By Dan Durkin–
(CBS) Versatility is a popular buzz word in the scouting community. In a league in which teams have a finite amount of money and roster spots to work with, players who can perform more roles inherently have more value.
As defenses become more multiple with their looks, players who can perform effectively with their hand on the ground and from a two-point stance are coveted.
Today we take a look at one of the draft's top hybrid prospects who hasn't quite lived up to his enormous potential: Florida State defensive end Mario Edwards Jr.
DE Mario Edwards Jr. (6-foot-3, 272 pounds, 20, Florida State)
40-yard dash: 4.84
Vertical: 32 1/2"
Arm: 33 1/4"
Bio: Edwards followed in his father's footsteps to Tallahassee, arriving as the USA Today's defensive player of the year and arguably the nation's top recruit. His father played cornerback for the Seminoles and was part of their 1999 national championship team, prior to being selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft.
Edwards was originally going to redshirt as a freshman. He showed up out of shape, weighing in at 315 pounds. Then an injury to Brandon Jenkins in the season opener forced Edwards onto the field. He eventually lost nearly 30 pounds during the season and became a starter at the end of the season when Cornellius Carradine tore his ACL. He finished his true freshman season with 17 tackles, two-and-a-half tackles for loss and one-and-a-half sacks.
In 2013, Edwards appeared in 12 games, making 11 starts and finishing with 28 tackles, nine-and-a-half tackles for loss, three-and-a-half sacks. He also had an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble returned for a touchdown. He earned third-team All-ACC honors.
In 2014, Edwards was a jack-of-all-trades player, literally. He played the Seminoles' "Jack" linebacker position, as well as defensive end and defensive tackle in various packages. He was also used as a fullback on offense in short-yardage situations, carrying the ball once for four yards. He finished the season with 44 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles, earning first-team All-ACC and second-team All-American honors.
In total, Edwards appeared in 36 games, making 25 starts and finishing with 89 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, eight sacks, three forced fumbles, one interception and one touchdown.
How he fits the Bears' scheme: Edwards truly transcends scheme and could be viewed in the same light as Pernell McPhee, a player the Bears recently signed who can play outside on his feet on base downs and kick inside with his hand on the ground in sub packages.
Edwards is brutally strong at the point of attack against the run, snapping blockers back with a stiff hand punch and press. He's a stout edge setter who can two gap and alter the aiming point for opposing run games. He also shows discipline when being read on read-option plays, frequently playing a feather technique, putting the onus on a quarterback to make a decision. His lateral quickness and change-of-direction abilities are adequate, as he was asked to carry tight ends in certain coverages.
Edwards needs polish as a pass rusher. He can overwhelm blockers inside with quick feet, but overall, he struggles to disengage and his upper body tends to go silent when stalemated. He's primarily a bull rusher who shows little variation in his pass rush sets. He must learn to rush with a purpose and plan.
Draft projection: Given his pedigree and physical skills, scouts are likely to grade Edwards as a mid-second round prospect who may blossom with the proper coaching.
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.
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