There’s a great, athletic linebacker from Florida! Yawn. He’s 6’1”, weighs 239 pounds and blazed a 4.38 40 yard dash (the fastest time in this year’s linebacker group) and cranked out 20 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. Okay, I’m listening. He was the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year his junior year. Combining his junior and senior year stats, this guy racked up 18.5 sacks, 33.5 TFL’s, and 166 total tackles. Wow! Day one draft prospect? Nope. He’s missing his left hand.
We’re talking about Shaquem Grifin. Due to a complication from birth, he eventually lost his left hand at the age of 4. This didn’t stop Shaquem Griffin from becoming a football star at UCF. Recently Griffin burst onto the national sporting scene due to his outstanding NFL combine performance.
I’ll admit it, my first thought was: How does Griffin even bench press without a left hand? Take a look; it’s pretty nifty:
Shaquem is NFL strong and fast and built a great college resume but where does he land in the upcoming NFL draft without a left hand? My mind instantly thought of Jason Pierre-Paul, who has another interesting story: Jason lost a majority of his right hand during a 4th of July fireworks accident in 2015.
What are the differences between Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquem Griffin?
Physical limitations differ
As you can see, Jason retains a palm with three digits compared to Shaquems stub. This is significant for controlling offensive blockers at the line of scrimmage with your punch.
This will be a greater factor for shedding blocks in the run game. Often defensive schemes require you to maintain your gap, press your man, and shed the block to make the play. This would all prove very difficult without a hand. NFL teams probably fear that Griffin will get sucked into the fray, without the ability to escape.
Pass rushing is a different story. Evasion is the name of the game and with 18.5 sacks at UCF, Shaquem has proven himself to be a playmaker. A pass rusher can karate chop, rip, and swim their way by using mostly their forearm, avoiding contact. Using that 4.38 speed allows Griffin to fly by offensive tackles like they are in cement boots.
Play different positions
It may be difficult for Shaquem to engage offensive linemen but the good news is he’ll either be a linebacker or member of the secondary – avoiding scuffles with the hogs upfront. Working in space will allow for Griffin to utilize his speed, chase down plays and blitz off the edge.
Advantages for Shaquem Griffin
Shaquem has a twin brother named Shaquill who plays corner for the Seattle Seahawks. Shaquill was drafted in the third round of the 2017 draft and has made an instant impact, contributing 59 tackles, a pick and a sack.Embed from Getty Images
Shaquem is used to the stub
The concern from NFL scouts is going to be about production. When Pierre-Paul was forced to play in a cast due to his injury his production dropped off. In 2014, before the accident Jason posted 12.5 sacks! After the accident, he returned for 8 games in the 2015 season, grabbing only one quarterback for a loss.
The significant difference is Shaquem will have no learning curve; every football practice of his life has been without a left hand. Brushing his teeth, answering his cell phone and tackling require no adjustment – it’s life. Any notable player in a cast that you try to compare with Shaquem is adjusting and re-inventing their game. Griffin is just ballin’ out the only way he has ever known, one-handed.
Will Shaquem Griffin get drafted?
Jason Pierre-Paul eventually got his rhythm back and totaled 15 sacks for 2016 and 2017. This bump in output was a great opportunity for the Giants to trade Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers for the 2018 season. Acquiring Pierre-Paul cost the Buccaneers a 3rd round pick. Shaquem has a proven track record of pressuring the QB, along with the same genetics as his brother, Shaquill, who was drafted in the 3rd round. Unfortunately for Shaquem I do not see him going in the third round, but I don’t believe he will slip through the draft unselected. The elite speed, success of Shaquill Griffin, impressive college stat line and can-do attitude will entice an NFL team to secure Shaquem’s services in the sixth round.
The perfect fit for Shaquem Griffin
A front office is going to fall in love with Shaquem Griffin. A creative defensive coordinator is going to be as giddy as a kid on Christmas Eve, dreaming up ways to utilize Griffin’s diverse ability. At worst, an NFL team will land a special teams player with an enormous chip on their shoulder. I would love to see Shaquem turn into an NFL star. Nothing has stopped him so far.