CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 15: Derek Wolfe #95 of the Cincinnati Bearcats tackles Dominique Brown #10 of the Louisville Cardinals during the game at Paul Brown Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Every so often the NFL scouts can't come to an accord on a certain player. Derek Wolfe is such a player in this draft. He has been projected to fall anywhere from the first round to the third day depending on who you ask. He has all the measurable you could want at 6'5" 300 pounds with sub 5.0 speed, he has the power too with 33 reps of 225. The production is also there with 37 career tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks, both of which are very impressive for a defensive tackle. His production is probably the best among defensive tackles in this draft. The only guy who really comes close is Fletcher Cox. But there is no consensus on Derek because everyone has a completely different idea of how he would fit in a defense.
You can look at him and say that he can play anywhere. Part of that is chalked up to his size which allows people to project him as anything from a nose tackle to a defensive end in a 3-4. The other factor is that in his time at UC he played in three different defenses all of which placed him a different roles starting as a sophomore Nose Tackle in the 3-4 in 2009 and wrapping up this year where he was a defensive tackle but was moved around quite a bit in the cheetah/joker package.
That versatility will serve him well in two ways in the NFL. For a start it will make the process of learning the new defense that much easier. Most players in college have the same coordinator for the duration. Very few go through what Wolfe and the rest of this years Seniors went through having one defensive coordinator after the other in the Brian Kelly years before settling down with Butch Jones and his staff.
The other advantage of his situation is that there is plenty of tape of Wolfe in different defenses. He was at his best this year in the 4-3 as a defensive tackle, but he didn't play the position as a traditional DT occupying space and blockers so that the linebackers could benefit from his largess. He was an attacking up field force from the defensive tackle position.
The teams that are most drawn to Wolfe are the teams that play versatile fronts like the Packers, Steelers and Patriots. Those teams are ostensibly 3-4 defenses but they aren't conventional in any sense. No one plays like the Packers and Steelers do with their emphasis on the zone blitz. At the same time the Patriots aren't a big blitzing team but they play multiple fronts in the course of a series and can always use versatile defensive linemen to compliment and play off of the immoveable object in the center of their defense. That is what Wolfe can do. At times last year Wolfe lined up at every DL position the Bearcats had, and he produced no matter where he was at. Versatility and production are what has driven his stock skyward in the last few weeks. To the point where he could be taken tonight and it wouldn't be a total shock to anyone.