While much can be made about Van Noy’s ability to impact the game as a pass defender, he may be even better as a linebacker against the run. He is a solid tackler who is a terrific playmaker in space.
Van Noy is an instinctive player who is very disciplined in space, then has the speed and acceleration to track down a runner when he sees where a play is going to go — even if the play is going to the complete opposite side of the field where Van Noy is lined up. Combining his great motor and speed, he is more often involved in a run play than not.
His playmaking range makes him a huge asset as a run defender, especially as an outside linebacker. He also does a good job of taking on blockers at the edge of the line and setting the edge to free up inside linebackers to come through and make plays in the backfield. As a defensive end, however, he lacks the size and strength to consistently hold up against the run at the next level.
Van Noy’s strength as a run defender is taking efficient angles and using his speed in pursuit to track down a ballcarrier and lunge at them from behind to take them down.
That said, he is also a strong hitter when runners come at him. He does a good job of wrapping up ballcarriers and driving them backwards to stop their forward progress, rather than allowing rushers to fall through him and gain extra yardage.
Van Noy is also skilled at knocking the ball out and forcing fumbles, something he did six times last season. He aggressively attacks ballcarriers with his hitting and with his hands, and will take advantage of runners who do not carry the ball securely.
One area where Van Noy must improve is with whiffed tackles. When he is attacking a ballcarrier into the backfield with his speed, his form often forgoes him and he too often misses the ballcarrier or fails to wrap up, resulting in a missed opportunity for a big tackle.
Will He Be a Bill?
The Buffalo Bills do not have any glaring needs as of now on the defensive front seven, but the beauty of adding a player like Van Noy is his ability to line up in so many different spots. The Bills would be able to quickly find spots for Van Noy to contribute and become an immediate playmaker in their defense.
The Bills are hoping for Nigel Bradham and Kiko Alonso to establish themselves as long-term starters as the team’s strongside/inside linebackers in 2013, but adding Van Noy to the rotation could increase competition. He would also give the team a pass-rushing upgrade opposite Mario Williams, while he is a more natural fit to play 3-4 outside linebacker than Williams, and a better run defender and playmaker in space than any other edge player on the Bills roster.
Many expected the Bills to draft a pass-rusher in the 2013 NFL draft, but their only significant moves to bolster their rush were signing unrestricted free agent Manny Lawson and acquiring Jerry Hughes in a trade with the Colts.
While both Lawson and Hughes are talented players, and Mark Anderson is a talented situational rusher, there should certainly still be reason for the Bills to look for another playmaking pass-rusher in 2014. The right fit would be getting a player like Van Noy, who can line up all over the field in Pettine’s hybrid scheme, and can be a three-down asset immediately as a rookie.
However, if the Bills meet optimistic expectations in 2014, they may have to trade up for any shot at Van Noy. While there is still nearly a full year for the draft board to shift, Van Noy looks like a top-15 draft pick who should have a very good shot of going in the top 10 or even in the top five like his former teammate Ansah did in 2013.
The 2014 draft class should be high on pass-rushing and outside linebacker talent, so there will be other options for the Bills to pursue if they miss out on Van Noy. That said, the Bills may not necessarily consider that position to be one of their top needs in next year’s draft. Van Noy may simply be too good for the Bills to pass up if they have the chance to select him.