John Cominsky is a small-school player with big-time upside for the Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons had seven picks in this year’s NFL Draft, yet perhaps none is as intriguing as fourth-round pick John Cominsky.

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A former option quarterback in high school, Cominsky weighed just 218 pounds when he enrolled at the University of Charleston, a Division II school located in West Virginia. Over the next five seasons, Cominsky put on nearly 70 pounds and continued to improve as a defensive end, finishing his senior season with 67 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and being named Mountain East Defensive Player of the Year.

Before getting to the strengths Cominsky brings to the table, it’s worth noting some of the faults in his game, which seem like things that can be strengthened with quality NFL coaching. Cominsky’s primary shortcomings seem to be his technical proficiency as a pass rusher, which are entirely understandable given the short time he’s played the position.

Outside of the technical parts of the game – hand usage, leverage and angles – Cominsky has a lot to offer and a lot of room to still grow.

For starters, Cominsky has tremendous size and athleticism at the position. At 6-foot-5 and 286 pounds, Cominsky ran a 4.69-second 40-yard dash – second among all players at the combine classified as “DL” – and had a 33.5-inch vertical jump, the same vertical as second-overall pick Nick Bosa.

Cominsky was also praised for his intelligence and work ethic in college, and the Falcons like the versatility and toughness he brings to the position.

Right off the bat, Cominsky should add something to the Falcons’ run defense. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Falcons slowly work Cominsky into the rotation on the edge in base packages and move him inside in nickel packages. Cominsky was most effective as a run defender in college, as evidenced by his 48.5 tackles for a loss.

His size and strength are obvious assets in this aspect of his game, and they are the tools he most often puts to use as a pass rusher. Without many refined pass-rush moves, Cominsky often looked to overpower his opponent.

At the Senior Bowl, we got our best glimpse of how Cominsky can play against top-level competition. In that game, he sought to put his bull rush to use and did have some success collapsing the pocket off the edge even if he never got home.

Cominsky was also moved inside while playing in the Senior Bowl, and he was marginally more effective as a pass rusher from the interior. As he continues to refine his counter moves, Cominsky will at least keep opponents preoccupied with his power and has the wherewithal to get his hands up if he doesn’t reach the quarterback.

But what is exciting about Cominsky is that he isn’t just a pure power player, or at least he has the skills to become more than that. He provided glimpses of his athleticism and flexibility while rushing the passer, which were especially prevalent when playing from the inside.

Coming from a smaller school, it’s difficult to predict how Cominsky will transition to the NFL. But given the progress he made during the time at Charleston, it’s very tantalizing to imagine the leaps he can make once Dan Quinn gets to work with him. It may take some time for Cominsky to put it all together, but that should be a journey very much worth watching.

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