This post begins a series on the prospects of Gamecocks in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Measurements: 6'1, 250 lbs
Summary: Norwood has been a major contributor at both DE and OLB since his freshman year. He gotten better with each passing year, finally becoming a household name around the country after an epic performance in a Gamecocks upset of then-fourth ranked Ole Miss in 2009. He was honored as a first-team Freshman All-American in 2006, first-team All-SEC in the following three years, and first-team All-American in 2009. He holds Gamecocks team records for sacks and tackles-for-loss.
Norwood is a fan favorite and indeed something of a legend in Columbia, S. C. He's been a big-game performer all his career and is a player the fans rally around. His choice to return for his senior season in 2009 and subsequent big season cemented his place in Gamecocks lore.
What the Pros Have Right: Pro scouts correctly note Norwood's draws as his pass rushing, tackling, special teams abilities, and durability. His closing speed, instincts and ability as a tackler, and ability to block kicks are well documented, and he has the skills to translate these attributes to the next level. Norwood is exceptionally durable, having played in every game over the course of his career and started 32 consecutive games. The pros do and should love that.
As far as weaknesses go, pro scouts judge that Norwood will likely only be effective as an outside linebacker in 3-4 schemes. This is probably a correct assessment. While Norwood has great instincts in coverage, his height allows bigger tight ends to pick on him underneath, and faster receivers and backs can get a step on him. These weaknesses would be exposed in 4-3 schemes. In essence, Norwood will be at his best in a limited, pass-rush specialist role in the NFL. He may be able to be an every-down linebacker on some teams, but teams with more depth will likely view him as a utility player for sure-fire passing downs.
What the Pros Have Wrong: Pro scouts seem to doubt Norwood's ability to play defensive end, with most focusing solely on him as an OLB prospect. There is some truth to this assessment: Norwood's height will prohibit him from being the kind of top-shelf pass tipper NFL teams want at DE, and his size and weight-room measurable strength give him a disadvantage against powerful NFL offensive linemen. However, one of Norwood's greatest strengths in the pass rush game is his knack for doing whatever it takes to get through the line. He has an impressive array of moves. I believe that, if he were to put on a few more pounds, he could likely be an effective DE. Of course, many teams will probably view him as more valuable at OLB, so this may be a moot point. It could be worth thinking about for teams looking for an elite pass rusher at DE, though.
Fun Fact: Norwood was considered an academic liability coming into college. However, he excelled in academics and chose to come back for his senior season to finish his degree despite projecting as a late-round pick after his junior season. He in fact finished his degree a semester early.
Are the Scouts Right?: Most mocks I've looked at project Norwood in the second to third rounds. I think this is about right. Norwood provides incredible potential as a pass rusher and special teams player, and his durability suggests that he will have a long, productive career. He's also a very positive force in the locker room and a player that teams rally around on the field. However, he's not well-rounded enough to warrant a first-round pick. In the first round, most teams will simply be looking for someone that can do more on more downs than Norwood can provide.