Michael Buchanan Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Illinois DE
Seventh Round: 226th Pick
If a team is interested in taking a unique athlete with promising upside and an ability to rush the passer, Buchanan’s name should be on that very short list of prospects. The difference between him and some of those other guys is that he could be acquired as quite the bargain.
Buchanan may have much to learn in regards to technique, but this issue is common among this class. While at the Senior Bowl he struggled at times during practice because of this. Hopefully he realizes that nice measurables alone are not all it takes to hack it against the best in the business. If not, there could be a lot of wasted talent here.
Buchanan possesses ideal length and closing speed to succeed as an NFL edge rusher. He also flashes an impressive spin move though he rarely uses it and is equipped with one of the fastest get-offs in this class of rushers.
He shows great awareness and anticipation when getting in the passing lane and knocking balls down. This shows one of the many ways his length is a favorable asset.
The rather long gait in his stride makes it difficult for Buchanan to change directions quickly or suddenly. It also doesn't help that he's a flat-footed runner which could cause him to struggle in space. This is concerning issue which does show up numerous times on film.
He also has shown deficiencies in balance and lacks the agility to fend off cut-blocks consistently. This could be the result of a bigger concern regarding his athleticism which may scare 3-4 defenses away. If this is indeed the case, does Buchanan have the size and strength to become an every-down DE?
At 6’5” 255-pounds and 34-inch arms, Buchanan has fantastic length. He also happens to be one of fastest pound-for-pound prospects in the draft highlighted by his 6.91 in the 3-cone drill. He also ran a 4.78 in the 40-yard dash which is solid for anyone north of 250 lbs.
Though his straight ahead speed shows up on tape, his ability to change directions seems to be misrepresented by his combine time which did not come across as a strength in his game. Whenever there’s a significant divergence from a player’s test and his tape, it’s always smarter to go with the tape.
This is a tricky one when you consider Buchanan’s frame is ideal for outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. But as mentioned earlier, he seems to lack the ability to change direction in space. If he adds some strength and demonstrates the ability to hold up against the run, his best fit has to be in a 4-3 front as a pass-rushing DE.
He’s a very emotional player who does get frustrated when things aren't going his way. His effort shows up consistently in his style of play and does have the mental acumen to move from one responsibility to another on defense without getting flustered or bogged down.
Buchanan has also demonstrated his durability throughout his college career by playing in 46 games. including 32 starts according to his school bio.
No. 99 has a beautiful spin-move and displays a very nice get-off. His ability to close ground in a hurry is downright scary and is comparable to some of the best in this draft class.
Buchanan does a good job getting his hands up and knocking the ball down when a rushing opportunity does falter but this could also be evidence to a chronic inability to execute counter moves. This results in him running himself out of plays more than you would like to see.
Perhaps he lacks the power to sit a lineman down or to drive him into the quarterback with pure strength? Maybe it’s a bit of both. One thing is for sure; so far he's not shown enough of either of these qualities in his career. Hopefully he can find a way to improve in these areas.
Against the run
Often he gets out of position or too far upfield, which opens up running lanes. It’s as if he struggles to key in on his run/pass reads which causes him to get out of position at times.
He does show pretty decent strength at the point of attack, but provides no leg drive or the ability to snap off of blocks with quickness when fully engaged.
His length gives him a great radius to make the tackle but his technique is nothing to get excited about. He is however, a capable tackler who flashes big-play ability with diving tackles and impressive closing speed.
You won't however, see Buchanan laying the wood on guys often as he tends to be more of a finesse-type defender that prefers to wrap rather than thump.
He does tend to struggle with shifty runners due to his limited change of direction skills.
Use of hands
He's very basic with his use of hands. Not a whole lot of activity with his hands beyond an effective slap/rip. He also loves to long-arm blockers as he tries to work around them with his elite speed.
Such a limited arsenal could be the result of relying on his speed for so long that he neglected other areas of his game. This appears to be a common issue with speed-rushers coming out of college. The good news is that hand technique has been known to get better with some coaching and experience.
Scheme versatility, future role
Buchanan’s two point stance is extremely awkward and does him a major disservice in his get-offs and leveraging. With that said, he still has the versatility to play either outside linebacker or defensive end, though his physical tools favor having his hand on the ground.
Michael Buchanan should have a good shot at being an eventual starter at the next level while serving as a situational pass-rusher in the meantime. Teams looking to add depth in this area would be wise to consider Buchanan.
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