Viewed as one of college football's top players entering the 2007 season, Auburn University defensive end Quentin Groves lived up to expectations and was named to the All-Southeastern Conference first team. A highly sought after recruit coming out of high school, Groves redshirted in 2003. He then made quite the impact the following season leading the team with 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss.
As a sophomore, Groves recorded 21 tackles and an additional six sacks, ranking third on the team for the year. Groves excelled his junior year despite some off-the-field issues, leading the Tigers with 9.5 sacks. He also had 11 tackles for a loss while starting all 13 games and was a big factor in Auburn's win over the eventual National Champion Florida Gators.
Needing only three sacks to tie the school's record, Groves started the season off quickly with two in the first game against Kansas State. A toe injury caused him to miss two games, but he still finished with a respectable 2007 ending the year with 38 total tackles and three sacks to tie Auburn's record of 26. Though he is small for a defensive end at 6-foot-3 and 259 pounds, he has excellent speed, running the 40-yard-dash in 4.53 seconds and figures to move to outside linebacker at the NFL level.
Groves' best quality is his excellent speed up the field. His small size forces him to completely utilize his speed to beat offensive tackles to the corner and get to the quarterback. He also does a decent job of getting his hands up into the throwing lanes when he can't reach the passer. His frame, while somewhat diminutive, is cut appropriately for an NFL prospect.
He is a smart player in open space and has great range; qualities that should help him make the transition to outside linebacker in the NFL. Groves takes quality angles to the ball and is adept at wrapping up the ball carrier in space, but he can also deliver punishing blows. He does a good job of extending his arms, which helps him shed blockers quickly.
Groves' burst is outstanding, and his awareness of what is going on around him is another key attribute. To go along with his explosiveness, Groves boasts a mean spin move and has the lateral range to chase down plays in the flats.
A tough player, Groves played through an ankle injury his freshman year, and recovered to miss only two games last year despite dislocating some of his toes earlier in the season.
He was able to play through some of his injuries, but they are certainly a concern for NFL teams. Groves being a bit undersized for the defensive end position in college at could have played a role in some of his injuries, and that is part of the reason why he is unlikely to stay at that position in the NFL. There have also been some questions about his effort level on an every down basis as his motor can run high and low.
While Groves is blessed with exceptional speed for his size, he tends to rely on it a little too much rather than use other pass rushing techniques, and he could get into some trouble if teams try to pound the ball against him. That reliance on speed leads him to over-pursue or get too far upfield on the rush. When a larger offensive lineman locks onto him he can have difficulty anchoring himself and tends to get driven back.
Groves also has some character issues that may cause teams to think twice drafting him early. In 2006, he was placed on probation after getting into a car accident with a suspended license. He was also arrested in response to a domestic dispute call.
Groves is expected to be transitioned into an outside linebacker in the NFL, but he struggled with that task in three games toward the end of last season at Auburn. As an outside linebacker, Groves will be called into pass coverage, and he has struggled at times.
Expected Draft Placement
Despite the negatives, Groves is still one of the better defensive ends in this year's draft and is likely a late first- or early second-round pick. That being said, the chances of him remaining a defensive end after draft day are slim to none. He's too small and would get overmatched in the NFL at his current position. That would mean that any team looking for an outside linebacker, particularly teams that run a 3-4, would be interested in taking him.
There are plenty of teams interested in Groves toward the end of the first round or beginning of the second round, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins. Groves has all of the on-field attributes necessary to be an immediate force in the NFL, assuming he lands in a situation allowing him such.
About Ben Rubin
Ben Rubin has been a KFFL contributor since 2007.
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