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NFL Draft

Chris Rumph II: 2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview Series

  • The Draft Network
  • April 19, 2021
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You can never have too many dynamic pass rushers in today’s NFL, especially versatile ones who can get after opposing quarterbacks and set the edge against the run while lining up at every position across the front seven.

Chris Rumph II, out of Duke, checks all of those boxes.

Rumph is one of the most productive and complete EDGE defenders in the 2021 NFL Draft class. He spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his versatile ability, where NFL teams see him playing, and what kind of impact he’ll make at the next level.

JM: You capped off such an impressive career at Duke with your best year yet in 2020. How do you look back on your time there?

CR: I look back on my time at Duke as a period in my life that I’ll always cherish. I met a lot of great people. I made friendships that will last a lifetime. There are people I met at Duke that will be at my wedding someday. I loved the coaching staff.

We didn’t win as many games as we would have liked to in 2020. We still got to go out there and play football. A lot of schools and conferences didn’t have that luxury in 2020. You have to take the good with the bad. You said it. I had the best numbers of my career in 2020. The goal is to always get better. I always want to put up better numbers than I did a year ago. I was happy to accomplish that in 2020. I’ll never get complacent. I’m always looking to improve.

JM: There’s no denying that you got better every single year. Not only were the numbers better, but the tape was as well. What do you credit your steady improvement to?

CR: I have to give credit to the coaching staff. I put all of my trust in them. They were always honest in telling me what I needed to get better at. I have to give a ton of credit to my dad as well. We worked on a lot of things technique-wise. He was always working with me as a pass rusher throughout the quarantine period. He deserves a lot of credit for my improvement. I never got complacent. I wanna be the best. I wanted to lead the nation in sacks in 2020. At one point in the season, I was leading the country in sacks. My improvement is a testament to all of the things I just mentioned.

JM: You said it. You’re the son of a coach. You grew up around the game. Your father, Chris Rumph, was recently hired by the Chicago Bears. He’s had an incredible coaching career at the college ranks as well. What are some of your earliest football memories?

CR: Growing up with my dad being a college coach, I got to spend a lot of time at some of the best schools in the nation. I have memories of being at Clemson, Alabama, Texas, Florida, and so on.

As I look back on it, I always remember paying close attention to the players that were doing well at that level. A lot of those guys went on to become very successful NFL players. I watched how they carried themselves both on and off the field. I respected their work ethic. I saw that they treated people the right way. Being around greatness rubs off on you. I paid attention to the good and the bad, I learned from it and tried to apply myself.

JM: I love that. That’s the right way to approach it. Your dad is with the Bears now. We need pops to sneak you a picture of Chicago’s draft board. We need to know how they view you.

CR: You’re trying to get my dad fired before he even officially starts his new job! (laughs).

JM: Tell him to take one for the team (laughs). All kidding aside, I want to talk about the scheme that Duke ran on defense. What did your coaches ask of you? You played all over the place. It was very interesting to watch.

CR: After my redshirt year, the coaches came up with a package for me. They were trying to find a way to get me on the field. It’s a testament to how special our coaching staff is. They always tried to come up with a game plan that allowed them to use every single player on the roster.

I played as an off-ball linebacker. I played some defensive end. You’ve seen me in the trenches as a 3-technique or as a 1-technique at times. I did a little bit of everything. I played an unconventional role. I had some mismatches on the inside that allowed me to use my speed and agility to beat centers and guards. When I’m off the ball, I played some man-to-man on running backs. I was dropping in zones. The coaches had a full understanding of my athletic abilities. They used me to the best of their ability. They found some great ways to get me involved all over the field.

JM: They really did. What was your favorite part of it all?

CR: I just loved being versatile. Having that experience playing off-ball was precious. I loved playing in the trenches as well. It allowed me to use every ability I have. I’m very athletic. I can go sideline-to-sideline. I’m athletic enough to cover running backs in coverage.

The coaching staff put a lot of trust in me. They trusted me to a point where they gave me so many different hats to wear. I trusted myself to compete in every role I played. I played with a lot of confidence. I just wanna make plays at the end of the day.

JM: Where do you see yourself playing at the next level, and have you gained any input on that through your discussions with NFL teams?

CR: I see myself playing on the field at the next level (laughs). Whether I play with my hand in the dirt or as a SAM outside linebacker type, I see myself playing football. NFL teams are telling me that I’m versatile. They can use me in a lot of different ways. I trust my future team to find the best fit for me. I just wanna contribute at the end of the day. I wanna make a run at the Super Bowl in my rookie season.

