Colts 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Arden Key EDGE LSU

In our second part of the FPC Colts scouting report, we look again to a prospect who could help bolster the Colts pass rush in Arden Key. The 6’6” 255-pound athletic freak was a force to be reckoned with in 2016 and was the favorite to be the top defensive player in the whole draft. As a sophomore, Key recorded 56 tackles, 14.5 for loss, three forced fumbles, three pass breakups, and 12 sacks, surpassing even Myles Garrett in the SEC.

However, that all began to change after the season, Key took time off from the team for personal reasons and returned with a surgically repaired shoulder. This injury came as a shock to the team, but that wasn’t the end of injury bug for the former Georgian All-American. Key ballooned to over 270 pounds by his season debut and would suffer a leg injury that plagued him as he finally got his weight under control. Recently Key had surgery on his pinky, hoping to return to the Tigers’ Bowl game next month, just another addition to the long list of question marks that Key carries.

Film on Key

Now obviously Key has a lot of things going for him to still be considered a top pick in 2018’s draft class. At 6’6” and 255 pounds, the LSU Tiger has drawn comparisons to Hall of Fame defensive end Jason Taylor from ESPN’s Todd McShay and NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, both citing his pass rush abilities and athletic prowess. Key has an otherworldly first step and get off, giving tackles little time to even think about getting out of their stance. Looking at the play below Key is so quick off the ball that he is almost in the backfield before the tackle even moves.

I talked before about the importance of great bend for a pass rusher in the Bradley Chubb piece, and Key has that special ability as well, as shown in the play below. Key once again uses his great get off to force the left tackle to panic and just try to push the explosive Key off the apex of the quarterback’s drop, but Key bends his 6’6” frame so low he’s practically on the ground to get the leverage he needs to finish off the sack. Key’s film, especially in 2016, is filled with these type of plays.

Key’s best game of his junior season has a perfect example of Key’s excellent hand usage and speed. In the first play of the video below, Key again (see a trend?) uses his first step to get the left tackle out of position by overcompensating his shuffle too wide. Arden then uses his exceptional reach to parry the tackles attempt to engage, causing him to almost fall over himself, then closes the distance for a Robert Mathis double negative special.

Key is a willing run defender but could use some more functional strength at the NFL level, which should improve at the NFL level. However, Key is going to have to answer a lot of questions on his off the field issues and prove he can stay healthy. With the increase of young players retiring, teams are going to be wary of an injury prone player with possible motivational concerns. Matt Miller for Bleacher Report has Key dropping almost to the second round at this point.

Key has been working with pass rush guru Chuck Smith and his coaches and teammates laud his love football and work ethic, so it will be up to the teams to sort out the rumors about the edge rusher. He could put a lot of this to rest at the combine, he projects to have 4.6 speed and will likely be the most athletic player at his position in the draft class. If Key can put on a show in Indy and do well in the interviews, the hype will undoubtedly return for the LSU sack king.

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