NFL Draft 2014: Is Aaron Lynch Still A Lock For First Round?

Aaron Lynch

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Merely two years ago, Aaron Lynch was on top of the world. Coming out of Island Coast High School (Cape Coral, Fla.), Lynch was billed as one of the top players in the country, regardless of position, and was in contention for best freshman defensive end in the country, competing with Jadeveon Clowney and fellow Notre Dame Fighting Irish teammate Stephon Tuitt.

33 tackles, 7 for a loss, a team leading 5.5 sacks and 14 hurries later, Lynch was a Freshman All-American. Granted, he may have had some maturity issues, but the 6-foot-6, 270-pounder was a lock for the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Only Lynch wasn’t happy at all playing football in South Bend, Ind. It was too far from his home. So Lynch transferred closer to home to South Florida, and was forced to miss the 2012 season due to transfer rules.

Now we’re in 2013, and Lynch looks different, but not necessarily in a bad way. Not only is Lynch wearing a USF jersey instead of an Irish one, but Lynch isn’t the 270-pound monster anymore. Now Lynch is a lean 245-pounds, which leads us a legitimate question: is Lynch still a lock for the first round?

First of all, it’s hard to say anyone is a lock for the first round at this very early stage. Guys may seem like they’re destined for first-round status, but a lot can happen through the course of eight months, such as injuries, arrests, grades, poor play and etc. However, Lynch is giving all indications he may not only be as good as he was in 2011, he may be even better.

New USF coach Willie Taggart has been raving about Lynch all spring and summer. Teammates and coaches alike have been awestruck with not only his physical capabilities, but how much he’s transformed in the last few years.

Now the 20-year-old young man is happily married, and is taking care of business both off the field as well as on it. Maturity issues are no longer a hot topic, and Lynch has shown in practice that he’s just as strong of a player at 245 pounds that he was at 270.

Lynch has all the physical skills you could ask for in a defensive lineman. He’s explosive off the snap, does an excellent job playing half a man, gets good leverage and extension, has awesome hands and quick feet. If I was a young hip-hopper, I might even refer to him as a “Baller.”

Now if I were an NFL player personnel man, I’d want another 15 pounds on him. That way he’ll easily be big enough to play 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end, but he could also slide down into the three-technique on passing downs. Versatility is the name of the game and Lynch has it, but he’ll be even more diverse with another 15 pounds.

Even if Lynch somehow fails to best his 5.5 sacks from two years ago in 2013, he should still be considered a first rounder. He’s got a very high ceiling, and his best football-playing-days are still in front of him.

Rick Stavig is an NFL Draft Columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @rickstavig or add him to your network on google.

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