[Update 2/17: The report below has been updated from the summer to reflect Leal’s status heading into the 2022 NFL Draft and new film clips have been added to the end.]
DeMarvin Leal is an interesting NFL Draft prospect because he projects better as an interior defensive lineman but has primarily played on the edge in college. That versatility should pique the Las Vegas Raiders’ interest since they will likely be in the defensive lineman market this offseason.
DL | Texas A&M | 6’4” 290 lbs | San Antonio, TX | July 1, 2000 (21.6)
DeMarvin Leal came to Texas A&M as a five-star recruit and the number three player overall in the 2019 class. About halfway through his true freshman season, Leal earned a starting spot and has racked up 133 total tackles, 25 for loss, 13 sacks and 86 pressures, primarily playing as a defensive end in the Aggies’ defense that used a lot of even fronts. The San Antonio native has the strength to hold up against one-on-one blocks as a run defender and win with a very impressive push/pull move in pass rush, but he needs to become faster off the ball and nimbler.
On December 18th, after he had declared for the draft, Leal was arrested for Possession of Marijuana less than two ounces in Collin County, Texas. While this is a petty crime and he likely won’t face any discipline from the league, it could impact his draft stock.
- Specifically in goal line and short-yardage situations, he fires off the ball hard
- He’s quick to recognize cut blocks, uses his hands to defeat them and has good balance to stay upright, running almost unimpeded to the quarterback or ball carrier
- In pass rush, his push/pull move is extremely effective as he gets on an edge to clear his hips and has the strength to put bigger offensive linemen on the ground
- Has a solid inside spin move with decent quickness that can become an effective pass rush move if he gets more accurate with his initial chops/hands to beat the offensive lineman’s hands
- If he can’t get to the quarterback as a rusher, he gets his hands up to bat passes at the line of scrimmage, and he’s shown the alertness to get an interception on tipped passes
- Good block recognition to overcome some of his issues taking on blocks, especially against reach blocks
- Precise timing with his hands to typically make contact with the offensive linemen first when taking on blocks
- He has the strength and hand placement to get extension against guards
- Has a nice swim move to defeat blocks quickly or avoid blocks and play in the offense’s backfield
- When unblocked as the spill player against gap runs, he stays tight to the line of scrimmage/doesn’t go too far up the field, and is effective at getting under pullers and wrong arming
- Displays great gap integrity with an impressive feel/quick reaction to the running back committing before leaving his assignment
- Violent and strong with his hands when getting off blocks, similar to his push/pull move
- He has no problems making tackles in his gap and can bring ball carriers down with linemen hanging on him
- Displays good effort and deep angles in pursuit to factor into gang tackles
Areas for improvement:
- Typically, late to react to the snap outside of short-yardage situations; is slow with and takes too long of a first step, narrowing his base
- When slanting, he false steps and doesn’t gain ground with his L-step
- Can’t win with speed around the corner given his pedestrian get-off and bend issues – severely lacks the ankle and hip flexibility to take an efficient path to the quarterback as a rusher. The bend issues also limit his effectiveness as a looper in line games.
- When bull-rushing, he stops his legs on contact and can only push the pocket against smaller offensive linemen or with a head of steam, something he won’t have as an interior defender in the NFL
- Does too much dancing at the line of scrimmage that isn’t effective at getting the offensive lineman to bite on the fakes and he lacks quickness when working stick moves to make the move work. He also drops his hands so offensive linemen can get to his chest when using a stick move
- Lacks a plan when rushing, rarely throwing counter moves if his initial doesn't work
- When working finesse moves, he has poor accuracy with his initial chops as he’ll miss completely or fail to get a joint to clear the blocker’s hands off him
- He has a habit of diving inside and losing contain when asked to rush on the edge
- Against the run, he stands up out of his stance, and the base issues that stem from his get-off give him little to no chance against double teams. He struggled to hold up against tight end and tackle double teams in college.
- He’s very reliant on his upper body strength to take on blocks as he stops his feet on contact, which could lead to issues at the next level, especially against physical guards
- Doesn’t break down when tackling in the open field, leading to missed tackles. That’s a big reason why he had 10 missed tackles this past season, per PFF.
- 2019: Minor Knee cartilage tear (missed spring practice)
NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board rank: 29th, 1st round
Over the summer, Leal was widely considered a potential top-five pick and hands down the best defensive tackle prospect. However, a disappointing 2021 campaign where he honestly looked worse than the year before has changed all of that. In my opinion, a late first-round pick is still too rich for him as I see him as closer to the mid-second- and maybe even early-third-round category.
As far as a scheme fit, I think the former Aggie would be best for a team that uses a lot of even fronts where he can play from a three- to a five-technique and one-gap. He’ll likely start out as more of a run defender with the potential to develop as a pass rusher down the line.
What do we need to know?
What do his measurables look like? We’ll get an answer to this question fairly soon with the NFL Combine coming up.
