College: Ohio State
Position: DE (3-4), DE (4-3), DT (4-3)
Height: 6′5″ Weight: 295 lbs.
Born: May 6, 1989 From: Suwanee, GA
2) High School / College Highlights: In Heyward’s senior year of high school, he totaled over 100 tackles and 16 sacks. For his efforts, he was voted Georgia Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year.
Scout.com rated Heyward as their No. 20 defensive end and 15th best prospect in Georgia, and he was ranked No. 13 and 7th in those same categories on Rivals.com. Heyward was also a good high school basketball player and graduated with a 3.25 GPA.
Once at Ohio State, Heyward got right to work. He started eight games his freshman season and had 2.5 sacks, earning him freshman All-American and freshman All-Big Ten honors. He continued to start his sophomore year, but Heyward’s production leveled out. In 13 starts, he accumulated just 36 tackles and 3 sacks.
However, Heyward put his name on the draft map with a solid 2009 season. In 13 starts for the Rose Bowl Champions, Heyward had 6.5 sacks and 10 tackles for losses. He was a Lombardi Award nominee—given to the nation’s best defensive lineman or linebacker—and was voted Second Team All-Big Ten.
Heyward had the option to put his name in the 2010 NFL draft, but he came back to Ohio State for his much-anticipated senior season. Many pegged Heyward as a top-10 pick before the season, but his production in 2010 didn’t match the hype. Heyward tallied just four sacks and 13 tackles for losses, but he did look like a dominant player in the Sugar Bowl against Ryan Mallett and Arkansas. He was voted First Team All-Big Ten.
3) College Stats: 51 games/46 starts, 162 tackles, 15 sacks, 37.5 tackles for losses, 4 forced fumbles, 1 interception
4) NFL Combine Results: 30-inch vertical jump (did not partake in any other workout at Combine). Pro Day: 4.95 40-yard dash, 35-inch vertical.
5) Strengths/Weaknesses: While not your classic speed rusher at defensive end, Heyward is an agile and explosive player for a man his size (6’5″, 295 pounds). His main strength, however, is rushing the passer with power. He’s strong in the upper body, and uses his hands well to disengaged blockers. This kind of power also makes Heyward a disruptive force against the run.
He also has a non-stop motor, and his versatility to play both inside and out on the defensive line will remind many of Cullen Jenkins. In fact, his skill set makes him quite comparable to Jenkins, although his pass rush has a ways to go to equal what Jenkins brought the Packers. His height should give him ample opportunities to bat down passes at the line.
Heyward also has no character issues and was a leader throughout his time at Ohio State. His father, Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, was an NFL running back who played 11 years with the Saints, Bears, Falcons, Rams and Colts.
However, Heyward’s size occasionally gets the best of him and he plays too tall. He also lacks the athleticism to beat offensive tackles with speed off the edge, but that shouldn’t be a huge problem in a 3-4 defense.
Heyward hurt his elbow in the Sugar Bowl, and had surgery on Jan. 11 to fix the problem. He wasn’t able to do the bench press at either the combine or his pro day, and that will need to be cleared by the medical staffs moving forward. Also, his limited production at Ohio State could be a question mark. Numbers aren’t the end-all mark of production, but one would think he should have put up better sack totals.
6) Fit for the Packers: If the Packers lose Cullen Jenkins when free agency finally begins, defensive end might become a need. Johnny Jolly won’t be back, and that leaves Ryan Pickett, Howard Green, Mike Neal, C.J. Wilson, Justin Harrell and Jarius Wynn as the only remaining players at that position. That’s still a good stable of defensive ends, but some people are really understating how big of loss Jenkins could be to the Packers defense.
In my best estimation, Heyward could be the Packers’ next Jenkins. He’s equally solid against the pass and the run, and his size makes him an ideal fit to play defensive end in the 3-4. Heyward has the ability to be a three-down lineman and would immediately fit into the line rotation. With both Heyward and Neal on the roster, the Packers would have a solid duo of young and promising defensive ends to anchor their 3-4 defense.
7) Highlight video——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2