BBD Editor: Dan Hope
Ezekiel Ansah was a top-five selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, but he wasn’t even the best player on BYU’s defense last season.
That distinction belongs to outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who will enter his senior season as one of the top prospects in the 2014 NFL draft class. He is already one of the draft class’ most complete players, and has a game that should appeal to every team in the NFL.
If the Buffalo Bills are in position to select Van Noy in 2014, he could be a perfect match with their defense.
We don’t quite know what the Bills defense will look like yet under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Based upon his four seasons in the same role with the New York Jets, his scheme is expected to be a hybrid defense based in a 3-4 alignment but which also utilizes 4-3 fronts and emphasizes versatility and aggressiveness.
That is exactly why Van Noy would fit the Bills well. He is a very well-rounded player who can multiple positions in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. He is an aggressive player who can attack the backfield as both an edge rusher and blitzer, but is also very skilled at making plays as a run defender in space and dropping back into coverage.
Regardless of how Pettine crafts his scheme, the Bills would be able to find a spot for Van Noy on their defense. In a defense that will likely utilize many packages of different players and alignments, a player with Van Noy’s versatility and playmaking ability would be a welcome addition of a player with superstar potential.
At the end of this piece, we’ll take a look at more specifics of where Van Noy could fit the Bills best — and where they will have to be drafting for a chance to select him — but first, let’s look at what makes Van Noy a future first-round pick and one of the 2014 NFL draft’s most special talents.
Van Noy can be described as a jack of all trades. Van Noy can line up in a number of different spots in the front seven of a defense, and can do just about anything you would expect from each of those spots.
Van Noy frequently moves around the defensive alignment at BYU. He lines up at both middle and outside linebacker, and also as a defensive end. He has been used as a pass-rusher off the edge, a blitzer up the middle, and as a player who hangs back in space in pass coverage and run defense. He has excelled in all of those capacities.
In a 3-4 alignment, Van Noy has the versatility to play both inside and outside. His best fit in the 3-4 is at weakside inside linebacker, where his abilities to blitz and make plays in space can be best utilized. However, the best way to take advantage of his diverse skill set would be to kick him out to outside linebacker to be an edge rusher in pass-rushing situations.
While it would be a big stretch to call Van Noy the next Von Miller, he could play a similar role in a 4-3 defensive alignment. He is well-suited to play strongside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, while moving to defensive end situationally as a pass-rusher.
His ability to seamlessly transition between multiple positions makes him an ideal fit for a hybrid scheme that used variable defensive schemes. With the versatility to play any linebacker position plus also be a wide edge rusher from the defensive line in the four-man front, Van Noy is a toy that all defensive coordinators should want to be able to scheme with.
In addition to his many defensive talents, Van Noy is also a very good special teams player. Van Noy can be an asset on kickoff and punt coverage teams, but his strength is blocking punts. His ability to accelerate quickly and split blockers with his physicality serve him very well in the latter capacity.
Van Noy is more than just versatile. He is a terrific athlete for a linebacker, and he combines his well-rounded game with his speed to make big plays all over the field.
Van Noy is a true sideline-to-sideline playmaker. He has terrific acceleration and great speed for a linebacker. He consistently shows the ability to use his speed in pursuit to track down quarterbacks as a pass-rusher or chase run plays out to the sideline in space.
Van Noy has good length and height for a linebacker, listed at 6’3” by BYU’s official website, yet he runs like a safety. He does not have great bulk or strength, but he is a physical player who aggressively takes on blockers and can drive through them by gaining leverage with strong pad level.
Van Noy is also a good vertical athlete with good leaping ability. He does a good job of leaping up to disrupt passes, sometimes tipping them or even coming up with an interception.