Past drafts are littered with players like former Green Bay Packer defensive tackle Justin Harrell. A slightly undersized and injury prone defensive lineman, the Packers drafted him in the first round in the 2007 draft. Harrell unquestionably had a good deal of talent, but he only played in two games his senior year, raising some serious red flags.
In his four years in the NFL Harrell was only healthy enough to play in 14 games and is now out of the league.
When Jared Crick decided to stay at Nebraska for his senior year, it wasn’t a huge surprise. Crick, who had played next to Ndamukong Suh in 2009, wanted to prove he could anchor the defensive line on his own. Additionally, Crick grew up a Cornhusker fan, and one last shot a suiting up for Nebraska was impossible to turn down.
However, 2011 proved to be a brutally difficult season for Crick, and he was eventually sidelined in October with a torn pectoral muscle for the remainder of the season.
Crick’s 2011 struggle to stay healthy has had some people worried about his potential in the NFL. Like Harrell, Crick is smaller than a typical defensive lineman and was only able to play a portion of his senior season. Crick has the potential to be a solid defensive end in the NFL, but does he also have the potential to be a disappointment like Harrell?
Without a doubt, the torn pectoral muscle is the hot topic surrounding Crick right now. After injuring it in October, he’s still not quite at 100% almost six months later. He was healthy enough to participate in most of the Combine, but he decided to wait until his March 8th pro-day to do the bench press.
Should the length of his recovery be a concern? For an injury such as Crick’s, a 4-6 month post surgery recovery time is actually the average, even though it may seem longer than one would expect. Although the results of Crick’s medical checks at the Combine are confidential, by all accounts his recovery has gone well. The concern now will be whether he has been able to regain his upper body strength and explosiveness. Fortunately, we’ll find that out on Thursday in his pro day workouts.
While his torn pectoral is the injury that dominated headlines in Nebraska and across the country, it’s not the only injury concern with Crick. He missed spring practices leading up to his senior season with a MCL sprain, and he wore a sleeve on his right elbow in 2010, indicating he may have been battling an arm injury.
The concern with Crick is twofold. He’s not really big enough to play defensive tackle, and he doesn’t have the type of burst you’d typically like to see out of a pass rushing defensive end. He’s a player that’s going to have to rely on using his hands and arms well in order to make plays. Because of that, it’s essential that he’s regained his explosiveness in his upper body. Otherwise, he’ll struggle to make an impact at the next level.
Secondly, as an undersized defensive lineman with an injury history, teams are certainly going to be concerned that he may be unable to stay healthy consistently. His difficult season is definitely a red flag, but its importance shouldn’t be over exaggerated. In Harrell’s case, he had difficulty staying healthy throughout his career. Crick, on the other hand, started 28 straight games in 2009-10 before his injury plagued senior year.
Crick was considered one of the top defensive line prospects for the 2012 draft heading into his senior season. He may not be a first round quality prospect at this stage of the process, but don’t blame that on his injuries. In spite of his injury history and his size, he’s still likely to be a safe late 2nd – 3rd round draft pick in April.