A checkered off-field past has the elite pass rusher projected to fall to the middle of the draft
Great pass rushers are few and far between in the NFL. With the game having shifted to mainly pass-centric schemes over the last decade or so, the ability of a defense to get to a quarterback and disrupt his timing is paramount. As a result, we've been seeing plenty of pass rushers go early and often in recent drafts.
One of the most talented edge rushers eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft is Louisville outside linebacker Devonte Fields.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Fields began his college career at TCU where he logged 10 sacks in 2012 to earn Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors. After missing most of the 2013 season due to injuries, he was dismissed from TCU the following summer after being accused of assaulting a female acquaintance and threatening her with a firearm. He subsequently spent a season in the JUCO ranks and transferred to Louisville in 2015.
During his two seasons with the Cardinals, Fields continued to prove to be one of the best pass rushers in college football logging a total of 17 sacks. When he wasn't getting to the quarterback, he was piling up tackles in the backfield and applying play-altering pressure to opposing quarterbacks on a consistent basis. His versatility is an attractive trait, as he has had experience and success playing both with his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 scheme and coming off the edge standing up in a 3-4.
Fields is currently projected to go in the middle rounds of the upcoming draft, and that's largely due to his off-field history. Unless he lays an egg in his workouts at the Scouting Combine, the fourth round should be his floor in terms of where he's selected.
The biggest thing to look (or listen) for is the reaction of NFL teams to Fields' interviews. As we know, young people are prone to making foolish decisions. If he shows well in the Combine drills and is able to convince teams during the interview process that he has matured and is worth the risk, you could see him go as high as the second round.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.