Could stand to improve and develop more pass rushing moves
Tweener for a 4-3; needs more strength to be a base end
Summary: Over the past few years, Ohio State has had a lot of NFL talent on its defensive line and Joey Bosa has received the vast majority of the attention from the national media. Going back a few years though, Spence was wreaking havoc up front and helped Bosa to establish himself during his freshman season in 2013. Spence had 52 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, one forced fumble and two passes broken up that tear. However to end that season, Spence was suspended for three games, which was a sign of things to come.
The 2014 season was lost as Spence was suspended for the entire year because he failed multiple drug tests for ecstasy. That led to Spence leaving the program and transferring to Eastern Kentucky. He then was arrested in May of 2015 for public intoxication.
Spence cleaned up his act enough to play in 2015 and dominated the weaker competition. He totaled 63 tackles with 22.5 for a loss and 11.5 sacks. That earned Spence an invitation to the Senior Bowl, where he was one of the top performers during the week of practice. He used his speed to abuse offensive tackles in the one-on-ones and was the top edge rusher in Mobile. However, Spence actually had a mixed Senior Bowl performance as team sources said he did a poor job in the team interviews when questioned about his drug problems and issues at Ohio State.
For the NFL, the strength of Spence's game is that he is extremely fast off the edge with excellent agility to weave around blockers. He has a quick first-step and get-off to put tackles on their heels. Spence is good in space while being dangerous standing up over tackles or putting his hand in the ground and rushing as a defensive end. He would be an excellent fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. In a 4-3 defense, Spence could be a right end, but he would be a liability as a run defender going against left tackles. Another potential role could be a Sam (strongside) linebacker on run downs who moves to end in passing situations.
Some NFL teams have Spence graded in the second round. That is where they value him as a player based off his tape and aside from his off-the-field issues. Some of the issues they see is that Spence struggles to shed blocks when linemen get their hands on him. He also will have problems defending downhill runs coming straight at him. Spence needs to continue to develop some his pass-rushing moves for the NFL as he is too reliant on speed and athleticism.
Other teams have Spence rated in the first round. He should be a first- or second-round pick with Round 1 being his most likely destination.
Player Comparison: Cliff Avril. Spence reminds me of Avril (6-3, 260). They are similarly sized fast edge rushers who hunt quarterbacks. Both players are light in the run game though. Avril has been a quality pass-rusher over his eight seasons, and if Spence can stay out of trouble, I could see him being a pro comparable to Avril.
NFL Matches: Tampa Bay, New York Giants, Detroit, Oakland, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Baltimore
In the first 10 picks, there are teams that could consider taking a pass-rusher. Perhaps the highest that Spence could hope to go would be to the Buccaneers at the ninth pick or the Giants at the 10th pick. The Bucs badly need an edge rusher. If Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner are off the board, sources say Tampa Bay could give consideration to Spence and Georgia's Leonard Floyd to upgrade their pass rush.
The Giants are in the market for some pass-rushing upgrades, and Spence could get consideration from them, but his off-the-field issues don't seem like a good fit for the organization.
In the teens, there are some options for Spence. The Lions could use an edge rusher to pair with Ziggy Ansah, while Buffalo could use a replacement for Mario Williams.
Oakland tried Aldon Smith, but obviously can't count on him to stay on the field. The Raiders need a rusher to go with Khalil Mack. Miami has Cameron Wake aging and coming off a serious injury while Olivier Vernon is also entering free agency. The Falcons badly need an edge rusher to go with Vic Beasley as Atlanta had the smallest sack total in the NFL last year. Spence could be in play for the Falcons.
The Colts could use a difference-maker and a young pass-rusher to replace Robert Mathis. Cincinnati could use a pass-rusher to go on the other side from Carlos Dunlap, plus Spence's off-the-field issues won't scare off the Bengals.
Cleveland could use a pass-rusher to replace the bust known as Barkevious Mingo. Paul Kruger had only 2.5 sacks in 2015, so if Spence falls to pick No. 32, the Browns could end his fall.
The Jaguars could use an edge rusher to go with Dante Fowler as their pass defense has been a real weakness. If Spence slips to the second round or to late in the first round, he could be in play for Jacksonville if the organization takes a defensive back with its first selection of the 2016 NFL Draft. Baltimore needs a young pass-rusher as Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are aging, but the sixth-overall pick would be high for Spence.