As referenced above, Leal is far from a finished product and is a bit of a project. Those types of players are easier and better to bet on when they have good measurables, both size-wise and in the athletic testing. If he goes to Indy and measures in with long arms and puts up eye-catching numbers in tests like the 10-yard split, short shuttle, etc., then coaches and general managers can feel more comfortable about his potential. However, he’ll continue to slide if those numbers aren’t there.
Fit with the Raiders:
There’s no doubt that Las Vegas will be in the defensive tackle market this offseason, which should put the Texas A&M product on the table with one of their first picks in the draft. However, I get the feeling there will be better options available in the first or second rounds.
Schematically, Leal has the size and strength to fit what new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has worked with at the defensive tackle spot in the past. Graham used a bigger-bodied defensive end/tackle hybrid type of player with Leonard Williams, who is a run-first defender like Leal is. The difference between the two is Williams offers more as a pass rusher so the question becomes how much of that is Graham willing to sacrifice?
Excellent run d and block shedding here from Texas A&M DL DeMarvin Leal:— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) August 4, 2021
-Recognizes the reach block and moves his feet to hold down the edge
-Attacks Stone Forsthye and shows some impressive strength to shed and put him on the ground
-Finishes the play with a TFL pic.twitter.com/GPpF7idnHL
I don’t think you can find a play that does a better job of showing off Leal’s strength than the clip above. He’s lined up as a standup outside backer and is facing off against Stone Forsythe, who was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks a few months ago.
Leal recognizes that Forsythe is trying to reach him, moves his feet and gets his hands on the tackle’s chest to secure the edge. Once the running back commits to the B-gap, the Aggie has the strength – and because his hands are in the right spot – to shed this block with ease and throw Forsythe to the ground.
The ball carrier tries to bounce it at the last second but since Leal had great gap discipline, it’s too late and he’s able to make a tackle for loss.
Beautiful inside move on the ET line game here from DeMarvin Leal:— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) August 4, 2021
-Times up his hands perfectly to catch the OT’s
-Able to take advantage of the OT’s overset with his UOH and quickness
-Forces the ball out and records a QB Hit pic.twitter.com/AMZxlcjOsu
This stunt by Leal is just a work of art. He sets up the E/T game perfectly by working up the field initially and has perfect timing with his hands as he literally catches the offensive lineman’s. Once that tackle opens his hips to the sideline, the pass rusher starts to work inside with a strong rip move to give himself a clear path to go get a hit on the quarterback. A perfectly executed line game.
I’m gonna go ahead a put a plus next to DeMarvin Leal’s block shedding… pic.twitter.com/p2lCvuMFKT— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) August 4, 2021
In the clip above, we’re going to get another excellent example of how the Texas A&M product can get off blocks. He’s two-gapping here, which means he’s responsible for both the B- and C-gaps and explains the lateral first-step and slow get off. Like the play above, his hand placement is perfect and allows him to control the offensive lineman.
The tackle is able to get inside of Leal a little bit, but Leal’s strength allows him to shuck the tackle and effectively close the B-gap with the man. Finally, the defender breaks down after defeating the block and because No. 5 does his job too, there’s nowhere to run and this is another tackle for loss.
Evan Neal is potentially OT1 this year's and DeMarvin Leal tosses him to the ground like a rag doll pic.twitter.com/cr975hN08e— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) August 4, 2021
How about one more example of Leal’s block shedding, just because I love it so much. It really is a thing of beauty.
Evan Neal, No. 73 for Alabama, is projected to be one of the best offensive tackles in this year’s draft class and is 6’7” 360 pounds, but Leal makes him look like a rag doll on this play. The defensive lineman’s hand placement isn’t quite as precise as we’ve seen in the other examples, notice his right hand is outside of the tackle’s shoulder, but it doesn’t matter since Leal has the strength to toss Neal and go factor into the play.
Love this outside spin counter move by Leal:— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) August 4, 2021
-Wins initially with his inside stick move
-OT does a pretty good job recovering, but Leal shows some decent quickness and agility to spin back to the outside and break free pic.twitter.com/1AF5vxXuyg
This final clip won’t show up on the stat sheet but is something the Aggie can build on moving forward.
Initially, he’s going to set up and work an inside stick move but the tackle does a pretty good job of picking it up. Once Leal recognizes that his initial move isn’t working and he’s about to get washed inside, he sticks his feet in the ground and pivots to a spin move. Neal wasn’t expecting that counter and ends up being the one who gets washed down into the mess, leaving Leal to rush freely and force the quarterback to get rid of the ball.
DeMarvin Leal (DLT) doesn’t get the tackle but don’t be fooled, he makes this play:— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 17, 2022
-Excellent use of hands to get to the OL’s chest & shed
-Works to get on an edge to clear his lower half
-Cuts the field in half & forces RB to cutback into rest of D
Nice arm over to get off the OT’s block & make a play by DeMarvin Leal (LE)— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 17, 2022
DeMarvin Leal (DRT) doesn’t have a big pass rush arsenal, but his push-pull move is nice— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 17, 2022
Same arm over from DeMarvin Leal (RE) but this time he gets a cleaner win and a TFL— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) February 17, 2022