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2014 Linebacker Rankings

May 4, 2014

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Linebackers

Prototype in the NFL: Navarro Bowman

Best In Class

Best Frame: Christian Jones                             Best Playmaking Skills: Kyle Van Noy

Best Run Stopper: CJ Mosley                          Best Motor: Jordan Zumwalt

Best Cover Skills: Ryan Shazier                     Best Pass Rusher: Ryan Shazier

Best Hitter: Jordan Zumwalt                            Best Instincts: Chris Borland

Best Collegiate Stats: Chris Borland              Best Open Field Tackler: Tevin Smith

 

1. Ryan Shazier Ohio State 6’1 237 Sr.

Stats: Big Ten

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013

144

7

23.5

4

0

0

2012

114

5

17

3

1

1

2011

56

3

4

1

0

0

Combine: He’s in the discussion for who had the best Combine performance, no matter the position. His vertical and broad were both 1st among the 35 LBs with his 3 cone being close to elite too. He didn’t run the 40 which is strange after watching him jump 42 inches in the vertical. Why wait?

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6010

237

32.38

10

 

25

42

1010

4.21

6.91

Strengths: 1st Team Big Ten in 2012 and 2013. Blue chip prospect out of HS. #81 on ESPN 150 for 2011. He had back to back +100 tackle seasons. He’s a prolific “splash” play guy with 15 sacks and 8 FF in his first 3 seasons. He’s by far the best athlete at LB in this year’s draft as his vertical and broad are some of the best numbers I’ve ever seen for a LB (best vertical by a LB in the past 5 Combines!) and his 3 cone was borderline elite (5th among 35 LBs). He’s a very chippy, dirty player who gets under the skin of opponents. He’s a wild man and plays with a  lot of emotion. In the 2012 Wisconsin game he leaped over the pile at the goal line hitting Montee Ball in the air and knocking him backwards on 4th and goal at the 1 yard line for the win. It was maybe the best play of the year by any linebacker. His speed and explosion are elite and just pop off the film.
Weaknesses:
At 237 lbs he’s not the biggest guy and the question immediately becomes where is his best fit. He struggles at the POA and can be engulfed by OL. He plays a little out of control at times with personal fouls, facemasks and missed tackles being all part of the “Shazier package.” He hasn’t had off the field issues but just looks like a bad dude and I wonder if he’ll have a few incidents. He was in Urban Meyer’s doghouse to begin the 2012 season as he admitted, “Ryan Shazier was very average as we started the season.” He dominated later that year but you prefer your elite prospects to never have stretches of mediocrity in their collegiate career. He doesn’t have great instincts and he uses poor angles at times-his speed can actually be a hindrance as he sometimes outruns plays.

Overall: Shazier is the best athlete in this year’s LB group and one of the 2-3 best athletes at linebacker over the past half decade. He isn’t a polished player though as his instincts are average and the angles he sometimes uses to attack a play are downright bad. Teams will need a plan when drafting Shazier as I don’t think he’d make a great MLB and only has 1 INT so his best fit wouldn’t be as a cover SLB. I think he’d be a perfect fit at WLB in a 4-3 but is it worth using such a premium pick on such an undervalued position? My thinking is that his speed, explosion and pass rush stats (12 sacks the past two seasons) would make him a good fit at SLB in a 4-3 if the scheme asked him to blitz regularly. He’s a wild man out there and loves to freelance so a defensive coordinator shouldn’t put too much responsibility on his plate and should just let him “hunt.” In the right system though he could be a consistent Pro Bowler as there are few athletes comparable to him and he has a passion that is rare. I love him on one play and hate him on another so he barely stays out of the 1st round despite his elite upside. Early 2nd round as my #1 LB 5/4/14.

2. CJ Mosley Alabama 6’2 234 Sr.

Stats: SEC

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

108

0

9

 1

0

0

2012

107

4

8

1

2

1

2011

36

2

4.5

0

1

0

2010

67

0.5

1.5

0

2

2

Combine: He didn’t run but he measured in skinny at 234 lbs and very explosive (’35 vertical, 9’19 broad). His quickness drills were below average though and that’s alarming as he played in the 240s last year so he cut weight AND STILL wasn’t quick or fast (you don’t skip the 40 if your training times are good). I continue to say this kid is overrated and nothing at this Combine proved me wrong. He was below average in 4 bag drill. Very agile in backpedal and turn drill but dropped easy pass.                

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6020

234

33.38

10.75

 

 

35

910

4.40

7.30

Strengths: LB CJ Mosley #32- 1st team SEC in 2013. He’s on special teams as I noticed him on a punt coverage team.Butkus Award Winner in 2013. SEC DPOY in 2013. He was coached by Nick Saban. In his first two seasons he was their coverage linebacker and he had 3 career pick sixes! He came in more explosive and athletic than I expected at the Combine. He’s a 3 down linebacker and that’s important in today’s NFL. He has massive hands at nearly ’11 and the overall frame to add weight if a team wants him in the 240s. He played well in a lot of big games including being named the Defensive MVP of the BCS Championship Game in 2012.
Weaknesses:
He isn’t a huge linebacker and won’t be great at the POA. He only started two seasons at Alabama and was always “the other” linebacker so it’s strange to see him with a high draft grade. He doesn’t have an elite upside and looks to be a future above average linebacker. How much is that really worth in today’s passing game?

Overall: Mosley is a solid player with the size and strength to be good at the POA, the speed to cover players 1×1 in space and the instincts to be effective in a zone scheme. He is another of the overrated Alabama players as many scouts have him as a Top 10 talent. I can’t even comprehend what they see in him that makes them think he’s deserving of that high a grade. Few linebackers are deserving of that and Mosley is far from those types (Patrick Willis and Luke Kuechly are the two highest graded linebackers on my board in the past 7 years). Mosley isn’t an elite tackler, is good in space and coverage but isn’t a ballhawk by any means and is more of a good at everything, great at nothing type of player. Again I like Mosley but to me he grades out as prospect that will be an above average linebacker with great scheme versatility (he could probably play all 3 spots in a 4-3 or ILB in a 3-4) and enough athleticism to stay on the field for all three downs. There is value in that type of player but he doesn’t look like a future star and isn’t even a 1st rounder on my board, let alone a Top 10 talent. 2nd round as my #2 LB who is one of the more overrated players in this draft 5/3/14.

3. Kyle Van Noy BYU 6’3 243 Sr.

Senior Bowl: Day 2: Slight loss in pass pro drill vs. Jay Prosch-everyone else beat him so not good. Day 3: Beat by RB on out, beat by Arthur Lynch after he was thrown off when he pressed, he doesn’t appear to have the speed to be a great man cover guy but his instincts make him a good zone cover guy,

Stats: Independent

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

67

4

17

0

2

1

2012

52

13

22

6

2

1

2011

68

6

15

3

3

0

2010

36

2

7.5

2

0

0

Combine: He had a good 40 (4.71) but was below average in bench and explosion drills. He is 23 years old. Solid in backpedal and turn drill. Every drill he was solid in and every measurement he was average in. I’m quickly losing interest in Van Noy as a 2nd rounder and he once was a 1st rounder on my board as I just don’t see anything elite about him.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6031

243

31.63

9.63

4.71

21

32.5

904

4.20

7.22

Strengths: He was productive in many areas throughout his career as he had +200 tackles, 25 sacks, 11 FF and 7 INTs in his career! That Scottie Pippen like versatility is rare to see and is the reason why so many people have/had 1st round grades on him. He is a very capable pass rusher and zone coverage defender as his instincts are great in both areas. His 2012 bowl game vs. San Diego State was one of the best games I’ve ever seen a linebacker play as he had 8 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT and returned it for a TD. He was all over the field and his versatility was really on display. He has a great motor and has no red flags character wise.
Weaknesses:
He’s good at everything but great at nothing. He doesn’t have the strength or length to be a full time pass rusher as a 3-4 OLB, doesn’t have the athleticism to be a great 1×1 coverage linebacker and isn’t incredibly strong at the POA in the run game. He is an average athlete and is more of a tall, angular guy with great instincts than a dominant athlete. If a team doesn’t use his versatility and only uses him in one area he could be underutilized and be considered a bust. He’s already 23 due to the BYU mission trip and will be 24 during his rookie season. He’s never had more than 68 tackles in a season which is a very low mark for a linebacker.

