Western Michigan EDGE defender Ali Fayad projects as a special teams contributor and a developmental hybrid linebacker at the NFL level. Fayad enjoyed a monster senior season with the Broncos in 2021, logging 12.0 sacks and 17.0 tackles for loss on his way to being named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year this past season. Fayad doesn’t have ideal NFL measurables to play on the edge and may be a player that is tried in a number of different roles, including SAM linebacker, in a bid to find a defensive role for him. And while Western Michigan implemented him as a full-time player and asked him to fill a number of defensive roles, I do think I like him best in a designated pass rush role in subpackages unless he’s able to acclimate to a role off the ball. This is a highly productive football player with a nose for splash plays; he leaves WMU with eight forced fumbles, 28.5 sacks, and 53 tackles for loss across his career. Fayad should warrant consideration late on day three in the same range as similarly built EDGE defenders in recent years such as Curtis Weaver, Daelin Hayes, and others.
Ideal role: Developmental hybrid SAM linebacker
Scheme tendencies: Subpackage speed rush scheme featuring a lot of twists, stunts, and games up front
Written by Kyle Crabbs
Games watched: Pittsburgh (2021), Michigan (2021), Nevada (2021)
Best Game Studied: Pittsburgh (2021)
Worst Game Studied: Michigan (2021)
First Step Explosiveness: On instances in which Fayad is asked to gear up and attack, you do see some pleasant burst off the edge and the ability to threaten with speed. By watering down what he’s asked to do, I think you may be able to get a better return here by encouraging him to drive and attack upfield. Fayad did show good acceleration to close on contain rushes (Pittsburgh), so I think his athleticism is a bit better than he consistently showed here.
Flexibility: He plays with a natural low center of gravity thanks to his build, but I didn’t necessarily see a lot of dynamic range of motion through his frame. He struggled to flash and react when faced with contain opportunities and appeared a bit stiff and rigid in these situations. He doesn’t consistently turn the corner at the top of the arc as an outside rusher.
Hand Counters: This is an area where I don’t think Fayad is ever going to consistently shine, namely because he surrendered a lot of length against both Power 5 teams he faced in 2021. His ability to win with hands is modest and as a result, I like him better in a schemed pressure front.
Length: Fayad was consistently outreached against both Pittsburgh and Michigan with hands set firmly on his chest and not a lot of secondary push after his chest was given up. Point of attack play was compromised as a result and I don’t foresee this barrier being eliminated if asked to play up front and stacking OL in the NFL.
Hand Power: He does have the ability to collapse some angles if he decides to convert to power and step inside. I’ve seen him reset tackle sets and afford himself the chance to dip inside if desired or, alternatively, run a shallow outside track. His ability in the run game is more compromised, however—tight ends have had some success in latching him and controlling through the rep.
Run Defending: I’d most like to see him in a gap penetration role and try to optimize his agility and initial quickness. He doesn’t measure as a player who will have success playing outside contain or stacking blocks in general. This is an area that requires a lot of projection and as a result, I’m steering clear of it for my initial vision for him as a player.
Effort (Motor): Consider me impressed. The urgency and flow he plays with is hard to ignore. I did think he appeared to run out of gas a bit against Pittsburgh amid a frantic comeback effort from the Panthers, so that’s something I’m watching closely.
Football IQ: Fayad has served as a long-time staple on defense for the Broncos and he’s shown to have a clear nose for the football. He’s made big plays often throughout his career, a skill that is difficult to ignore if looking to write him off as a prospect. His point of attack skill set needs fundamental work and the right stylistic fit, but he’s generally an instinctual player.
Lateral Mobility: His pursuit and range is fine unless you ask him to play hard angles without leverage. That creates some contain issues and I don’t think I can foresee him stringing plays to the perimeter when left unblocked versus zone read. He’s better when carrying momentum through short spaces to try to duck underneath blocks.
Versatility: Western Michigan used him as a player who attacked with various rushing roles, including serving as a quarterback spy, rushing with contain, or aggressively attacking. I’d like to think there’s some special teams ability here but he’s going to need to prove he’s got reactive athleticism in space in order to lock down such a role.
TDN (Adjusted) Consensus: 67.50/100 (Seventh Round Value)
Crabbs Grade: 68.00/100