Mike Purcell was considered one of the best defensive players in his conference last season as a first-team All-Mountain West selection, but the Wyoming defensive tackle is no lock to be selected in the 2013 NFL draft.
The following scouting report takes a look at the strong points of Purcell's game that made him a productive collegiate player and could earn him a spot in the draft, but also the shortcomings in his game that could leave him as an undrafted free-agent signing rather than a draft pick.
Purcell is an active run defender who covers ground well for a defensive tackle, which led to him an 83-tackle year in his senior season. He moves well laterally and has a motor that runs high.
Purcell is not very disruptive as a penetrator on the interior defensive line. He is not an explosive athlete off the snap and is not as active or skilled as he needs to be with his hands. He struggles to disengage from blocks, and when engaged, he too often he gets driven back and away from running plays.
Purcell has a solid set of measurables for a defensive tackle. He measured in at 6'3" and 305 pounds, while running a 5.18-second 40-yard dash, broad jumping 9'8" and vertically jumping 31.5" at Wyoming’s pro day, according to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt.
As it translates to the field, Purcell is not a player who explodes off the snap or has the speed to be a dynamic pass-rusher. He does, however, move well laterally and has good open-field running ability, allowing him to get back and make stops on running plays downfield.
Purcell is not a particularly powerful defensive tackle, but he did put up a strong number of 26 bench-press repetitions at his pro day, per Brandt.
One of the reasons Purcell made so many tackles as a senior was his strong motor, as he consistently plays through to the whistle and runs after plays, regardless of where the play goes on the field.
His instincts for reading opposing offenses are not as strong—he has a tendency to slide to the wrong direction in run defense, especially against read-option offenses.
According to his head coach, his character developed well over his years at Wyoming. During a news conference in November, Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said Purcell went from being a “young, immature, struggling student” to someone who has “worked extremely hard, been totally committed, provided great leadership and been a dominant player on the football field,” according to the Denver Post.
Purcell does not have any documented history of off-field issues, but on the field, he notably was ejected during the 2011 New Mexico Bowl for throwing a punch at an opponent.
Purcell was Wyoming’s starting nose tackle for the past three seasons, working as a 1-technique nose tackle in four-man fronts and as a 0-tech in the middle of three-man fronts.
With just four combined sacks over four seasons at Wyoming (per CFBStats), Purcell was not much of a pass-rusher in college, and he does not have the skill set to be that at the next level either.
He does not have the quickness to beat NFL offensive linemen off the snap, and he does not have a polished arsenal of interior pass-rushing moves. He has some ability as a power bull-rusher, but will likely be limited to playing on run downs at the next level.
Against the Run
Possibly the best part of Purcell’s game is his lateral movement ability to cover ground, fill gaps and make tackles all along the line and back in space.
What he is not as a run defender is a big playmaker in the backfield. He does not have a great power game, as he tends to be driven back by power run blocking more than he drives blockers back. Additionally, he lacks the quickness, both in his lower body and with his hands, to be an explosive penetrator.
Purcell is a very good tackler for a defensive tackle. He is a sure tackler who wraps up his opponent well and brings him down with strength and usually without allowing any additional yardage. He is equally strong as a tackle both when runners come straight up the gut toward him on the line of scrimmage, and when he is chasing a play down in space, as he does a good job of accelerating through the ball-carrier to make the play.
Use of Hands
Purcell’s use of hands, both in his ability to put moves on blockers and in his pad level, improved in his senior season. He struggles, however, when he gets beaten to the punch and engaged by an offensive lineman.
He is not particularly active with his hands nor effective at disengaging from blocks, tending to stay locked up and get driven away from run plays when engaged more often than freeing himself to make the play. He does a good job of extending his punch and ripping blockers when he is in pursuit, but needs to become with his pass-rushing moves to be effective with them at the next level.
Scheme Versatility/Future Role
Purcell is undersized for a pure nose tackle, but lacks the explosiveness and quickness to be an effective pass-rushing 3-technique defensive tackle or 5-technique defensive end.
He does not project as a future starter in the NFL, but could make a roster as a rotational run-stopper. He does not fit any position in the 3-4 defensive scheme well, but could be a solid backup as a 4-3 nose tackle.
Purcell is on the fringe between being drafted and being an undrafted free -agent signing, but if he is selected, it will likely come from a team in need of defensive tackle depth in Round 7.