Name: D’Andre Walker
Weight: 251 pounds
D’Andre Walker, edge rusher from UGA, isn’t exactly a popular name among the current slate of draft prospects. With a draft featuring the likes of Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, and Montez Sweat, Walker faces some stiff competition. Compound that with the fact that Walker was unable to perform at the Combine after having hernia surgery in January (dawgnation.com) and his draft stock drops further down. However, after an illustrious senior year that included leading the UGA team in stops, tackles for loss, QB pressures, and sacks (georgiadogs.com), the 2019 draft prospect could easily let his football repertoire speak for itself. The OLB left a lasting impression during Georgia’s loss at the SEC championship against a stout Alabama team. Unfortunately, he exited during the third quarter due to a groin injury (dawgnation.com). Without a doubt, cunning scouts remember Walker’s name being called that night and have it starred and underlined.
The UGA Bulldog’s height of six feet and two inches ranks in the lower half of his draft class (nfl.com). This could be an issue for someone who has to face taller offensive linemen, but Walker makes up for it with his ability to bend the edge. In terms of his current weight, Walker is in an ideal situation. The two hundred and fifty-one pound prospect finds himself weighing in well above the average edge rusher in this year’s draft class (cbssports.com). Lastly, Walker’s arm length of thirty-four and three eighth inches (nfl.com) outreaches that of both Julius Peppers and Demarcus Lawrence (playerprofiler.com), two revered NFL defensive linemen. The 2018 UGA sack leader has plenty of potential to make an immediate impact as a rotational edge rusher.
Physicality and Technique
Walker has a proclivity for capitalizing on the exposure of a play rather quickly. He is good at getting around a tackle and won’t hesitate to attack when he notices an inside lane to the quarterback. Additionally, he’s not afraid to use his hands against a bigger tackle if it means keeping track of the ball and ending a play before or at the line of scrimmage. When tackling he wraps both arms around the ball carrier and plays to the whistle. However, he will occasionally jump at an opportunity to go for a forced fumble:
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Although he excels as an edge rusher, the gifted OLB can occasionally be seen dropping back into coverage. Walker alluded to his desire to improve his coverage skills during his combine press conference (6:35):
Fit with the Panthers
It’s no secret that the Panthers’ defense was a little less than impressive in 2018. Carolina’s defense finished twenty-seventh in sacks and twenty-first in forced fumbles (espn.com). Pretty disappointing for a team that prides itself on having a powerful front seven. The loss of veteran linebacker Thomas Davis and veteran defensive end Julius Peppers in the off-season adds disappointment to the narrative. On the flip side, the Panthers have openings for a starting linebacker and defensive end. A mid-round addition to the defensive roster can help push the competition.
In terms of weight, Walker already has the upper hand on all of the linebackers on the Panthers’ roster but is outweighed by all but one defensive end, Marquis Haynes (Panthers.com). Ron Rivera has hinted at using the undersized Haynes in defensive end coverage schemes which he calls “joker” packages. While Walker did not line up at defensive end at UGA, he knows how to play the edge and has experience dropping back into coverage.
As far as the linebacker position goes, the Panthers have been rumored to be making a transition to a 3-4 defense. If those rumors turn out to be true, Walker’s experience at the outside linebacker position will be beneficial. Additionally, Walker has the same kind of build as the newly-signed edge rusher Bruce Irvin, so the Panthers could have Walker rotate in with Irvin. As long as Walker can prove he is as versatile as advertised, he will be in the running for a black and blue jersey on day 2 of the draft.