Texas A&M’s DeMarvin Leal isn’t blowing up the stat sheet, but he is one of the more impactful players on a team that was nationally-ranked. He lines up all over the defensive line, provides plenty of pressure, and blows up run plays for a very good Aggies defense. With so much of a defensive line’s success (in the eyes of the media and fans) tied to sack totals, Leal hasn’t produced too much in that regard. However, he does disrupt plays and shows special skills on the field. Once he puts it all together, he has All-Pro potential.
For being such a large man at 6’4″ and 290 pounds, Leal moves like a ballerina. He routinely showed that he was quicker and more explosive than offensive linemen, whether it was with pure speed off the edge or incredible footwork that left the opposition in the dust. One of his favorite pass rush moves is a spin move, which worked more often than not and is something that is difficult to do for any college player, let alone someone at his size.
First Move Off the Line
Since Leal is explosive and he has very good timing off the snap, he is often the first one in the backfield. In his first two seasons, he only had 4.5 sacks. However, he did lead Texas A&M in pressures, which is the next best thing to a sack. As he develops as a player, those pressure will turn into sacks. Instincts and feel for the game are some things you just can’t teach and Leal has those intangibles.
There’s no defense that Leal can’t play in. He demonstrated the ability to play tackle or end in a 3-4 or 4-3. Personally, I think his best fit is as a 3-4 defensive end where he can take up multiple blockers on early downs and work one-on-one against guards and centers on third down. For the Aggies, they strategically play him all across the line and find a mismatch he can exploit. I’d expect this to continue at the professional level, where his sack totals should go up compared to his college numbers.
Despite not putting up the big numbers, Leal still finds a way to make big plays. Whether it was using his length to bat down passes, force or recover fumbles, or even come down with an interception, Leal put his stamp on every game. Little things like that separate the good from the great prospects. Leal should be able to live up to the hype as a first-round pick in the NFL because he can make his presence felt whether he’s sacking the quarterback or not.
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I just hyped up how great Leal is off of the line and with his first pass rush move, but he needs to find some counter moves. Typically most college defensive linemen aren’t great with this so it’s not uncommon. However, Leal really struggles in this regard and if he’s going to be a top 15-20 pick then he’ll have to improve quickly. I don’t think he’ll ever be a huge sack total guy. He will do a better job of collapsing the pocket and making everyone around him better, but in order to get there he needs to improve his counter moves.
Lower Body Strength
Leal is a strong human being, but he can get stronger. A lot of your power on bull rushes comes from your legs and too often Leal got stood up with ease. If he can generate more power from his lower body, he would be unstoppable. This is more nit-picking than anything, but I would still like to see this get better.
There are some games where Leal looks like the next Aaron Donald and others where he looks like an average college lineman. As he matures as a player, he needs to elevate his effort and play so that his impact is always felt. More reps and experience might do the trick, but it could also be a thing where he won’t be the focus of the opposing team like he is now.
DeMarvin Leal impressed me after watching his film. I try my best not to scout players based on box scores, but for Leal, I fell victim to looking at his low sack total and thinking to myself, “Why is this guy considered a high first-round pick?”. After seeing the special things and amount of pressure he gets on quarterbacks, you understand why. He wreaks havoc on the interior of the offensive line and frees up great matchups for the rest of his teammates. He’s a versatile player and teams who run multiple fronts will adore him and value him as a possible top-ten player. He might not be the sexiest pick, but he will be your anchor on the defensive line for the next decade.