Overall: Van Noy and Marqise Lee are neck and neck for “who lost the most money not leaving for the NFL Draft last year.” In Lee’s case it was due to him being ineligible as an underclassmen but with Van Noy it was his own decision and it’s going to cost him. Last year he had 13 sacks, 22 TFL and 6 FF with all three being close to the best marks in the nation. This season he was productive but not nearly to that level and his offseason has been very mediocre. At the Senior Bowl he wasn’t noticeable and at the Combine he put up average numbers across the board. His film is very good but it’s obvious he’s more of an instinctual, versatile defender than that uber athlete you want to draft in the first two rounds. I had a late 1st round grade on him after last year yet I realize I was influenced a little too heavily by his San Diego State game (bowl game in 2012) where he put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen by a linebacker. I think the entire scouting community was mesmerized by that game yet since then he’s been very mediocre and I think Van Noy is a bit overrated right now. It wouldn’t shock me if he went in the late 1st/early 2nd like he would have if he came out in 2013 but I also wouldn’t be surprised at all if he dropped to the 3rd round as he doesn’t project to be anything more than an above average linebacker. 3rd round as my #3 LB who has elite versatility but average athleticism and upside 5/3/14.

4. Kevin Pierre-Louis Boston College #54 6’0 ½ 232 Sr.

Stats: ACC

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

108

6

10.5

0

1

1

2012

85

2

4

0

0

0

2011

74

0

6

1

0

0

2010

93

0

2.5

0

0

0

Combine: He had the fastest 40 (4.51) by far among the 35 linebackers. His vertical and broad were elite also with his quickness drills being above average. His 40 was elite from my perspective as he exploded out of the blocks and his unofficial was 4.44 which beat most wideouts! Very quick in shuffle/lateral quickness drill but his steps were so small he sort of went slow? Gorgeous extended hands catch showing great fluidity in backpedal and turn drill-best of group.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6004

232

32.25

10.13

4.51

28

39

1008

4.02

6.92

Strengths: 1st Team All-ACC in 2013. He has a great motor and the athleticism to cover sideline to sideline. Started all 13 games as a freshman at WLB and was Freshman All American in 2010 (93 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 3 PBU). He’s been productive every year of his 4 year career. He’s very physical for his size and his 28 reps are elite for a 232 lb guy.
Weaknesses:
He had close to 400 tackles in his career yet made very few “splash” plays as he ended with only 1 FF and 1 INT. He plays the least valuable position in the NFL at WLB in a 4-3 and I don’t think he has the size or game to be anything else.

Overall: Kevin is an elite prospect at the least valuable position in football. At 232 lbs he lacks the size to play MLB or SLB in a 4-3 or ILB in a 3-4 which forces him to play WLB in a 4-3. This position is the easiest to fill in all of football and has correctly been reduced in value due to that. Yet Pierre-Louis still has value as there are few players with his combination of speed and strength who play this position. Lavonte David is the best WLB I’ve ever graded and he only finished with an early 2nd round due to the lack of value I place on the position so it’s hard to give Kevin too high a grade. He’s been productive for 4 straight years, has almost 4.4 speed (4.51), is extremely strong at the POA and has enough arm length and hand size (his ‘10 1/8 hands are huge for a 6’0 ½ person) to be a capable run stopper. He has everything you want in a WLB and deserves a good grade despite the position’s lack of value. 3rd round as my #4 LB who will start immediately and be a fast, aggressive player at WLB in a 4-3 5/4/14.

5. Lamin Barrow LSU 6’1 3/8 237 Sr.

Senior Bowl: Lamin Barrow- Day 2: Eventually beat Jay Prosch in pass pro drill. Day 3: Beat by Arthur Lynch on out,

Stats: SEC

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

91

1.5

5.5

0

0

0

2012

104

0

7.5

1

0

0

2011

17

0

1

0

0

0

2010

18

0

0.5

0

0

0

Combine: He had a very good Combine with a 4.68 40, ’35 vertical and 10’3 broad. This is going to make me go back to the film as I didn’t notice his athleticism being anything more than average. He had a great start to his 40 as he exploded out of the blocks. Good in shuffle/lateral quickness drill. 

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6013

237

33.38

10.38

4.64

22

35

1003

4.35

7.24

Strengths: 1st team SEC in 2013. Very NFL looking with his height and impressive muscle tone. He has the long dreads coming out of his helmet. He has solid size and strength and is able to battle with OL in close quarters. He was given the famous #18 at LSU. He’s a big hitter and is an aggressive player. He has the size to play ILB in a 3-4.
Weaknesses:
He only started 2 seasons at LSU as he rarely saw the field as a freshman or sophomore. He is fast for his size but he doesn’t play like a 4.64 guy on film. He also didn’t look to be “only” 237 lbs on film so I think he cut weight for the Combine. He doesn’t have great cover skills and will need to play in a zone where he would be the hard hitting “floater.”

Overall: Barrow is a big, strong linebacker that can lay the wood on people. Don’t look at his Combine where he came in sub 240 lbs and ran a great 40 (4.64) as he really is a 245 lb guy with good but not great speed (4.72-4.75 type guy). That’s fine by me and I’m a little surprised he cut weight as his size and power are what drew me to him from the beginning. He has the size and strength to play ILB in a 3-4 as well as play MLB or SLB in a 4-3. A 3-4 scheme would be his best fit though as he can battle with OL and is a very good striker. I like him in that role and could see him going higher than my grade if a 3-4 team falls in love with him. 3rd round as my #5 LB 5/4/14.

6. Shayne Skov Stanford #11 6’2 245 Sr.

Stats: Pac-12

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

109

5.5

13

3

0

0

2012

80

2.5

8

0

0

0

2011

19

1.5

5

0

0

0

2010

83

7

10

2

0

0

2009

62

0

3

0

0

0

Combine: He didn’t work out due to injury.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6020

245

30.63

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strengths: 1st Team Pac-12 in 2013. He’s had dominant games for years as his 2010 Orange Bowl vs. Virginia Tech was rare (10 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup: had perfect coverage on a TE wheel route (3:17 2nd), sack for -1 yard when Taylor started scrambling out of pocket (0:42 2nd), great coverage again on pass defense vs. Andre Smith (2:40 3rd), great special teams tackle as he was the first 1 down and brought down the KR with momentum in space (6:00 4th), hard hit on a blitz sack (5:36 4th), very slow drag down coverage sack (1:30 4th) and that was in 2010! He’s extremely intelligent, went to Stanford, but isn’t “too smart” as he’s an emotional type that gives it his all. He times his blitzes better than anyone in the nation as he has a real knack for knowing a QB’s cadence.

Weaknesses: He has extremely short arms (sub ’31) and isn’t a great athlete. He had a lot of tackles and showed good versatility but he wasn’t an elite coverage guy, pass rusher or huge hitter. He’s similar in mold to Kyle Van Noy as everyone loves him but when you really stop down to determine what position he will play and how you will use him, you get stuck quickly. Is he just a great college player destined to be a mediocre NFL player? He wasn’t highly recruited out of HS. He was in college for 5 years so he’s an older prospect.

