Shilique Calhoun surprised a lot of NFL Draft analysts one year ago when the projected first round pick decided to return to Michigan State for his senior season. But despite coming off his best statistical season recording 49 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, and 18 quarterback hurries, Calhoun's name was still on the board when the Raiders selected in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Why was this the case, and what does the three-time All-American bring to the Silver and Black?
Weight: 254 lbs
Arm Length: 34 1/4"
Hand Size: 9 7/8"
2015: 49 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 18 quarterback hurries
2014: 39 tackles, 8 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss
2013: 7.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 18 quarterback hurries
Three-time First-Team All-Big Ten (2013-15)
Three-time Second-Team All-American (2013-15)
2015 Hendricks Award Finalist (Defensive End of the Year)
Two-time Lombardi Award Semifinalist (Lineman of the Year)
Two-time Bednarik Award Semifinalist (Defensive Player of the Year)
Two-time Team Captain
2013 Big-Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year
Shilique Calhoun is one of the best pure pass rushers in the 2016 NFL Draft class and his production backs it up as he totaled 128 quarterback pressures and 27 sacks in three years with the Spartans. In 2015, Pro Football Focus gave him the top pass rush grade among edge defenders (+46.0) and the ninth highest pass rush productivity grade. He put up those numbers facing top competition in the Big Ten conference.
Calhoun boasts a great first-step and wins with his quickness and agility. His ability to use his speed to penetrate the line of scrimmage and blow-up plays offers shades of Von Miller. Calhoun also displays impressive bend when rushing from the edge which helps him get around offensive tackles.
The two-time team captain was well-respected at Michigan State and his work ethic should help him continue to improve and reach his full potential.
The primary reason Calhoun fell to the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft was because he disappears in the run game. He simply lacks the strength and aggression to blow through blockers and as a result, rarely generates any pressure when bull rushing. Part of the issue is Calhoun needs to play with more leverage, which is coachable.
This was my second favorite pick the Raiders made in the 2016 NFL Draft because, while Calhoun isn't a force in the run game, he can provide a great pass rush as a role player in nickel sub-packages. Ultimately, the NFL is continuing to evolve into a pass-dominated league and the best way to counter these pass-heavy offenses is to have players that can rush the quarterback. The Raiders already looked to have an impressive pass rush with Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, Mario Edwards Jr, and Aldon Smith. This bounty of pass rushers allows the Raiders to play Calhoun in passing situations which plays to his strengths and will hide his weakness in the run game.