Aaron Lynch started his college career as an impact defensive end for Notre Dame as a freshman. He had an impressive start playing a 5-technique end that would also kick inside to defensive tackle at times. Despite what appeared to be a tremendously bright future on a star-studded defensive line, Lynch opted to transfer closer to home and to South Florida.
In the year he sat out, he lost a bunch of weight and went from a 5-tech end to become a base end that also would attack from a rush backer spot at times. While his statistics looked like he had a relatively average year, he was still a consistent disruption for opponents. Lynch opted to declare for the NFL Draft after his redshirt sophomore year despite the fact he is still a work in progress as a player.
Projecting toward the NFL, Lynch has a tremendous amount of length, quickness and potential for the next level. While he has some areas to polish, he really does not appear far from being able to be a big time player in the NFL. He has shown he can hold up and defend the run in addition to showing the ability to be an impact pass rusher. The biggest area that Lynch needs to address is playing with his hands and initiating contact with opponents and taking the action to them. Lynch could end up going in the first round purely on his upside, but he will likely end up being selected in the top 75 picks with a chance to go in the top 50.
Vitals & Build
Lynch measured in at the scouting combine at 6’5” 249lbs with 34 inch arms. He possesses a wiry, rangy build but does have a good amount of strength as well. His feet and quickness are impressive with great burst and top end speed. Lynch can have some issues when it comes to weight transfer when he ends up too tall, but when he stays low, he can plant his foot in the ground and react extremely well. His motor is generally pretty good but he will motor down when he thinks the play is past him and stop playing. His frame suggests that he should be able to continue filling out without having any negative impact on his athleticism and he almost appears skinny as he is now, which makes his upside remarkably high.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
Lynch’s ability to anticipate the snap is a work in progress. He is guessing for the most part and it can result in him being late off the snap as well as getting called for jumping on occasion. Getting an encroachment or offsides penalty every so often is hardly the end of the world and with more experience, he should get better at anticipating and firing off the ball with the snap. The times he is right, he is able to get a substantial advantage.
His first step is good in terms of the amount of ground he is able to cover, but he stands up too much. As a result, as quick as he is, he could get up the field further and have better leverage if he can have his force going forward. Additionally, he would be in a better position when it comes to deciding how he wants to attack a play.
Lynch has certainly shown some skill when it comes to taking on and shedding blocks. He has quick hands, long arms, and even after opponents have gotten their hands on him, he has shown he can use a swim move and disengage from the blocker. Lynch has also shown he can use his long arms to keep opponents out from his body or shock them and keep them away while he makes his move up the field.
The issue that Lynch needs to address in addition to playing with better leverage is that he will try to slip through creases or dip his shoulder to try to engage power. After which, he will then use his hands to try to make a play. If he would lead with his hands consistently, he could dictate the action or avoid the block before he is engaged. When he has done it, Lynch has been incredibly effective and stayed clean and able to make plays either in the run or rushing the quarterback.
Lynch has demonstrated a lot of ability in the running game. Although he needs to play with better leverage on a consistent basis, he is able to adjust and get a good angle to maximize his power base and hold up at the point of attack.
Additionally, Lynch’s speed and quickness make him frustrating because he is able to get up the field for contain with ease or chase down plays from behind. He is also willing to attack inside to keep opponents off balance and can slip in and disrupt plays, forcing the opponent to account for what he is doing and creating opportunities for teammates. Lynch does a pretty good job of getting heel’s depth and diagnosing where he needs to go from there, with the quickness to adjust effectively.
More strength, better hand use and leverage will only make him that much more effective. His experience as a 5-tech has been beneficial in how he can take on blocks in the running game, allowing him to hold up at the point of attack or stack and shed.
Lynch wins with speed and quickness first. He is able to get up the field early, bend around the edge and flatten out to the quarterback effectively. His speed gives him an advantage and when he uses his hands well, he can keep them out of his body and keep working right to his target.
While Lynch likes to attack outside and get up the field, he is attack inside and keep opponents honest. While he has the ability to bull rush, he tends to use speed and shift to power, making the opponent worry about his speed and then attack at them. Lynch has a bad habit of dropping his hands and just ramming his shoulder into the opponent, trying to fit into a crease, but making it easier for him to be controlled.
Lynch has great closing speed, burst and his arms make it so he can get to the quarterback effectively. Playing with better pad level and using his hands more effectively are what is missing to really unleash his potential as a complete pass rusher.
Lynch’s length and quickness make him attractive when it comes to blocking kicks. He has experience doing it and found some success in the process.
Lynch is best suited to play as a defensive end in an even front, but he will certainly be attractive to teams that would use him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. He has a great deal of ability to play in a bunch of different spots, but he is still working to find a true home. His height and length make him a natural fit as a defensive end if he can play low consistently.
Lynch may start out as a situational pass rusher, but it should not be long before he is ultimately starting. His talent is difficult to deny and he seems like a player who will make it difficult to keep him off the field.
Lynch’s game and physical prowess makes him similar to former South Florida pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, now with the New York Giants. Both players have a tremendous amount of length and were pretty wiry, lean players coming out of college. JPP and Lynch both came into the league as somewhat raw, huge upside players, but with continued development, Lynch could reach the heights that JPP has with the Giants.
Aaron Lynch faces a perception that he was not terribly productive this year, but it is difficult to ignore his presence on the field and how he was able to impact plays and help his teammates. He is still learning how to use his hands and play with consistent leverage, but his explosion off the ball, length, and speed make him a difficult matchup. There will be some questions about the level of competition he faced and how much work he still has to do as a player, but he could be close to being an impact player and be a great player for an extended period of time in the NFL. Lynch could end up going I the first round, but is probably more likely to be a second round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com