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Scouting Report: LB Shaquem Griffin, UCF

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The fiery one-handed LB from UCF is a phenomenal story with high-level production, but will his physical limitations prevent him from being successful in the NFL?

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Auburn v Central Florida Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

I asked, you voted. Today’s scouting report features another UCF player—you guys chose this, not me—LB Shaquem Griffin. Griffin is perhaps best known for his amazing story—he has only one hand, having lost his left to a prenatal condition called amniotic band syndrome. That didn’t stop him from becoming the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and being named a First-Team All-AAC defender in 2017.

He’s been arguably the best player on the UCF defense since first starting in 2016, and has never looked back. In 2017, he piled up 74 tackles, 13.5 TFL, a team-leading 7 sacks, an INT, 3 PDs, and 2 forced fumbles. Griffin can and did do it all during his time at UCF. His fiery personality and relentless competitive spirit have earned him many admirers, but just how high is his NFL potential?

To get the full picture of Griffin, I watched him against Auburn (Peach Bowl), Memphis (AAC Championship), and Maryland. Take a closer look at what I learned below.


Scouting Report: LB Shaquem Griffin, UCF



Strengths

Griffin is an athletic playmaker that can line up all over the front-7. UCF used him as a 3-4 OLB (pass rusher), MLB, WLB, and SLB. Sideline-to-sideline ability with phenomenal closing speed. Will chase down plays from behind and pile up tackles if kept clean. Griffin is a physical hitter who was the enforcer of the UCF defense. Strong at the point of attack and seeks to punish opponents whenever he’s given the opportunity.

Griffin’s competitiveness is perhaps his most impressive trait. He has a relentless motor and never gives up on plays. Plus ability as a pass rusher—can bend the edge effectively and has a nasty spin move. Griffin can rush from anywhere and should be a dangerous blitzer at the NFL level. He’s comfortable in coverage with enough athleticism to cover the flat and RBs out of the backfield. Excellent instincts and a high football IQ—Griffin understand his assignment and the scheme he’s in, with good awareness and ability to dissect an offense.


Weaknesses

Griffin has some notable physical limitations which will likely hurt his stock with some teams. He’s small for an NFL LB at only 6’1, 220. Very much a “new-school” LB and will likely be limited to schemes that don’t demand traditional size prototypes from their LBs. Griffin only has one hand, which may scare away some NFL teams—but it didn’t stop him from being perhaps the best player on his defense.

Griffin can struggle when asked to stack-and-shed. He has difficulty disengaging and getting off blocks and is especially vulnerable to cut blocks. Despite his versatility, most effective role in the NFL is likely at WILL. Can play too high at times and could use more bulk in his lower body. Some issues with finishing tackles despite good technique. Aggressive style of play sometimes leads to biting on play-action fakes—Griffin could improve his discipline in that area.


Analysis

Your opinion of Griffin probably depends upon your thoughts about his physical limitations. Does having only one hand really matter? In college, the answer was clearly no. In the NFL, against bigger, faster, and stronger players? The truth is, we don’t know. Based on what I can see on tape, however, I am confident that Griffin will find a way to make an impact on an NFL defense.

He’s small for an NFL LB—but for teams like the Falcons who don’t require “big” LBs, that’s not much of an issue. Griffin is essentially the same size as Deion Jones, and the NFL will almost certainly continue to shift towards LBs in that mold. All I know is that Griffin is a fierce competitor who can do just about everything—he can cover, hit, blitz, and tackle at a high level. He’s a sideline-to-sideline player that can line up just about anywhere in the front-7. Even if he isn’t an immediate starter, that versatility makes him an invaluable back-up—and don’t get me started on his potential on special teams.

Griffin fits the prototype that the Falcons covet at LB, and I know Dan Quinn would fall in love with his competitiveness and toughness. He’s the type of player that helps your locker room, and his selfless attitude and ability to play multiple positions means that he’ll find a way to contribute. Atlanta needs to continue filling out their defense with quality depth options—Griffin bolsters the LB group and could be a dominant force on special teams. If that’s all he ever does, that’s worth a mid-round selection. Just like his brother—CB Shaquill Griffin, who was drafted in the late third round by Seattle last year—I think Shaquem Griffin will force his way into a starting role early in his career.


Grade: 2.5 (late second, early third)


What are your thoughts on the Falcons drafting Shaquem Griffin? Where would you consider selecting him if he were available? Are there any other LBs that you are interested in seeing Atlanta pursue?