With dynamic film, unquestioned personal and football character and now verifiable explosive athleticism, one-handed Central Florida LB Shaquem Griffin has officially checked many relative boxes for NFL evaluators.
Griffin, a late invitee to the NFL scouting combine, made the event his personal proving ground over the weekend. First he raised 25 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press — more than 11 offensive linemen put up — with a prosthetic on his left arm Saturday. Then he blazed a 4.38 40-yard-dash — the combine’s fastest by a linebacker since it started documenting the results in 2003 and better than all but one running back and two wideouts in his class.
The 6-foot-1, 227-pound Griffin, who had his left hand amputated when he was four because of a painful birth defect, is certainly used to proving his doubters wrong. He was seven the first time a coach told him he didn’t belong on a football field.
The last time he was on one in a real game? Griffin was being named Defensive MVP of the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, prompting one Auburn Tiger to say of Griffin’s 12-tackle (3.5 TFL), 1.5-sack demolition: “It’s unreal how fast he is — and his motor. He ate our offense up all day. He’s obviously a great player, and I’m expecting him to really do big things here. You just can’t help but be inspired by something like that.”
Unreal. Inspirational. Historically fast.
In our opinion, the main question surrounding Griffin at this point should be this: Which of the 32 NFL clubs wouldn’t want him in its locker room? But we know the way the NFL functions. There will be a number of teams that determine Griffin requires them to stray too far from their comfort zone (because he hasn’t strayed far enough from his, apparently).
There will be others that can’t be bothered with testing their own creativity to determine how someone with an unprecedented handicap for an NFL player, despite two years of big-time and multi-faceted college production, fits into their rigid systems.
To be clear: We’re not pretending Griffin is an easy evaluation. His size and speed says, at minimum, sub-package linebacker, but his disability understandably creates questions about his ball skills.
His explosive pass-rush production in college says minimally he could be a situational rusher, but his size and ability to stay off of blocks with one hand naturally raises doubt whether the skill will translate.
He clocked a 4.38 40, but Griffin’s 117-inch broad jump wasn’t extraordinary comparatively and, if his agility tests left something to be desired, his lateral movement might become a concern in an increasingly sideline-to-sideline era.
But Griffin undoubtedly has the tangibles (including speed, strength, versatility and football IQ) and intangibles (there simply isn’t a more driven and courageous prospect in any draft class, much less only this one) to play an important role in the NFL. Perhaps it’s just as a “special-teams demon and backup defensive player” as former Cleveland Browns GM Phil Savage described as Griffin’s floor in January.
Savage also pointed out his versatility. “He can come off the edge. He’s very effective as a pass rusher. He can play out in space,” Savage said. That makes us believe a team with not only the strength in its convictions but a clear plan for Griffin is going to be very happy it drafted this remarkable individual.