After the bowl game Brigham Young outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy had in December 2012, it would have been hard to blame him if he declared for the NFL Draft.
Van Noy, a 6-foot-3, 243-pound linebacker who was already in the midst of a excellent junior campaign, made a star turn in BYU’s 23-6 win over San Diego State in the Poinsetta Bowl. He terrorized the Aztecs for eight tackles, a forced fumble and interception and a blocked punt.
Oh, and he returned the fumble and touchdown for scores.
“The bowl game, I kind of put myself on the map as well as Brigham Young as a whole,” Van Noy said at the NFL Combine. “For me, it was unbelievable … I look back and I think about how fortunate I was to have guys around me doing their job.”
One of those guys was star defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who was drafted fifth overall by the Detroit Lions.
“You had to pick your poison if you wanted to double team me or (Ansah),” Van Noy said.
But Van Noy, who led BYU’s No. 3-ranked defense with 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss, eight quarterback hurries, a school-record six forced fumbles and two blocked kicks, did not follow Ansah into the draft.
At the time, he wanted to get better at the college level and help people, despite the fact he’d been told he would have been a first- or second-round pick. It was a risk, however. Not only was there a chance he could injured, but a drop off in play or production in 2013 would hurt his chance at millions.
Turns out his sack production did fall off in 2013, as Van Noy, 23, went from 13 sacks to only four. But despite seeing more attention from defenses, he still finished 70 tackles and 17 1/2 tackles for loss, and at least one draft analyst thinks his decision to come back was a good one.
“I think it helped him,” said NFL.com’s Mike Mayock. “He became known as one of the best all-around linebackers in college football. There’s been a buzz about him the last month or six weeks. The buzz has been he does everything well. I’m not sure he has one outstanding trait where you go, ‘Wow, that’s awesome.’ But he does everything well.”
The stats back it up, too. In addition to his 26 career sacks, he’s also forced 11 fumbles, recorded seven interceptions and scored five defensive touchdowns during his time at BYU.
“I feel like I’ve done a lot of things that people around me haven’t done,” Van Noy said. “I scored five career touchdowns playing defense, so I feel like I’m an offensive player on defense.”
Van Noy may have a knack for the big play, but he has a simple approach.
“Every time you get a sack, you try to get the ball out,” Van Noy said. “Quarterbacks, some can’t see you from the backside or some are looking downfield when you’re coming from the front side.
“At the end of the day it’s all about getting the ball.”
Mayock said Van Noy’s versatility will also help him come the draft.
“He did rush, he can drop, he can play inside, outside,” Mayock said. “People are trying to figure out where best to play him. His versatility is a huge plus. I’ve got him as a solid second rounder right now and I think he’s going to be a real good NFL player.”
Van Noy is banking on it. The Cougars did not improve win-wise in 2013 — they finished 8-5, just like they did in 2012 — but when asked at the combine if he thinks he should have came out after last season, he had no regrets.
“Not necessarily — I don’t want to take anything back,” Van Noy said. “I learned a lot this year. I graduated and I enjoyed the process.”
Top 10 prospects for the Chiefs
1. Jadeveon Clowney, 6-6, 266, South Carolina
Bio: Two-year starter who declared after a junior year in which he had 40 tackles, 11 1/2 for loss and three sacks. Is 21 years old. 34 1/2-inch arms. 10-inch hands. 4.53 40-yard dash. 21 bench reps. 37 1/2-inch vertical. 124-inch broad jump. 7.27 3-cone drill. 4.43 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus*: Excellent size and length, though he’s built to be a 4-3 defensive end, not a 3-4 rush linebacker. Still, he demonstrates the athleticism to possibly pull it off, though he’s the kind of guy to adjust your system to. Boasts outstanding timed speed, acceleration and power. Isn’t very agile but can chase plays down from behind and has good instincts. Was much better as a sophomore, when he won SEC Defensive Player of the Year after racking up 54 tackles, 23 1/2 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. Production fell off significantly as a junior, but teams schemed against him heavily. Scouts apparently have concerns about his work ethic and sense of entitlement. Did not always play hard in 2013.
2. Khalil Mack, 6-3, 251, Buffalo
Bio: Four-year starter who had 100 tackles, 19 for loss and 10 1/2 sacks in 2013. Is 23 years old. 33 1/4-inch arms. 10 1/4-inch hands. 4.65 40-yard dash. 23 bench reps. 40-inch vertical. 128-inch broad. 7.08 3-cone drill. 4.18 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus*: Prototypical 3-4 rush linebacker. Excellent workout numbers back up his outstanding production on the field in a weaker conference than other top prospects. Has proven to be durable. Above average instincts. Displays great quickness off the snap and can convert speed to power — he can hold up at the point of attack. Has multiple pass rush moves, plays hard is often around the ball. Flashes potential in coverage. Plays hard.
3. Anthony Barr, 6-5, 255, UCLA
Bio: Three-year starter who had 83 tackles, 21 1/2 for loss and 13 sacks in 2013. Is 22 years old. 33 1/2-inch arms. 9 3/8-inch hands. 4.66 40-yard dash. 15 bench reps. 34 1/2 vertical. 119-inch broad. 6.82 3-cone drill. 4.19 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus*: Has all the athleticism you’d ever want — has a quick first step with a closing burst to get to the quarterback and chase plays down from behind. Has not missed a game in two seasons. Is a bit raw, has only been playing the position a few years. Needs to be more consistent diagnosing plays but is adequate. Does not always play hard. Needs to get much stronger, only 15 bench reps. Disappears too often for his talent.
