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Draft Darlings: Isaiah McGuire is an underrated pass rusher

The Missouri prospect put up solid numbers and film in college, so why is he being overlooked?

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

In the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, prospects are scrutinized, analyzed, and examined thoroughly by scouts, coaches, the media and armchair general managers across the country. As the never-ending litany of physical tests, displays of athletic ability, and "highly calculated" comparisons are bestowed upon the young men declaring for the draft, it can be easy for the hype train to engulf a certain group of players while ignoring others.

Defensive end Isaiah McGuire feels like one of the ignored prospects in this draft cycle.


Standing 6'4" and weight 268 pounds, McGuire fits the bill for an NFL defensive end and would be a perfect fit for Steve Spagnuolo's 4-3 under defense. Spagnuolo has typically preferred larger defensive ends, with the frame to stop the run and the athletic ability to crush the pocket on passing downs.

He primarily played a 7-technique at Mizzou but also lined up as a 5-technique, a 3-technique, a 4i, and a 9-technique. This versatility makes him scheme malleable in the NFL.

With 33 7/8" arms, he is long enough to compete at the next level, and he uses them combined with a powerful lower body to out-leverage opponents. A 1.72 ten-yard split time on the 40-yard dash displays can be seen with his burst off the ball and short area quickness, and a 36.5" vertical jump shows the explosion that he plays with.

Pass rush

McGuire tallied 16.5 career sacks while playing at Mizzou, recording 7.5 of those in his final year as a Tiger. Using his physical tools to his advantage, McGuire could often overwhelm his opponents with his size and length.

With a good jump off the ball, McGuire executes a rip move and swings his inside hand upward to get around the right tackle. The tackle attempts to go for the hip to push him up the field, but McGuire is too strong and powers around the arc to finish the play with a sack.

McGuire has good-but-not-great flexibility when it comes to bending the arc. However, he does have the strength so that he is not pushed around the pocket. Instead, he uses power and size to help him continue to work to the quarterback even if he doesn't have elite speed and bend off the edge.

While physical intangibles are great indicators of potential pass rush ability in the NFL, McGuire is a prospect who has an arsenal of pass rush moves. All of his moves are set up off his initial bull rush, but they all serve to play off his physical abilities.

On the snap, McGuire goes into his bull rush and knocks the left tackle into the backfield, closing down space between the quarterback and himself. The quarterback is about seven yards of depth in the pocket, and McGuire matches this with his bull rush.

At the same depth as the quarterback, he feels the left tackle start to lean into his block to try to fight off the bull rush and uses a swim move to free himself inside for the sack. The tackle had too much forward lean and was unable to recover to protect his inside due to being off balance after the swim.

Even on plays where he did not record a sack, he was still able to impact the play.

The left tackle throws his hands early, looking to neutralize the power rush from McGuire. Reacting to this, McGuire uses a double-hand swipe to knock down the hands of the tackle, charge through the B-gap and force a quick throw from the quarterback.

The pass is incomplete, as the quarterback did not have time to pivot into his throw properly.

Run stuffing

McGuire was an impactful run stuffer in college, using his size and quickness to stand up blockers on the line of scrimmage while also quickly closing down run lanes.

While playing against Georgia in 2022, they attempted to make him the "read man" and take him out of certain plays by showing multiple different zone-read looks.

With the tight end showing that he is going to the flat and the quarterback selling the keep, McGuire has every opportunity to leave the line of scrimmage, but he stays disciplined with his eyes and closes down space quickly to make the tackle for loss.

Physical tools help stop the run in NFL, but it often comes down to effort and assignment of sound play. McGure has a motor that never stops running and is rarely out of position to make plays.

The bottom line

There may be edge prospects with higher ceilings and greater potential than McGuire, but there will be few safer picks in this year's draft class at the position. A classic defensive end frame, long arms, and short area burst will make him scheme versatile across multiple defensive fronts, while his arsenal of pass rush moves will help him find the field quicker than most rookies.

Mcguire will likely be selected late during Day 2 of the NFL Draft or early Day 3 (and in the fourth round at the latest), and he could end up being a steal for whichever team takes him.

A capable edge rusher on a rookie contract who can see the field early is inherently valuable to any team in the NFL, but he would be especially valuable for a team like the Kansas City Chiefs.

With a small number of players taking up large amounts of the salary cap, the Chiefs need to find players who can see the field early and often while on rookie deals. This could attract them to a player like McGuire, who is a scheme fit and already has the physical traits and several tools needed to play in the NFL.

If drafted by the Chiefs, McGuire's days of being ignored will be over.

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