Georgia Tech outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu had an impressive junior year and when it was announced that he was moving to defensive end, it seemed as though he might get better as a player in terms of his prospects for the NFL and the draft, but his production might dip as a result as he would be an undersized end who relied on his speed to win.
The Rambling Wreck defense has been creative and used him as an end and rush backer so he has improved and made some significant strides as a player, but he also maintained a high level of production. As a result, Attaochu has been a great player for the Yellow Jackets while he has become a far better prospect for the NFL.
Attaochu still has the speed and quickness that make him a tough matchup on the edge. He has also maintained a nice, low pad level that can make it tough for opponents to go down and block him. He has improved his hand usage, added an effective bull rush and become more confident in his ability to attack inside and win. There is still more improving to do with his hand usage and hand fighting to shed blocks but he went from being a pure speed rusher last year into becoming a far more complete pass rusher this season. Attaochu is likely to end up being picked around the top 50 and there is a chance that he could flirt with the first round.
Vitals & Build
Attaochu is listed at 6’3” 242lbs with tremendous quickness and agility. He has a pretty good build for the position but his frame is a little deceptive because he tends to play somewhat low to the ground, albeit oddly needs to do that more consistently at times. As a result, Attaochu looks like he might be able to continue adding strength but it could ultimately depend on where a team wants to put him. Attaochu could stand to improve his functional strength but that might come down to better use of his body in terms of leverage more than it would be in terms of strength. In terms of his overall athleticism, Attaochu has a ton of it, but needs to do a better job in terms of his balance and staying off of the ground and then working to improve his technique.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
Attaochu does a good job of anticipating the snap and firing off the ball at the right time. Because of his explosive ability and speed, this is a huge advantage and the fact he does anticipate the snap as well as he does is important for him to be dangerous on the edge.
Perhaps a matter of coincidence, but Attaochu has improved his stance rushing from a two point stance this season as he has added a three point stance. Last year, Attaochu would end up off balance at times and his stance would prevent him from exploding forward and coming out low with good leverage. This year, Attaochu has really embraced this extremely low two point stance that makes him look like he is almost prowling before the play and explode forward while staying low and maintaining great leverage.
Attaochu has also demonstrated an effective three point stance that also lets him come out with a quick first step and with his momentum staying low while it goes forward. As a result, he has a natural advantage off of the snap and is able to cover ground and force opponents to reach to go try to block him on the edge.
The one wrinkle that Attaochu will throw in the mix is selling the idea that he is coming up the field, but going inside and at times depending on his read, going straight down the line even with his first step. In the situations where he stays going down the line, the tackle lined up over him is rendered useless. He can attack inside at virtually and gap at that point depending on what he sees or continue going to the side if the run is going away from where he was lined up on the play.
While he can make a few adjustments to what he does in his stance, Attaochu’s ability to anticipate the snap count and his explosive first steps are a huge reason why he is such a dangerous player. He can fly off the line up the field but the fact that he is willing to do it inside is what makes the outside move so viable and effective.
Attaochu is at his best when he is able to work half the man. Like many players with a speed rush, if he can get a lean on the opponent, he is able to run the arc and get low enough where he can get into the pocket and sack the quarterback. Nevertheless, Attaochu has improved in his ability to take on and shed blocks. He has gotten more confident in how he can use his hands and does not shy away from them like he has in the past. This is still an area that can be further refined but Attaochu is winning battles this year that he might not have even taken on at different parts of last year.
The other area that Attaochu is more confident with is his overall power. He is probably going to choose to trust his speed if he has the option, but he has been better at the point of attack, believing in his ability to generate momentum quickly and flashes the ability to collapse the pocket. Much of this is due to great physics on his first. He accelerates quickly but he stays low and comes with a rising blow to get under the opponents pads and can jolt them into the backfield. This is an area he can continue to work on and develop but having that option at his disposal forces opponents to be honest with him and makes the speed threat more viable.
Attaochu is a great run and chase style linebacker. His speed and quickness make him great when he can go make a play or track it down from behind. Because of his speed and the way he likes to attack the outside, he can end up overrunning plays and take himself out of the play but he is improving.
When opponents come out to attack him, he is going to run into problems because he is simply not that big with his weight. The improvement Attaochu has made is when it comes to his pad level and the resulting balance. Last season, Attaochu would get caught too high, end up off balance and pick himself up after the play. This year, while he can and will get engulfed at times, he is not making as many mistakes that allow the offensive linemen to simply dominate him. He is not always going to win up front, but he is at least working to reduce the amount of time where he beats himself.
