Perhaps the biggest non-quarterback story in the 2018 NFL draft, and maybe even the biggest story bar none, is Shaquem Griffin of Central Florida.
He first gained national attention as the one-handed linebacker who was the brother of cornerback Shaquill Griffin, often cited as an “Inspirational Story” by the sports media. However, in his senior year with his brother in the NFL, scouts began to realize that Shaquem Griffin (the marginally younger twin brother) is very good football player in his own right.
Considering the New York Giants have a tremendous need at linebacker, particularly for an athletic player who can excel in coverage as well as rush the passer, Shaquem Griffin deserves a close look.
- Highly motivated leader. Tone setter on his defense and has a magnetic personality.
- Rare athleticism for a linebacker. Similar athlete as his twin brother, a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks.
- Talented pass rusher. Able to use his athleticism to get around blockers.
- Surprisingly powerful when taking on blocks directly. Plays bigger than his 227 pound frame suggests.
- Instinctive player. Takes accurate first steps toward the play when off-ball, and is seldom fooled by play fakes.
- Impressive change of direction. Easily able to show blitz and drop in coverage or peel off and defend screen plays and pitches.
- Very productive player. Has 166 total tackles, 33.5 tackles for a loss, 18.5 sacks, 10 passes defensed (2 interceptions), and 4 forced fumbles in the last 2 years.
- Left hand was amputated when he was 4 years old.
- Undersized for an NFL linebacker. Could struggle taking on NFL strength and power directly.
What They’re Saying
SOURCES TELL US
“The old staff signed him just to make sure they got his brother. The new staff realized the guy was a player and plugged him in and he wins Defensive Player of the Year in his conference. He doesn’t have a left hand. That’s going to limit him with some things and that’s going to hurt his draft value, but he’s fast and athletic and makes a ton of plays.” -- NFC team scouting director
- via NFL.com (http://www.nfl.com/draft/2018/profiles/shaquem-griffin?id=2560035)
It’s easy to look at Griffin as a “feel good” story, but that sentiment is almost insulting to Griffin the football player. He is, simply put, a great football player.
His amputated hand will obviously be a concern, but it is something he’s lived with his whole life and obviously learned to work with it. As a pass rusher he is still able to generate power in a bull rush while using his incredible athleticism and frame to flow around blockers.
Considering his twin brother Shaquill Griffin is a cornerback for the Seahawks, it isn’t surprising that Shaquem is fluid and comfortable in coverage. He shows solid awareness in zone coverage and a solid ability to play man coverage, even lining up as a slot receiver at times.
Griffin is an emotional leader on the UCF team, setting the tone on defense as he flies around the field at a different speed than almost anyone else.
Those who sat down and watched him pretty much knew that Griffin will be selected. After a spectacular Senior Bowl week and Combine workout, the question is now “how high?”. If he had two hands, Griffin would almost certainly be considered a second-round prospect. But, how much of an appetite for risk will NFL GMs have for a one-handed, undersized linebacker?
The Giants should think long and hard about drafting Griffin. Not only is he a great player at a position of need, his speed and talent is a natural fit in James Bettcher’s defense. Perhaps more importantly, his personality and obviously indomitable will would be huge in a locker room that was left fractured by a bad year and disinterested head coach.