The BEST Player You've NEVER Heard Of

Kerrigan_display_image_mediumWell, maybe you have heard of him, but odds are you probably didn’t think he was one of the best college players in the upcoming NFL Draft.  If you haven’t heard of him altogether though, it’s probably because it’s been hard to hear about him through all of the Andrew Luck, AJ Green, Patrick Peterson, Nick Fairley, and Marcell Dareus hype.  It’s also quite hard to hear this man’s quiet(er) roar because he doesn’t have the hype that the aforementioned players do, although it would be well-deserved.  He also doesn’t play on the biggest or best team, although he elevates the team to another level by himself.  This player is Ryan Kerrigan, a defensive end from the Purdue Boilermakers. 

Now, you might say to me, "Hey dude, I haven’t ever heard of him, he mustn’t be all THAT good."  Well, sit back, have a cup o’ Joe, and please read what I’m about to present, because what I’m going to try to prove might be entertaining.  Firstly, I will try to prove that Ryan Kerrigan is the BEST defensive end in this year’s draft.  Secondly, and the more difficult part, is that I will try to prove that he belongs in the conversation for not only the top 10, but indeed he deserves to be in consideration for THE #1 pick that the Carolina Panthers will most likely own. 

Now, before I go into anything, I think it would be wise of me to go ahead and make a quick point.  This case for Ryan Kerrigan exists ONLY if Luck decides to opt out of entering the draft.  I felt that this was necessary just so we can have a discussion based upon this player without drifting into anymore disputes of whether Andrew Luck should be the #1 pick, if he enters the draft.  That subject, I feel we’ve conquered, and we all know the answers to.  Well, at least most of us not leading "the bandwagon" for Cam Newton… (Sorry Caro2daheart ;)

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RYAN KERRIGAN: The Man, and Soon to Be Myth and Legend


Let me start out by simply giving a picture of who Ryan Kerrigan is, since it is likely that many aren’t very familiar with him.  Kerrigan is a native Indianan who plays defensive end for the Purdue Boilermakers.  A senior, from Muncie, Indiana, Kerrigan had the athleticism to play both tight end and defensive end exceptionally in high school.  As a high school player, he had 90 tackles and 19 sacks, and 40 receptions for 789 yards and 6 touchdowns.  Kerrigan was simply, a mere man amongst children.  And yet, even then, he received very little publicity, as he was rated a 3 star prospect.  At Purdue, Kerrigan has compiled astounding statistics.   In his career for the Boilermakers, he has 134 tackles, 57 tackles for a loss, 33.5 sacks, and 14 forced fumbles.  Kerrigan is known by others as a gym rat, passionate swimmer, team captain and leader, and holder of many college records. 

Standing at 6 foot 4 and 263 pounds, Ryan Kerrigan is the perfect size and weight for a defensive end, big and strong enough to take on tackles and play a part in the run game, and yet light and quick enough to beat offensive tackles to the quarterback.  His nickname? Tarzan.  Quite a name, huh? Well, he’s got the play to back it up.  While some scouts may say "This guy looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane," that is not in any way true of Kerrigan.  He looks like Tarzan, and he plays like Tarzan!  He’s got the hair to be Tarzan too…

Kerrigan has also been named a 2010 Unanimous All American Player.  Think that’s not impressive? Well, to obtain that standing, one has to be named as "All American" by the American Football Coaches Association, the Walter Camp Football Foundation, the Football Writers Association of America, the Associated Press and The Sporting News.  Thus, it’s quite a selection to be named Unanimous All American.  If all these groups selected him as such, well then you’d have to think they’d know something.  I mean, they are only coaches, football writers, and pundits.  If they all see something in this guy, well then maybe there’s something to it, ehh?



Kerrigan’s Game

Now, let’s take a look at his game.  In watching film on Kerrigan versus Northwestern and Michigan, Kerrigan’s presence is easy to see because he makes a difference on just about every play. 

The best word to describe Kerrigan is ferocious, and he definitely elevates the level of the team’s defense.  On just about every play, Kerrigan breaks down the line of scrimmage single handedly.  Ben Glicksman, of, attributes Kerrigan’s success partly to his stamina, and ability to wear out offensive tackles.  Glicksman notes that Kerrigan plays approximately 90 snaps a game (far more than typical defensive lineman), and he plays each snap with tenacity and energy.  This large amount of snaps per game and ferocity per snap outlast and eventually overwhelm offensive tackles. 

