From now until the 2023 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 Cincinnati LB Ivan Pace Jr.
#0 Ivan Pace Jr.(Senior) – 6000, 235lb
Senior Bowl Invite
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Ivan Pace Jr.||6’0, 235lb||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Has a dense build relative to his frame
— Strong linebacker for his size, having the force to work off blocks and knock blockers backward
— Plays with a low center of gravity to stay on his feet and work under/around blocks
— Has lined up as a traditional off-ball linebacker and on the edge
— Aggressive tackler that shoots himself through the ballcarrier
— Effort in pursuit is impressive both as a run defender and a pass rusher
— Takes good scrap angles to the football when in the box
— Flows to the ball well, reading the blocks and working to the gap
— Rushes the passer well on blitzes from the box as well as on the edge
— Strong enough to work through the blocks of TEs and can get around blocks by OL thanks to his effort
— Motor runs hot, attempting to get in on every tackle
— Capable zone coverage defender, completing his drops and rallying to the football
— Breaks on the ball well once thrown, closing space quickly
— Has the play demeanor to excel on special teams units
— Notably undersized for the position, likely coming in smaller than his listed height
— Lack of size makes it easy for OL to overcome him with size
— Lacks length to consistently stack and shed blocks
— Play strength is adequate for his stature, but lacking to fend off bigger OL regularly
— Can overrun the ball in open space at times
— Lacks quick twitch in change of direction lateral movements
— Wins his pass rush with his effort in pursuit and working around blocks rather than with hand usage
— Lacks nuance with hand usage as a pass rusher, often being neutralized when his initial rush fails
— Lack of size often has him reaching out or leaving his feet to make tackles
— Coverage skills are lacking in terms of running with backs at TEs in man coverage
— Processing appears to be a tad slow when in zone coverage
— Senior Prospect from Cincinnati, OH
— Born Dec. 16, 2000 (age 23)
— Cincinnati Colerain High School, played linebacker and running back
— Named Division I Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in Ohio
— Committed to Miami of Ohio out of high school
— Played in 13 games as a true freshman, collecting 19 total tackles (14 solo), 7.5 TFLs, and seven sacks
— Tied an NCAA record with six sacks in a win over Akron
— Played in three games in a Covid-shortened 2020 campaign, racking up 26 total stops (12 solo), 0.5 TFL, and two PBUs
—Played and started 13 games as a junior in 2021, recording 125 total tackles (60 solo), 13 TFLs, four sacks, one INT, three PBUs, and one forced fumble
— Transferred to Cincinnati his senior season to play with his younger brother, Deshawn
—Played and started in 13 games in 2022, racking up 136 total stops (55 solo), 20.5 TFLs, nine sacks, four PBUs, and two forced fumbles
— 2022 Unanimous First Team All-American, 2022 AAC Defensive Player of the Year,
2022 All-AAC First Team
Ivan Pace Jr. made quite the impact for the Bearcats in his only season on campus, being named a Unanimous First Team All-American in 202 while also earning AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. Pace is an aggressive defender, having the physical demeanor you look for at the linebacker position. He flies around to the football and tries to get in on every tackle. He arrives with bad intentions like on this rep against Indiana where Pace sees the screen pass to the jet motion man and blows him up in the backfield on a big collision.
His smaller frame and quickness allow Pace to quickly evade blocks by bigger offensive linemen who climb up to the second level or at the LOS like in these two clips you see here against UCF, quickly ducking around the blocker into the gap to make the tackle.
Ivan Pace Jr. does a good job working around blocks, but also knows how to use leverage to work through block attempts as well. Watch this rep against Arkansas where the guard climbs up to get Pace, but Pace manages to continue his pursuit of the football, keeping his outside leg and shoulder free as he works laterally to the football, getting off the block to get in on the tackle attempt at the bottom of your screen.
