Under The Radar: AJ Francis

Defensive Tackle/End - Maryland

AJ Francis came to my attention with a strong showing at the East/West Shrine game this year. Francis played DT that game but appears to be a natural five-technique at 6'5" and 321 pounds, which is pretty much the physical prototype for a defensive end in a 3-4. Checking around on draft websites, I was surprised to see only the gbnreport have him rated with a draftable ranking.

In his senior year, AJ Francis had 43 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 5 passes defensed, recovered 3 fumbles, and blocked 3 kicks. He has proven to be very durable, appearing in all 49 of the Terrapins' games in his four seasons there. He is not a guy that is going to push the pocket a lot, but he is the kind of defensive lineman that will chase across the field, keeping the line of scrimmage dirty for opposing runners. He does a great job of staying with the play and not being blocked out of it. He will hold the line of scrimmage. Francis also has the length to lock on with offensive tackles, a key trait necessary when lining up in the 5T. Here are some highlights from his senior year.

Francis wasn't as numerically productive as his teammate Joe Vellano, but he has a very specific skillset NFL teams that run the 3-4 look for. He maintains integrity at the line of scrimmage against the run, has the size to match up with NFL offensive tackles, and will hustle sideline to sideline. Big men that can run are a sought-after commodity in the league, and with the Browns, Saints, and Bills adding elements of the 3-4 to their defenses, and only the Cowboys switching back to a 4-3, players that can fill the five technique well should be in demand. Francis doesn't play strong enough to be a JJ Watt, but with his size and athleticism he can be a very valuable player at a difficult position to fill. He should be able to bat a lot of passes at the line, which can lead to turnovers. He graduated in December of 2011 and has interests in professional wrestling, tweeting, and recording music, and if playing in the NFL is what he wants to do I could see him getting drafted anywhere from the 5th to the early 7th.

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Published: Feb 17, 2013