Attaochu is athletic enough where he can run up field, read run and still chase it down and be a factor, but he is getting better with his instincts and his willingness to attack inside has made it so he can periodically get in and sniff out a play before it get started. And his willingness to use power makes it so he can potentially read, fight off of a block and chase down the play.
This is not a strong area for Attaochu at this point, but he has made strides to make it so he is not the liability that he appeared to be last year. It is going to be tough for him to function as a defensive end against the run, but with space as a linebacker, he can make some splash plays and continue developing in the NFL.
Attaochu is still predominately going to win as a pass rusher based on the bottom half of his body; namely his speed, quickness and body control. The top half of his body has made up some ground and it is becoming a far more viable area for him to function and make plays.
Attaochu can win with explosion, raw speed and the ability to plant his foot in the ground and adjust his angle of attack. There are plays when Attaochu just needs his arms to make the tackle where he has won on pure speed and his ability to bend around the edge. That is going to be there and is a valuable weapon for Attaochu.
The improvement with his hands and the confidence to use them as well as the added use of power moves this year has made him far more dangerous and much more difficult to predict. Last season, Attaochu kept opponents off balance by the fact that he would occasionally attack straight down the line. This year, Attaochu is able to attack inside and right at the man, which makes it so they cannot just sit on the speed rush and only worry about stopping it.
His bull rush has been effective and he does it really well in terms of being able to jolt blockers and get into the backfield with power. The inside rush has been impressive because he is still using speed, but he gets skinny to slip in between blocks and has also done a great job with running stunts. His body control is fantastic and he is able to plant his foot in the ground and change directions so well.
The outside speed rush is still where Attaochu is at his most comfortable and while he likes to use a dip move, he has done a better job with his hands, showing the ability to win with a rip move and just working to fight through and win with his hands.
Attaochu plays with a low pad level and is always close to the ground so he really does not miss many opportunities to secure a sack. He is able to adjust on the fly quickly and make the tackle on the quarterback, even if they are shifty and quick. Attaochu also has plenty of closing speed and can track down athletic quarterbacks from behind with the potential to make a sack if they try to stop to set up and throw away from him.
Attaochu is extremely athletic with short area quickness and impressive long speed, which really shows up when he drops into coverage. He gets into his drops quickly and he can fly around in space and make plays. Attaochu is still working mostly on instincts and he is not refined in the least as a coverage linebacker but there is a lot of potential in that area and he could be attractive to NFL teams as a result.
The most obvious fit for Attaochu is as a rush backer in a 3-4 scheme. His explosiveness off the edge and his ability to bend around offensive linemen make him an attractive player for teams that run that system, especially a team like the Steelers who tend to go with shorter, more explosive rushers. His listed height is actually taller than Pittsburgh usually prefers, but he plays low and that should help him.
He could end up as a leo backer for the 4-3 systems that use one. He can attack from a number of different angles and has experience rushing from both sides, standing up and with his hand in the ground so he brings the versatility that would be extremely attractive to that role.
The other possibility is that Attaochu could end up as a weak side linebacker in a 4-3 system. His ability to blitz and rush from the linebacker spot will be attractive there as well, but he also has tremendous range to make tackles against the run and he has showed potential to be a good coverage option. Attaochu really needs to develop his ability in coverage but if he can do that, he could be a three down player for teams like the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals who love to blitz from just about anywhere but need viable coverage players as well. He could play linebacker on running downs and either come up and be a pure edge rusher on passing downs or be able to also drop into coverage.
Attaochu’s game is somewhat similar to that of Bruce Irvin of the Seattle Seahawks. Irvin came out of West Virginia with a similar build and athleticism as a one dimensional pass rusher that is trying to get better as a run defender as he goes in his career. He came out similarly undersized with tremendous speed and quickness to make plays on the outside as a rusher. Attaochu is more comfortable attacking inside while Irvin was better with his hands. Irvin ultimately ended up in a situation where he could be leo backer that would put his hand on the ground in situations which is where Attaochu could find himself in the NFL.
Jeremiah Attaochu’s move to defensive end has been extremely beneficial for his pro prospects while the coaching staff at Georgia Tech was still able to use him as a rush backer to maintain his productivity and move him around to attack offenses. The result has been better hand usage, more comfort and confidence in small areas and just a better football player overall. He still needs to continue developing his hands and improve as a run defender but he is an attractive prospect with his ability to rush the passer and his growth this past year. Attaochu seems likely to go around the top 50, but could end up going earlier and possibly right around the fringes of the first round.
Some of the film used for this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com