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Adolphus Washington has a chance to become the NFL's next great interior pass rusher

Adolphus Washington's got the production and the athleticism. Now he just needs a chance.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Welcome to Part 8 of our look at Ohio State's 2016 NFL Draft prospects. All of our previous Buckeyes' breakdowns can be found here.

For athletes, there almost always comes a time where they must face a difficult decision: do I quit my secondary sport to focus all of my energy on the sport I am best at? The tricky part about this question is that both options seem to present a fairly compelling argument. Sticking with basketball or baseball as a secondary sport provides competition that off-season workouts simply cannot match, while focusing purely on football for an entire off-season can provide much needed attention to detail on a skill or extra work in the weight room.

Maybe this question is indeed tricky for some of the lesser schools or athletes in America, but for Urban Meyer and Ohio State, there really only appears to be one "right" answer to this question:

Of all the multi-sport Buckeyes to play at Ohio State under Urban Meyer, Adolphus Washington may be the best. A five-star defensive tackle recruit out of Cincinnati, Ohio, Washington was recruited under the Tressel/Fickell regime, but any coach in their right mind would have been okay with taking the 6'4 290 lb beast who was also athletic enough to win Ohio's prestigious Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year award.

Washington was an instant impact player for the Buckeyes, as despite only recording five tackles as a true freshman, three went for sacks. The fast start to Washington's career as a Buckeye made Meyer's initial 12-0 2012 season that much sweeter, but come 2013, it was time for Washington to be unleashed.

From 2013-2015 Washington was a staple on the Buckeyes' defensive line. But, with a player as athletic and big as Washington, he could effortlessly play either of the interior defensive line positions for the Buckeyes. With a star studded supporting cast that included two future first round picks in Noah Spence and Joey Bosa, along with current Jacksonville Jaguar Michael Bennett, Washington slid in as the nose guard of the group, often tasked with eating a double team from the one technique position, located between the center and guard.

By Washington taking his athleticism inside, opponents essentially had to pick their poison against the Buckeyes defensive line. Most college defensive lines are lucky to have one NFL prospect. This line had four.

From 2013-2014 Washington posted 14.5 TFLs and 6.5 sacks from the interior of the defensive line. His play in the 2014 playoffs was exceptional, as Washington was firm enough against the run to force Alabama to take their chances through the air (or whatever Lane Kiffin's reason was), and Washington even tacked on a sack against 2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariotta in the National Championship.

As an encore, Washington switched positions to the three technique of the Ohio State defensive line for the 2015 season. With Bennett graduating, this new role allowed Washington to line up between the guard and tackle of the offensive line, providing new opportunities for Washington to pass rush and penetrate the backfield. My personal favorite Washington moment was when he made Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer hilariously eat his own words during the Buckeyes' trip to Blacksburg.

While a solicitation charge led to a undesirable ending at Ohio State, Washington's senior season was nothing to be ashamed of. A first team All-American by Sporting News, Washington regularly made plays in the opponent's backfield, and by all accounts would have set statistical highs across the board if he would have played in more than 11 games.

Adolphus Stats

Washington's combination of production and athletic upside have made him an intriguing prospect for any NFL team. But what specifically makes Washington so good? Let's take a look.

Strengths: athleticism, pass rush ability

While this phrase can often be misinterpreted as calling a player "soft", Washington's pass rush game leads most to label him as a "finesse rusher". The opposite of Washington would be called a "power rusher" and this more or less means that Washington is less likely to bull rush his way to the quarterback. Instead, Washington relies on an array of pass rush moves including a b-e-a-u-tiful spin that we are going to break down now.

AW 1

Ohio State is facing a Penn State offense that not only lacks ideal offensive linemen to protect their quarterback, Christian Hackenberg, but has also been forced into playing from behind and is thus likely to pass. Washington (remember that versatility nugget from earlier?) is lined up in his old home, the one technique. This is because the Buckeyes are in their famed "rushmen" package, which put Ohio State's four best pass rushers (Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Bosa and Washington) all on the field at the same time.

AW 2

Like most teams, the Nittany Lions chose to double team Bosa and take their chances with single blocks on the rest of the defensive line. Washington does a great job of getting his arms extended from the start, giving him control of the offensive lineman. Offensive lineman love to hold, and if they are able to get their hands inside of the defensive lineman and gain control themselves, the hold will almost never be called because it is simply too hard to identify in the mosh pit that is a college football line of scrimmage. By Washington winning the initial control battle, this puts him in a great position to work a pass rush move.

AW 3

In this case, Washington turns to his spin move that leaves the Penn State guard off balance and ultimately completely removed from Washington. Thanks to Lewis' pressure off the edge, Hackenberg was forced to step up into the pocket in an attempt to buy some more time.

AW 4

Washington was right there to meet Hackenberg, and Washington managed to not only sack the battered quarterback, but also strip the ball as well and effectively end the game for the Buckeyes. Sometimes in college football the less technically sound defensive linemen rely solely on power and speed to get to the quarterback. Washington's athleticism and array of pass rush moves gives him a maturity and edge at the position that most do not possess.

Weaknesses: pad level, off the field issues

As mentioned before, Washington doesn't have a great physical game to compliment his finesse side, and a lot of that has to do with his normally high pad level. "The low man wins" is an often used phrase in football, but it's often used because it's true. Washington is big and strong enough that he managed to get away with his pad level a fair amount in college, but as an interior lineman in the NFL, he'll get pushed around if Washington doesn't devote himself to improving this part of his game.

And then there's the whole soliciting charges thing. Suspended for the BattleFrog (RIP) Fiesta Bowl, Washington will inevitably face a bunch of questions from any NFL team interviewing him about this whole fiasco. Whether this ultimately effects his draft position or not is still to be determined.

Best Case NFL Comparison: Tyrone Crawford

The Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle is a name that may not be known at a national level, but opponents regularly need to account for this disruptive cog in the Cowboys' defensive line. At 6'4, 282 lbs, Crawford is a slightly skinnier version of Washington, and with eight sacks in his last two seasons working as the Cowboys' three technique, Crawford represents the type of interior pass rushing force that Washington hopes to become at the next level.

Worst Case NFL Comparison: Michael Bennett (draft wise)

The Ohio State alumni hasn't played enough in the NFL for myself to make an on the field analysis, which is why this comparison is only concerning the potential similarities in Bennett and Washington's draft fall. There was a time before the 2015 season started that Washington was widely considered a first round pick. Washington's play didn't necessarily do anything to curve those talks back, but the before mentioned solicitation incident, combined with an underwhelming NFL combine, could potentially lead to Washington falling in a very deep defensive lineman draft.

Bennett was thought to be a pick who could fall anywhere from round one to round three, and he ended up falling all the way to round six. I don't expect Washington to make it past the third round in the draft, but again, the worst case scenario for Washington is taking a Bennett-esque fall in the draft that could lead to Washington being a bit of a bargain for teams later in the draft.

NFL Projection: Round 2-3

While we just discussed the scenario that could have Washington fall further down into the draft, I find it hard to believe that Washington will make it out of the third round. The NFL (as the Broncos just demonstrated) is becoming reliant on great pass rushers who have the ability to thwart high octane passing offenses, and Washington has too much upside as a potentially great NFL pass rusher to fall too far in the draft.

Most "Adolphus Washington" Play:

With all this talk about how athletic Washington is, how about a play that exhibits the type of ball skills and speed that we would expect from a former Ohio basketball player of the year winner? Thank you from Buckeyes nation for a great career, Adolphus.