Overall: At one time Skov had a 2nd round grade on my board as I loved his size, speed, versatility, and toughness. Yet in 2011 he had an injury plagued year and in 2012 he didn’t make the progress I expected of him. It could be that he wasn’t 100% in 2012 and a team will find themselves with a superior talent in a few years once he becomes fully healthy yet I no longer see the Pro Bowl caliber potential I noticed before in him. He lacks the big play ability as a pass rusher (7 sacks in 2010, yet only 8.5 sacks the past 3 seasons), never improved as a run stuffer (only in his senior season did he rack up +100 tackles), and never was a factor in pass coverage (0 career INTs). It all adds up to Skov being a good backup or average starter with his best attribute being his size and toughness that will allow him to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. His best fit appears to be as a SLB in a 4-3 and as a player that occasionally is blitzed. Late 3rd round as my #6 LB 5/3/14.

7. Chris Borland Wisconsin 5’11 ½ 248 Sr.

Comparison: Zach Thomas

Stats: Big Ten

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

111

4

8.5

1

0

0

2012

104

4

9.5

3

0

0

2011

143

2.5

19

5

2

0

2010

7

1

2

0

0

0

2009

54

5

10.5

5

1

0

Combine: He measured in short (5’11 ½), thick (248-at that height that weight is a lot) with tiny arms (’29 ¼-only LB with sub ’30 arms, only 4 had sub ’31 arms so his are historically bad for a LB). He also had a bad 40 (4.83) and was mediocre in the explosion and even the quickness drills though his 27 reps was near the top for linebackers. Those wanting to poke holes in his game will have plenty of fodder after this showing. Good in shuffle/lateral quickness drill.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

5114

248

29.25

9.88

4.83

27

31

906

4.27

7.18

Strengths: 1st Team Big Ten in 2011, 2012 and 2013. He has the best instincts of any LB in this draft. He has 3 seasons of +100 tackles. He has 14 career FF which is rare and shows he packs a punch despite being small. #9 on Bruce Feldman’s freak athlete list for 2013 though after the Combine I wonder why exactly.
Weaknesses:
His best season by far was in 2011 so the question is why he plateau’d or even regressed the past two seasons.  His ’29 arms are incredibly small as they were the smallest of the 35 LB with no other LB being even close.

Overall: Borland has been impressing me with his instincts, toughness and production for the past 3 seasons yet until this year I had a late round grade on him as I expected him to be a career backup. Some have him as highly rated as the 2nd round yet I just can’t put that value on a player with such physical deficiencies as he’s sub 6’0 and sub ’30 arms with both being very rare in the NFL. He has good tape and I expect him to be a capable 4-3 MLB or WLB but I don’t see him being anything more than an average starter due to his physical limitations and a coaching staff will have to protect him schematically at times. Late 3rd round as my #7 LB 5/4/13.

8. Jordan Zumwalt UCLA 6’4 235 Sr.

Senior Bowl: Day 3: He had great cover skills in 11×11 and 7×7 drills.

Stats: Pac-12

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

91

0

6.5

1

2

0

2012

71

2

8

2

0

0

2011

60

0

6

0

1

0

2010

32

3

3

0

0

0

Combine: He was average across the board which is fine by me as the film shows off his elite strength, instincts and toughness so him being an average athlete is more than enough for me to stay in love with him as a prospect. He has serious cuts and scars all over his body (around his eyebrows, near his armpit, everywhere). Great hands in backpedal and turn drill.    

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6040

235

31.25

8.75

4.76

 

33

908

4.25

6.99

Strengths: He’s a very tall LB. He was one of my favorite plays in this year’s draft to scout. He’s had some incredible games including the 2013 Oregon game (14 tackles including a nasty thrown down of De’Anthony Thomas) and the 2013 Virginia Tech game (bowl game which included an INT, two big hits on running backs and a huge hit on 260 lb Logan Thomas that knocked him out of the game). He’s one of the hardest hitters in the draft. He is an all out effort 24/7 type guy who will rub off on teammates.
Weaknesses:
2013 Pac-12 Honorable Mention. He never was All-Pac 12 during his career. He never had a +100 tackle season and rarely made “splash” plays as in 4 years he only had 5 sacks, 3 FF and 3 INT. At times he gets up after a hit and looks dazed. I think this kid very possibly has had a lot of concussions in his career and could have a short career because of it. For a player of his height (6’4) he has very short arms and small hands.

Overall: Zumwalt is one of my favorite players in this draft and is a big time sleeper due to his average athleticism and only above average production. What he brings is an edge to a team as he has a non-stop motor that combines with his elite hitting ability to create some of the best, most thrilling hits you’ll ever see. Due to this style though, I could see him having a short career as a result of concussions. There’s a chance he won’t see a second contract but in his 4 year rookie contract he’ll give you everything he has. One of the hardest hitters in this draft as well as a guy who has one of the best motors in this draft. That’s a rare combination and is worth drafting despite his possible medical issues. Late 3rd round as my #8 LB 5/4/14.

9. Christian Jones Florida State 6’3 1/8 240 Sr.

Senior Bowl: Day 2: Stoned initially but eventually got around Arthur Lynch-good speed and tenacity, beat Lynch on nice spin move the next time. Day 3: Good move avoiding Antonio Andrews for race around sack in pass pro drill, beat by Jay Prosch on out,

Stats: ACC

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

56

2

8

0

1

0

2012

95

0

7

0

0

0

2011

56

3

6

2

0

0

2010

13

2

2

0

0

0

Combine: He had an average 40 (4.74) as well as average explosion drills while not benching or doing quickness drills. This surprises me as on film he looked athletic but he didn’t impress in any one drill. Solid in shuffle/lateral quickness drill. A little tight but also looked explosive and had very nice extended hands catch in backpedal and turn drill.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6031

240

33.5

9.63

4.74

 

33.5

907

 

 

Strengths: Blue chip prospect out of HS. #27 in ESPN 150 for ’10. 2nd team ACC in 2013. He is a good athlete and he has just enough size and strength to be an option as a 3-4 OLB though 4-3 SLB seems to be his best fit. He’s a versatile athlete who can drop in coverage, rush the passer and play well against the run. He’s an explosive athlete on film and his mediocre numbers at the Combine didn’t do him justice.
Weaknesses:
His productivity was very mediocre in 4 seasons for a player of his talent. He only had 2 FF and 1 INT for his career so while he can do everything he just doesn’t make plays in any area. His best season was in 2012 as he regressed as a senior. I expected him to take the next step and be a 2nd-3rd rounder but he never did.

Overall: Jones is an explosive, versatile athlete that was always a bit of a tease at Florida State. After his solid 2012 season I thought we were on the verge of seeing Jones dominate and become a legit 2nd round talent yet it never happened as his tackle numbers were almost chopped in half. I like Jones as he has some pass rush ability, is solid dropping into coverage (though only had 1 career INT so not a ballhawk) and is strong at the POA. He still might surprise to the upside for some team as he has very good athleticism but after 4 years I think it’s time to accept Jones for what he is: an average starter. He fits best as a SLB in a 4-3 but he could play any of the 3 spots in a 4-3 and could add 5-10 lbs to become an ILB in a 3-4. He had a somewhat disappointing career but there’s still a lot to like about this versatile, athletic linebacker. Early 4th round as my #9 LB 5/3/14.

10. Jordan Tripp Montana 6’2 ¾ 234 Sr.

Senior Bowl: Jordan Tripp- Day 3: He was far too off vs. RB on arrow route

Combine: He had probably the most underrated performance in the LB group as his 40 was good (4.67) but his vertical (’37 ½), broad (10’0) and quickness drills were all elite. Fluid in backpedal and turn drill. Great hands and very fluid in backpedal drill.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6026

234

30.75

9.63

4.67

22

37.5

1000

3.96

6.89

Strengths: Third generation Montana player who actually was relatively well recruited and could have gone to a better school but stayed loyal. He had an elite Combine with his very good 40, elite vertical, elite shuttle and elite 3 cone. He came in fast, explosive, quick and agile. He was a 4 year starter at Montana. He’s extremely disciplined and never seems to be too aggressive or overrun a play.
Weaknesses:
He played at a lower level of competition. He’s small at 234 lbs and could struggle at the POA. Is he a MLB or will he have to be moved to WLB. The move would reduce his value tremendously.

