Porter Gustin, OLB, Jr.
School: Southern California | Conference: PAC 12
Experience: Senior | Age: 21 (will turn 22 in February)
Height / Weight: 6-5 / 262 lbs
Projected Draft Status: Round 4
NFL Comparison: Carl Lawson
Gustin was one of the top linebacker recruits in the nation and one of the top overall prospects in the state of Utah, a four-star U.S. Army All-American before committing to Southern Cal.
As a sophomore, in 2016, Gustin led the Trojans in tackles for loss (13) and was second in tackles (68). Going into the 2017 season, Gustin looked like a potential day two selection. There was even some first round buzz early in his career, with comps to guys like TJ Watt and Clay Matthews.
Unfortunately, Gustin suffered a laundry list of injuries over the next thirteen months. First, Gustin spent most of the 2017 season sidelined because of toe and biceps injuries, appearing in just four total games in 2017. He tried playing through a fractured right big toe sustained in the Trojans second game before later tearing his right bicep. Next, Gustin had surgery for a torn meniscus just before the 2018 season. Finally, Gustin suffered a fractured ankle late in USC’s sixth game of the year, missing the Trojans’ final six games of the 2018 season.
Before his latest injury, Gustin was rated as the fifth-best senior outside linebacker available for the 2019 draft, according to NFLDraftScout.com.
For more about Gustin’s back-story, read this NFL Draft Diamond’s piece.
A few quotes from Draft Diamonds’ interview:
In the end this injury only increased my passion and appreciation for the game of football.
My hate towards losing is stronger than my love for winning.
(I’m) not going to say anyone (in the NFL) is overrated when I have yet to play a snap in the NFL.
I often worry about the culture and mindset of my current team and the team I will become a part of in the NFL. Too often I see coaches fail to eliminate players that are cancerous to the culture/success of a team due to their elite individual talent. These players are very difficult to motivate and are rarely willing to change their mindset.
Feldman explains -”If this list was based on dedication to the weight room and building one’s body, Gustin probably would rank No. 1. Trojans strength coach Ivan Lewis explains “Gustin wakes up every day at 3:30 A.M. just so he can guzzle down a protein shake before going back to sleep for a few more winks. He is known to get into the Trojans athletic facility as early as 5 A.M. He absolutely loves the weight room. It’s his sanctuary,” Lewis said.”
At 6-foot-5, 262 pounds, Gustin reportedly can squat 575 pounds, bench press 475, and rip off 35 bench-press reps at 225 pounds. USC has clocked him at a 4.6 40-yard dash. He jumped 36.5 earlier this off-season.
"I don't know if I've ever seen a guy with more work ethic than Porter Gustin."— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) August 28, 2018
-- @USC_Athletics head coach Clay Helton on his star LB.
Watch #TheDrive Season Preview: https://t.co/ZhZuI5ezsa pic.twitter.com/hj02bQBGoR
Gustin already learning about NFL rules protecting the quarterback:
Me thinks this was a silly flag pic.twitter.com/mE1nseWHCj— USCFootball.com (@ThePeristyle) September 10, 2017
Half man, half animal...
As a junior in high school, Gustin somehow managed 16 tackles while playing with a cast on both arms, because he “didn’t want to let the team down”.
- Productive and effective at getting to the quarterback, with advanced pass-rush moves
- Violent on the field, tight roping the edge of being dirty
- High FBI (football intelligence)
- Unmatched discipline, toughness, and work ethic
- Suffered season-ending injuries each of his final two seasons
- A somewhat a muscle-bound athlete, with tight hips
- Is better going forward, and would be a liability in coverage
- Lined up exclusively as a stand-up outside linebacker in USC’s scheme
- Despite impressive workout numbers, he has some athletic limitations, and is not “twitchy”, flexible, edge-bending pass rusher
What Others Are Saying
ProFootball Focus - “Gustin’s tenure at USC concludes with a sinking feeling of what could have been. He entered the program in 2015 as a four-star recruit out of the state of Utah and made an immediate impact as a true freshman, racking up 25 total pressures (most among Pac-12 freshmen). He built upon this success in his sophomore season, playing a career-high 827 defensive snaps while piling up 44 total pressures (third in the Pac-12).
In the first three games of 2017, he had 15 tackles and three sacks. At the time of his 2018 injury, Gustin was leading the Pac-12 with 26 total pressures.”
In a summary of Episodes 115 and 116, Fennell explains.
”This guy is the definition of a methodical pass rusher. When we talk about having a pass rush plan, he always has a plan, very deliberate with his hands. You see spin moves, two-handed swipes, inside rips, a variety of counter moves. Loves that long-arm move, loves that initial stab, shooting his hands into the chest of tackles.
Will run plays down from the backside. You can never let up on this guy. If his move gets stuck, he has a counter move. He’s a fighter. He’s a scrapper. Borderline kind of dirty. Has a bunch of tricks and tools getting after the passer.
He’s got some athletic limitations. He can’t beat anybody with pure strength, he can’t beat anybody with pure athleticism. I’m not sure what his ceiling is going to be. He’s going to love and embrace his special teams role.”
How He Would Fit On The Redskins
Washington actually finished seventh in the NFL with 46 sacks in 2018. After a slow start, Ryan Kerrigan once again came through with 13 sacks, but Preston Smith (pending free agent) and Ryan Anderson combined for just 6 take-downs. It feels like it’s not a matter of IF, but how high will the Redskins pick a pass-rusher in the 2019 NFL Draft.
It is hard to ignore Gustin’s production (21.5 sacks, including 14 sacks in his last 14 games), advanced pass-rush moves, and well-built physique. However, he has now battled injuries for two consecutive seasons, and there are questions about both his versatility, and potentially limited ceiling.
You have to admire such a “self-made” athlete, but it sounds like Gustin is not exactly a “natural” athlete.
Factoring in presumed athletic traits, injury history, and expected draft range, I came up with a comp of Carl Lawson, who slid into the fourth round due to medical concerns and some athletic shortcomings (3rd percentile arm length, 20th percentile 3-cone time).
Historically speaking, round four is your last realistic chance of finding a pass-rusher, it just won’t be a “bendy” edge rusher with a great athletic profile. In addition to Lawson, guys like Trey Flowers, Za’Darius Smith, Alex Okafor, Cassius Marsh and Deatrich Wise each were drafted in the fourth round.