CFF Player Profile: Vic Beasley, ED
Ben Stockwell reviews Vic Beasley's 2014 campaign and looks at him as one of the 2015 NFL Draft's top prospects.
CFF Player Profile: Vic Beasley, ED
Vic Beasley is widely considered to be one of the best pass rushers in a draft class that seems to be top heavy in talented edge defenders. His play and production on the field was never in question and after answering questions about his weight at the NFL Combine he looks set to be one of the first players taken in the upcoming Draft.
Over the course of the 2014 college season, Beasley was a player who made the most of his opportunity to rack up sacks converting more than a quarter of his total pressures (11 of 40) into sacks. Though he suffered a down spell after midseason Beasley produced a pair of excellent three week stretches including one to finish the season.
Unsurprisingly, Beasley graded out as one of the best pass rushers in this year’s draft class and that in spite of a relatively slow start to the season against Georgia. He came alive with a three-week spell against North Carolina, NC State and Louisville before finishing strongly against South Carolina and Oklahoma with four positive pass rush grades in his final five games.
Beasley’s midseason lull came in a four-week stretch against Boston College, Syracuse Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, a month-long span in which he recorded only six pressures and graded positively as a pass rusher only once. Aside from that span he recorded at least one sack or hit in every game except the season opener against Georgia.
Overview & Stats
Beasley’s explosiveness is plain to see when you put the tape on. His burst off the line was too hot to handle for most of the tackles he faced and he used that to pick up a lot of pressure burning opposing offensive tackles to the outside without the need to worry too often about a counter or power move off that outside rush.
Two thirds of the pressure Beasley generated this season came to the outside of opposing blockers with only Markus Golden of Missouri and Hau’oli Kikaha generating more in terms of sheer volume than Beasley’s 26 pressures including six of his sacks. That doesn’t leave a great volume of pressures that Beasley gained in other ways but what he did was capitalize fully on his rarely successful inside moves converting four of his seven inside pressures into sacks.
The lack of a truly all-around game is also reflected in Beasley’s play as a run defender where while he wasn’t a liability he also was not a particularly active component of the Clemson defense. By the grades he was a solid-but-quiet run defender reflected in a Run Stop Percentage of 6.8% which places him only just inside the Top 30 edge defenders in this class by that signature stat.
However, with the pass-first nature of the NFL, if Beasley can avoid being a liability against the run (as he was on a Karlos Williams touchdown run against Florida State) then his potential impact as a destructive pass rusher would comfortably balance his lack of impact in that area.
The question of balance in Beasley’s game that he will need to answer is whether he is simply a one-trick pony as a pass rusher or whether he was so one-dimensional as a pass rusher because college pass protectors couldn’t deal with his outside move, so he never had to counter it. Some NFL offensive tackles will be able to live with his speed off the edge more consistently so he will have to prove that he can work off of that outside rush as he showed glimpses of this season for the Tigers.
The question of which scheme suits an edge defender best is always a question that comes up when they enter the NFL and as an under-sized edge defender Beasley has had to face those questions as well.
He spent time rushing both with his hand up and his hand down last season but was far more productive with his hand in the dirt and even if he winds up in a 3-4 defense he should get ample opportunity to rush from a down position in sub-packages. The Eagles, for example, run a 3-4 defense yet last season Trent Cole rushed the passer 100 times more with his hand down than in a two-point stance.
So where does Beasley fit best? A brief summary of his skill-set could read something along the lines of him being an undersized speed rusher who relies heavily on his explosiveness, doesn’t contribute a great deal against the run. That reads like a player who needs to be a situational pass rusher to start with in the NFL but that doesn’t necessarily need to be an indictment of Beasley as a player.
While the ideal might be to find an immediate starter near the top of the first round, would a team like the Jags complain if they got production comparable to what the 49ers got from Aldon Smith in 2011? Smith played on 506 snaps but his production as a pass rusher was comparable to a full-time starter on half the snaps.
Beasley and Smith are, of course, very different pass rushers, but if a team can get even close to that kind of production from Beasley as a rookie then even if he can’t be a full-time player right away you will hear very few complaints from their coaches or their fans.
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.