If you haven’t heard the incredible story of Shaquem Griffin then you need to. He is one of the greatest stories to be headed to the NFL in a very long time.
At a young age, he had to have his left hand amputated at a very young age due to complications in the womb. He overcame that obstacle time and time again. Last season, he was a huge part of UCF’s undefeated season, and he was one of the most valuable players to their victory over Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
Now with his time in college over, he has a new hurdle to jump, the NFL. The first step to that for him was the Senior Bowl, and according to several members of the Bengals organization, he did an incredible job.
“It didn’t hinder his play whatsoever,” said Haslett. “I couldn’t tell. The most impressive thing to me yesterday was he was getting off blocks, how he used his arms and body to get off blocks. You can tell he’s a fighter. He was fighting to get off blocks. He did a nice job. He was right there playing the SAM (linebacker) right on the line of scrimmage.”
It feels like whenever you hear a coach or player talk about Griffin, the first thing they say is something along the lines of not being able to tell he is missing a hand. Then they go on to talk about how great of a player he is, and how he does all these things well.
In this case with Haslett, it was playing at the line of scrimmage effectively. It goes against every rational thought in your head to imagine someone with one hand being able to play that close to the hogs up front and be successful. That is exactly what Griffin did at UCF though.
Griffin moved to outside linebacker when UCF switched to a 3-4 defense, and he took to it like a fish to water. He was a versatile linebacker who could rush the passer as well as drop back. Something you don’t often see from young players who are usually great at one and not the other. Still Griffin thrived on being able to do both.
“If you’ve got the O-line guessing about what you’re going to do, that means you’ve won before you started,” Griffin told Hobson.
This still begs the question of where Griffin would fit on the Bengals defense if he were to be drafted by the team. He is 6’ and 220 pounds, which is fairly small for a linebacker in the 4-3. Even Carl Lawson is listed as 6’2 and 260 pounds.
Of course the Bengals need to upgrade their nickel linebacker situation as their linebackers constantly get picked on in the passing game. He even adds the threat of rushing the passer in that situation, which adds to the versatility that the Bengals new offensive coordinator Teryl Austin is looking for. It is hard to imagine being a little undersized is something Griffin will have any trouble with. He has peaked Duke Tobin’s interest though.
“The guy is a tremendous competitor and excellent athlete,” Tobin told the Bengals official site. “Obviously he’s a tough guy. It’s going to be interesting to see where he’d be able to play.”
It is hard to judge where exactly Griffin will fall in the draft. If it were based purely on his talent, he would be an easy second day pick, but being undersized and only having one hand could push him into being a third day pick. He could possibly be the next fourth-round steal for the Bengals if he makes it there. The list includes players like Geno Atkins, Andrew Billings and Lawson.
Maybe adding Griffin to that list could be just what this defense needs.