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Kentucky Edge-Rusher Bud Dupree Has Rare Talent, but Raw Skills

Justis Mosqueda@justisfootballFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2015

Kentucky defensive end Alvin Dupree (2) during an NCAA college football game against Tennessee Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014 in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Wade Payne/Associated Press

What should a team give up for an all-world athlete? This is the question that surrounds every evaluation of Kentucky defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree.

Back in 2011, a poster on FootballsFuture.com who went by the username "Waldo" found an interesting correlation between players who jumped well at the combine and players who succeeded at the next level as power rushers. He called them "Low Risk 2" players.

Essentially, with his formula, he could measure the explosive power of those players with only their combine-measured vertical and broad jumps. If the player scored better than 1.05 in the explosive power category, he was added automatically in the group.

Among those players were Shawne Merriman, who had an amazing start of his career; Brian Orakpo, a three-time Pro Bowler; Cameron Wake, an undrafted free agent who spent time in Canada before becoming an All-Pro player for the Dolphins; and Justin Houston, who was a third-round pick at the time but led the 2014 NFL season in sacks.

If you don't buy into the formula totally, you at least have to become interested with the idea that it may reflect on-field talent.

That's what brings us to Dupree, a talented enough player to earn a spot at the annual Senior Bowl, which features the best graduated college prospects in one final game before they begin their voyage through the draft cycle. His college credentials also include 23.5 career sacks and 37 tackles for losses, so it's not like he's living on athleticism alone. He can play.

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When watching his film, Dupree has an odd evaluation. He's like a cannon ball. Rarely did things stay in the way of Dupree, even at the SEC level, noted for being the best conference in college football over the past decade or so. But, like a cannon ball, he had to get the trajectory right from the jump or he'd miss his target.

He's not an edge-bender. He's a power player. This power comes from lower-body conversion. This was evident in Indianapolis, where his broad jump measured in at 138 inches and his vertical jump was 42 inches, good for the top percentile of defensive ends since 1999, per Mock Draftable.

That may not mean a lot on the surface, but when you dig deeper at what those numbers mean, it could do wonders for his NFL projection.

05-14 1st round EDGE in order of Waldo EXP. Top 6: Mack, Merriman, Orakpo, Watt, Perry & Mario. Dupree is red circle. pic.twitter.com/u2LTvWWNnx

— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) February 26, 2015

When you chart out Waldo's explosion score for first-round defensive ends over the past decade, the results at the top are very efficient.

The top six first-round defensive ends in the category are four-time Pro Bowler Mario Williams, two-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, three-time All-Pro Merriman, three-time Pro Bowler Orakpo and Nick Perry. The only blemish is Perry, who sustained early-career injuries and was demoted to a bench role after future Hall of Fame pass-rusher Julius Peppers was added to the Green Bay Packers in 2014.

Standing above all of them? Alvin Dupree, who netted an unheard-of score of 1.16.

Expanding past the top 32 picks, I decided to look at what the results of the first four rounds would look like:

2005-2014 EDGE players in 1st-4th rounds sorted by EXP. Dupree is highlighted in red. 1) Dupree, 2) Mario, 3) Collins pic.twitter.com/bZKf1RG7Ga

— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) February 26, 2015

Still, no one could touch him. After Dupree and Williams, third on the list is Jamie Collins, a second-round selection by the New England Patriots. In college, Collins was viewed as a pass-rushing prospect but has since found his spot in the league as a primarily coverage linebacker with freaky athletic ability.

Some, including NFL.com's Lance Zierline, compare Dupree to Collins. The one issue I have with him there is his ability to drop into space. As mentioned before, he's not a bender. He's a "blow things up in front of me" player. So while I can see Collins as a similar prospect coming out of college, I think his professional career projection most likely looks a drastically different.

Instead, I see a player with the potential to be a Wake or Orakpo. Judging by his physical ability, it's not a stretch to say he can even be more than that. Both Josh Norris, of NBC Sports and Rotoworld, and Zach Whitman, a "SPARQ calculator," have co-signed the comparison at various points.

From October RT @zjwhitman: Bud Dupree is going to match Cameron Wake's combine. They'll be comp'd afterwards.

— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) February 22, 2015

SPARQ is a Nike-backed formula to test physical ability and is most known for being used on high school recruits at large combines. Whitman says that in his database, Dupree is the only defensive end to pull a "Calvin." A "Calvin" is a reference to Calvin Johnson, who jumped over 40 inches in the vertical jump while also surpassing a 132-inch broad jump.

Dupree jumped just one inch lower in the broad jump and a half-inch shorter in the vertical than Johnson, who at one point was hands down the best receiving talent in the league. Dupree did all that while measuring an inch shorter and coming in at 30 pounds heavier than the freak receiver. That's the level of rare athlete we're talking about when we discuss Dupree as an "upside" selection.

In some ways, he can compare to Anthony Barr, an explosive athlete himself, a 6'5", 255-pounder who went ninth overall to the Minnesota Vikings last season after playing for UCLA. In his rookie year, he provided 70 tackles and four sacks for the Vikings in an off-the-ball role as a strong-side outside linebacker.

Strong-side outside linebacker is a position that Dupree could play, if he's allowed to play in a down-hill role. For example, the Seattle Seahawks' 4-3 under defense provides this. There, the strong-side linebacker plays closer to the line of scrimmage and is allowed to make the most of his potential. That player for them is either Bruce Irvin or K.J. Wright, depending on on-field circumstances.

There are two teams who run that same Seattle scheme who could use Dupree in that role early. Both the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars need pass-rushers, and they need them quickly. They're now both led by head coaches who were former Seattle defensive coordinators.

So, how high can he go? It goes back to "What should a team give up for an all-world athlete?"

If a team had the opportunity to trade for a 22-year-old Wake, he'd be worth a top-10 draft pick, correct? That's the mentality you have to possess to take him that early. The numbers would say you have nothing to worry about. He's just a young player with all of the talent who needs some polish. That's what they pay these positional coaches for, right?

According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dupree recently got two large co-signs from the mainstream football community:

ESPN's Mel Kiper said Bud Dupree (Peter King's pick for the #Falcons) is a top 15 pick. Said his performance was "a little bit up and down."

— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@DOrlandoAJC) February 26, 2015

So, is Dupree worth an early selection in the 2015 draft? Only if you want a player who based on historical numbers has the potential to not only be a team's premier pass-rusher, but a generational one. If he learns to use that cannonball skill on the move, instead of pre-snap, he's a weapon against quarterbacks for years to come. That's the most valuable trait a defense can have in today's NFL.

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