Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell still has believe he is worthy of a top-five pick as he continues to prove that he can be an exceptional all-around talent.
Last summer, defensive lineman Malik McDowell said that he wouldn't leave school early unless he felt like he was a top-five pick. So in a highly-touted defensive line class, it was a surprise the Michigan State product decided to forgo his senior season to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
But at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, he doubled down on his belief that, at the very least from a talent standpoint, he's got what it takes to hear his name called within the first five next Thursday.
"I still feel that way," McDowell told reporters. "Cause I'm a good player."
At various press conferences throughout the draft process, McDowell seemed short on words but when it comes to talent, it's a different story.
The Detroit native was a force with the Spartans in his three seasons in East Lansing, totaling 88 tackles with a staggering 24.5 of them for loss and 7.5 sacks.
McDowell was noticeable on every play and he, just like the other top defensive line prospects, is very versatile. But what differs from McDowell and the other defensive line is his unconventional rush moves and playing style.
"Coaches, at first they wasn't really with it until I started making plays and everything," McDowell said of his unique style. "They tried to help me out but I really couldn't get it right. I tried to tweak the technique a little bit, tweak it a little bit and after a certain point they just started teaching me my own style of play."
But with such a unique style, McDowell must sharpen his technique in order to become a consistent player at the next level. That brings up another often criticized element: his work ethic.
"That is not a problem at all," McDowell said. "We had a long year. I had a lot of stuff going on this past year, health reasons, just body stuff. Just little stuff, really. I was out there, I should have been playing, so that is what it is, but that isn't something were going to have to worry about in the future."
McDowell has an abundance of untapped potential that many NFL teams look for in a young defensive linemen.
Even at 6-foot-6, 295 pounds, he is one of the most gifted athletes in the draft and with the need for speed along the defensive front, McDowell will continue the influx of lighter athletic interior linemen over the large area filling linemen that has manifested in the league recently.