Summary: Every year in the NFL draft, there are players who enter the college football season as one of the top prospects but end up sliding to be late first- or second-round picks. Landry could keep that trend alive for the 2018 NFL Draft. Early in the 2017 season, there were draft pundits who were projecting Landry to be a high first-round pick. However, his senior year didn't go as planned, and now, Landry would be fortunate to go on Thursday night of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Landry started to make his presence felt as a sophomore when he contributed with 60 tackles and 4.5 sacks. As a junior, Landry took his game to another level with 16.5 sacks, 22 tackles for a loss, seven forced fumbles, four passes batted and 51 tackles. In 2017, Landry had 38 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and two passes broken up. The senior missed a few games with an ankle injury late in the year and tried to play through the injury earlier in the season.
There is no doubt that Landry is very fast off the edge with a quick first-step and closes in an instant. He is a pure speed defender who consistently explodes into the backfield in the pass rush. Landry shows some moves with a spin, cuts to the inside, and speed around the corner. If he adds some strength to do a rip move, that could be devastating with his speed to get upfield and his ability to dip underneath blockers. In the NFL, Landry has the potential to be a double-digit sack producer.
When Landry was going well in 2016, he was dangerous to produce the strip-sack, causing seven forced fumbles that year, which is a huge total for an edge rusher. Landry has good instincts to go for the ball, and he could produce a nice amount of fumbles for his pro defense.
Landry needs to be protected in the NFL ground game. His run defense was awful in 2017. He struggled to get off blocks and didn't look that interested in fighting to hold his ground or get in on tackles - see the Notre Dame and Clemson games. Landry's run defense was a liability when he was on the field, and he has to get much better in the NFL to become a three-down starter.
As a pro, Landry will get pushed around and teams will run at him. He doesn't have the size and strength to hold up as a 4-3 defensive end. In a 4-3 defense, he would have to be a rotational player or split time as a linebacker. He just is not a natural fit in a 4-3 defense being so undersized for defensive end. He would fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker who would have a five-technique defensive end in front of him to help reduce the amount of blocks he is taking on from offensive tackles with length.
Multiple teams sources told me that Landry belongs on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft. They labeled his senior-year tape as not impressive. His run defense was poor, and he looked disinterested in making an effort in the ground game at times. Landry had a big drop in his pass-rush production year over year and put together some ugly games in run defense. Teams that run a 4-3 defense have concerns about Landry holding up on the edge because he is very undersized to be a base end. However, there aren't 32 players who have first-round grades, so some second-round talents will go on Thursday night. Landry has a shot at being one of those prospects given the pass-rush ability he displayed in 2016.
Player Comparison: Dee Ford. I wouldn't be surprised if Landry ends up being a pro similar to Ford. They are identical in size, and both were speed rushers in college who didn't possess the size to translate to play as 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL. Ford (6-2, 252) has been a mild disappointment for the Chiefs. He had one season with 10 sacks, but in the other three years, he has not produced much. Ford was a late first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, and Landry could go in the same range. In the NFL, I think Landry could turn into a player comparable to Ford.
NFL Matches: Indianapolis, San Francisco, Oakland, Miami, Green Bay, Seattle, Detroit, Carolina, Tennessee, New Orleans and New England
There are a lot of teams that could target Landry late in the first round or early in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Given that this is a weak edge-rushing class and that edge rusher is a premium position for the NFL, plenty of teams should be hoping to land Landry and his ability to put heat on the quarterback.
In the first round, Seattle could be possibility for Landry. Michael Bennett was traded away, and Cliff Avril could be nearing the end of his time with the Seahawks. Landry could make sense for Seattle as a long-term replacement.
The Lions need an edge pass-rusher to go across from Ziggy Ansah. Landry would be a fit for them. Carolina can't count on Julius Peppers playing much longer, and Landry would make sense as an immediate rotational pass-rusher. The Titans also could use a young edge rusher. Their pass rush needs to be improved, and Landry could fit as an outside linebacker for Mike Vrabel. The Saints, meanwhile, could use an end upgrade across from Cam Jordan.
New England also needs more young talent at defensive end and outside linebacker. The lack of edge rush really hurt the Patriots in the Super Bowl, so keeping Landry in Boston could make sense for them. They could target him with one of their first-round picks or their high second-round pick.
In the second round, there are a lot of options for Landry. The Colts have three second-round picks and need more edge-rushing talent. Landry could be a fit in their 3-4 defense.
Chicago could use an edge rusher to go across from Leonard Floyd. Landry would be a nice fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker in Vic Fangio's scheme.
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch has stated the team needs more edge-rushing talent. Landry could interest Lynch to replace Elvis Dumervil and finish off their four-man line going with Thomas, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead.
Staying in the Bay area, the Raiders badly need more front seven talent. Landry could be a good fit for Oakland as an edge rusher across from Khalil Mack.
Miami could consider Landry in the second round as it could use an end to go across from Charles Harris. Green Bay also could use more edge talent, and Landry could give the Packers some speed off the edge. Landry could be a fit if the Packers move down in the first round, or if they move up in the second round.