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Alabama Football 2016 NFL Draft Profiles: D.J. Pettway

After a career of adversity, Pettway could be on the doorstep of the Promised Land.

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

D.J. Pettway

Position: Defensive End

Pro Day Height/ Weight: 6'2"/ 265 lbs.

40 Yard Dash Time: 4.99 seconds

Bench Press Reps (of 225 lbs): 17 reps

Hand Size: 9.5 inches

Arm Length: 32.25 inches

Vertical Jump: 28 inches

Broad Jump: 108 inches

20 Yard Shuttle: 4.69 seconds

3-Cone Drill: 7.74 seconds

2015 Season: Played in all 15 games as part of the Tide defensive end rotation. Recorded 18 tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks, two passes broken-up, one quarterback hurry and a blocked field goal attempt.

Strengths: Pettway is a sledgehammer at the line of scrimmage, demonstrating textbook pad level and exploding into blockers with devastating force. He has decent quickness for a man of his size, and he uses it to his advantage by attacking gaps with straight-line speed and thudding power. He punches off the line and catches blockers off guard initially, taking advantage of the momentary shock to great effect. One of the Tide's more effective defensive ends against the zone-read and play-action schemes, Pettway has a good football IQ and doesn't overcommit when facing trickery. Very fluid in lateral pursuit, Pettway has the ability to pinch opposing running games off at the edge, forcing the play outside of the tackles. His technique is solid for the most part, and as part of a strong ensemble, he plays his role in steady fashion to great effect.

Weaknesses: Pettway's size does not match-up well with the desired measurables for the modern defensive end position, as he is a tad short and lacks length in comparison to other elite NFL ends. While quite strong, Pettway has a tendency to be a bit of a plodder at times and lacks elite overall athleticism. He has received the dreaded designation as a "tweener" defender: too small to be considered an elite end prospect, but too large and slow to be a pure NFL caliber linebacker. The tweener label has been the downfall of many a promising pro prospect, and Pettway will not be immune to that perception. While he is effective against the run and had his moments in pass rush, Pettway lacks diversity in his style of pass rush attack, unable to use explosiveness to get the edge and not quite powerful enough to muscle up and punch through guard/ tackle combos. Though Pettway is a steady tackler and instinctual player, there is legitimate concern at the pro level about how he will fit in to a given defense.

Verdict: Pettway is an interesting prospect, but the critique that he isn't tall enough to excel as an end is very legitimate. At 6'2", it's hard to imagine him doing the things that are required of an every-down starting defensive end in the pro game. Likewise, his speed and lack of athleticism will prevent him from being a coveted option at linebacker, as he would definitely be a role player at that position at best. If he can gain weight and add a little power, he could then be a possible viable option inside at tackle, where height is not of the utmost importance. Given the track record of Tide defenders over the last several years, some team may in fact give Pettway a shot, as he is a solid, fundamentally-sound football player with some significant upside. That said, there are multiple options at both end and linebacker that would be considered better options at those respective positions than Pettway, so it's hard to get a gauge on where he will ultimately go.

Predicted Round: It's not unreasonable to think that Pettway may not be taken in the draft and may fall to free agency, given the issues with positional fit and size. But there are likely a few teams willing to take a chance and give him a late-round shot. Optimistically, Pettway is a draft-worthy talent, and should probably go on the final day (sixth or seventh round).