From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling a defensive line prospect that started out the college season as a Top 15 lock in the first round but has since seen his draft stock go all over the place amongst the draft community and NFL scouts alike.
#8 DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M (Jr.) – 6037, 283 lbs.
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|DeMarvin Leal||6037/283||9 1/2”||33 1/4”||80 3/8”|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Has experience up-and-down the defensive front for the Aggies
— Moves fairly well in space for a man of his size
— Has the ability to redirect and move laterally to adjust pursuit of the ball or to work into a gap
— Effective at using his burst and quickness at shooting gaps as well as in any twist/stunt games upfront
— Can get skinny through gaps when blockers whiff on their punch or when he sees a gap opening
— Comes off the ball well out of his stance, especially in pass rush situations
— Shoes a distinct pass rush plan for a bigger defensive lineman
— Utilized the jump/swipe move and inside spin move a fair amount during his time in college
— Will allow blockers into his chest in displace him off the LOS in the running game
— Lacks ideal play strength and technique to hold the point of attack against the run
— Will be neutralized as an interior pass rusher due to inconsistent motor and leg drive on contact
— Needs to play with heavier hands when attacking blockers to shock them back and add the power component to his game
— Isn’t a fluid athlete as a pass rusher around the edge in terms of bend
— Didn’t finish at the QB as much as you would have liked to see, needing to be more consistent at getting the passer to the ground
— Relied on extended plays to finish with the sack than winning cleanly around the edge as a pass rusher
— Junior Prospect from San Antonio, TX
— Born July 1, 2000 (age 21)
— Five-star recruit and the #2 DL coming out of the 2018 class, named an Army All-American
— Played in all 13 games, making seven starts as a true freshman where he recorded 38 total tackles (14 solo), 5.5 TFLs, five QB hurries, and two sacks and earned the Defense Top Newcomer and Freshman Strength Awards
— Started all 10 games as a sophomore in 2020 where he racked up 37 total stops (18 solo), seven TFLs, eight QB hurries, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, three PBUs and an INT
— Started 12 games as a junior and earned the team Defensive MVP Award following the season where he had 58 total tackles (27 solo), 12.5 TFLs, 8.5 sacks, a forced fumble and two PBUs
— All-America First Team & All-SEC First Team in 2021 by the Associated Press
DeMarvin Leal has been seen as a future impact defensive lineman in the NFL since his days in high school as a five-star recruit and the best player at his position in his recruiting class. He’s signed with Jimbo Fisher to stay in-state with Texas A&M as a part of an historically good recruiting class that helped build a team that knocked off the rival Alabama Crimson Tide this past season. For standing nearly 6’4, 283lb, Leal is a great athlete for his size when it comes to his burst off the ball and his quickness to shoot gaps. Watch this rep against Alabama where Leal lines up inside and quickly swims over the LG to evade the block and make the tackle for loss.
While being a good athlete, Leal also brings versatility to the table, having played all over the defensive line for the Aggies. He has played as far inside as a 1-tech but has stepped all the way out to the 7-technique rushing off the edge with his hand in the dirt or in a two-point stance. Here we see Leal head-up on the RT and gives him a head bob on the snap of the ball, hitting him with an inside spin move to get into the backfield where he tracks down the QB and brings him down for the sack.
Leal has a natural feel with using his hands to work off blocks, especially on inside counters when blockers overset him on the outside. Watch this play against Ole Miss where Leal catches the LT lunging forward on the block and uses his momentum against him, getting the inside swim move over the blocker where he gets into the backfield and soon after slams the back into the ground for the TFL.
While Leal can succeed as a rusher with his hands, he also makes an impact in the passing game as well, having the awareness to gets his hands up once the ball is thrown into passing lanes in attempt to bat down balls at the LOS. He’s had several PBUs the last few seasons and an INT due to his wherewithal to get his hands up on the passing game like we see on this batted pass against the Rebels.
Leal will attack the outside shoulder of OTs when pass rushing off the edge, but he will look to counter inside if the tackle oversets and exposes his inside shoulder. Here is an example with a five-star matchup between Leal and OT #67 Charles Cross who I am particularly high on. Cross initially stalls Leal’s rush on the outside, but Leal works to get his head and shoulders across Cross’s face, having enough time to get to the passer who holds onto the football too long in the pocket to wrap him up for the sack.
