KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29: Melvin Ingram #6 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on October 29, 2011 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Continuing our coverage of Gamecocks in the draft, today we check in with Melvin Ingram and where he's being projected to go during the NFL Draft this Thursday.
Melvin was long thought a lock to be the highest Gamecock drafted, but that may have changed somewhat after NFL draft scouts and pundits became so deeply enamored of Stephon Gilmore's measurables. (FWIW, Google Chrome is trying to tell me that "measurables" isn't a word.) Currently, projections have him going as high as 7th overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but now lower than the mid-to-high teens.
Ingram's biggest assets are his physical strength, raw athletic ability, and his speed rushing the passer off the edge. Those attributes make him a very versatile player and, therefore, attractive to NFL teams running a variety of schemes. To teams that run a 3-4 defense, he's looked at as a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker. To teams that run a 4-3, he's looked at as a defensive end who could move inside and line up at defensive tackle on passing downs. Scouting reports on Ingram's ability to stop the run vary a bit from good to simply average, but the consensus is that his biggest asset in this department is his exceptional upper body strength, which allows him to stand up most blockers at the line of scrimmage.
During the early part of his career at South Carolina, Melvin seemed to be working through some maturity issues as he dealt with a series of injuries and position changes, but his emergence in 2010 as a pass rushing force seemed to coincide with Ingram's mental adjustment and maturation as a person.
The lone physical gift that Melvin Ingram seems to lack is wingspan. His unusually short arms for a pass rusher sometimes prevent him from being able to get his hands inside on blockers. In college, Ingram was able to rely upon his elite speed and athleticism to overcome this disadvantage, but everyone has elite speed and athleticism in the NFL. Ingram was also slow to get off the line of scrimmage in college, digging himself an early hole in his battles against offensive linemen. There also seems to be a consensus among scouts that he goes in a bit too high on tackles, but that's something that could be fixed with more coaching.
Melvin Ingram is far from a perfect prospect, but his speed, versatility, and raw athleticism will empower a creative defensive mind to employ him at a number of positions to take full advantage of his skills, much as South Carolina did in his senior season. Like all of the Gamecocks' other top draft prospects, there are some aspects of Melvin's game that make you curious as to how well his game will translate to the next level, but his ability to excel in a variety of schemes give him a pretty high floor as a prospect.