Earlier this week, respected football analyst Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders named Ronnell Lewis as one of his top 25 “break-out players” in an article he wrote for ESPN.com.
Although Lewis played a hybrid outside linebacker role at Oklahoma, the Lions have been working him at defensive end. Does Lewis have what it takes to be a “break-out” player? Let’s take a closer look.
Here’s an excerpt from my 2012 scouting report where I gave Lewis a 6.2 D grade (5th round pick developmental prospect with starter potential).
Strengths: Outstanding physical specimen with rare upper body strength. Sudden athlete with a quick first step and explosive burst to close. Can hold his ground vs. run blocks and slips OL quickly on contact. Has a high motor and consistently fights hard from snap to whistle. Instinctive player who reads and reacts quickly. Violent hitter and reliable tackler. Special teams ace.
Weaknesses: Has tweener traits – lacks ideal height and bulk to play with his hand down or the lateral agility to play effectively in space. Tight-hipped and straight- linish. Lacks the burst and bend of top-level pass rushers and hand technique is very raw. Has experience at a lot of different positions, but is master of none. Struggled with academics and has character concerns.
Summary: Lewis lacks ideal height and weight to consistently hold up on the edge and is probably too stiff-hipped to be a three down player at OLB. Still, his strength, explosiveness and exceptional motor provide him with intriguing upside and his stellar special teams play gives him added value. He simply doesn’t possess the necessary bend and dip to consistently threaten the edge as a double digit sacker off the blind side. However, he’s effective enough against the run to provide immediate help as a situational pass rusher on the left side. If he can refine his hand usage, he has starter potential. Late 4th/5th round developmental prospect with upside who can contribute on special teams immediately.
Overall, Lewis lacks the measurables to be an impact starter at the defensive end position. However, assuming he has overcome his off-field issues, he does possess characteristics that would allow him to be a productive situational pass-rusher if he can put it all together.