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Elite Pass Rusher Noah Spence Could Fall To Round 2


It's happened many times before.

Red flags have caused elite talent to tumble down the draft board until a team takes a chance. The results have gone both ways. Teams have been both rewarded and punished for their gambles.

Some of those players include Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, and for an example closer to home, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith.

Elite edge rusher Noah Spence is one of the latest draft prospects to carry the "red flag" label, but his impending NFL history has yet to be written. What will his future hold?

Spence is considered top-15 talent, but may not be picked until the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft after being banned by the Big 10 for failing two tests for the drug Ecstasy. After initially lying about it, Spence owned up to his mistakes and transferred from Ohio State to small-school Eastern Kentucky in 2014.

Spence dominated in the Ohio Valley Conference last season, racking up 22.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.  He also didn't fail any drug tests while there. Once he was back competing with the nation's best at the Senior Bowl, he wowed media and scouts.

The wild-card prospect declined to say where he thinks he could be drafted, leaving that decision up to scouts, but wanted to make an impression in two areas where he still has control. He wanted to show that his past is completely in the past, and he can still play at a high level.

"It felt good," Spence said about Senior Bowl practices. "It's been a blessing to come out here, compete and be able to showcase my talents against more of the talented people in college. … [I want to prove] I can beat the best. I can compete with them and compete at a high level."  

He made it hard for teams to pass on him. 

Spence dominated in practice, easily standing out as the best edge rusher in Mobile. In Saturday's game, Spence recorded two tackles and a sack in very limited time as coaches have to cycle in several players.

Spence said it wasn't hard transitioning back from a small school to a bigger stage with better talent.

"Being at Ohio State before, I still know what it feels like to be at the top," Spence said.

He spoke with several NFL teams at the Senior Bowl, including the Ravens, and he knew exactly what to tell them when they asked about his history.

"I just tell them the truth," Spence said. "You can't make up any stories. You can't lie about it. It feels better just to tell them the truth, and let them know everything, and then get past it, and start talking about football again."

He said that approach has worked well, and the reaction from investigating teams and has been "great."

One of Spence's low points was watching his Ohio State teammates winning the National Championship without him during the 2014 season. He has used that to motivate him to stay on the straight and narrow.

"I've grown up a lot," Spence said. "I've matured like no other, and it's been a good experience just going through all this, feeling now what it feels like to be at the bottom, and then having to work my way back up."

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