One of the less talked about Baltimore Ravens draft picks of 2017 is third-round pick Chris Wormley, a defensive end from Michigan.
After losing Lawrence Guy in free agency and given the uncertainty at defensive end due to previous injuries to Carl Davis and Bronson Kaufusi (both missed the entire 2016 season), the Ravens needed youthful depth at the position. The addition of Wormley certainly addresses that need.
The lengthy 6’5″, 298-pound Michigan standout was a four-year contributor in college, and started to truly hit stride over his final two seasons, culminating with a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2016. During his four years, Wormley amassed 17.5 sacks and 31.5 tackles for loss as a pass-rushing defensive end with enough run defense to round out his game.
With a spotty situation at edge rusher in Baltimore, producing a consistent pass rush from the defensive line will be paramount in 2017 in order to create a balanced enough front seven to complement a talented secondary. Wormley, Kaufusi, Davis (a defensive end/tackle hybrid) and Brent Urban will be relied on heavily to rotate at defensive end. And given Wormley’s pass-rushing potential, he is sure to be a regular in the front-three rotation as a rookie.
Let’s take a look at where Wormley stands out, and how he can help improve the front line of Baltimore’s defense in year one.
Lining up primarily as a 4-3 defensive end in Michigan’s defense, Wormley typically operated outside of the tackle box prior to the snap. In Baltimore, look for him to shift closer to the interior line of defense. However, when stretched out wide, Wormley displayed an innate ability to engage with the tackle, dip around the edge, disengage, and then close in on the quarterback.
In order to be so successful in a play such as the one above, length, strength and closing speed are required, and Wormley checks all three boxes. With 34 1/8″ arms, Wormley has more than enough length to keep his distance from the tackle and disengage from contact.
Wormley’s closing speed and agility also stand out given his size, which allows him to be a threat as a pass rusher in more ways than one.
Being able to shoot the gap inside will be key for Wormley in Baltimore’s version of a 3-4 defense, as he will not have as many edge-rushing opportunities. Wormley regularly displayed the ability in college to shrug off a block and sniff out an inside rush lane en route to the quarterback. With the speed and length to close in quickly on the quarterback, Wormley should be able to thrive as a Raven.
Pass rushing is where Wormley stands out the most, but he does offer the ability to contribute in run defense. The endless pursuit, closing ability and instincts are not as apparent in run defense as they are in his pass-rushing repertoire, however Wormley’s length and strength still allow him to make plays against the run.
As one of two Ravens third-round picks, Wormley has been overshadowed by the more talented Tim Williams, but that should not be interpreted as a knock on Wormley’s ability to contribute in the short and long term. With an immediate need for contributors at defensive end, Wormley’s talent figures to warrant him a role in the defensive rotation during his first NFL season.
With a diverse set of pass-rushing skills and enough versatility to contribute as a run stopper, don’t be surprised to see the former Wolverine making an impact in Baltimore sooner than later.