Following his breakout redshirt Junior season, defensive end Kevin Dodd has declared for early entry into the 2016 NFL draft. In his only season as a starter, Dodd showed excellent penetration skills with 12.5 sacks, 24 tackles for a loss, 46 quarterback pressures, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery to go along with 46 solo tackles for the National runner-up Clemson Tigers.
Dodd lined up at strong side defensive end for the ACC champion Tigers and saved his best performance for the last game of the season. In the National Championship Game against SEC juggernaut Alabama Crimson Tide, Dodd totaled three sacks and two additional tackles for a loss.
The 23 year old Dodd has an NFL frame at 6'5", 280 pounds. His NFL.com scouting report explains Dodd's strengths as having a relentless motor, good footwork and strength, extremely instinctive, great containment ability and upfield burst. Dodd has room to improve on his hand usage and the fact that he only had one season of high level production is a cause for concern.
Another knock on Dodd is that he primarily faced right tackles, who are often below average pass blockers in college, with teammate Shaq Lawson lining up against most left tackles. NFL.com says his best pro comparison is Seahawks DE Michael Bennett.
Kevin Dodd is not a perfect scheme fit for the Ravens. Clemson uses a 4-3 alignment so Dodd does not have much experience playing in a 3-4 base two-gap scheme. The upcoming NFL combine, beginning on February 23rd, will be important for Dodd. Ravens scouts will have to evaluate whether he has the required strength and girth to hold up against the run as a 5 technique defensive end, or if he has the necessary agility and speed to play as a stand up outside linebacker.
Even if Dodd needs more coaching to thrive in the Ravens 3-4 alignment, that has not prevented the Ravens from drafting the best player available in the past, including DT Timmy Jernigan who was regarded as a better fit for 4-3 defenses. Also worth noting, defensive coordinator Dean Pees increased his usage of play calls with four down lineman in his hybrid scheme when the Ravens defense found their stride down the stretch of the 2015 season. The Ravens have not ruled out employing more 4-3 looks next season and could let the talent on the roster determine how they attack opposing offenses since they have many versatile players on the defensive front.
At this point in the process, draft projections for Dodd range from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second round. This could provide another opportunity for the Ravens to receive the better value between a pair of college teammates if the more ballyhooed DE Shaq Lawson is picked early in the first round, just like they did in the 2015 draft when fourth round OLB Za'Darius Smith outproduced his teammate at Kentucky, first round OLB Bud Dupree. In order to realize their full potential in the 2016 season, the Ravens must improve their pass rush. Kevin Dodd would bolster the Ravens stable of young defensive lineman and could be the best player available when the Ravens go on the clock in the second round.