One of Kerrigan’s best assets is his quickness.  He springs off the snap like a jackrabbit, and is in the tackles’ face right at the snap.  Beating the tackle to the outside is easy for him, and he also has a quick inside move and juke that a tackle has yet to stop.  Kerrigan also takes great pride in his flexibility, and his fluidity in his hips.  He doesn’t so much prefer the spin move, although with his quickness, he would probably be pretty good at it.  Although Kerrigan does have some great moves to beat the tackle, Kerrigan admits himself that he could utilize some more pass rushing moves such as the swim move.  

As for his power, he has shown the ability to not only shed blockers, but to completely throw a blocker out of his way.  If a tackle gets a hold of him, he has demonstrated a strong and violent rip move to evade the tackle.  Double teams aren’t a problem either for Kerrigan as he is able to use his strength and speed to break them down.  Overall, Kerrigan is such a balanced player as he contributes in the run game and makes a big difference in the passing game.

RK: The BEST Defensive End in College Football, PERIOD

Ryan Kerrigan is the BEST defensive end in this draft.  Period.  To prove this, I will demonstrate that he is superior, in almost every way than DaQuan Bowers, who is commonly thought of as the #1 DE.  Now there are a lot of DaQuan Bower proponents out there, and if you one of them and you’re reading this, I’m betting that you are fairly skeptical.  You’re probably thinking that this is a joke, and that no one could match up to Bowers.  Well, this is no joke, I assure you.  And Kerrigan is every bit as good as Bowers, if not better.  Personally, I attribute this large Bowers following to hype, and the lack of Kerrigan following to the lack of publicity he has received, because  once you look at both of these players, I think that it becomes pretty obvious who the better player is!

The biggest criticism of Bowers is that he hasn’t been consistent.  Although he has produced 15.5 sacks, 24 TFL, and 63 tackles in 2010, he produced a wimpy 3 sacks and decent 46 tackles the year before.  The year before that, he only had 1 sack and 37 tackles.  Talk about one-year wonder!  In fact, up until this past year, DaQuan Bowers had been labeled a bust because he never filled the enormous shoes the media thought he would wear.  On the other hand, Ryan Kerrigan has been one of the most consistent defensive linemen, as he has produced 66 or more tackles and 12 sacks in each of the past two years.  And even in his sophomore year, he contributed 56 tackles and 7 sacks.  When it comes to consistency in play, Kerrigan has simply been dominant more consistently than Bowers.

Now in looking at their actual game, Kerrigan still rates better than Bowers.  While Bowers may be very athletic and has the prototypical size, he doesn’t like to assume a 3 point stance, can get lazy and disappear for stretches (Julius Peppers style), and can be top heavy and too slow to move his entire body quickly.  As for Kerrigan, he compares somewhat like Andrew Luck in that there really aren’t a whole lot of holes in his game.  Kerrigan is really solid all around, being very good in both the run and passing defense.  His only knock, and it is a very small knock is that he could develop a wider assortment of pass rush moves, however he seems to have no trouble getting past the tackle and to the QB.

As for strength, conventional wisdom might tell you that the 280 pound Bowers is stronger than the 263 pound Kerrigan, however this is misleading.  Bowers bench presses a mere 385 pounds, in comparison to Kerrigan’s 475 pound bench press.  Although he’s 263 pounds, he’s a hulk!  Pound for pound, Kerrigan is much stronger, and the best news is that there might even be room to add more strength!  After all though, it is this lower playing weight that allows Kerrigan to be quicker than Bowers.  Although there are no official 40 times as of yet, when looking at tape, it’s pretty apparent that Kerrigan has Bowers beat in the quickness department also.