Overall: Tripp is one of the most underrated prospects at the LB position as he’s an elite athlete who completed a prolific career as a 4 year starter. He played at Montana so there will be question marks about whether he can transition to the next level but he looked like he belonged at the Senior Bowl practices and he dominated at the Combine. I see him as a future starting MLB who will excel in coverage and on outside runs due to his rare athleticism for the position. Early 4th round as my #10 LB 5/4/14.

11. Yawin Smallwood Connecticut #33 6’2 ¼ 246 Jr.

Stats: Big East

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013

118

4

9.5

2

1

1

2012

120

3.5

15

2

0

0

2011

94

0.5

2.5

1

1

0

Combine: He had a 5.01 40 but pulled up lame on his 1st attempt. He didn’t do the drills due to this.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6022

246

31.75

9.5

5.01

18

36.5

900

 

 

Strengths: He has been incredibly productive with 3 straight seasons of 94 or more tackles. His 94 tackles as a freshman is incredible and his 3 year total of +300 tackles you almost never see. He’s good at the POA as he can shed blockers and play in a phone booth. He isn’t fast but he’s agile and has good understanding of getting depth in his coverage responsibilities as he regularly was seen on film +15 yards downfield.
Weaknesses:
He isn’t very explosive on film so it was concerning when he ran a 5.01 40 though the time can be thrown out due to him pulling up lame late in it. He probably isn’t a 5.01 but I doubt he would have cracked 4.8 and that’s still pretty slow for a LB. I don’t see a guy that has the speed to cover RBs 1×1 or play sideline to sideline. Due to his hamstring issue he didn’t run at his Pro Day so team’s will be deciding on him without a legit 40 time which is very rare. He isn’t a big hitter and is definitely just a wrap up tackler.

Overall: Smallwood is an interesting prospect as you won’t find better production in this draft over a 3 year period than he had yet he looked slow on tape, ran a 5.01 40 at the Combine and was injured during it so teams won’t have a legit 40 time when deciding on him. That’s a big deal as he looked slow on film so that 40 was going to be an integral part of his evaluation and it’s incomplete. I like him as a MLB in a 4-3 or 3-4 due to his size, instincts and ability to stack and shed blockers but I think there’s a very real possibility that Smallwood is just a 2 down LB. He’s a below average athlete who lacks the speed to cover in the NFL and the strength to be more than a wrap up tackler. He could rack up some nice tackle numbers in the NFL due to his instincts and experience but he projects as a 2 down linebacker with a low upside so I have a lower grade than most due in the scouting community. Early 4th round as my #11 LB 5/4/14.

12. James Morris Iowa 6’0 7/8 241 Sr.

Stats: Big Ten

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

106

7

17

2

4

0

2012

113

1.5

9

1

1

0

2011

109

0

3

0

1

0

2010

70

1

2.5

0

0

0

Combine: He was below average in his 40 and bad in his bench but above average in his explosion drills. He was quick in 4 bag drill. Fluid in backpedal and turn drill.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6007

241

30.75

9.13

4.80

18

34.5

909

4.36

6.94

Strengths: 2nd team Big 10 in 2013. Very intelligent and with great instincts. He checks in and out of defenses regularly. He’s the leader of the defense and shows emotion. He’s been one of the most consistently productive players in college football the past 3 seasons. To have four seasons with 70 or more tackles and 3 seasons with 106 or more tackles is rare. He was always a great tackler but in 2013 he improved in other areas as he had 7 sacks, 2 FF and 4 INTs while in the 3 previous seasons COMBINED he only had 2.5 sacks, 1 FF and 2 INT. He’s a tough guy who never missed games and always gave full effort. Those types rarely are good athletes but he proved himself to be fluid, agile and explosive at the Combine. He has elite instincts and was quick to diagnose plays which was a big reason for his elite tackle total.

Weaknesses: He had a very good Combine except for his 40 which was below average and his bench which was bad. His 9 1/8 hands were some of the smallest at the event. He’s a short white guy and that rarely works in anyone’s favor come draft day. He doesn’t look NFL caliber when moving laterally and lacks the size to take on OL directly.

Overall: James is a slow, unassuming white guy so it’s no surprise that he’s being overlooked in this draft. Yet focus on his numbers and you’ll see an underrated players as there is no other player in this draft with nearly 400 career tackles and there are few players with his motor or instincts. Add to that the fact that he actually is an explosive, quick and agile athlete and you have a player that shouldn’t be dropping on draft boards. The reality is that he’s a short, white guy who played in the Big Ten and it’s suddenly very apparent why he’s not “rising” up draft boards. I like Morris though as he projects as an above average starting MLB in a 4-3. I doubt he is drafted this high but I grade him out as a 4th rounder who is my #12 LB 5/3/14. 

13. Telvin Smith Florida State 6’3 218 Sr.

Comparison: A more physical Sean Spence

Senior Bowl: Day 2: He got stoned by Lorenzo Taliaferro in pass protection drill. Day 3: He struggled vs. Jay Prosch in coverage-beat across his face.

Stats: ACC

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

90

2

9.5

0

3

2

2012

64

1

9.5

1

0

0

2011

42

3

8.5

1

1

0

2010

18

1

1.5

0

0

0

Combine: He had an elite 40 (4.52) which is important as he measured in at a safety’s weight (218). I don’t even know why they had him in the LB grouping. He has to play safety at that weight. Him being 6’3 though gives teams the option to bulk him up or move him to safety. Very quick in shuffle/lateral quickness drill. Incredibly quick feet in backpedal and turn drill.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6030

218

32.5

10.25

4.52

 

31.5

911

 

 

Strengths: 2nd Team ACC in 2013. Tough, physical, and a hard hitter. Ranked #107 in ESPN 2010 HS Class. Leader of defense in 2013 and the guy who made all the calls. He has great quickness and is about as agile of a linebacker as you will find. He’s a smaller guy but he doesn’t have an ounce of fat on him and with a 6’3 frame with ’32 ½ arms and ’10 ¼ hands he has the frame to easily hold another 10-15 lbs. For his size he’s actually very physical and he gives other teams “the business.”

Weaknesses: Gets his share of personal fouls and has a little bit of a cheap shot streak to him. At 218 lbs I just don’t know if he’s really even a linebacker. 6’3 218 sounds like a safety to me and at that weight he doesn’t have elite athleticism as his 40, vertical and broad are all average to above average for the safety position.

Overall: I didn’t know who he was until the 2012 Northern Illinois game where I scouted him and saw him lay out the QB twice (Jordan Lynch) as well as their WR on a crossing route. He was their best defender in that game and that’s saying a lot with Joyner, Jernigan, Jones and Mario Williams. The issue with Telvin is that he’s sub 220 lbs and that’s just too small for a linebacker. The good thing is that, unlike Sean Spence and other smaller types, he has the frame to get bigger and I expect him to do so. He never was a great player but he was a solid one and with ’10 ¼ hands he has the frame to add weight and be an athletic and agile WLB in a 4-3. It’s the least valuable position in all of football but he should be above average at it and will give value to a team in the mid rounds. 4th round as my #13 LB 5/3/14.

