NAME: Ricky Walker
SCHOOL: Virginia Tech
POSITION: Defensive Tackle
JERSEY: No. 8
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 304 lbs
Hand Technique/Length – Comes up way short on NFL baselines, this type of length is going to take him off many draft boards and is cause for legitimate concern. His hand counters are more effective than his ability to stack blocks, he has quick hands to swat away potential stabs.
Competitive Toughness – Motor is relentless, can appreciate his effort levels to stay engaged in the play and find his way back to the football. That said, his anchor ability isn’t great: he has success due to squatty frame but his actual functional strength is a legitimate worry.
Two Gap Ability – Undersized and while leverage is something he flashes in instances, he’s unable to reliably be tasked with sitting down and holding the LOS. Lacks the extension skills to shuck blocks and challenge the ball carrier in gaps when ball is ran off his hip.
Gap Penetration Skills – First step quickness and active hands have helped yield a lot of splash plays at the college level. Any future NFL success is going to be predicated around harnessing that initial quickness to shoot gaps and then look for his redirectional mobility to put him in pursuit of the play.
Tackling – Admirable production and finishing skills. Tackle radius is going to be very problematic at the NFL level, lack of explosive burst and lack of wingspan will pose as challenges as he tries to mirror or work off of blocks at the point of attack.
Flexibility – Walker does have some tilt to his gap penetration, allowing him to wrap around a blocker and accelerate in his pursuits to the football. Ankle mobility and flexion are not inspiring, however and he’ll struggle to explode over distance due to his short strides.
Pass Rush Counters – Walker’s active hands to provide him with the ability to create space for himself, he isn’t handcuffed in that regard. Yet his lack of extension forces him to operate in tight windows and therefore he’s often boxed in. Will be limited by bigger, stronger, longer OL in the NFL.
First Step Quickness – Has some pretty nimble feet. Short strides and high step frequency allow him to pitter-patter his way up to a pretty respectable level of momentum in little time, has some quickness to burst through a gap if aligned directly in between blockers.
Feet/Change Of Direction – Isn’t necessarily stiff, but he’s not dynamic. He lacks burst and spring when looking to flatten down the LOS and needs defenders to set the edge and slow the back if he’s going to be chasing plays down from the back-end.
Versatility – Lacking in the length to play as a two gap defender, Walker will have to make waves as a penetration defender. That said, his burst is only pedestrian and his lack of length will allow blockers to dictate reps at a high rate in the NFL.
BEST TRAIT – Competitive Toughness
WORST TRAIT – Length
BEST FILM – Duke (2018)
WORST FILM – Boston College (2018)
RED FLAGS – None
Ricky Walker is fun: his short area quickness and motor have afforded him an accomplished college career. But it is difficult to project a successful role for Walker in the pros. He comes up short in almost every baseline required for an interior defensive lineman physically and his style of play at the college level will have a much more difficult time succeeding in the pros. Walker’s best hope is to latch onto a team as a depth player.
The Hokies only return five defensive starters in 2018, but the leader of its defensive line is one them. Coming off a breakout junior season where he tallied 41 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, Walker is poised for a big senior year.
Offering a balanced skill set, Walker has upside as a playmaker as a run defender and pass rusher. He showcases an explosive first step, plays with low pads and does well to initiate contact to control reps. Walker plays with active hands and a variety of techniques to stack and disengage from blockers. He showcases numerous counters and executes his moves with sound timing.
While he’s not the biggest interior defensive lineman, Walker has good functional strength and is not easily moved out of his gap. He does well to control the line of scrimmage and maintain his run fits. He is also a dynamic gap-penetrator that offers considerable range.
Building off last years success could lead to Walker entering the conversation as a Day Two draft pick. He’s among the most talented and underrated prospects I studied this summer.