In a Draft that's being said to be very deep -- with many saying that first-round quality players will still be available after the first round -- one guy who's quietly worked his way into that "first-round quality" group is Georgia Tech OLB/WDE Jeremiah Attaochu. Attaochu, a 4-year starter at OLB in the 3-4 and then WDE in the 4-3, holds Georgia Tech's all-time sacks record with 31.5 over his career. By the end of his career, he was known as one of the most feared pass-rushers in the ACC, and he was named first team All-ACC in 2013, as well as third team All-American.
Now, he embarks upon an NFL career. In doing so, Attaochu will benefit greatly from his flexibility to play either DE or OLB, liberating teams to draft him regardless of defensive scheme. Truthfully, he's a pretty ideal "Jack" OLB, typically considered the pass-rush specialist in a 3-4 scheme. Players such as DeMarcus Ware or Lawrence Taylor are examples of some of the greatest "Jack" outside linebackers in league history. Attaochu's size makes him a little small to be an ideal defensive end, but combined with his mobility make him project very well as an outside linebacker.
Jeremiah Attaochu sacks QB prospect Tom Savage, though the play was called back due to an offsides penalty which could only have been the result of the referee not being able to believe how perfectly Attaochu's start was timed.
In the NFL, Attaochu likely will need some development with his bull rush. It's not that he's not strong -- he is -- it's that he made most of his living as a pass rusher by going around blockers moreso than through them. The other area where he'll need improvement is specific to scheme. If playing in a 4-3, this won't apply, but if playing in a 3-4, Attaochu will need work in pass coverage for the occasions in which he's called upon for it. This shouldn't be some major hindrance for a guy who's best known as a great pass-rusher, but is going to be a point for teams to be aware of when they're developing him early on in his career.
Strengths: Speed (speed rush), acceleration, motor, tackling, intelligence, agility, awareness, interviewing/background/character, potential.
Weaknesses: Strength (bull rush), pass coverage (3-4 specific).
Verdict: Attaochu will be drafted before other players who are more physically gifted than he is due to his intelligence and awareness on the field, and the lack of off-field concerns about him. He is a highly talented pass-rusher with potential that is yet to be tapped, and generally a highly attractive prospect for teams in the market for a player of his variety. Attaochu should be one of the first 50 players drafted, and there's a chance he could sneak into the end of the first round. If not, there's a chance the home-team Falcons (who have been rumored to be interested in taking an OT with their first pick if not Jadeveon Clowney) could take him at #37 in the early second round, as they are very much in the market for a pass rusher in this Draft. Also rumored to be interested are the New York Jets (familiar with Georgia Tech after taking WR Stephen Hill in 2012's second round) and the Philadelphia Eagles.