14. Andrew Jackson Western Kentucky 6’1 254 Sr.

Stats: Sun Belt

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

95

1

8.5

0

0

0

2012

122

2

17.5

4

0

0

2011

109

3.5

17

1

1

0

2010

0

0

0

0

0

0

Combine: He didn’t work out due to injury.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6010

254

32.5

9.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strengths: A huge linebacker with great strength, tackling ability and leadership skills. 1st Team Sun Belt in 2011, 2012 and 2013. At the East-West Shrine Game he impressed as he showed decent speed to go along with his usual punishing style. He had a good game in 2012 vs. Alabama looking strong at the POA against their 4 NFL prospects.
Weaknesses:
He had a down season in 2013 with fewer tackles, sacks, TFL and FF than either of the previous two seasons. He played against poor competition mostly and could struggle to adjust when the talent level improves. He isn’t extremely fast and possibly is just a 2 down LB. Is he just a 3-4 ILB or does he have the speed to be a MLB in a 4-3 as well.

Overall: Andrew Jackson is a huge man with great strength and run stopping ability. It takes a lot to impress me when you’re playing at Western Kentucky but Jackson did it 3 years ago and has been on my radar for awhile. He didn’t run at the Combine and teams will have to decide if they think he has the speed to play MLB in a 4-3 but I think he does and he definitely at least fits as an ILB in a 3-4. A dominant run stopper who might just be a 2 down linebacker but a guy who moves well enough that he might surprise people and be a full time starter. 4th round as my #14 LB 5/4/14.

15. Chris Young Arizona State 6’0 1/8 252 Sr.

Stats: Pac-12

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

112

7.5

17.5

2

0

0

2012

83

2

14

1

1

0

JUCO

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUCO

 

 

 

 

 

 

Combine: Not invited

Pro Day:

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6001

252

 

 

4.84

15

31.5

810

4.37

7.20

Strengths: Had a huge debut in 2012 opener with numerous TFL showing that the higher level of competition wasn’t an issue for him. 2nd team Pac-12 in 2013. He is extremely instinctual. He has great quickness for the MLB position and enough size at 6’0 250 to stay there in the pros. In both seasons he had at least 83 tackles and 14 TFL with both numbers being impressive. He immediately dominated a higher level of competition making me think he could be an instant starter.
Weaknesses:
JUCO kid as signed with UW but didn’t qualify academically. He wasn’t invited to the Combine which often means he’s expected to go undrafted. His 4.84 40 at his Pro Day was bad as was his 8’10 broad and 15 reps on the bench with all three numbers being at or near the bottom among the 35 LBs at the Combine. He lacks the size and length to be a linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

Overall: In 2012 he played at 232 lbs and in 2013 he played at 244 lbs so it’s not surprising that he didn’t test that well at his new weight of 252 lbs at his Pro Day. I like him in the 240s and at that weight he’s big enough to be a MLB in a 4-3 and fast enough to cover people one on one. On film he’s a quick, athletic linebacker that lays a punch and is constantly around the ball. I was rather surprised when he wasn’t invited to the Combine but it’s likely due to his JUCO status and the fact that he’s a bit undersized. I’m fine with both of those things and think he’s a future starting MLB or WLB in a 4-3. Late 4th round as my #15 LB who I really like but the NFL appears to be unsure of due to measurables 5/3/14.

16. Preston Brown Louisville 6’1 ¼ 251 Sr.

Stats:

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

98

4.5

12.5

3

0

0

2012

108

0

3

0

1

0

2011

84

1.5

5

0

0

0

2010

10

0

0.5

0

0

0

Combine: He had a poor 40 but was average to above average in every other drill which is good for a guy his size (251). Poor technique but solid quickness in shuffle/lateral quickness drill.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6012

251

33.5

10.25

4.86

23

33

908

4.26

6.98

Strengths: 2nd team Big East in 2012. He’s a very versatile player as he’s good at stopping the run but also can rush the passer and is solid against the pass. He has elite size (6’1 ¼ 251) for a LB. He has good bend and a solid burst which makes me think he’d be a capable rusher at times. He has the size to be an ILB in a 3-4 and is more than capable of battling with OL in close quarters. He had three straight seasons with 84 or more tackles. In 2013 he improved his “splash” plays considerably as his 4.5 sacks and 3 FF were more than the 3 previous seasons COMBINED.
Weaknesses:
He’s a shorter, thicker type build which ends any chance of him being a 3-4 OLB. He probably lacks the speed to be a MLB in a 4-3. He’ll never be great in coverage.

Overall: Brown is a huge LB that fits best in a 3-4 scheme. He has the frame and strength to battle inside against OL yet enough speed to handle the outside runs as well. He’s been productive for 3 straight years and really improved in 2013 as a big play guy with 4.5 sacks and 3 FF. I’ve been a fan of Preston’s for awhile and think he’s a sleeper prospect for 3-4 teams. Scheme specific 2 down LB who fits perfectly as a 3-4 ILB. Late 4th round as my #16 LB 5/4/14.

17. Derrell Johnson East Carolina 6’1 ½ 257 Sr.

Stats:

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

79

7

13

0

1

0

2012

62

6.5

11

0

0

0

2011

39

3

5.5

2

0

0

2010

40

1

4.5

0

0

0

Combine: Not invited

Pro Day:

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6014

257

 

 

4.61

23

32.5

906

4.64

7.27

Strengths: A feisty, aggressive LB who is dominant in the run game due to his elite strength. He has the size and strength to battle with OL and usually gets the best of them. He is impossible to uproot from a position and sets the edge perfectly. He started 48 consecutive games.
Weaknesses:
He isn’t a cover LB and surprisingly isn’t much of a pass rush threat either. He’s coming from a lower level of competition so he very possibly will need some time to adjust. He wasn’t invited to the Combine which is a huge red flag as that usually means he isn’t expected to get drafted.

Overall: Derrell is a big, strong linebacker who can play MLB or SLB in a 4-3 or ILB in a 3-4. I think the 3-4 fits best for him as it will allow his strength and elite frame to shine the most. He isn’t a great athlete, he won’t be good in coverage, but he put up some solid numbers at his Pro Day and I think he’s shaping up to be one of the steals of this draft as I don’t think he’s going to get drafted. Early 5th round as my #17 LB who has the size and strength to be a very good run stopper but likely is picked up as an undrafted free agent 5/3/14.

18. Max Bullough Michigan State 6’3 ½ 249 Sr.

Stats: Big Ten

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

76

1.5

9.5

1

0

0

2012

110

2.5

12.5

1

1

0

2011

89

3.5

7

2

1

0

2010

23

0

1.5

0

1

0

Combine: His 4.78 40 was actually much better than I expected. His 30 reps-1st among 35 LBs was exactly what I expected. He’s a run stuffing MLB with mediocre athleticism on film so his Combine numbers being average was a win for him. One of the worst in shuffle/lateral quickness drill.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6034

249

31

9.38

4.78

30

31

904

4.30

7.22

Strengths: 1st Team Big 10 in 2012 and 2013. He’s the team’s emotional leader and often leads his team in pregame speeches. He’s a strong, powerful man who can battle with OL in a phone booth. He has the size to play ILB in a 3-4 which is somewhat rare to find. He had three straight seasons of at least 76 tackles while playing in a Top 4 Conference. His father played at Michigan State and was also a captain. He has a tattoo of “Spartan” and “Pride” on his two biceps.
Weaknesses:
In the 2013 Ohio St. game (Big 10 championship) he was invisible. He lacks the speed to be a factor in the passing game and seemed to get blocked too easily in the run game. Suspended for Rose Bowl for violating team rules. He showed up at the East-West Shrine Game practices 20 lbs heavier than his 245 listing, out of shape and unwilling to talk to reporters about his suspension. It was a very bad week for him. He has had trouble controlling his weight as he dropped from 265 at the East-West Shrine game to 249 at Combine.

