SEC PASS RUSHER ARDEN KEY, OLB/DE, LSU:
First Team All-American Arden Key stands 6’5″ weighing 238 pounds, and is coming off of an impressive sophomore season. It was a significant increase in production from his freshman year. In 2016, Key finished the season with 56 tackles, 14.5 of those for a loss. He also had 12 sacks which marked the new LSU record for sacks in a single-season. He tallied a total of 3 forced fumbles and 3 pass deflections as well. This was a nice improvement from his freshman season where he garnered 41 tackles, 6.5 for loss, 5 sacks, 1 pass deflection and a fumble recovery.
Key has an ideal build for what is looked for in a pass rusher. At 6 feet 5 inches tall, he possesses nice wingspan. This long reach gives him the leverage to contest blockers and the range to grasp a ball carrier from a distance. He is explosive getting off the line of scrimmage, and he has the ability to bend at the top of the loop allowing him to get good pressure on the quarterback.
The strongest aspect of his game that scouts and coaches will love is his style of play. Key displays a high motor, always hustling from the snap to the whistle. As an 3-4 outside linebacker though, more is required than just pass rushing. Defending the run is important too. With his length, he is able to hold the blocker and stack them up at the point of attack. Key also possesses the speed and effort to run down plays from the backside. So far his college production has been very impressive.
AREAS TO IMPROVE:
At times, Key has trouble locating the ball and also has a tendency to bite on play fakes. Though he excels at chasing the ball down from the backside, he needs to improve on the front side run plays when he ball is coming in his direction. He must improve at block shedding and become more active.
The biggest question mark Arden Key leaves is a result of his absence in spring training which sources said were due to personal reasons. That is likely to cause some confusion whether it was lack of love for the game or that something happened behind closed doors. If that question remains unanswered, he’ll be fine as long as he makes plays and stays out of trouble.
Arden Key is far from the perfect prospect; however, he possesses all the skills and tools to remain a dominant player in college and become one in the NFL someday too. It is imperative that the teams he’ll face this season account for him, keeping the running back in the backfield or bringing an extra tight end or offensive lineman to help on his side of the ball.
Key is a more instinctive pass rusher than the NFL 2017 number 1 overall draft pick Garrett was last season, but Garrett was a bit more gifted athletically. It will be exciting to watch Key play and see if he improves on his outstanding production just one year ago