4. Dee Ford, 6-2, 252, Auburn
Bio: Two-year starter who had 29 tackles, 14 1/2 tackles for loss and 10 1/2 sacks in 2013. Is 23 years old. 32 7/8-inch arms. 10 1/4-inch hands. 4.59 40-yard dash. 29 bench reps. 35 1/2-inch vertical. 124-inch broad. 7.07 3-cone drill. 4.73 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus*: Has small frame and short arms but fits the profile of a 3-4 rush linebacker. Boasts excellent get off and acceleration off the edge. Has a knack for getting to the quarterback (20 1/2 career sacks). Violent hands. Plays hard. Doesn’t have a ton of experience in coverage but has the athleticism to develop. Needs to gain strength — is often moved on double teams. Durability is a concern — has been dinged his entire career.
5. Demarcus Lawrence, 6-3, 251, Boise State
Bio: Two-year starter who had 72 tackles, 20 1/2 for loss and 10 1/2 sacks in 2013. 33 3/4-inch arms. 11-inch hands. 4.80 40-yard dash. 20 bench reps. 34 1/2 vertical. 113-inch broad. 7.46 3-cone drill. 4.31 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus*: Looks the part — has plenty of athleticism and range and can convert speed to power when rushing the quarterback. Has 20 career sacks in two seasons at Boise State, knows how to get to get home. Has proven to be durable. Instincts are adequate. Gives good effort but needs to get stronger — he gives up too much ground at the point of attack against stronger blockers. Didn’t play much coverage but has enough athleticism to hold his own in space. Has been suspended multiple times for disciplinary issues.
6. Jeremiah Attaochu, 6-3, 252, Georgia Tech
Bio: Three-year starter who had 45 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 12 1/2 sacks in 2013. Is 21 years old. 33-inch arms. 9 7/8-inch hands. 4.57 40-yard dash. Did not bench press. 37 1/2 vertical. 111-inch broad. 7.28 3-cone drill. 4.68 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus*: Spent three seasons in a 3-4 defense and one in a 4-3. Good size, length and athleticism. Has good acceleration off the ball and a proven track record as a pass rusher (is Georgia Tech’s career sack leader with 31 1/2). Plays hard. Excellent intangibles — interviews well and has a plus make up. Needs to get stronger, lacks the anchor to hold up against powerful blockers. Only OK instincts. Has enough athleticism to be functional in zone coverage.
7. Kyle Van Noy, 6-3, 243, Brigham Young
Bio: Three-year starter who 70 tackles, 17 1/2 tackles for loss and four sacks in 2013. Is 23 years old. 31 5/8-inch arms. 9 5/8-inch hands. 4.71 40-yard dash. 21 bench reps. 32 1/2-inch vertical. 112-inch broad. 7.22 3-cone drill. 4.20 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus*: Is muscular but has short arms. Quick get off, plus athleticism and good closing burst. Football smart, could hold up as a three-down player. Shows the knack for the big play — has 26 sacks, seven interceptions and 11 forced fumbles in his career. Was much more productive in 2012, when he had 13 sacks. Can be run at due to his lack of strength at the point of attack. Needs more pass-rush moves. OK motor but not great.
8. Trent Murphy, 6-5, 250, Stanford
Bio: Three-year starter who had 62 tackles, 23 1/2 tackles for loss and 15 sacks in 2013. Is 23 years old. 33 7/8-inch arms. 11 1/8-inch hands. 4.86 40-yard dash. 19 bench reps. 35 1/2-inch vertical. 118-inch broad. 6.78 3-cone drill. 4.20 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus*: Good length and enormous hands. Slow 40 and average get off but showed good movement skills in drills. Smart, gives great effort and has leadership qualities. Needs to improve his upper-body strength but uses his big hands to deliver a strong punch and holds up well when teams run at him. Will not win any footraces and isn’t natural in coverage but knows how to be physical with tight ends. Has a variety of pass-rush moves.
9. Marcus Smith, 6-3, 251, Louisville
Bio: Two-year starter who had 42 tackles, 18 1/2 for loss and 14 1/2 sacks in 2013, when he was named American Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. Is 22 years old. 34-inch arms. 10-inch hands. 4.68 40-yard dash. 23 bench reps. 35-inch vertical. 121-inch broad. 7.48 3-cone drill. 4.47 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus*: Good size and length for the position. Light on his feet with solid get off. Plays hard. Needs more pass-rush moves. Teams can run at him when technique is off. Has moldable tools. Solid motor. OK awareness, has a chance to be OK in coverage.
10. Christian Jones, 6-3, 239, Florida State
Bio: Three-year starter who had 56 tackles, eight for loss and two sacks in 2013. Is 23 years old. 33 1/2-inch arms. 9 5/8-inch hands. 4.74 40-yard dash. 17 bench reps. 33 1/2-inch vertical. 115-inch broad. 7.03 3-cone drill. 4.38 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus*: Has the frame of an inside linebacker but seems more comfortable rushing the passer. Has some athleticism and range and shows some promise in coverage. Needs to get stronger in the upper body and work on his ability to diagnose plays. OK physicality but can improve. Does play hard. Versatility is a plus. Needs more pass-rush moves.
*All evaluations and rankings are based largely on multiple draft profiles — thanks to NFL.com, ESPN.com, CBSSports.com and DraftNasty’s 2014 NFL Draft Manual — interviews with draft analysts and the author’s own film evaluations. Measurements and testing results are from the combine and pro days, according to the resources listed above.