Overall: I was never a huge fan of Bullough to begin with as 2 down run stuffing linebackers are something that was relevant in the stone age in my opinion. The NFL is a passing league and Bullough lacks the athleticism to cover guys in man coverage or the instincts to even be a good zone coverage guy. Now he’s coming off a horrendous offseason in which he was suspended by the team for his final game, he showed up overweight and angry at the East-West Shrine Game and then had a mediocre Combine. I think Bullough only fits as a 3-4 ILB but at that spot he has some value due to his size, strength and ability to battle interior OL in close quarters. Early 5th round as my #18 LB who is scheme specific and has some attitude and weight issues each team will need to sort out for themselves 5/3/14.

19. Shaun Lewis Oklahoma State 5’11 1/8 226 Sr.

Stats: Big 12

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

73

0.5

8

2

3

0

2012

58

2.5

7.5

1

0

0

2011

61

1

9.5

1

2

1

2010

58

0

8

3

3

1

Combine: Not invited

Pro Day:

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

5111

226

 

 

4.90

21

31

902

4.62

7.59

Strengths: 2nd team Big 12 in 2012. 1st Team Big 12 in 2013. He’s an extremely strong guy who has a ripped upper body. He is a tackling machine and should be very good against the run as an NFL defender. He has the size to be a 3-4 ILB which is rare in today’s college game with spread offenses everywhere. He has great hands, as shown by his 8 career INTs, and has good instincts in coverage.
Weaknesses:
He’s very tightly built and could struggle in coverage. He lacks the pure speed to be matched up with WRs, RBs or even TEs. He would have to play zone, though it would work well as he has good instincts and ball skills. He is very slow and I’m not sure he would even be able to play in a 4-3.

Overall:  Shaun has been on my radar for 4 years now ever since he came in and made a huge impact as a true freshman in 2010. Unfortunately that was arguably his best year as it was his career high in FF, INTs and TDs. He improved his tackle totals yet never came close to 100 tackles which is a bench mark for me with prospects. It’s a huge red flag to not even come close to 100 tackles in any of his 4 seasons and I think it shows his poor speed. His measurables at 5’11 226 with a 4.9 40 are very poor and I wonder if he’ll even be drafted. I like his film though so to me he’s still a mid round guy. 5th round as my #19 LB 5/3/14.

20. Jonathan Newsome Ball State 6’2 5/8 247 Sr.

Stats:

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

64

8

11.5

2

1

0

2012

51

8.5

12

0

0

0

2011

RS

 

 

 

 

 

2010

14

0

0

0

0

0

2009

5

0

0

0

0

0

Combine: He showed good speed, quickness and explosiveness but at 6’2 5/8 247 I feel like he needed to show more. He was a good athlete but also one of the smallest players in the DL group. He moves more like a SS than a PR and looked extremely quick with his backpedal drill. Best in LB drill by a mile-very good footwork for a LB let alone a conversion guy.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6025

247

33.25

9.63

4.73

21

34

909

 

7.31

Strengths: 1st team All Mac in 2013. He has the agility of a linebacker but enough length to possible add weight and stay as a pass rusher (played DE in college, would have to move to 3-4 OLB). He had the best backpedal and footwork of any player in the DL group.
Weaknesses:
He began his career at Ohio State but transferred to Ball State so he’s an older prospect due to his 5 seasons in college. He played DE in college but will need to move to LB at the next level. Those conversions are risky and make you worry.

Overall: I’ve only seen Newsome twice, once in the 2013 Arkansas State game (Ball State’s bowl game) where he looked big, fast and athletic for a linebacker, and the other being at the Combine where his backpedal put every other DL to shame. I actually consider him more of a 4-3 SLB than a 3-4 OLB but I think he’d be an interesting experiment in the middle rounds at either spot. That’s all he is though, a high upside experiment, as he’s coming from a lower level of competition and changing positions so there is a lot of bust potential with him. Late 5th round as my #20 LB as he really impressed me but he still has a good chance at being a bust 5/3/14.

21. Boseko Lokombo Oregon Sr.

Stats: Pac-12

Year

Tackles

Sack

TFL

FF

INT

TD

2013

63

3

7

1

1

0

2012

39

2

4.5

1

2

0

2011

33

2

3.5

1

2

2

2010

36

0

2

0

0

0

Combine: He came in very fast (4.66) but it’s mitigated a lot by his terrible size (225). His broad was good and his quickness drills were average. He is pure muscle and has a rangy body which makes me think he could add 10 lbs easily if need be. The best in group in 4 bag drill. One of the best in backpedal and turn drill. He has been one of the better ones in each drill and just looks long and athletic. I’m intrigued.

HGT

WGT

Arms

Hands

40

Reps

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3 Cone

6021

225

33.38

9.88

4.66

 

 

1002

4.30

7.15

Strengths: He’s a long, rangy athlete with not an ounce of fat on him. He has a knack for interceptions as he has 5 and took 2 back for TDs. He’s been a productive role player for 3 seasons at Oregon before getting more playing time in 2013. He’d fit well as a sub LB due to his speed and length.
Weaknesses:
He shouldn’t be 225 with his frame and it begs the question of whether or not he can gain weight. His career high is only 63 tackles and he never had more than 1 FF in a season so statistically he is unimpressive. He will have to start at WLB in a 4-3 and that’s the least valuable position in all of football.

Overall: Lokombo is a talented guy with strength, length and athleticism. Unfortunately he’s too small to play anything other than WLB in a 4-3, at least initially, and he was never extremely productive at Oregon. His Combine opened my eyes to him as he was quick, agile and long. I think his best fit would be as a SLB in a 4-3 yet it won’t be for a few years as he will have to slowly add weight. He has the frame to do it but I question why he didn’t do it previously and it could be because his metabolism is too high and he’s unable to keep the weight on. If he is a career 4-3 WLB then he’s more of a late round/free agent grade but I think he’ll only start there and eventually move to SLB so I have him rated higher. Late 5th round as my #21 LB 5/4/14.

 

Late Round Types:

Marquis Spruill Syracuse #54 Sr. In the 2013 Minnesota game he had a PF on late hit to QB. He looked like a stacked, muscular WLB with questionable size for any other position. I wasn’t impressed but it was my 1st game to see him. Free Agent after this very brief look 12/27/13. In the 2013 NFLPA practices he looked like one of the best LBs at the event. A WLB only type prospect but a guy who has underrated strength and is versatile with 41 career TFL and 12.5 sacks. Late 5th round 1/20/14. He had a very good pro day with a 4.53 40 at 6’1 1/8 231 lbs. He drops to the 6th due to his scheme specific nature as he has to be in a 4-3 and is a WLB. Early 6th round as my #22 LB who no one is talking about but looks like a possible steal 5/2/14.

Denicos Allen Michigan St. #28 5’10 ¼ 225 Sr. 1st Team Big 10 in 2013. In the 2013 Ohio St. game (Big 10 championship) he got off TE block to make TFL on 4th and 1 to seal the victory! He had a great 2013 season (98 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 16.5 TFL and 1 FF-returned for a TD) and had a similar 2012 and 2011. His consistent production is impressive yet his size and athleticism make him scheme specific as he will only be able to play WLB in a 4-3. I like him in that role but he lacks a Tevin Smith’s speed and agility so he projects as a mediocre starter at best. Early 6th round as my #23 LB 5/3/14.

Khairi Fortt Cal 6’2 ¼ 248 Jr. Transfer from Penn State. He had a very good Combine with elite strength (30 reps-1st among 35 LBs) to go along with very good explosion (’36 vertical and ’10 broad). At 248 lbs with ’33 5/8 arms he will definitely get a look at 3-4 OLB and 4-3 DE. Extra tight and long legged in shuffle/lateral quickness drill. He had a good season with 62 tackles, 0.5 sacks and 3.5 TFL yet it wasn’t nearly dominant enough for him to leave school a year early. Add this to the fact that he bailed on Penn State due to the scandal and it adds up to a kid that might not be that committed. He’s a long, rangy athlete who fits best in a 4-3 at SLB. I like him but he wasn’t productive enough to be anything more than a late round flier type with impressive athleticism. Early 6th round as my #24 LB 5/4/14.

