Jack Crawford, 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB
Career Stats: 89 tackles (26.5 for loss), 14 sacks.
Workouts and Measurables: Crawford was among the Penn State contingent that was invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, and there he once again proved that he passes the looks test. Measuring in at 6'5 and 274 pounds--practically all of it muscle--every scout in attendance likely drooled at his frame, and he likewise proved that he had the athleticism to back it up, running a 4.85 second 40-yard dash and a 33-inch vertical leap. Crawford was so comfortable with those numbers that he didn't participate in anything but positional drills at Penn State's pro day.
College Career: Jack Crawford came to Penn State especially raw, having played football for only a couple years before college after moving from England in his high school days. Unfortunately, over his four years, he never seemed to truly develop his prodigious athleticism into football skills, and never quite became the player it seemed he was destined to become. We saw glimpses, at times, especially during a breakout sophomore season that seemed to portent a magnificently bright future, but all too often we were presented with a Crawford who was banged up, ineffective, and endlessly frustrating.
Given his complete dearth of experience, it would seem that Crawford would have been a prime candidate for a redshirt season, but on the contrary, he was one of just three true freshman to see playing time in all of Penn State's games in 2008. He didn't do much then, registering just 4 tackles all season, but gained a familiarity with the college game that allowed him to take a giant step forward the next year.
Playing next to an All-American in Jared Odrick, Crawford had his best season, and found himself in the offensive backfield with regularity. Racking up 14.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks--second on the team in each category--Crawford was named an All-Conference honorable mention, and showed himself a capable run stuffer with the ability to get after the quarterback. He seemed poised to continue to evolve and grow as a football player, but when it came time to build on that sophomore campaign, he could not answer the call. Dogged by a foot injury that held him out of 3 contests and limited his participation in another 3, Crawford never found a groove, struggling even in games where he was healthy enough to play.
It was another foot injury that threatened to limit Crawford's senior season--both he and Eric Latimore were greatly limited throughout the spring and summer--but by the time fall rolled around, Crawford was at least fit to play. Starting all 13 games, Crawford had a mini renaissance, racking up a career high 40 tackles and 6.5 sacks, though he gave way to Devon Still as the primary disruptor in the backfield. It was towards the end of the season when Crawford played his best football, as he racked up 4 sacks in the last three games of the regular season against the formidable competition of Ohio State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. For his efforts, Crawford was named to the second-team All-Big Ten.
NFL Prospectus: Whichever team drafts Jack Crawford is going to have to be patient, and they have to know that they're gambling with a mid-round pick. Yes, Crawford has the elite raw athleticism that you can't teach, and coupled with his size, it makes him a very versatile prospect who could fit in a number of schemes. However, and perhaps the lingering injuries were the cause, Crawford never replicated the performance of his standout sophomore campaign. Even that year, he never displayed a great motor or burst in chasing down plays, and often seemed somewhat stiff. Inexperience may well have played a factor, but he rarely had much of a burst off the line, and too easily was taken out of plays.
But given time, and given a coaching staff that can impart into him a higher football I.Q., it's very easy to see Crawford making an impact in the NFL, perhaps most likely as a two-down linebacker in a 3-4 system. The best comparison I can make is to the Jets' Bryan Thomas, who never panned out as the pass-rusher New York expected he might, but developed into a superb run-stuffer from the linebacker position. I'm sure every team would sign up for that kind of production from a 4th, 5th, or 6th round draft pick.