When it comes to hype though, Bowers wins easily.  Since High School, Bowers has been rated as the number 1 prospect in the nation, having 97 tackles and 14 sacks in his senior year.  Now, as for Kerrigan, he was the 43rd rated DE in the nation coming out of high school and was a 3 star player, compiling almost as many tackles (90), and more sacks (19).  Wow.  There is something wrong with that picture!  Kerrigan was just as good in high school, and yet he got little respect, whereas Bowers was in center stage of the media.   So, the media has advocated that Bowers has always been the best DE prospect, although Kerrigan has always been just as good, if not the better prospect.  Therefore, the common conception that Bowers is the better DE has never been completely true as the media has always favored him far over Kerrigan for no real reason. 

Now although intelligence is a difficult measurement, however I believe Kerrigan would win this battle against Bowers also.  From the game tape, I have yet to see Kerrigan get faked or miss an assignment, whereas Bowers has.  Additionally, Kerrigan is graduating with a Math degree, which is far more difficult than a Community Recreation, Sport & Camp Management degree (which is basically an athlete’s degree) or whatever Bowers is working on.  Kerrigan was also named as a 2009 All-American, and a 2008 and 2009 Academic All-Big Ten.

As you can see from what I’ve demonstrated, Ryan Kerrigan is the BEST DE prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft.  He has been more consistently dominant, has a more complete game, is most likely smarter, and is simplystronger and faster.  He just lacks the hype that Bowers has always had.  Thus, Ryan Kerrigan should be the first DE drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft, NOT DaQuan Bowers.



RK: A Candidate for the Number 1 Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft

Most might think I’m crazy, but yes, Ryan Kerrigan should be a candidate for the number one pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.  This conclusion is based not only upon Kerrigan being a better DE and prospect than Bowers, but it is also largely based upon Kerrigan’s favorable comparison to Ndamukong Suh, who was the most dominant D-lineman the draft has seen in a long time.  Furthermore, the defensive line is one of the Panthers biggest needs, and Ryan Kerrigan could help turn around an anemic pass rush and porous run defense, just as Suh did in Detroit.  Therefore, Ryan Kerrigan deserves to be a candidate for the Panthers number 1 pick in the draft.

Kerrigan compares to Suh, really?  Yes, he really does!  It might be hard to imagine that, since Suh was labeled the best D-lineman prospect since Reggie White, and because Ryan Kerrigan hasn’t received any hype of that magnitude.  However, Kerrigan is setting records, just as Suh did.  Kerrigan is first among all FBS players in tackles for loss per game (with 2.3), second among all FBS players in sacks per game (with 1.1).   He also holds the Big Ten record for career forced fumbles (with 14), and perhaps most impressively, is tied for the all-time NCAA FBS forced fumbles (with 14).  And did I mention he was named a Unanimous All American? 

And, when looking at both of their statistics the past two years, Kerrigan is right on par with Suh:

Suh vs. Kerrigan



















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Actually, in less games, Kerrigan has had 6 more sacks, 8 more tackles for loss, and 10 more forced fumbles than Ndamukong Suh!  Now, of course they played different positions, however Kerrigan’s production is quite significant.  There hasn’t been a complete defensive end like this, with this kind of production for a couple of years.  The 2008 NFL Draft was the last time teams saw a prospect like this (Chris Long), and before that it wasn’t until way back in the 2002 Draft that teams saw another candidate similar to Kerrigan (Julius Peppers).  Peppers and Long are mentioned because they are the only two DE prospects that Kerrigan measures up to.  Peppers, Long, and Kerrigan all have/had a complete game along with incredible production.  Thus, like Ndamukong Suh, Kerrigan is a prospect that comes along only once in a while.



Kerrigan as a Candidate for the Number One Overall Pick

Okay, so now that I’ve proved that Kerrigan belongs in the same group as Suh, Peppers, and Long, it’s time to see why he should be in consideration for the Panthers number one overall pick.  Now, barring Luck entering the draft, there have been a few players mentioned as worthy of the pick.  We’ve already discussed why Kerrigan should be chosen over Bowers, so let’s look elsewhere.

Wide Receiver AJ Green from Georgia is one of these players worthy of the number one pick.  While Green is a great prospect, and has been labeled "the best WR since Calvin Johnson," I would argue that the Panthers don’t really need him.  Yes, the Panthers offense has been unable to move the ball, however the Wide Receivers the Panthers have aren’t so much bad, they’re just young and green.  Actually they have shown great promise in becoming quality WRs.  It is because of this promise, and because the Panthers just drafted 3 WRs in the last draft, that the Panthers should pass on Green.  Additionally, this year’s draft class is looking very deep, so it is possible to obtain a quality WR such as Greg Little later in the draft.

