It’s no secret supplementing the pass rush remains one of the Seahawks main priorities in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. While the team hopes 2018 picks Jacob Martin and Raheem Green will make major strides this season, finding another EDGE player to add to the mix opposite Frank Clark is imperative.
With the top defensive end prospects likely off the board when Seattle gets set to make their first selection, general manager John Schneider will be looking for value in the middle rounds. Projected to fall into that range, TCU defensive end Ben Banogu's athletic profile screams Seahawks draft pick.
While teammate L.J. Collier was the bigger name along the Horned Frogs defensive front (and has also reportedly met with Seattle’s coaching staff), Banogu’s performance at the NFL scouting combine turned heads and sent some scouts rushing back to look at the tape to take another look at Collier’s long, athletic teammate.
Standing 6-foot-3, weighing 250 pounds, and possessing 33.5-inch arms, Banogu boasts impressive measurables for a twitchy edge rusher. He set a record for defensive linemen with his 11-foot-2-inch broad jump at the combine and his 40-inch vertical leap was the best in his position group. His other testing numbers were among the top ten at his position, including his 4.63-second 40-yard dash.
Rushing primarily from a two-point stance, Banogu possesses good burst off the snap. This may not always show up on tape, as he doesn’t often sell out going after the quarterback. Instead, he keeps good balance and takes good angles, making sure to maintain containment even when engaged by a blocker. He’s so fluid and smooth in his movements that he doesn’t appear to be playing hard at times, but don’t let that fool you - he never stops moving, chasing, or pursuing.
Once the quarterback is set up in the pocket looking downfield for an open receiver, Banogu will use his outstanding lateral movement to change direction in his attempt to disrupt the passer. He won’t stop until the whistle blows and is often seen chasing ball carriers 10 yards downfield. On one sack against Texas Tech, Banogu chased the quarterback all the way to the opposite sideline from his position at left defensive end to make the sack, showing off his relentless motor.
Banogu was a durable and consistent performer at TCU, starting all 27 games as a junior and senior after transferring from Louisiana-Monroe. He recorded 34.5 tackles for loss and 17.0 sacks during that span for the Horned Frogs, earning First-Team All-Big 12 recognition both of his seasons with the program.
While not a liability against the run, Banogu does little to inspire confidence as a player who can disrupt gaps or clog running lanes. He does a nice job of staying balanced and working to shed blocks when defending the run, but gets pushed back off the ball too often and might not have enough lower body strength to hold up in the trenches as a conventional 4-3 defensive end.
Banogu also lacks refined pass rushing counter moves, as he simply relied on his speed and athleticism to beat offensive linemen at the college level. He worked strictly out of a two-point stance as a stand-up defensive end at TCU, not showing the versatility Seattle loves to see from their EDGE players. It would be nice to see him exhibit more bend when taking wide angles, but it appears as if he simply wasn’t asked to put his hand in the ground and focused solely on getting to the quarterback.
WHERE HE FITS IN SEATTLE
In many ways, Banogu is the prototypical candidate to play LEO in Pete Carroll’s defense, nearly mirroring former standouts Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin in his physical makeup. His production on tape didn’t always match his physical traits, but the upside is tantalizing. He’s a high-motor player who was durable and consistent in his TCU career. When watching Banogu, you get the sense he could have done more but was limited by his role in the Horned Frogs disciplined 4-2-5 scheme.
Questions about his lack of bend and his ability to play all three downs have him projected as a day-two prospect, but he's the type of player Seahawks coaches would likely be thrilled to get with a mid-round pick. In a draft loaded with bigger-name EDGE players, Banogu’s upside may be too good for Seattle to pass up in the third or fourth round.