|Donna McWilliam / Associated Press|
|TCU's Jerry Hughes stands tall among college football's top defensive end prospects.|
After watching a certain Elvis (the Denver Broncos' Elvis Dumervil) tear up the league this season, scouts are descending on college campuses looking for diminutive edge rushers like fans flocking to Graceland.
The ascension of Dumervil to the top of the sack charts has scouts rethinking the importance of traditional measurables when evaluating edge rushers.
For years, evaluators seemingly ignored the production of sack artists who fell below the established 6-2 Mendoza line. The premise behind the standard height measurement, as explained to me by a college director when I first broke into the scouting business, is that pass rushers need to possess a certain height-and-arm length to deal with the mammoth offensive tackles that play in the pro game. Big blockers easily engulf smaller edge players and render them helpless in one-on-one situations.
However, that thinking appears to be changing when watching some of the league's top pass rushers this season. Pittsburgh's James Harrison (6-0), Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney (6-1) and Dumervil (5-11) all rank among the NFL's top five in sacks. While the majority of the list is still full of giants, the fact that the diminutive trio has been able to produce at a high level has opened the eyes of many personnel men.
Dumervil, who was drafted by the Broncos in the fourth round in 2006 after leading the nation with 20 sacks as a senior, has amassed 36 quarterback takedowns in his career. That total surpasses the 33.5 sacks tallied by the No. 1 overall pick (Mario Williams) of the same draft, and places the undersized pass rusher tied for fourth among sack leaders since 2006.
With the success of Dumervil firmly in their minds, scouts are giving more consideration to a host of shorter pass rushers set to enter the league. TCU's Jerry Hughes, Auburn's Antonio Coleman and South Carolina's Eric Norwood, each measuring below 6-foot-2, have enjoyed prolific collegiate careers. And their skills are ideal fits for the aggressive zone-blitz schemes that are prevalent throughout the league.
As more and more NFL teams move to hybrid 3-4 systems that allow prolific sack artists to hunt off the edge, scouts are willing more than ever to consider undersized pass rushers in the early stages of the draft.