Here is another example against Ole Miss where Leal initially tries to win outside with a jump step and then tries to get into the blocker with power, but when his initial rush stalls, he works across the tackle’s face as he loses leverage and slips to the ground, allowing Leal to take down #2 Matt Corral in the backfield while knocking the ball out that his teammate land on for the fumble recovery.
While it’s great to see Leal post 12.5 TFLs and 8.5 sacks in his junior season as a bigger defensive lineman, a reoccurring theme I found was that the sacks were not of the “high quality” where Leal won with technical execution but rather on extended plays where the QB held onto the ball too long and he was able to work back inside when he was stalled on his outside rush. The previous two examples showed this theme as well as this example against Mississippi State where Leal gets beat when trying to get the corner but can counter inside when the two linemen bump into each other, creating space to run straight to the QB and finish with a sack.
When tackles don’t give Leal the inside counter and play him with square shoulders, he often is neutralized with his rush, having no viable counter move to get off the block. Watch this rep against Charles Cross who plays Leal with great technique, keeping his shoulders square and gets a great punch inside his shoulder pads. Leal is unable to knock Cross’s hands down and is locked down on the rep, as he lacks the power to drive Cross back as well as the hand usage to shed the pass block.
When it comes to playing with power and a sturdy anchor at the point of attack, Leal tends to struggle mightily in this are if he doesn’t win on the snap with initial quickness. He tends to me a liability against the run especially when the ball is going right at him, lacking the play strength to hold his own at the LOS as well as the ability to convert speed to power to drive blockers back across from him Watch this rep against the Rebels where Leal lines up on the edge and engages the LT, but proceeds to give ground and fails to get off the block as the runner his the gap by his inside shoulder, busting through the LOS for a big gain.
Leal needs to get stronger in his lower half to withstand those blocks that come right at him as well as the ability to stay upright after getting knocked of his spot, lacking the balance when he stands straight up when he stalls his feet on a rep. We see that here on another run against Ole Miss where Leal gets hands on the LT and play contain of the outside, but he loses balance when he attempts to counter back inside and gets driven to the turf by the blocker as #9 Jerrion Ealy makes one man miss and rips a big one up the left sideline to move the chains.
Overall, DeMarvin Leal is a bit of a tweener at this point, having the athleticism to line up on the outside and come off the edge as a 4-3 DE, but also the size to kick inside and rush over the guard, utilizing his speed and quickness to shoot gaps and be a disruptive presence on the interior. While he has good functional athleticism and versatility, Leal needs to develop more play strength in terms of being a more consistent run defender as well as his ability to get off blocks more consistently rather than relying on extended plays to give him a shot to work to get pressure on the QB. Developing a quality counter move as a rusher as well as becoming stronger with his lower half will be keys to how successful Leal becomes at the next level.
When it comes to a pro comparison for Leal, John Franklin-Myers for the New York Jets is about as close to a one-for-one comparison as you are going to find. Both players share nearly identical size in terms of height, weight, and length combine out of college and share similar play styles as athletic, disruptive defensive linemen that win with speed and quickness on the inside, but can struggle with power and strength against bigger, powerful blockers. Franklin-Myers plays on the inside for the Jets but can move around the front. For Leal, he can play in as an even-front defender in some capacity, but playing 3-4 DE might be his best fit as a pro.
Leal’s ability to rush the passer and get penetration could interest the Pittsburgh Steelers, should they need a replacement for Stephon Tuitt if he decides to not comes back. However, his lack of size and strength on the inside that make him a potential liability against the run could deter Pittsburgh from heavily considering him early due to the fact they struggled so much against the run last season. There is no denying Leal’s athletic talent and his upside as a sub package rusher but continuing to get stronger and develop his body will determine whether he becomes a capable starter or a quality player on the defensive line.
Projection: Late Day One to Day Two
Depot Draft Grade: 8.3 – Future Quality Starter (2nd Round)
Games Watched: vs Mississippi State (2021), at Ole Miss (2021), vs Alabama (2021)