Jeremiah George Iowa State #52 5’11 220 Sr. 1st Team Big 12 in 2013. In the 2013 NFLPA Practices he was the best LB on his squad all week. In the 2013 NFLPA game he took on an OL, pushed him back and then disengaged for a very impressive TFL. 5th round 1/19/14. Combine: He had a terrible 40 (4.91) but had above average explosiveness and strength (3rd best with 28 reps). His Combine was mediocre and I question whether a WLB can have a 4.91 40 but his tape is good and the rest of his measurables are impressive so he doesn’t drop that far. 6th round as my #25 LB 5/3/14.

Will Smith Texas Tech #7 6’2 1/8 231 Sr. JUCO player. In the 2012 Texas game he had a big hit on RB up middle-RB limped off afterwards, good speed getting to outside on speed sweep-long strider and is extremely long for a MLB. LB He had 2 sacks in the 2013 season opener vs. SMU showing long arms, a good frame, and solid athleticism. In the 2013 OU game he had a few big hits and again impressed me with his frame. 5th-6th round 10/26/13. In the 2013 Arizona St. game (bowl game) he was invisible. He had a good pro day with a 4.59 40, ’37 ½ vertical and 9’5 broad with his only red flag being his 17 reps on the bench. I’ve liked him the past two years and think he’d be a great pick in the late rounds. 6th round as my #26 LB 5/3/14.

Jack Tyler Virginia Tech #58 Jr. In the 2011 Georgia Tech game he had a nice hit in the hole on FB dive (8:25 1st), showed solid speed on left pitch next play for tackle of 5 yds, great job getting off block on option playing it inside to outside and still having athleticism to grab QB for 1 yd gain when he tried to cut outside (2:11 2nd), showed solid speed to get to outside pitch near sideline after 5 yds but dumb play hitting him out of bounds for PF, on blitz he saw QB trying to throw and jumped up forcing QB to not throw and when he stepped up in the pocket he slipped for essentially a sack forcing punt. Called the leader of the 2012 Va Tech defense by the coaching staff. In the 2012 Pittsburgh game he took on block then spun off it to make tackle. He’s a high motor, high effort guy that fits all the “coaches best friend” “lunch pail type” descriptions. His upside is very low though so to me he’s not worth more than a late round pick. Early 7th round as my #27 LB 5/3/14.

Christian Kirksey Iowa 6’2 233 Sr. Combine: He only did the bench and explosion drills with all three being below average (explosion) to bad (bench at 16-2nd worst among 35 LB). He had very quick feet in 4 bag drill. He had three straight seasons with 95 or more tackles including a great 2012 season (95 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 1 FF, 2 INT-both returned for a TD). His size makes him likely only a candidate to be a WLB in a 4-3 yet his Combine showed that he’s a below average athlete at best. 7th round as my #28 LB who had elite college production but might just be a good college player and nothing more 5/3/14.

Stephon Robertson James Madison #55 Sr. In the 2013 NFLPA game he was pancaked by an OT on a pull block, had a nice diving TFL shooting through a hole, very impressive form tackle in open space on a RB dump off and a well timed hit on a TE over the middle for a PBU. He was a solid LB prospect and looks like a good late round flier type. 7th round as my #29 LB 1/20/14.

Devon Kennard USC 6’3 249 Sr. Average in every measurement. Not very athletic looking in shuffle/lateral quickness drill. He was moved all around in 2013 as seen by his 60 tackles, 9 sacks and 13 TFL. He lacks the athleticism or length to be a 3-4 OLB so his best fit probably is as a 4-3 SLB. He’s tough to evaluate as he was more of a DE as a senior than a LB but I like his frame and strength which makes him worth a shot as a late round conversion project. 7th round as my #30 LB 5/4/14.

Ronald Powell Florida #7 6’3 1/8 237 Jr. In the 2011 Alabama game he won edge on pure speed rush vs. LT Barrett Jones nearly getting strip sack but ball thrown just before (10:08 1st). In the 2013 Miami game he had a blitz from a MLB spot and took on the LG getting through him for a cov sack. He is a special athlete with elite length who could easily stay at LB or bulk up and move to DE 9/7/13. Late 7th round as my # 31 LB who is a project type who could be special but currently doesn’t have a clear position in the NFL 5/3/14

 

Free Agents:

Jonathan Brown Illinois 6’0 3/8 238 Sr. In the 2011 Purdue game he slipped pulling OT to hit RB at LOS for no gain, very nice inside rush pushing off C and upfield to get 4 sec sack showing legit pass rush ability-called back for PF by a teammate (8:42 2nd), bit on play action allowing easy 15 yd catch and run to TE, dumb offsides penalty on 3rd and 1 allowing 1st. In the 2011 Wisconsin game he shot through hole for TFL on Montee Ball, grabbed FF quickly returning it +10 yds, good strength pushing LT Ricky Wagner back on goal line run, good TFL on Ball getting into backfield and not chasing him but staying disciplined to get him when he cut back (14:10 4th). A very underrated LB who has the height to possibly gain some weight and avoid being just a WLB prospect. Has a good burst, legit pass rush ability, and is a strong tackler. 4th rounder already 12/3/11. He was average in the vertical and broad yet was the worst out of 35 linebackers in the 40 (5.03), shuttle (4.56) and 3 cone (7.77) which is all atrocious for a guy only 238 lbs. His Combine very likely causes him to go undrafted. 30 starts to his career. +100 tackles each of past two years. Slow in shuffle/lateral quickness drill. He had impressive production but there is a limit to how bad your Combine can be before you’re not draft worthy by any team and I feel that Brown passed that barrier. Free Agent 5/2/14.

Corey Nelson OU #7 6’0 3/8 231 Sr. I have noticed him in 2011 for the first time as he has become their pass rush specialist and had a bit of success with the role. In the 2011 Oklahoma St. game he avoided RBs cut block getting around it to make tackle on other RB, showed lack of strength trying to tackle RB Jeremy Smith after 4 yds and unable to allowing 37 yd TD run (5:27 3rd), great quickness off the edge dive tackling RB for 2 yds on inside run-few edge defenders can make that play. In the 2011 Texas game he had delayed blitz and batted ball at LOS, good rush off edge dive tackling RB for 3 yds. In the 2011 Florida St. game he beat RT Zebrie Sanders on edge forcing hold and negating 22 yd TD pass. In the 2012 Texas game he blitzed off edge and timed jump right for batted ball at LOS, good pressure forcing throw away from QB due to his blitz, big hit on RB’s in flat on dump off. In the 2013 Notre Dame game he had an INT returned for a TD, elite play going in on inside run and still making TFL when QB kept it on zone read, batted ball at LOS-he was their best player on D today. He was an elite prospect coming out of HS, I know this because he was the Aggies best recruit and flipped to OU at the last minute so I’ve hated him ever since, yet never had the career expected of him. He’s a versatile player though who has flashed at times on film and appears to be fully recovered from his pectoral tear which ended his senior season early. I’m intrigued by him as an undrafted free agent as the talent is there and he had a few bad breaks in his career. Maybe he’d be a 3rd-4th round talent if he’d gone to A&M. Booyah! Free Agent who has a lot of talent and could be a steal 5/3/14.

Trey DePriest Alabama #33 6’2 245 Sr. #38 on ESPN 150 for 2011. In the 2012 Michigan game he had an easy TFL on end around that was covered by teammates, nearly got INT on RB dump off but settled for immediate hit short of 1st on 3rd and 3. In the 2012 Arkansas game he had a blatant PI vs. TE in middle of field-called. In the 2012 LSU game he covered the TE on 6 yd out and had a great diving PBU-very good quickness, poor tackle on FB Copeland in the flat allowing +25 yds YAC-bounced off him and didn’t wrap up. In the 2012 Georgia game he had poor missed tackle in open field on RB screen. 3rd Team SEC in 2013. He has a good frame and would fit well as a 3-4 ILB but he never impressed me and looks like a free agent type 5/3/14.

