If UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin had completed even 10 reps on the bench press at the NFL Draft Combine, that would have been damn impressive. Griffin had his left hand amputated as a young boy after being born with a condition called Amniotic Band Syndrome, leaving him to bench press using a prosthetic hand Saturday.
But Griffin did not stop at 10 reps or even 15. He muscled out 20 reps, 16th most among participating linebackers at the Combine, demonstrating once again that he’s not merely some feel-good novelty. He’s a legitimate NFL prospect.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 3, 2018
Griffin’s twenty reps, for context, were more than projected early-round linebackers such as Darius Leonard and Josey Jewell put up and six more than possible first-round offensive lineman Orlando Brown. Twenty bench reps is a very, very solid number for a linebacker, especially one with Griffin’s athleticism.
Amid all the talk about Griffin’s missing hand, it’s easy to ignore that the dude has a pretty awesome resume. Over his final two seasons at UCF, the linebacker racked up 166 tackles, 18.5 sacks and two interceptions, winning AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors as a junior and captaining an undefeated Knights team as a senior.
As NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein put it in his scouting report on Griffin:
Possesses good athletic ability. Smart player who processes the game plan and executes. Attacks face-up blockers with maximum arm extension to keep his frame clean. Carries some upper body power at the punch. Asks for no quarter and gives none. Looks to punish as hitter. Impressive total of 13 passes defensed on 42 targets. Instinctive with the talent to play 3-4 inside backer and 4-3 outside backer spots. Has intriguing burst when edge rushing. Accelerates quickly off the snap and can outrace some tackles to the edge. Posted 18.5 sacks over two years as an outside rusher and blitzer. Plays fast uses good technique.
Griffin has been projected as a late-round pick in April’s NFL Draft, in part out of concern that his lack of a left hand will prevent him from disengaging with blocks, but 20 reps on the bench should open some eyes. He’s going to hear his name called next month, and it won’t be out of sympathy or novelty. It will be because he can ball.