the Tigers?
Lemonier is a power player with a terrific motor. He plays with fight and determination, along with being a natural finisher. Even though he is not an outstanding athlete, Lemonier can bend and turn the corner, and he engulfs quarterbacks with his long arms, jarring the passer and causing fumbles on contact. Lemonier also plays with great awareness, diagnosing and adjusting to the play on the fly, including nipping a screen in the bud or following the right player on an option run.
Slow-footed and not very explosive, Lemonier is just not a quick-twitch player. He isn't a great speed rusher, and he doesn't have a variety of pass rush moves or strategies. Lemonier is not an advanced hand-fighter in the trenches, and he struggles to shed blockers. Even when he reads the play perfectly, his lack of overall athleticism can keep him from making the tackle. Lemonier looked overmatched against Luke Joeckel, which is a bad indicator of his future performance against better NFL offensive tackles.
At 6'3" 255 with 34.5" arms, Lemonier has the natural size and length to stay at 4-3 defensive end in the pros, which is a good thing because he lacks the speed and quickness to successfully move to 3-4 outside linebacker. He doesn't play as fast as his 4.6 40 time, but he does play as strong as his 27 bench press reps (even more impressive considering his arm length).
Lemonier is a constant hustle player who led a losing team by example. He is a high character player who processes information quickly on the field. His intangible qualities offset worries that his game might not be as good in the NFL because of his limited athletic ability.
4-3 defensive end was Lemonier's primary position, but he also stood up and even dropped into coverage at times. Lemonier also played end on a three-man line on passing downs.
He's rarely the first player up at the snap, and Lemonier lacks true explosion in his first step, but he gets upfield fast enough to beat slow-footed offensive tackles. Then, his natural ability to bend and turn the corner will result in sacks, or at least flushing the quarterback from the pocket. Lemonier is a solid power rusher who usually keeps his opponent on the retreat, but he rarely gets free from their grasp once they lock onto him.
Lemonier throw a lot of different pass rush moves at an offensive tackle (although he does have a good rip, and rare, but effective spin move), but he is good at rushing both inside and outside. He can keep his balance well on cut blocks and also moves well on stunts inside. Lemonier's finish is the best part of his pass rush, launching at the quarterback and wrapping up in a fashion that is designed to separate the passer from the football. He will try to attack the ball any time he is within range, and Lemonier also seems to sense when he has a line to the quarterback and plays with more urgency.
Against the Run
When Lemonier gets under the offensive tackle's pads, he can drive them into the backfield. In general, he doesn't give ground on run plays, and he will fight through blocks to get to the ballcarrier. Lemonier also blows up run plays with a quick move off of the snap to elude a run blocker and get into the backfield untouched.
Lemonier is one of the best defensive ends in the draft at wrapping up and smothering a quarterback or running back. He will drive through ballcarriers and passers alike, and force fumbles along the way. He will sometimes arrive a beat too late to make the tackle, but this is more due to his lack of athleticism than poor technique.
Use of Hands
With the exception of a power rip move, Lemonier rarely fights his way out of a blocker's grasp. He doesn't employ very many pass rush moves that utilize violent handfighting and can use some coaching in his area. One use of hands that Lemonier has down pat is using them to stabilize and regain balance when a blocker tries to go low.
Scheme Versatility/Future Role
This is one of the thorniest questions about Lemonier. The NFL certainly sees him as a possible 3-4 OLB, running him through those drills at the Combine. While his body type and play awareness would indicate a good fit, he doesn't run, change direction, otherwise move in space the way a DE-to-OLB convert should. While his future team may line him outside in a 3-4, his size, strength, arm length, and overall game dictate that staying in a 4-3 is his best fit.
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