Under the Microscope: Vic Beasley


In an edge rusher class so loaded, it can be tough to pick out which of them stand above the rest. Even leading up to last year’s draft, many saw Clemson’s Vic Beasley as a bonafide top 10 pick. Beasley has largely held that reputation leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, but there has always been an underlying fear that he may not be what we want him to be. The more you watch him play, the more this fear grows.

Beasley has those freakishly long arms that are coveted in pass rushers, but he comes up short in the weight department. At 6’3”, Beasley weighs in at roughly 235 pounds, leaving him to be a very lanky player that absolutely needs to add weight to his frame. This is an issue on its own, but there are other elements to Beasley’s game that magnify Beasley’s weight issue.

Taller players like Beasley have to take to understanding the power of leverage, but he has not. More often than not, Beasley gets too high off the snap. When dealing with a lineman directly, this exposes his frame and allows him to be washed out of a play with ease. Conversely, when he is round the edge, he can more easily be forced out of the pocket because the poor drive against the ground makes it easier for him to be moved.

Essentially, what that is referring to is Beasley’s bend, which is going overrated. Beasley is not entirely stiff and there have been a few flashes of better than average bend, but for the most part, his flexibility looks better than it is because of how freakish his quickness off of the snap is.

Beasley jolts off of the ball, displaying both snap anticipation and functional explosion from his stance. On the other hand, he does not show the sort of bend that would be desired. He still wins this play because of how silly he made Cameron Erving look with his speed off of the snap, but at the most critical point of an edge rush, he underwhelmed. This is a common theme in Beasley’s game.

As quick as he is, Beasley does not have to display bend as often as a lot of other edge rushers do. On almost every snap, Beasley is the first defender flying off the line. While that works for him now, it will be much tougher to get away with at the next level. NFL tackles won’t be as easily defeated by little more than ability off the snap. Beasley will need to be capable of getting to the apex of the arc and bending around it, but to this point, he has not shown that bending well is something he can do consistently.

Part of that has to do with Beasley’s underwhelming strength. Oddly, Beasley has shown off top notch ability to convert speed to power and drive a lineman into the pocket due to his acceleration, but when forced to operate with less momentum, Beasley can get worked.

The combination of poor leverage and weaknesses leads to Beasley being forced out of run plays early and often. As a pass rusher, if Beasley can’t win off the snap, he is stood up and stonewalled.

In this case, Beasley gets too wide upon engaging and does not have the raw strength to make up for it. He tries to close up, but loses his control and ends up widening again before the play is over.

To be fair, what Beasley lacks in strength, he makes up for in quickness and versatility. Not only is Beasley’s quickness a weapon off of the snap, but he can use it in short areas prior to contact. Beasley can stutter step, then fire off inside and make himself “skinny” to penetrate through the interior of the defensive line.

On top of that, Beasley has shown a wide array of first contact moves. Rips, arm slaps, spins; you name it, Beasley has shown it. Beasley’s blend of short area burst and arm length makes a number of these moves easier than it would be for the average rusher.

Beasley’s outstanding quickness makes him a heat-seeking missile when given space. From his typical defensive end spot, Beasley gets erased vs the run, but when given space, he is allowed to work with instincts and agility, allowing him to make an impact.

Here, Beasley immediately diagnoses the play, finds the would-be running lane and plugs it up for a tackle for loss. The time from when Beasley recognizes the play to when the runner should be through the hole is short, but Beasley’s instincts, burst and speed enables him to loop around and make the play in the small window of time given.

Everything about Vic Beasley’s game is predicated on speed and quickness. He is more Bruce Irvin than he is Aldon Smith. There is a greater deal of projection with Beasley than has often been said. That is not necessarily a bad thing because draft picks are, in theory, a long term investment, but it does mean that he has a lower floor than many would like to admit.

Beasley’s ability in space is going to get him drafted highly come April 30th, but he may not be worth a first round pick at all. When weighing what he can do, what he can’t do and what he can become, it would be an uncomfortable gamble to take Beasley before the 2nd round. Though, he is most definitely worth a second round pick.

Next: Under the Microscope: Shane Ray