If you ask Jeremiah Attaochu’s former Georgia Tech teammates, they’ll tell you the 6-foot-3, 252-pound linebacker has what it takes to make it in the NFL. Georgia Tech’s career leader in sacks was voted by his team as “most likely to be an NFL star.” Many stars on the defensive side are made with sacks and that is what Attaochu is particularly good at.
Pass rushers come in a lot of forms in the draft and sometimes they can do other things. Linebackers have to be able to cover the pass in addition to rushing the QB and defensive ends need to be adept run defenders as well as bringers of the edge rush. Of course, defensive scheme also plays a role in the success players will have as pass rushers. In the case of Attaochu, some scouts think if you put him on the field and ask him to get the quarterback, that’s what he will do.
ESPN’s Todd McShay said he feels Attaochu has the most upside of all back seven players in the draft.
“I love watching this guy play,” McShay said. “He has got the violence, the temperament, flying all over the field, can bend the edge. I think he is the most underrated player in this entire draft.”
University of Georgia fans will not call Attaochu underrated. They probably recall his four sacks against the Bulldogs last season and most fans of ACC football will recall how Attaochu had 10.5 sacks in the final six games last year. Even more ACC fans will know Attaochu as No. 5 on the conference’s career sack list with 31.5. What it all means is Attaochu can rush the quarterback.
He sat out the NFL Combine while nursing an injury, but recently had his Pro Day and it could be only a matter of time before Attaochu’s name will be among those listed as “risers” with just over a month to go before the NFL Draft. Attaochu ran a 4.58 40 to go along with a 37.5-inch vertical, numbers that would include Attaochu among his position’s top performers at the Combine.
Attaochu began as a 17-year-old, true freshman in 2010, started GT’s bowl game and got the first three sacks of his career. By the time he was done last season, he was considered the best pass rusher in the history of the program. However, past success is not always an indicator of future success. While scouts love Attaochu’s work ethic, smarts and production in college, they’re not sure where he fits in the NFL.
The plus side of that conundrum is that Attaochu is still young and could be nowhere near his full potential. He’s got experience in both 3-4 and 4-3 systems in college and spent time playing as a linebacker and defensive end. On the go in pass coverage as a moving linebacker is not what Attaochu is best at, but there’s reason to believe he could improve. By all accounts, Attaochu is a hard-working player, whose experience and success learning a variety of defenses means he’s adaptable and coachable and therefore, could very well continue to learn in the NFL.
Currently considered a second- or third-round pick, Attaochu’s stock is boosted by what could be. However, what he is currently is a ferocious pass rusher with a motor that doesn’t stop and athletic enough to beat opponents with just physical skills. Getting all of that on the second day of the draft should make some team looking to improve their pass rush very happy.