Photo of Cliff Avril
Grade
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  • 32.5 INCH
    Top Performer
  • 117.0 INCH
    Top Performer
  • 6.90 SEC
    Top Performer
  • 6'3" Height
  • 252LBS. Weight

Overview

Purdue has become very proud to be known as the "Den of Defensive Ends."

In recent years, the Boilermakers' program has produced future NFL pass-rushing specialists Akin Ayodele (Dallas) Rosevelt Colvin (New England), Ray Edwards (Minnesota), Rob Ninkovich (Miami), Chike Okeafor (Arizona), Shaun Phillips (San Diego) and Anthony Spencer (Dallas). Many scouts feel that Cliff Avril will soon take his place with those former Boilermakers in terrorizing NFL quarterbacks.

Some teams have projected Avril as a rush end, but due to his lack of bulk and size, he could shift back to strong-side linebacker. Much like Shaun Phillips, Avril relies on his impressive foot speed and ability to shed blocks on the move to be a constant nuisance in the backfield. Since moving to defensive end two seasons ago, Avril registered 30 of his 35.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and 12.5 of his 13 sacks from the left end position.

At Clay High School, Avril earned second-team All-State honors as a defensive end during his senior year, yet, he was rated the 37-best outside linebacker prospect in the nation by Rivals.com. He was named to the Florida Times-Union Super 24 team and twice earned All-Conference accolades.

As a senior, Avril led the team to an 11-2 record. That year, he registered 80 tackles, nine sacks and eleven stops behind the line of scrimmage. He also deflected four passes. In addition to competing on the gridiron, he lettered in basketball, track and field and weight-lifting.

Avril enrolled at Purdue in 2004 and saw considerable action as a true freshman. He appeared in 12 games, starting four contests at strong-side linebacker. He was in on 36 tackles (23 solo), as he assisted on a sack and made three stops for losses. He also caused a fumble and batted away one pass.

Avril played in 10 games as a sophomore, as a midseason back injury that was later diagnosed as a fracture, hampered him the rest of the year and forced him to sit out the Wisconsin game, in addition to being limited in spring drills the following year. He made 33 tackles (21 solo) with 2.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage while starting four contests in 2005.

As a junior, Avril made several changes, switching from jersey No. 85 that he wore his first two seasons to No. 32. He started the first four games at strong-side linebacker, but then shifted to left defensive end for the final 10 games. He went on to rank ninth in the Big Ten Conference with 15 stops for losses. He registered 84 tackles (51 solo), third-best on the team and tied for second on the Boilermakers' defense with six sacks. He caused two fumbles, recovered another and picked off a pass. He also deflected six other tosses.

In 2007, Avril was named first-team All-Big Ten Conference by The NFL Draft Report and second-team by the league's media. He started all 13 games at left defensive end, where he led the team and tied for tenth in the conference with 6.5 sacks. He again paced the Boilermakers with 15 stops behind the line of scrimmage, the ninth-best total in the Big Ten. He caused four fumbles, recovered three others and broke up five passes. He also returned an interception for a touchdown.

In 49 games at Purdue, Avril started 35 contests, with 12 starts coming at strong-side linebacker and the other 23 at left defensive end. He ranks 12th in school history with 13 sacks for minus-79 yards and finished 11th in Purdue annals with 35.5 stops for losses of 137 yards. He caused seven fumbles and recovered four others while also deflecting 12 passes. He intercepted two passes, good for 48 yards in returns, including one touchdown.

Avril is the next Purdue pass rusher capable of making an impact in the NFL. He has great burst off the snap and because of his strength, hustle and strong hand play, he can be an effective 4-3 defensive end.

Despite his burst off the snap, however, Avril isn't a natural pass rusher. He lacks creative moves and only 6.5 of his team-leading 15 tackles for loss this past season were sacks. Avril is a good enough athlete, however, to play in space, and has developed into a cerebral defender potentially capable of making the switch back to outside linebacker -- a position he played his first two seasons for Purdue.

