How does Grady Jarrett fit into the Atlanta Falcons’ defense?

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Jan 21, 2015; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad defensive tackle Grady Jarrett of Clemson (95) battles offensive guard Arie Kouandjio of Alabama (77) during Senior Bowl South squad practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

How does Jarrett compare to top draft prospects?

Here is an excellent article by Pro Football Focus, who go into great detail about why Jarrett is such an exciting prospect. Of particular note is how he compares to the other top defensive linemen in this class, namely Leonard Williams (6th overall pick), Danny Shelton (12th overall pick), and Henry Anderson (93rd overall pick).

When taking out games against FCS opponents (which aren’t a great measure of NFL ability), Jarrett was one of only two players who ranked in the top-10 in both run stop percentagw and pass rushing productivity.

Jarrett (13.2 percent) had a higher run stop percentage than Anderson (12.3) and Shelton (6.5), and was just behind Williams (13.9). In pass rushing productivity, Jarrett (9.9) outplayed both Shelton (6.7) and Williams (7.8), while coming in a few points behind Anderson (12.2).

If those stats tell you anything, it’s that Jarrett is capable of providing both run support and pass rush. Pro Football Focus perhaps put it best by saying:

"Jarrett without question has some of the best tape for the interior defensive lineman this year. He is a threat on all three downs and his only limitation is his lack of height that doesn’t seem to be an issue the majority of the time."

The primary knock on Jarrett is his size: at 6’1, 290, he’s not the typical big-bodied space-eating 3-4 NT employed in the NFL. In fact, the Falcons already have one of those in the 6’4, 345 Paul Soliai.

Jarrett lacks the size and arm length to be able to stack up and control multiple blockers – something that is required in a 2-gap NT.

This has led many to believe that Jarrett is a scheme-specific player that needs to play in a 1-gap 4-3 to find success in the NFL.

It also explains why he likely fell so far: as an undersized, scheme-specific player, teams that may have otherwise been interested decided to pass for more versatile or “prototypical” players.

However, several “undersized” DTs have had great success in recent years. Geno Atkins, Jurrell Casey, and Aaron Donald – last years Defensive Rookie of the Year – all were considered to be “undersized”.

They flourished because the teams that drafted them put them in the correct scheme and let them take advantage of their greatest strength, an inherent advantage in the leverage battle.

Next: Jarrett's fit for the Falcons