Futures: Kentucky Edge Men Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith

Edge men in the NFL inspire a lot of dreamlike projection. Bud Dupree is one. Photo by Andreas Photography.
Edge men in the NFL inspire a lot of dreamlike projection. Bud Dupree is one. Photo by Andreas Photography.

By Matt Waldman

Football is simple. It’s a game of running, hitting, throwing, and catching.

And in this simple worldview of the game, Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith are incredibly similar football players. Both are big, strong athletes with the job of protecting the edge of a defense while threatening the edge of the offense.

Both are 6-foot-4 and within a two-liter Coke’s heft of 270 pounds. Both were defensive ends sporting arm lengths of 32⅝ inches.

Both were seniors at Kentucky. And both possess the highest percentile skill in their roles to earn a shot at the top level of football.

But football is also complex. At the highest level of the game the smallest things make the greatest difference. And within the layers of complexity that is also football, Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith are incredibly different football players.

One is a future 3-4 outside linebacker. The other is a power 4-3 defensive end.

An edge defender’s hands do the talking on the field, which means neither speaks alike. One has the vocabulary of Bamm-Bamm Rubble; the other is entertaining a book deal with a campus speaking tour from Random House.

One is a physical freak of nature. Few human beings in the world weigh 269 pounds, run a 4.56-second 40-yard dash, sport a 42-inch vertical jump, and are capable of a 138-inch broad jump – which, by the way, is one of the three best performances at the NFL Combine in 15 years.

The other didn’t have a single eye-popping workout result. Compared to the freak, his body has a sign that reads “no outlet.” But this maxed-out athlete is a football player’s football player.

I’m telling you this because I originally researched this article to write about Bud Dupree’s massive potential as a destructive force on the edge. What I found is that I couldn’t take my eyes off Za’Darius Smith.

The NFL will want Dupree for what he could do. It will want Smith for what he can do.

Read the rest at Football Outsiders

4 responses to “Futures: Kentucky Edge Men Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith”

  1. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first highlight you showed in the Dupree section came from one of the few times he had his hand in the dirt…watching a few of his games, it seems like UK committed a criminal offense by standing him up most of the time. When he rushed from a 3 point stance he looked so much more explosive off the snap and was more likely to keep his pad level low–so much of the time as a standing rusher he would dance around trying to figure out how to go about the rush or just get stoned by his blocker because he’s standing upright with no leverage.

    Why are you pegging him as an OLB and Smith as a DE when Dupree has the same prototypical size for a 4-3 DE and has looked great rushing with his hand in the dirt? I have a feeling like Dupree would have a whole lot more impressive tape if he hadn’t been misused as an OLB so much. Thoughts?

    • Absolutely agree that Dupree could be a 4-3 end, but he has the speed to be a OLB, which is worth noting. Thanks for representing the “Bud Dupree for 4-3 DE” Union of football fans. I’m a card-carrying member of the 4-3 defenders union if you must know 😉

      • There seem to be a lot of options for the Giants at 9, I just hope Reese doesn’t overly devalue Dupree in the running because of his arm length…Reese often seems to have pretty strict size requirements for different positions, although short arms didn’t stop him from taking Pugh so maybe these aren’t hard and fast rules…do you think that should be any kind of consideration?

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