Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Darron Lee announced his intention to declare for the 2016 NFL draft Saturday following the Buckeyes' 44-28 Fiesta Bowl win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Friday.
Lee posted a message on Twitter explaining his decision:
The next step. pic.twitter.com/RrReDit6PJ— Darron Lee (@DLeeMG8) January 3, 2016
The move is a sensible one for the redshirt sophomore, who put forth a superb showing in the Fiesta Bowl that he capped off by forcing a fumble on the Buckeyes' final defensive possession. Lee also notched two sacks and seven tackles in the 16-point victory.
According to Sports-Reference.com, Lee posted 80 total tackles—including 16 for loss—and 6.5 sacks last season before totaling 66 tackles—11 for loss—and 4.5 sacks in 2015.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah took note of Lee's speed during Friday's Fiesta Bowl:
Darron Lee looks like he's going to run sub 4.50. He's flying around the field.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 1, 2016
Darron Lee is an ideal 4-3 WLB. Run & hit.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 1, 2016
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller provided some more scouting insight on the Buckeyes star:
Darron Lee (@DLeeMG8) is a very exciting prospect. Linebacker skills with defensive back speed, and he can rush the QB— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 3, 2016
Lee's career path was unorthodox, to say the least. Not only did he enter Ohio State as a 3-star prospect out of New Albany, Ohio, according to 247Sports, but he also exploded onto the scene last season as a redshirt freshman.
"That chip [on my shoulder] will never leave," Lee said in August, according to Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod. "As long as I wear this jersey, or any other jersey playing football, I'm always going to give my best."
Based on Lee's raw physical talent, he should be a coveted prospect for teams in need of additional defensive firepower.
Built in the mold of versatile players such as Arizona Cardinals linebacker Deone Bucannon, Lee possesses a rare combination of speed and size that will be hard to turn down for teams drafting in the mid-to-late portions of the first round.