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Raiders Draft: Neil Farrell, DT, LSU scouting report

A mid-round defensive tackle option

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 27 Texas A&M at LSU
Neil Farrell
Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Heading into the NFL Draft, defensive tackle is probably the Las Vegas Raiders' biggest need from a pure volume standpoint. The Raiders currently have two under contract and LSU defensive tackle Neil Farrell is an intriguing run defender with upside as a pass rusher that Las Vegas needs to consider in the mid-rounds.

DT | LSU | 6’4 1/8” and 330 lbs | Mobile, AL | September 9th, 1998 (23.5)

Overview:

Neil Farrell came to LSU as a three-star recruit and the 25th-ranked defensive tackle in the country for the 2017 class, per 247 Sports. He played sparingly as a freshman and mixed into the rotation as a sophomore and junior before becoming a full-time starter for his fourth and fifth years in Baton Rouge. In college, he racked up 143 total tackles, 22 for loss, 7.5 sacks and 62 pressures primarily lining up as a nose or 2i-technique in odd fronts.

Strengths:

  • Typically one of the first guys off the ball and he really fires off the ball in short-yardage situations
  • Pretty quick with is his first three steps when one gapping to put pressure on offensive linemen
  • Takes short, choppy steps and keeps his feet underneath him as a two-gapper
  • Transitions from run to pass well against play action
  • He has a solid swim move with the accuracy to swipe offensive linemen’s hands down combined with a tight arm over, he can develop this move as he grows in the NFL
  • Decent quickness with a spin counter move to where if he can be more consistent with using the ice pick to clear the blocker’s hands, he can add an inside spin to his arsenal
  • Against option runs, he reads his keys and recognizes the play design to fulfill his assignment. For example, against inverted veers, he adjusts to tackle the quarterback instead of chasing the back.
  • Gains ground with L-step when slating which, combined with his get-off combo can allow him to get penetration
  • Strong hands and good placement on the offensive linemen’s chest to get extension and control them
  • Physical and sturdy at the point of attack to help hold ground versus base blocks
  • As a two-gapper, he plays with a wide base and is hard to move with his size and strength to avoid losing ground versus double teams
  • Against down blocks, he adjusts his eyes and hands to get the right place and hold his ground at the least
  • He has little to no problems getting off blocks and shows solid agility and quickness to make gang tackles in the adjacent gap
  • No issues tackling in his gap and he can make tackles with offensive linemen hanging onto him
  • Decent effort on inside runs to factor into gang tackles from the backside

Areas of improvement:

  • Carries some bad weight and didn’t test well at the combine — 5.41-second 40, 8.41 3-cone and a 21.5” vertical. He could afford to drop some pounds to help be a better athlete
  • Struggles to use his hands on finesse moves, often losing to offensive linemen with a solid punch
  • When bull-rushing, he has a narrow base, likes to use his head instead of his hands and lacks leg drive which limits his power and ability to collapse the pocket
  • Doesn’t dip his shoulder and finish violently when using a rip move as a pass rusher
  • Takes too long to run the hoop as a looper in line game
  • Doesn’t have a good pass rush motor, he’ll quit and won’t get many coverage sacks
  • Outside of the occasional spin, he doesn't throw a lot of counters moves and doesn’t set up the offensive lineman throughout the game, lacks a pass rush plan
  • Gets juked out of his shoes by athletic quarterbacks in the pocket
  • Slow to recognize reach blocks and he doesn’t have the agility to recover, he’ll get reached/scooped by guards when playing a 2i-technique
  • When one-gapping, his base narrows and his knees buckle which limits his power and could be more dangerous at the next level against one-on-one blocks and double teams. He also has a habit of trying to take on both blockers against doubles as a one-gapper.
  • He takes on blocks with slow hands, high pad level and lets offensive linemen get under his pads
  • Shorter arms limit the amount of extension he can get
  • Questionable gap discipline, he’ll pop his gap early trying to avoid blocks and ends up blocking himself/getting kicked out of his gap responsibility, especially against outside zone where he’ll end up on the wrong side of the blocker
  • Lacks the speed to factor into gang tackles down the field in pursuit
  • Doesn’t bring his feet with him when tackling in space
NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Alabama
Neil Farrell
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries

  • 2019: Foot surgery (missed bowl game)

Projection:

NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board rank: 130th, 4th round

An early Day 3 pick seems like the sweet spot for Farrell and that sounds about right to me. I think he can be a plus run defender and eat up space in the middle of the defense, but his pass-rush skills certainly leave something to be desired. Also, he’s not a good athlete overall and will be a 24-year-old rookie, so his ceiling or room for growth is pretty low.

I battle back and forth between what type of scheme the former Tiger would be best in. His get-off as a one-gapper is impressive and can be an asset, but I think he’s better at taking on blocks as a two-gapper and should be more than strong enough to play that role. That’s not a bad problem to have, but Farrell will also have to battle against being perceived as more of a two-down player.

What do we need to know?

How much room for growth does he have left? As mentioned above, Farrell is going to be an old rookie and spent five years in college to get to this level. He wasn’t much of a standout until this past season so there’s some ambiguity of if that’s his peak or a sign of what’s to come. How teams view his future value will certainly have a big impact on his draft stock.

Fit with the Raiders:

Las Vegas holds the 124th pick in the draft which should be in range for Farrell. How big their need for a defensive tackle is at the time of that pick is dependent on the rest of the offseason and how the beginning of the draft goes, but right now, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be on the table.

The Mobile, Alabama native could come in and start at nose tackle and fill a similar role that Johnathan Hankins has for the last several years, eat space as a run defender and occasionally contribute as a pass rusher. While he may never grow out of a two-down role, that shouldn’t be a deterrent for the Raiders who are lacking run-stuffing defensive tackles.

Film Clips: