Arizona State has developed a talented defense that thrives with activity, quickness and speed more than it does size. They attack opponents from the second they get off of the bus and do not stop until the game ends. One of the less heralded members of that group that could end up being drafted is outside linebacker Chris Young. He fits what they want to do because he is an effective blitz option who has quickness and burst to make plays for the Sun Devils.
Young has tools that make him intriguing as an NFL player. He does have the ability to blitz and play attacking forward against both the run and the pass. Young has shown some potential in coverage but needs to keep refining that area of his game. There are issues with how he takes on and shed blocks, especially in the open field and he needs to continue with his physical development. Young projects as a late round pick that could end up going undrafted and have to fight his way onto a roster. His best path to doing that is by making himself valuable on special teams and his athletic skillset suggests he could be a valuable addition there with long term potential as a sub package and potentially a full service linebacker down the road.
Vitals & Build
Young is listed 6’ 244lbs with a relatively average looking build. His strength is average as is his top end speed. Where he stands out in his quickness and burst; he has impressive short area quickness. He does appear to have some physical potential yet to be realized and can add strength while improving the overall composition of his body, which could allow him to play faster.
Young’s tackling technique is extremely frustrating, because so much of it is diving and lunging at the opponent. He almost never keeps his feet under him when he tackles and ends up being a feast or famine tackler because if he misses or does not hit a ball carrier well, he falls off or misses completely and is out of the play. His tackling also has him put his head down too much, which is both wrong and dangerous.
He needs to keep his feet, wrap up and run his legs through contact and to this point, he has not shown he can do it with any kind of consistency. If he cannot learn, it will make sticking around in the NFL extremely difficult.
Young is willing and active in run support, but so much depends on how he is being used. When he has protection in the form of a defensive line soaking up blocks and keeping him free, he is extremely quick and accelerates well to the play, able to cover ground and get to the ball carrier quickly. Young is also effective when he is attacking forward, either on a blitz or just reading and going forward, when he accepts he is going to have to take on contact to make a play. With his momentum going forward, he is willing able to take and slide off of blocks to make a play. He also shows the ability to sift through trash and work his way to the ball carrier.
The problem Young runs into is especially when he goes laterally, he becomes far less aggressive and attempts to run around blocks, which can take him far off course or out of the play entirely. When opponents are able to get to him and block him, he is unable to beat blocks and tries to bail out of them backwards. Young’s success seems to depend almost entirely on what he does to start the play. He needs to find a better way to take on and shed blocks in situations he does not dictate in order for him to stay effective in plays.
Young’s range is good but not great. He is quick and accelerates well but there is not a ton of top end speed and opponents are able to get away from him when running away from him. There is some potential there, but he needs to get stronger and more confident in the middle of the field. He shows he can contribute attacking forward, but needs to do be better with his tackling form.
Coverage is another area where Young shows some ability but has a lot of work to do. He is most comfortable and accustomed to play in zone. They drop him in short zones quite a bit and he will read the quarterback’s eyes. Too often, he ends up getting too fixated on the quarterback and does not have a good sense on what is going on around him. As a result, he ends up with his feet in cement too often.
When he does move, he can flex and cover his zones pretty well with the ability to get contact on opponents coming through his zones. He is able to close on the ball quickly and potentially knock the ball out or make a tackle quickly. There are definitely times when he will end up in a zone with nothing happening and needs to find work.
Young has some ability to contribute in man coverage but it is a work in progress. He struggles when it comes to running stride for stride down the field as his speed is limited, but can do a good job with quickness and shifty players.
Young needs to get more consistent and employ better technique in both areas. There is ability there, but it needs coaching and reps.
Pass Rush & Blitz Ability
Young shows a good amount of ability on the blitz. The Arizona State defense does a good job of using different blitzes and timing to get players free to make plays in the backfield. Young has really done a nice job employing the timing and executing the scheme he has been taught.
He is able to use delayed blitzes really effectively and he is willing to take on blockers and beat them with his momentum going forward. For the most part, he is working to win with quickness and slip the block, but he stays in his lane as to not get in the way of a teammate coming from a different gap. As a result, he has been forced to learn how to win in small areas.
Young’s acceleration and burst makes it so he can exploit holes in the protection, whether he is on a delayed blitz or coming right from the get go. He is also able to attack from different angles, but might be at his best when attacking inside, which gives teams options on how to use him.
The combination of burst and quickness at Young’s size has him with the potential to make a nice contribution on special teams and he is going to have to be good in this area for him to stay on an NFL roster. He has experience on kick return as a blocker, but he should also be able to be able to make an impact on coverage teams.
First and foremost, Young needs to make it on special teams. After that, he does have some potential to develop into a contributor as a weakside linebacker in the 4-3 or an inside linebacker in the 3-4 that can help in coverage and blitz up the middle, especially for teams that are looking for players that can come in and attack. Young has some tools that could be intriguing to NFL teams but needs to refine his game and continue to developing so he can be a sub package player and potentially develop into a full service player.
Young could end up having a career like Brad Jones of the Green Bay Packers. If he can earn his way on a roster with special teams play, he could evolve into a more full service player the way Jones has been able to over the course of a few years. Jones went from a seventh round pick to being a regular contributor for Packers in a few years. Young has a lot of work to do to get there, but the long term potential is there to do it.
Chris Young has tools to be effective in his ability to attack down field and what he offers in coverage. He needs to become a better technical tackler, needs to keep refining his ability in coverage and playing in the open field as a run defender. There is reason to like what he can do in terms of special teams and his physical potential going forward. Young projects as a late round pick that could go undrafted and make a team because of what he can do with special teams. He has long term potential as a sub package linebacker and possibly the ability to become a full service linebacker.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com