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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: LB Rayshard Ashby

  • The Draft Network
  • January 31, 2021
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Rayshard Ashby was a three-year starter at Virginia Tech and a tackling machine. He’s a physical, aggressive, and urgent defender that was voted a team captain for the 2020 season. Unfortunately, the limitations with Ashby when projecting him to the next level are notable. He severely lacks height and length, which are problematic when it comes to taking on blocks, clearing contact, tackling, and defending the run. His lack of size also makes him a liability in coverage, especially when considering his modest overall play speed. In addition, he’s not a consistent processor in terms of play diagnosing skills and having timely responses to his keys. Those restrictions make it challenging to forecast him to the NFL where matchup advantages are exploited. His best chance is to become an elite special teams player and hone in on his downhill thumping ability against the run. Ashby made regular plays behind the line of scrimmage but it was often because of effort and scheme that created those opportunities. Ashby has an uphill climb to carve out a role in the NFL.

Ideal Role: Developmental inside linebacker, special teams contributor.

Scheme Fit: 3-4.


Written by: Joe Marino 

Games watched: North Carolina (2020), Clemson (2020), Pittsburgh (2020), NC State (2020) 

Best Game Studied: Clemson (2020) 

Worst Game Studied: North Carolina (2020) 

Tackling: Despite a limited tackle radius, Ashby was a pretty consistent tackler in college. He has a low center of gravity and he packs quite the punch when he’s able to get squared up. He does have some issues sliding down tackles.

Football IQ: From a processing standpoint, Ashby has a better feel for zone coverage drops than playing downhill against the run, which is unique given his physical traits. His best moments against the run and the reason he was so effective making plays behind the line of scrimmage stem from his frequent gap-shooting responsibilities. Ashby had his share of struggles when asked to read and react and play downhill. 

Competitive Toughness: Ashby plays the game with a chip on his shoulder. He’s far shorter than a typical NFL or ACC linebacker and that fuels him. He’s always willing to be physical and generally gives good effort in pursuit. 

Pass Coverage Ability: Ashby does well to stay leveraged in zone coverage in shallow drops. He is not a candidate for regular assignments in man coverage, where his lack of height and length can be quite problematic. I would like to see him make quicker adjustments in zone drops and be less willing to cover grass and adjust on the fly. 

Run Defending: Ashby’s best moments against the run come when he’s able to shoot a gap with a singular responsibility. His play diagnosing and reactionary skills are below average. Asby does have a low center of gravity which makes him quite stout when taking on contact, and he does a good job of navigating through congested areas to hunt the football. 

Block Deconstruction: Ashby does not have the length needed to consistently stack and shed. With that said, he has built-in leverage and a low center of gravity which helps him remain stout against blocks. However, he has to work overtime to clear contact.

Lateral Mobility: Ashby’s compact frame leads to swift mobility, but he isn’t explosive. He can flow toward the sideline, but he’s more smooth than he is bursty. His lack of length decreases his margin for error with angles when working laterally. 

Flexibility: Ashby looks like a bowling ball on the football field so it’s hard to identify segmentation or elongation when changing directions. While his movements don’t appear restricted, it is clear that he’s not overly explosive. Ashby does a good job weaving through congested areas in pursuit. 

Leadership: Ashby’s teammates voted him as a team captain in 2020, which turned out to be his least effective season as a Hokie. When watching Ashby on tape, he appears to be in command of the unit and helps get the defense aligned. He enters the NFL after three seasons starting at Virginia Tech. 

Versatility: Regardless of the role, Ashby has limitations. For a short, stocky linebacker, I expected him to be a better between the tackles run defender than what the film revealed. His ability to produce big plays was reliant on scheme and effort. His course at the next level comes on special teams and development as a two-down thumper in a 3-4 front. 

Prospect Comparison: Connor Harris (2017 NFL Draft, UDFA) 


TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Joe Marino: 63/100

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