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#16 Bills: OLB Tremaine Edmunds

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Overview
Virginia Tech has not produced a top 50 NFL draft pick at linebacker since the Dallas Cowboys made Jesse Penn the No. 44 overall selection back in 1985 but Edmunds - a First Team All-ACC pick in 2017 and Butkus Award finalist - looks likely to break this dubious streak in 2018.

That did not necessarily look like the case when he first signed with Virginia Tech, offering the latest example of the old adage that patience is a virtue.

Edmunds followed in the footsteps of his older brothers, Trey and Terrell, in signing with the Hokies after prepping in nearby Danville. He redshirted his first season on campus and saw limited action on defense in 2015, recording a total of 11 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss. He appeared in 13 games and even started against Georgia Tech (recording one tackle) but the majority of his playing time during the regular season was spent on special teams. He earned his second career start and flashed the playmaking ability that would soon take the ACC by storm in the Independence Bowl against Tulsa, however, recording a then career-high five stops, including his tackles for loss.

Edmunds emerged as one of the nation's breakout stars as a redshirt sophomore, earning Second Team All-ACC honors by jumping to 106 tackles, including an eye-popping 18.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks while starting all 14 games. He was particularly effective down the stretch in conference play, registering a career-high 16 tackles against Syracuse and earning ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors the next week in a win over Miami in which he recorded 10 tackles, including two for loss and a sack. Like the year before, Edmunds saved some flash in the bowl game, recording seven tackles (including one for loss) and recording the only interception of his career in a win over Arkansas in the Belk Bowl.

As one would expect of such a talented player, Edmunds was even better in his second season as a starter, leading the Hokies in tackles (109), tackles for loss (14), sacks (5.5) and forced fumbles (three) while starting all 13 games in 2017. Again, he played his best ball as winter approached, registering at least one tackle for loss in six consecutive conference games, starting with a 59-7 thrashing of North Carolina October 21 and culminating with nine total tackles, including three tackles for loss and a career-high two sacks in Virginia Tech's 10-0 win over Virginia in the Commonwealth Clash, earning ACC Linebacker of the Week.

A few weeks after losing to Oklahoma State in the Camping World Bowl (where he recorded seven tackles, including five solos), Edmunds - along with his older brother Terrell - announced his intention to forgo his final season of college eligibility and enter the 2018 draft.

BACKGROUND
Signed with Virginia Tech over offers from several other prominent schools, including Southern Cal, Maryland, and Wake Forest. Ranked as the No. 16 player in the state of Virginia by The Roanoke Times ... Listed as the No. 236 overall player nationally, the No. 15 outside linebacker in the country and the No. 12 player in the state of Virginia by Rivals ... Rated as the No. 24 outside linebacker in the country and the No. 15 player in his state by 247Sports ... Listed as the No. 53 outside linebacker in the country and the No. 4 OLB in the East by Scout ... Ranked as the No. 41 outside linebacker in the country, the No. 82 player in his region and the No. 28 player in the state by ESPN Recruiting Nation... A member of the All-Atlantic Region Team by SuperPrep ... Missed part of his senior season with an injury ... Still was named first-team all-state for the Class 2A level by both the VHSL and VirginiaPreps ... A 2014 American Family Insurance All-USA Virginia Football Team selection ... Named first-team All-Conference 37 as a senior as both a linebacker and tight end, earning Defensive Back of the Year honors ... Recorded 120 tackles his junior season with 17 tackles for a loss and four sacks ... Also had two interceptions, two blocked kicks, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble as he earned Conference 37 Defensive Back of the Year honors. Offensively, he played tight end, wide receiver, fullback, running back, and some quarterback in the Wildcat formation; he amassed 1,280 yards of total offense and 16 total touchdowns. Edmunds also excelled in basketball and track and field (winning a state title in both sports and named to the First Team All-State basketball team for 2A) as well as in the classroom as he will be an honor graduate and a Graduate of Merit.

Analysis
STRENGTHS
Prototypical size for outside linebacker with broad shoulders, long arms and a V-shaped frame with good overall muscular development. Instinctive, aggressive player who isn't afraid to "shoot his gun," trusting his eyes and attacking the ball. Very good anticipation of where the ball is going rather than reacting to where the ball currently is and arriving late, getting an early start and frequently blowing up misdirection plays (like draws and screens) designed to fool defenders. Light on his feet and possesses loose hips which allow him to change directions quickly and accelerate smoothly, rare attributes for a player of his height. Terrific initial quickness to get a jump on tackles when setting the edge and possesses a legitimate late burst, surprisingly ball-carriers with his closing speed and generating some explosive collisions. A generally reliable open-field tackler who typically breaks down well, delivering strong stops with textbook hit-lift-drive form. Possesses the long arms and strong hands which also help him lasso ball-carriers seemingly out of his reach when in pursuit. Height, arm length and strong hands also show up when taking on and shedding blocks, rarely getting tied up for long. Wasn't asked to rush the quarterback often but shows very good snap anticipation, agility to elude blockers and the closing speed to be more productive in this area in the NFL if called upon to do so, offering intriguing untapped potential... Good bloodlines. Father, Ferrell, Jr., played seven years in the NFL (Miami and Seattle) and was a two-time Pro Bowl tight end. Older brother Trey played running back at Virginia Tech and Maryland and made the New Orleans Saints' roster as an undrafted free agent in 2017. Another older brother, Terrell, played safety at Virginia Tech and is also a 2018 NFL draft hopeful. -- Rob Rang 1/11/2018

WEAKNESSES
Highly aggressive and, like any defender, will guess wrong, on occasion. Attacks the line of scrimmage and can lose track of his coverage responsibilities (Clemson-2017) on effective play-action, which he will see much more of in the NFL. Jumps too far upfield when setting the edge and leaves lanes for ball-carriers to cut inside. Long-legs leave him more vulnerable to cut-blocks and needs to do a better job of anticipating them. Will drop his shoulder on occasion to deliver the big hit, losing track of the ball and allowing savvy ball-carriers a late split-second to shake him. Given his anticipatory skills and athleticism, Edmunds surprisingly only recorded one fumble recovery and one interception in 40 career games... Missed time during his sophomore and senior seasons in high school due to undisclosed injuries which may warrant closer examination at the Combine. - Rob Rang 1/11/2018

COMPARES TO: K.J. Wright, Seahawks - Wright rarely gets the same attention as Seattle's Pro Bowl middle linebacker Bobby Wagner but that is because the 6-4, 246 pounder often is asked to do more of the blue-collar duties like setting the edge on in the running game and dropping into coverage. Though he isn't often asked to rush the passer and therefore does not have the gaudy sack totals to earn national fanfare, Wright's rare combination of size, agility and instincts have quietly made him one of the better all-around linebackers in the NFL. Edmunds offers a similar skill-set with even better closing speed.

IN OUR VIEW: It isn't often that you come across traditional off-ball linebackers with Edmunds' exciting blend of size, instincts and speed. He is still a bit rough around the edges - attacking with reckless abandon and occasionally leaving holes for savvy ball-carriers to exploit - but he possesses the upside to warrant first round consideration, projecting as a future starter and potential difference-maker.