Analysis

Strengths

Positives: Undersized to be any every down defensive end, but he has good upper-body muscle tone, ideal arm length, big hands, tapered thighs and calves, along with the feet, balance and change-of-direction agility to bring better value as a strong-side linebacker...Has exceptional closing speed vs. plays in front of him and the lateral agility to string plays wide...Can impact the pocket coming off the edge, using his sudden burst to slip past a lethargic blocker, but needs to add some more pass rush moves and keep his hands more active when attempting counter moves...Has the agility to bend down the line and cover ground well, showing good urgency closing on the pocket... Gives total effort in his chase and plays with his head up, showing good instincts to find the ball, especially vs. naked bootlegs...Better performer on the move than working through trash and has the balance to quickly redirect and close...Will generate better production standing up, but even with his hand down, if he gets a dip inside, a slower blocker can't recover...Smart player who will have no problem digesting a playbook at multiple positions (down lineman/strong-side linebacker/rush end)...Plays with good aggression and determination, despite being outweighed vs. every opponent...Plays until the whistle and builds acceleration nicely when attacking downfield...Puts in extra hours studying tape of the upcoming opponent and, while a leader by example, he will not hesitate to get vocal in the huddle...His best asset is his initial step off the snap, as he is quick to elude, dip his pads and redirect to plays underneath...Has a good feel for reading blocking keys and is usually in proper position, rarely biting on play-action...Attacks the point with good intent, even when he knows he will be washed out by the bigger blockers...Has good balance, staying on his feet and bounces up quickly when cut...Is quick to react to the play when he locates the ball and has the short-area quickness to spill inside, getting his hands up to deflect passes at the line of scrimmage...Takes good angles coming off the edge and shows good vision to locate the quarterback and flush him out of the pocket...Needs to use his hands more to ward off blocks, but is a slippery type with good avoidance skills on the move...Will sometimes run around blocks, but can stay square in one-on-one encounters...Uses his hands well to keep separation when he keeps them inside his frame...Scrapes to the ball well and has good press ability when playing over the tight end...Prefers using his swim move at the "five" technique to combat turn out blocks, but just needs to do it with better consistency...Carries his pads well, evident in Senior Bowl practices when he constantly chased down ballcarriers on the outside or challenged the QBs on naked bootlegs...Capable of getting very good production making plays from the backside, as he seems to work his hands better there in attempts to shed blockers and fall underneath...Good go-with-the-flow outside run container who can run, slide and move in space to make plays...Will flow too fast and overrun a few plays, but is quick to redirect...Keeps his feet and will sell out to get wide on a play (runs long distances to deliver the hit)...Not a hammer-type of hitter, but can run the field, hit and sell out, showing the body control to break down and wrap up (gets lazy at times and tries to take a side, but showed improvement in rectifying this as a senior)...You won't see too many misses or leaks when tackling, if he keeps his hands inside and pad level true...Shows good anticipation coming off the snap and, when he finds a clean rush lane, he will sell out, go airborne and do whatever is needed to pressure the pocket...Has a natural chop-and-swipe technique off the line, but uses his hands better vs. the run than as a pass rusher...Knows how to change and vary his speed when he breaks free from blockers...Covers ground and closes well from the backside better than he does in-line...Has a decent feel for the blitz and with his speed, he can bring the heat, thanks to good change-of-direction skills that make it difficult for slower linemen to block him. Negatives: Undersized defensive end who converted from outside linebacker early in his junior year and lacks the bulk to face up to the bigger offensive tackles...Can beat a slower offensive lineman off the snap with his hand on the ground, showing a sudden burst, but if the lineman gets his hands locked on, he struggles to shed...Lacks the anchor to maintain ground vs. double teams and can be pushed back when trying to work inside (does have a nifty spin move in-line to beat a lethargic blocker)...Much more effective playing in space and on the move, as he gets absorbed too much by double teams working on the line of scrimmage...Can get the ballcarrier down along the outside, but needs to wrap and get in front of the opponent better, as he tends to grab or take a side (stronger runners like Ohio State's Chris Wells and Wisconsin's P.J. Hill had good success breaking his arm tackles)...Has the speed to impact the pocket coming off the edge, but his pass-rush moves are still raw and he needs to add to those array of moves (has a great spin move, but must be more forceful with his hands on club moves and show better shoulder positioning on rip moves)...Telegraphs his moves coming off the snap and when his hands get outside his frame, blockers can easily neutralize his counter moves...Not strong enough to plug the inside rush lanes as a defensive lineman...Will need time to re-adjust to playing linebacker (must refine his pass drop depth and open his hips quicker to come out of his breaks. Compares To: SHAUN PHILLIPS-San Diego...Earlier in his career, Phillips struggled trying to play with his hand down at the NFL level. When the Chargers moved him to linebacker, they found a dominant force that could also attack the backfield and pressure the pocket. If some NFL team takes that lesson learned by the Chargers and shows patience letting Avril develop at strong-side linebacker, they could be rewarded with a Phillips clone. There is no question that he has the speed to cover receivers in the short-to-intermediate area and if he's not getting pounded by offensive linemen that outweigh him by 50-80 pounds on every play, his level of play could rival that of Phillips and another former Boilermaker, Dallas' Anthony Spencer.
C
Grade Title
9.00-10 Once-in-lifetime player
8.00-8.99 Perennial All-Pro
7.50-7.99 Future All-Pro
7.00-7.49 Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.50-6.99 Chance to become Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.00-6.49 Should become instant starter
5.50-5.99 Chance to become NFL starter
5.20-5.49 NFL backup or special teams potential
5.01-5.19 Better-than-average chance to make NFL roster
5.00 50-50 Chance to make NFL roster
4.75-4.99 Should be in an NFL training camp
4.50-4.74 Chance to be in an NFL training camp
No Grade Likely needs time in developmental league.
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