With the 118th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Chargers selected Chris Rumph II, an edge rusher from Duke University. Though undersized, Rumph is a talented edge rusher with high potential. Compared to the McKitty pick, Rumph can make an early impact, whether on special teams or as a rotational piece. Rumph had a productive career at Duke, earning 9.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss through his first two seasons. Considering he only had one start in those two seasons, that’s quite impressive. He finally got the starting gig in 2020, his redshirt junior year. In his sole season as a starter, he had 52 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He also earned second-team All-ACC honors in 2020, which is more impressive given his competition from Notre Dame, Clemson and Miami.
Even with impressive production, Rumph is still a somewhat raw prospect. Surprisingly, Rumph did not even play football until his sophomore year of high school. Luckily for him, the Chargers have a reputation of turning newer football players into all-time greats, like Antonio Gates. This is not to say that Rumph will be a Hall-of-Fame-level player, but the Chargers organization is certainly capable of nurturing their talent. This begs the question: can the Chargers turn Rumph into a star? What are his strengths and weaknesses? This is the Chris Rumph rookie profile.
- High-effort, high-intensity rusher. There’s an old mantra that goes, “you can’t teach heart.” Now that isn’t entirely true, but if there’s one thing Rumph has in spades, it is effort. When Rumph rushes around the edge, he rushes with what seems like deadly intent. Having such a high-effort rusher is a valuable commodity for teams, and if his size is increased and he continues to improve his technique, he can at least be a starter.
- Can slip the gap as well as rush the edge. Rumph’s slender frame is not entirely a negative. It allows him to “get skinny” and slip through the inside gap, which makes an offensive tackle’s job difficult. On top of that, his lateral speed allows him to get around the edge with surprising quickness, making the tackle’s job even harder.
- Great reaction time. Rumph is able to quickly gauge his surroundings and make optimal responses. Reaction time is one of the most coveted talents for edge rushers (and football players in general), so that will be very helpful in his development.
- Undersized. His lack of optimal size is the primary reason why Rumph wasn’t projected to be a day 1-2 pick. At 6-foot-3, 244 pounds, Rumph is slightly on the shorter side of defensive ends, but the average end has about 20-30 pounds on him. That lack of weight could be an issue for him when up against beefy tackles, who could just bully him. However, in a NFL training program, it shouldn’t be too difficult for him to gain weight for the professional level.
- Lack of a quick first step. As has been a theme in the previous rookie profiles, Rumph lacks elite burst speed. A lack of burst speed can be detrimental for edge rushers, who rely on winning at the start of the play. This has also led to some issues with penalties, as he sometimes mistimes snaps to make up for the lack of burst speed.
- Lack of finishing strength. Being undersized has brought some issues with strength for Rumph. Without the weight to back up his moves, it becomes more difficult for Rumph to power past tackles and finish sacks. Like before, this is hopefully something that can be remedied through a proper weight-gain program in an NFL training program.
Picking Chris Rumph with the 118th pick was about where he was expected to go. Rumph has clear talent, but his lack of size remains as a question mark as to whether he can succeed. The Chargers likely drafted him to be an eventual replacement to Melvin Ingram, who left in the 2021 free agency. Whether Rumph can eventually fill the hole left by the 3-time Pro Bowler remains to be seen. However, Rumph is certainly an intriguing prospect, and Chargers fans should be excited to see how his career plays out. He has the potential to be even better than Ingram was for the Chargers.