Safe Pick: Mel Kiper says Baylor DE James Lynch could be a draft ‘steal’

NFL Draft News
James Lynch

He may never lead his team in sacks. Same goes for tackles.

Still, Baylor defensive lineman James Lynch is one of the safest Day 2 to Day 3 picks in the draft. At 6-foot-4, 289 pounds, Lynch was one of the most productive linemen in college last season, picking up 13.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss, and his size gives him versatility along the defensive line.

But there are concerns.

Teams might not view Lynch as a perfect fit as a 4-3 defensive end due in part to some of his athletic traits. According to Mockdraftable, Lynch’s 5.01-second 40-yard dash time (40th percentile) and his arm length (31-7/8 inches, 7th percentile) are less-than-desirable for a strong-side defensive end.

That’s why Lynch is likely seen as a defensive tackle in an even-man front or as a defensive end in an odd-man front.

With that said, he may have to pack on some weight if a team wants to use Lynch primarily as a 3-tech in a 4-3 defense.

Otherwise, those “tweener” traits make him a perfect candidate for the 5-tech position, which is sorely lacking in the 2020 NFL draft. Lynch is currently ranked as the No. 2 5-tech, according to Drafttek.

Lynch compares favorably to the top-rated player at that position, Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa. Lynch is an inch shorter but 20 pounds heavier. He also had more sacks and tackles for loss as a senior (11.5 and 14 for Epenesa).

And Lynch has a big fan in ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who calls the Baylor product one of the most underrated players in the upcoming draft.

“… On defense, give me Baylor’s James Lynch, the 2019 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He’s kind of a tweener tackle/end, but I see him as a 3-technique tackle in a 4-3 defense because he has some pass-rush ability. And he’s relentless. He could be a steal in the third or fourth round.”

Epenesa is considered more of a fringe-first rounder who could slip into the middle of the second round. Lynch, on the other hand, is generally mocked a round or two later than Epenesa by most draft analysts.

And that’s what makes him a safe pick.

Missing on a first-rounder can be traumatic to a team. Missing on a third- or fourth-rounder isn’t.

Defense & Fumbles Table
Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
2017 Baylor Big 12 FR DT 7 15 4 19 5.0 2.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
*2018 Baylor Big 12 SO DT 12 23 17 40 8.5 4.5 0 0 0 2 0 0
*2019 Baylor Big 12 JR DT 14 23 18 41 19.5 13.5 0 0 0 5 2 3
Career Baylor 61 39 100 33.0 20.0 0 0 0 7 2 3
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 4/7/2020.

Jake Rigdon (jake@sydwriting.com) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak and the On The Clock, which is the only NFL draft simulator that allows you to customize and use your own big board while giving you control over trades.


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