One constant that sticks out from Pace’s film is his effort. His motor runs hot nearly the entire game as he gives great pursuit of the football and continually works to work off blocks. Watch this play where Pace lines up on the edge and is initially double-teamed by the RG and RT. He manages to stay on his feet as the RG falls off the block, spinning off the block and quickly finding the ball carrier to wrap him up to make the stop.
He can sift through trash well near the LOS working around bodies like on this rep against the Razorbacks, working around blocks to make the tackle on the QB as he leaves the pocket.
Pace is a capable zone coverage defender, having decent instincts and the quick trigger to break on the football to tackle at the catch or to impact the pass. Watch Pace’s ability to close on this rep against the Hoosiers, rallying quickly to the check down in the flat to make the tackle behind the LOS for a loss on the play.
When it comes to rushing the passer, Ivan Pace Jr. has had quite a knack for making life hard on opposing QBs in recent seasons. He strung together a six-sack performance as a true freshman and put together a nine-sack campaign in 2022. Pace wins as a pass rusher on various twists and stunts that get him mismatched against slower IOL that he can beat with speed, but also will blitz around the corner where his size can aid in leverage around the arc. Watch these two examples of Pace working through the block by the TE for the sack against Arkansas and the loop around against Indiana, taking the QB in the backfield after out-angling the OL to the passer.
Still, Ivan Pace’s size and lack of ideal height/length will be his biggest criticism as a prospect. He can and will get engulfed by the size of the opposing OL if they get into his frame, often getting completely neutralized. Watch this rep against the Razorbacks where Pace works around the block to square up the ball carrier, but the blocker simply drives Pace into the ground, flattening him as the back gets upfield.
Here is another example of Pace’s size getting the best of him as he tries to go low into the LG on the draw play, but the guard gets on top of Pace and pancakes him into the turf, taking him completely out of the play rather than trying to fight half a man.
While Ivan Pace has the lateral movement skills to work down the LOS and work around blocks, he isn’t the quickest when it comes to changing directions. You see these issues pop up when he’s occasionally asked to cover man-to-man and also in open-field tackling situations like on this play where Pace has the angle to the ballcarrier, but slightly overruns the back, getting juked out by a subtle stutter step back inside as he hits the turf, and the runner takes off up field for a first down.
Overall, Ivan Pace Jr. is an aggressive, gritty linebacker prospect that flies around the field. He has padded the stat sheet the last two seasons for the Redhawks and Bearcats, racking up tackles while showing his knack for getting after the passer. He processes well at the LOS and does a great job getting to the ball when unblocked or coming on a pass rush.
Still, while Pace is capable of working around and through blocks, there is no doubt his lack of size and length will be a problem at the next level if he is to become an every-down defender. He will get engulfed by size and strength while lacking quality hand usage to defeat blocks routinely. He also lacks the skills to be a quality coverage defender when tasked to run man-to-man, making him a small run-down defender and a situational pass rusher.
When watching Pace play, I see similarities to current Lions LB Malcolm Rodriguez. Rodriguez was also an undersized (5’11, 225lb) off-ball backer coming out of Oklahoma State but was super productive during his time with the Pokes. He was drafted in the sixth round last year but ended up becoming a starter for Detroit this season, having the athleticism, instincts, and effort in pursuit to get in on a ton of plays. While I believe that his athletic traits are greater than Pace’s I do see Pace being a similar type of player that can come in as a special teams ace and factor in a rotational role on defense, particularly with bigger bodies in front of him or as a situational pass rusher as he tries to earn more of a role.
The Pittsburgh Steelers need more bodies in the LB room with Marcus Allen, Robert Spillane, and Devin Bush all slated to hit free agency. Pace may not be an ideal opening-day starter at ILB, but he could fit the role of Allen or Spillane as a special teamer and depth guy should they sign one of those guys back or address the position first in free agency. Hopefully, Pace can adjust to the NFL game and better equip himself to playing in coverage and fend off blocks at the next level, but his physical limitations are a cause for concern.
Projection: Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 7.3 – Rotational Player (4th Round)
Games Watched: vs Indiana (2022), at UCF (2022), at Arkansas (2022)