Nate Askew Texas A&M Sr. In the 2013 NFLPA Practices he showed good instincts reading the QB’s eyes to get PBU on slant. In the 2013 NFLPA game he had a PBU and almost pick 6 on a dump off pass to the RB-he’s good in coverage and has great hands. Free Agent 1/19/14.

Shaquil Barrett Colorado St. #56 6’2 250 Sr. He had 12 sacks in 2013 and 18 for his career. He was coached by Joey Porter in 2013 and improved his hand technique. In the 2013 Washington St. game he made no impact except for a few sporadic pressures until the final 2 minutes of the game where he got not one but two FF in a 10 sec span (1st one overturned). He lacks the length or burst I like in my pass rushers and gets a free agent grade only due to his productivity and experience working with Porter. I personally think he won’t be a PR at all and will be a SLB in a 4-3. Free Agent 12/21/13.

Andrew Wilson Misssouri Sr. 2nd Team SEC in 2013.  Father was captain of Missouri defense. In the 2013 bowl game vs. Oklahoma State he stacked and shed an OL for a tackle in space, strong hit on inside run. He had an amazing 2013 season with 113 tackles but he’s not very versatile as he has only 1 career sack and 0 career INTs. He did have a solid Pro Day with a 4.74 40, ’33 ½ vertical and 9’7 broad though his quickness drills were poor. Overall he looks like a 2 down linebacker who should be able to stick at least as a backup. Free Agent 5/3/14

Justin Anderson UL-Lafayette #34 6’2 232 Sr. 1st team Sun Belt Conference in 2013. The new coaching staff initially thought he was lazy but realize he was just so smooth in his body movements it looked effortless. I never noticed anything special about him but he was around the action a lot and showed good instincts. Free Agent 12/21/13.

Anthony Hitchens Iowa 6’0 3/8 240 Sr. Combine: Very high and somewhat slow in shuffle/lateral quickness drill. He had an average Combine as he had a good 40 (4.74) but was average in the explosion drills and below average in the quickness drills. He played last year at WLB at 233 lbs so I think he added weight to look more versatile and it came back to bite him. He had back to back +100 tackle seasons in the Big Ten and has a chance to make a roster as a backup and special teamer but I don’t see a guy that has anything unique to his game. Free Agent 5/4/14.

Avery Williamson Kentucky 6’1 246 Sr. 2nd Team SEC in 2013. He had a very good 40 (4.66). His vertical was bad though which is strange as those usually correlate. His quickness drills were above average. He’s another short, thick MLB prospect with elite tackle totals from Kentucky joining Danny Trevathan. Danny was more productive than Williamson but they are similar in style. I wasn’t impressed with Williamson as he wasn’t that fast chasing plays down and wasn’t that strong at the POA. He played well in a tough conference though and is experienced so I like him as a free agent 5/4/14.

Blake Slaughter Kansas St. #53 5’10 227 Sr. He redshirted himself in 2012 because he was behind Arthur Brown. In 2013 he was 2nd team Big 12 and had more tackles than Brown did in any year he was at Kansas State. Free Agent 5/3/14.

Glen Carson Penn St. In the East-West Shrine game he had a nice no gain tackle on inside run, he was an aggressive player who took on OL head on. He looks like the classic MLB with good size. Free Agent 5/3/14.

Marquis Flowers Arizona #2 Sr. 3rd Team Pac-12 in 2013. Former safety who moved to LB in 2013. He has a basketball player type build as he’s long and lean and does not look like a LB. In the 2013 BC game (bowl game) he stayed home and got TFL on reverse, good TFL (and hit) reading 0 route the whole way. He’s hard to grade as he’s clearly not a MLB like he played in 2013, might not even be a LB at any spot, but I tentatively give him a free agent grade 1/21/14.

Eddie Lackey Baylor #5 6’0 225 Sr. 1st team Big 12 in 2013. A very well built player who plays MLB for the Bears. He was everywhere in the 2013 Oklahoma St. game and showed borderline elite speed on plays in front of him. He’s tightly built and lacks the lateral movement you’d want in a WLB and his size makes that the only position he probably can play in the pros so unless he can add another 10-15 lbs and keep his speed I don’t see the NFL as an option. He’s a fiery, strong, and straightline fast player though so maybe he could make it on special teams and bulk up to MLB. Free Agent 12/8/13.

Devin Unga BYU 6’1 231 Sr. Did not work out due to injury. He is 26 years old and will turn 27 during his rookie season! He had a great season in 2013 with 138 tackles, 7.5 TFL and 1 FF yet at his age I don’t see how you can justify spending a draft pick on him especially considering he’s destined to only play WLB in a 4-3 due to his poor size. Free agent 5/4/14.

Tyler Starr South Dakota 6’4 1/8 250 Sr. In the East-West Shrine game he set the edge well ruining an outside run at him, big hit on short out vs. TE. I liked his size and relentlessness but he’s coming from a small conference and doesn’t have elite physical talents. Free Agent 2/27/14. He barely cracked 5.0 in the 40 (4.98) which is bad even at 6’4 250. Nice frame but he was below average to bad in every drill. Rich Eisen called him Brett Michaels due to his tattoos and long hair. He was slow, didn’t react quickly and didn’t hustle at the end in shuffle/lateral quickness drill-one of the worst. Solid in backpedal and turn drill but dropped pass. I didn’t like his movement, his 40 time or his lack of effort in a few drills. Camp invite 5/2/14.

Coyle Brock Montana #56 Sr. In the 2013 NFLPA game he shot through a hole and got a diving TFL on a run play away from him-elite instincts and good quickness. Camp invite 5/3/14.

Brady Daly Montana St. #58 Sr. In the 2013 NFLPA game he showed good instincts (just as Dick Vermeil pointed out as his head coach). In the 2013 NFLPA game he was pancaked 2 times and never looked NFL caliber. Undraftable 1/20/14.

Prince Shembo Notre Dame #55 6’2 260 Sr. Looks more like a bulked up LB than a DE. In the 2012 Michigan St. game he got the edge on the LT and pushed through him with leverage for 4.5 sec sack-good strength battling through even when LG came to help at the end, good speed forcing INC by scrambling QB chasing him from other side. He was involved in an incident with a woman who accused him of rape and eventually committed suicide over the experience. No charges were ever filed and little is known of the details but either you believe Notre Dame in saying she lied about it and their insinuation that she was mentally unstable or you believe it was a cover up and an innocent girl died after suffering tremendous emotional trauma. In the 2013 Rutgers game (bowl game) he played DE the entire game and showed a solid burst to get a few pressures but overall didn’t wow me. Undraftable due to rape issues and only a 5th-6th round type if the off the field issues weren’t there. In the East-West Shrine game he showed good run stuffing skills-he’s a big guy and could easily play SLB in a 4-3 or ILB in a 3-4, he once again showed no talent as an edge rusher so 3-4 OLB and 4-3 DE are out of the question. Combine: He had a very good Combine as he came in big (253), explosive (’38 ½ vertical) and was mediocre in the quickness drills which is a win for a hulk of a linebacker like him. Solid in shuffle/lateral quickness drill except for the fact he kept guessing and made the coach mad. Surprisingly good in 4 bag drill. Tight in turn but good hands shown in backpedal and turn drill. I’m kind of disappointed that he’s been so good this offseason as he had a great East-West Shrine game and followed it up with an underrated Combine. He looks strong, physical and athletic with his best fit being as a 4-3 SLB or 3-4 ILB. He now looks like a 3rd round pick to me but I’m leaving him as undraftable on my official board as I honestly think he raped that girl and want no part of a guy like that 5/2/14.

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