Patrick Peterson, a cornerback from LSU is another prospect for the number one pick.  Although Peterson has been tagged as a potential "shut-down corner," the Panthers should also pass.  The Panthers secondary has actually been quite good the past two years under D coordinator Ron Meeks.  Currently, the Panthers Passing Defense is ranked 8th in the NFL, and last year it ranked 4th.  So, upgrading here might be unwise, especially since CB Captain Munnerlyn has played in a starting capacity so well as of late.

Defensive Tackles Nick Fairley, from Auburn, and Marcell Dareus, from Alabama have also been mentioned as a possible number one pick.  Fairley has been great this past year, however he is a one-year wonder and has a natural bust factor, something unattractive for number one overall picks.  Dareus, while has been disruptive, plays in a 3-4 at 'Bama, might be best suited to the 3-4, and has quite a bit of hype surrounding him.  While Defensive Tackle is one of the Panthers biggest needs, if not the biggest, the Panthers should pass on these two prospects because they simply aren’t worthy of the number one pick, although they could be worthy of the top 5-10.  Additionally, this draft class looks to have a strong DT class, so it is possible for the Panthers to obtain someone such as Jared Crick in the 3rd round of the draft or later.

Besides Defensive Tackle being a need, Defensive End is also a big need for the Panthers, and that is why the worthy Kerrigan should be drafted number one.  While Charles Johnson has been phenomenal rushing the pass this year, it is not a given that he returns.  And if he does return, the Panthers desperately need to find someone opposite him, because the Panthers’ Tampa 2 D relies heavily on QB pressure.  Some might cry that we’ve already drafted two potential suitors for that job.  However, these candidates have yet to show that they are the future, and the Panthers can’t wait forever and potentially miss out on a once in a while prospect like Kerrigan.  Yes, Greg Hardy was great in the preseason, however he’s been unspectacular in the regular season against starting tackles.  And as for Everette Brown, well the jury is still out on him, but it’s not looking good.  Brown has struggled mightily in two years, and in all honesty might have been better suited as a 3-4 OLB.  So, yes the Panthers do indeed have a great need at DE, because no one opposite Johnson has demonstrated anything, not even the promise or potential that they could soon be a quality starter.  Therefore, DE is a great need for the Panthers, especially since they play against some of the better QBs and RBs in the league.

What would the Panthers gain by choosing Kerrigan first overall? Well, it is very likely that he will become a starter at the position for a while for the future.  He is more of a sure-thing than other prospects, so his bust-level is low.  And the potential for greatness is definitely there.  He compares well in style to Chris Long, although, in fact he might be better.  Moreover, with Kerrigan, the DE position could be sealed for the next 10 years, and the Panthers could have a renaissance of sorts, having feared defensive ends.  And in the case that Brown or Hardy, or both decide to become a quality starting DE, then having Kerrigan only means that we’ll have a great rotation and situation similar to the NY Giants, who are loaded with DE talent.  Additionally, Kerrigan could transform and elevate the Panthers D just as Suh did with Detroit’s defense.

What would the Panthers lose by passing on Kerrigan?  Well, great, and even good defensive ends are hard to come by.  So, the Panthers odds of nabbing a quality starter opposite Johnson would be slim.  The Panthers D might not get the lift it would from Dareus, Fairley, or Peterson that it might potentially get from Kerrigan.  Additionally, the DE position could continue being a great need for a while.  And by skipping on Kerrigan, the Panthers might miss out on one of the best DE prospects in the decade, beside Peppers, Long, and Suh.

Therefore, I want to encourage you to look further into Ryan Kerrigan and I urge you to consider him as a prospect for the Panthers number one pick (which will most likely be the number one overall pick).  He’s the BEST defensive end in the draft, and one of the best DE prospects to enter the draft in a while.  Don’t buy into the lack of hype, Ryan Kerrigan truly belongs in consideration for the number one overall pick!




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