2018 NFL Draft scouting report: Shaquem Griffin

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: Shaquem Griffin
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: Shaquem Griffin /

It’s that time of year where draft prospects stories come to life. The biggest one is not only a great story but a phenomenal player.

Every year we hear stories about the upcoming draft prospects that will melt your heart. Between the struggles that some of these players have been through to chasing their dreams when no one thought they would make it, there is none that compare to that of Shaquem Griffin out of the University of Central Florida. The young linebacker has been through a diverse amount of physical and mental obstacles on his path to achieve his lifelong dreams and continued to put his doubters in the rearview mirror.

Shaquem lost his left hand due to a rare prenatal condition. His twin brother, Shaquill Griffin, was not born with the same condition. Shaquem decided from a very young age that his dream was to play in the NFL and overcome the obstacles of only having one hand. He was not about to let his condition keep him from achieving his dreams.

While only born 16 seconds apart from one another, Shaquill made a promise to his little brother Shaquem that he would not play for a college that refused to recruit both brothers. Shaquill turned down multiple high caliber schools including the University of Miami. After turning down multiple schools, the brothers were both recruited to the University of Central Florida.

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Shaquem easily could have struggled to know that the college he was recruited to only wanted him for his brother but instead ceased the opportunity and proved why he belonged. Working hard and studying film gave him a chance to show the coaches what he could do and they were impressed enough to give him a shot. When I say this kid was devoted, I mean he literally lived at the football facility for the school on a blow-up mattress in the film room.

The coaches decided to give him a real shot at linebacker his Junior year and he won the 2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. In his final two seasons with the Knights, Griffin acquired 166 tackles, 18.5 sacks, 10 pass deflections, 4 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions. His great work earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl and when he impressed the coaches enough there, he got an invite to the NFL combine.

What did the film show?

As always when writing up these draft prospect articles, I turned to Draft Breakdown which allows you to see what the player did on a play to play basis in college. When I started watching Griffin play, I couldn’t believe that he was projected to go in the 5-6 rounds of the draft. The handicap of losing a hand and his lack of weight are the only things that would kick him that far down.

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All of that time he spent living in the football facility with a mattress in the film room, he was working hard and it showed on film. His awareness and recognition on both run and pass plays are phenomenal at times. Griffin can dissect a play so quickly that he is often disrupting it in the backfield before it can really get going. Nothing impressed me more than this kid’s motor though.

I can’t express how many plays I saw him start out in coverage on one side and then run to the complete opposite side to make a play in the backfield. This is not a trait that you can coach; it’s his motivation and determination to prove his doubters wrong.

Griffin has excellent acceleration and closing speed when rushing the passer. His quick burst off the line of scrimmage often is too much for tackles. Other times, you see a tackle try and jump early to get a quick step on Griffin, and he is able to bounce inside with a quick step and straight line to the quarterback. Tackles tend to give him too much space inside trying to keep up around the edge.

While Griffin is undersized for the edge position, he still finds ways to make plays even against the run game. Instead of linemen overpowering him with blocks, he is able to keep blockers away from his center mass and use his speed to get to the running back. He turns what should be a weakness into a strength. His recognition of run schemes allows him to shut them down before they can even get going.

It didn’t seem to matter which side of the line that Griffin lined up on. Whether left or right, there wasn’t a noticeable difference in his technique or play. He was able to generate pressure and disrupt backfields from both sides which is extremely rare.

Griffin possesses the speed to play into coverage as well but tends to do better in zone schemes. When asked to play one on one man coverage he tended to struggle at times. This is something that could be worked on with an NFL coach. However, in zone coverage, Griffin tended to do really well and always knew where his man was and his recognition of plays allowed him to jump routes and make plays.

Bottom Line

Griffin will be an automatic impact on special teams somewhere in his rookie season. With his versatility, it would be a crime to not try him somewhere along the defense. He will most likely have to put on some weight and build some strength if he wants to continue his play as an edge rusher, however. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lining up as more of an inside linebacker in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme.

He has enough coverage skills to warrant an opportunity at linebacker in the NFL and if he can bulk up in an NFL training facility, he could be a real threat off the edge. This kid is extremely smart and will probably still surprise coaches on how much he understands and executes gameplans. I would not want to bet against this kid as he has already proven so many people wrong.