JM: Your playing weight will play a role in all this. Duke had you listed at 235 pounds. Is that accurate? What did you play this past season at?

CR: I started the season at 235 like you mentioned. My weight dropped as the season went on. I was off-campus and I didn’t have access to the on-campus dining program. At a school like Duke, the academic demands are vigorous. I finished the season closer to 230. I’m 240 pounds right now. I’m down at EXOS in Pensacola, Florida. They’re doing a great job with me. They have me on a meal plan. I’ve been putting good weight on. It’s not sloppy. I’m 240 pounds and my muscle mass has increased tremendously. I’m 240 pounds of muscle right now.

JM: We love to hear that. When I turn the tape on, I see a player who understands how to use his hands. The placement and timing of your hands are excellent. I can tell that you grew up around the game. You have a high football IQ. How did you develop those aspects of your game?

CR: I think I still have a lot of room to grow. My hands and overall technique can be a lot better than they are. I have some God-given ability. Playing defensive line and rushing the passer runs in my family. My dad did it when he was in college. My cousin Phillip Merling was the 32nd-overall selection by the Dolphins back in 2008. He also played the DE position.

I have another cousin that was on Hard Knocks with the Atlanta Falcons a few years back. He’s still playing football today. It runs in the family. It’s in my blood. We have a natural knack for it. In order for me to achieve my goals and play at a high level, I have to continue perfecting my craft. I need to hone in on my skills. I have to find my place in this league.

JM: Those are some terrific points. What can you tell me about your pass rush arsenal?

CR: Pass rushing is an art. A lot of the successful rushers don’t have 15 different moves. They have one or two really good moves and a counter move. Knowing my own athletic traits, I have long arms and speed. I love to flash that long arm and work with that. Whether that’s a power-long arm or a stab-club-rip to work my outside speed, I love that. I might hit them with a ghost rush sometimes. I can use my athletic ability to bend around the edge. It’s important to know what you do best while honing that craft and perfecting it. That’s the way to approach your pass rush arsenal.

JM: That’s a great answer. You haven’t run through any drills in a combine-like setting yet. They’re not doing that down there at EXOS Pensacola. When is your Pro Day, and do you plan on being a full participant?

CR: That’s correct, we haven’t done anything to receive any official times yet. My Pro Day is March 29 and I plan on being a full participant.

JM: We can’t wait to see what sort of numbers you put up. You’ve been meeting with teams virtually over the past couple of weeks. How’s that process going for you so far?

CR: I’ve met with a lot of teams so far. I have to keep the list private at this time. Meeting virtually takes a little getting used to, but we’ve been doing things virtually for a year and a half now. I did a lot of that in college. I’m used to it. It’s familiar to me. I’m comfortable in a meeting-like situation. I have good Zoom etiquette (laughs). 

JM: There’s a lot of interest in you and it’s easy to see why. One of the bigger question marks surrounding your game, and we’ve touched on this a little, but people may wonder about your ability to add weight in order to become an every-down player without sacrificing your dynamic quickness and flexibility. Have teams had those discussions with you? How do you respond if they do?

CR: I realize it. I know that’s a question people have about me. With me now being out of college, academics was a huge part of my everyday life at Duke. I was in class via Zoom, I was working hard in school. Football is my job now. I’m ready to become a professional football player. I’ll have a nutritionist and a cook if I need one. I don’t think weight is going to be a problem for me at the next level. I’m 100% focused on football now and I can be that way year-round.

JM: That’s a great way to handle that question. We’ve talked about your pass rush arsenal, but you’re an excellent run defender as well. You’re a quick, clean processor in the run game. What do you attribute that to?

CR: I’m a football player at the end of the day. I don’t play slow. I’m confident in my abilities. You have to play fast. You gotta take a shot every once in a while. I know I can make plays. I have long arms and a great lower body. My lower body strength holds up against guards and tackles. Offensive linemen are big guys. I don’t wanna mess around with those guys. I wanna get my work done quickly. I wanna disengage from those guys and make a play (laughs).

JM: That’s the perfect way for us to call an end to this conversation. I’ve really appreciated your time today. You’ve allowed me to show our readers why you’re one of the best defensive players in this draft class. In closing, what kind of impact is Chris Rumph II going to make at the next level?

CR: I’m gonna make a Super Bowl impact. Let’s go win a championship.

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