by Ryan Myers
Photo courtesy of The Athletic.
At Draft 412, the NFL draft talk never ends. We will keep you ready for the next set of gridiron stars—from today and all the way until draft night 2024. We will bring you mock drafts, player profiles, individual team needs, and everything else you may need related to the 2024 NFL Draft.
Today’s Spotlight - Wisconsin, Edge, Darian Varner
Name - Darian Varner
Pos - DL/EDGE
Team - Wisconsin
HT/WT - 6’3” 275 lbs.
Home – Norfolk, VA
Darian Varner is a defensive end out of Norfolk, VA. He played his high school football at Maury High School. In his junior season, he totaled 79 tackles, 20.0 TFLs and five forced fumbles. This earned him first-team all-conference honors. He had another successful season his senior year and earned a 3-star recruit rating from ESPN and 247sports while having a 2-star rating from Rivals.com. He decided to play at Temple, declining offers from East Carolina, Charlotte, and Coastal Carolina among others.
In his freshman year, Varner barely saw the field, so he redshirted. His sophomore year, he played in 12 games recording 22 tackles, including 7 TFL and 3 sacks. This earned him a starting role on the Owls' defense in 2022 when he played 10 games and tallied 35 tackles, 12.5 TFL, and 7.5 sacks. He finished second on the team in both TFL and sacks. This is where he gained the most national attention as he made a huge impact as part of the Temple defense.
Varner had his eye set on bigger things as he transferred to Wisconsin for this season as a redshirt Junior. So far this season, he has played in just 1 game and has 2 tackles. He aims to have a big year for the Badgers' defense off the edge and solidify his position as one of the top edge rushers in college football while showing his NFL readiness against Big 10 competition.
Varner’s game revolves around his size and his versatility. He has an NFL ready frame at 6’3” and 275 pounds and his versatility will be valuable at the NFL level, rushing from either edge and being the ability to be used in multiple schemes. He has powerful hands and bullish legs, playing with requisite leverage and balance for the position. He is rarely put on the ground by an offensive lineman and uses his hands well when fighting through their blocks. This makes him a force as both a pass rusher and run stopper. His an above average tackler, consistently wrapping up ball carriers and not letting them escape for extra yardage.
Some downsides to Varner’s game are his speed and coverage ability. Varner has below average speed and quickness which does not bode well for him in open field situations. He has good enough speed to chase down most QBs in the backfield, but once they escape the pocket, he tends to be left behind. His lack of speed hurts his coverage ability as he is average at best in zone coverage, and struggles mightily in man coverage. He fails to match the quickness and suddenness of the receivers and some tight ends who he matches up with in zone.
Pass Rush Versatility
Darian Varner’s size and tackling ability will aid him in climbing the draft boards and his ability to crash the pocket and rush the QB will be very valuable to whoever decides to draft him. If teams limit his exposure in pass coverage, he will be a more than adequate edge player in the pros.
Draft 412 Draft Prediction - 4th round or 5th round