By: Trey Avant | University Press
With the NFL Draft slated to start on April 29, the University Press will evaluate the FAU football players eligible for the upcoming event. Today, we are taking a look at senior EDGE Leighton McCarthy.
As the leader of a defense that was ranked tenth nationally in scoring defense, McCarthy had a breakout year finishing the season with 40 total tackles (20 solo), nine total sacks (eight solo), and one forced fumble.
In his final season, McCarthy was named second team All-C-USA after leading the conference in sacks and tackles for loss, but he still projects as a prospect with a chance to make the end of an NFL roster or practice squad.
Here are the strengths and weaknesses of McCarthy and what he can bring to a NFL roster:
In his four years at FAU, McCarthy has been the picture of consistency and reliability. In 47 games, McCarthy recorded 160 total tackles and 20 sacks but his main selling point is his versatility.
After being strictly a defensive end for the majority of his collegiate career, McCarthy made the move to outside linebacker last season before being used as a hybrid EDGE defender. McCarthy’s new role led to him notching a career-high in sacks.
He is also a solid tackler using his wingspan, flexibility, and array of block-shedding moves to quickly get into the backfield and bring ball-carriers down.
McCarthy also has the ability to drop back into coverage on occasion and can be serviceable in zone coverage.
Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 220 pounds with an estimated 6-foot-7 wingspan, McCarthy is too undersized to consistently play on the defensive line so that will pigeonhole him into the outside linebacker spot.
Even then, he will still have to add some weight to play linebacker as well.
McCarthy is also an average athlete who is more quick than he is fast. He ran a 4.88 40-yard dash at FAU’s Pro Day so do not expect him to be a sideline-to-sideline linebacker or a linebacker who is going to have the ability to cover tight ends in man coverage.
When it comes to run defense, McCarthy is good but not great. He tends to get overwhelmed when engaging with larger offensive tackles.
The Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions all attended FAU’s Pro Day.
Among those teams, the Ravens stand out as the best fit for McCarthy. They lost pass rushers Yannick Ngakoue and Matthew Judon in free agency this offseason and do not have any clear cut starting-caliber EDGE defenders.
McCarthy on the Ravens could not only shine as a special teams contributor but could also play his way onto the field for defensive snaps.
Any team that adds McCarthy to its roster will be getting a versatile linebacker who can be used as a situational pass rusher and will be most impactful on special teams.