Sunday, April 10, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Linebackers

Finally, finally got through them all. I'm also going to briefly throw in some of the players I covered the other day in the D-line section who I think might have a shot as linebackers.

It should be noted these players are presented in no particular order, except that I've put the D-line/OLB prospects first. As for the rest, I just collected the names and went through them:

- Aldon Smith. Covered him the other day with D-linemen. Some think he might have a future as a 3-4 OLB. I can see that. Excellent player.

- Ryan Kerrigan. Ditto above. Has that burst in his first step that could prove very useful as a pass rushing OLB.

- J.J Watt. Literally the same as above, right down to the burst.

- Allen Bailey. Speed to burn might find a use as a rushing linebacker.

- Justin Houston. Very well suited to OLB role. Speed is plentiful. Needs to work on run technique.

- Jabaal Sheard. With his speed and technique, could pull off being an OLB.

- Chris Carter. I compared him a little to DeMarcus Ware, which says it all.

- Dontay Moch. Probably more suited to being a 3-4 OLB than he is a D-end.

Now the proper linebackers:

- Jeremy Beal. Definitely suited as an outside rushing linebacker. Fast and strong, he just keeps on fighting to get to the quarterback. He tracks very well down the line. Causes a ton of mayhem. An excellent prospect.

- Von Miller. Strong and quick, but gets blocked too easily. On pass rushing downs he takes far too wide a line. It's almost like he's trying to run right around the tackle without ever making contact and against good tackles and good quarterbacks that simply wont work. He needs to be coached out of it, and if that's possible then in all likely hood he will make a terrific pass rusher, but that's still an "if".

- Akeem Ayers. Has more fans than Justin Bieber, but I don't understand why. He's not especially strong or quick, technically not all that proficient and just generally seems to spend a lot of time watching the game go by. Occasionally he gets a pure stroke of luck and ends up with a sack, but very much more by chance than effort. Really can't understand it. He'll probably notch 20 sacks in his rookie year now just to prove me wrong.

- Bruce Miller. Probably should have been in the linemen section to be honest. Average at best. Painfully slow off the snap.

- Kenny Rowe. Quite lively, keeps running all the time. Uses his hands well. Nothing sensational, but with time and coaching has potential to grow. Might be a product for the future.

- Bruce Carter. Tackling is normally very good, especially in the open field. Pass coverage leaves quite a bit to be desired though.

- Mason Foster. Again, tackling is pretty good but pass coverage is very average.

- Ross Homan. Not the greatest linebacker. Pass coverage is ok. Reacts quite quickly to what he sees though. Lot of work physically to make him into a high level prospect.

- Lawrence Wilson. Solid open field tackler. Good lateral movement and pursuit across the field. Pass coverage is not bad. Little too keen though to come downhill in the run game, where he often takes a bad angle and gets shut out of the play. Overall reasonably solid, if not spectacular.

- Doug Hogue. Not the strongest, but pretty nifty on his feet. Not sold at this moment in time. His career will depend heavily on the level of coaching he receives.

- J.T. Thomas. Not the worlds greatest tackler due to being a little under sized, but very fast and incredibly smart. The way he sniffs out screen plays you'd think he was in the offensive huddle. Great pass defense. A leader. Flows to the ball brilliantly. Holds the point of attack when required. Fights hard to get to the ball carrier. Pursues from behind really well. Can play inside or out, and special teams. I think it's safe to say there will be a place on my 2011 watch list for Thomas. Excellent prospect.

- Brian Rolle. Pretty quick physically, but mentally seems to be a step behind everyone else. Not a bad linebacker. The question will be what his coaches can do with those physical skills. Can they teach him how to read the plays better?

- Jonas Mouton. Has a bit of speed, but spends most of the game watching. Might as well charge him for a front row seat, it can be that bad at times.

- Adrian Moten. Tough guy, pretty smart and reasonably quick. Reads the play well which helps. Overall pretty handy.

- Michael Morgan. Quick off the snap, has a really good burst. Tackling is ok. Another rushing linebacker.

- Malcolm Smith. Quite tough and a surprising turn of speed with the ball in his hands. Has patience to not dive straight into the wash and get shut out which is rare among young players. A good prospect at inside linebacker.

- Martez Wilson. Fairly highly touted but seems very reluctant to make contact. Not sure if "scared" is really the right word, more just a little hesitant. Seems to be waiting always for someone else to make the first hit, and even then not overly keen to pile in and help. Makes some tackles, but only just. Always displays body language that to me suggests relief when he's blocked. It might all just be down to confusion, possibly just not sure of what is happening in front of him. Wouldn't touch him.

- Quan Sturdivant. Pretty strong. Sees things happening early and reacts quickly to it. Good pass coverage skills. Run defense needs work. Not an outstanding prospect I think, but pretty solid. Would make a good 3-4 round pick.

- Casey Matthews. Shares many of the traits with his brother. Tough. Great speed coming downhill. Smart and reacts quickly to what he sees. Good pass coverage. Relentless. Watching him reminds me most of Patrick Willis which is obviously a good thing. I can see him as an inside backer in a 3-4. Excellent.

- Kelvin Sheppard. Didn't get to see enough so not really placed to comment.

- Greg Jones. Same as above.

- Nate Irving. Not the fastest or the strongest, but smart, very instinctive, with quick reactions. Normally a sure tackler. Brains make up for what he lacks in physical skills. With a bit more time in the weight room will only get better.

- Colin McCarthy. Bit hold and cold. Sometimes sees something and comes roaring down hill to break it up. Sometimes however he can be very slow to react. Pass coverage is not great. Get's stuck on blocks too easily.

- Mario Harvey. Run of the mill linebacker. Sometimes not very aware of what's happening around him. Some good tackles, but all too often finds himself stuck on a block somewhere. I heard him described somewhere as being great at shedding blocks; either that guy was high or he caught him on a great day.

- Mark Herzlich. Ultimately a mixed bag. If you want a great pass defending linebacker who can play well in space, Herzlich is definitely your man. But if you want a run stopping/pass rushing beast then leave well alone. Quite the Jekyll and Hyde player, more so than I previously had thought.

- Scott Lutrus. Not the greatest pass rusher in the world. Pretty mobile sideline to sideline. Good in pass coverage. Good, physical tackler. He's the kind of player I can see the Texans taking in the later rounds to boost their badly flagging pass defense.

- Mike Mohamed. Pass coverage is ok. Closes well on intended receivers. Sometimes gets good penetration into the backfield. I thought he had a good combine as well. Overall though you're just left with this underwhelming feeling. It's difficult to explain.

- Chris White. Can burn some when he chooses. Often quick play recognition. Not bad pass coverage. Overall not as polished as some of the other prospects, but could make a nice late round/undrafted player.

- Alex Wujciak. At times he looks hilariously slow but oddly enough that often seems to work in his favour, as he's too slow to get caught out fully by misdirection. It's kind of an enforced sense of patience. He's pretty smart and alert to what's happening around him and in front of him. He's a good tackler. I could see Wujciak as the kind of guy that will go undrafted but you'd want to bring along to camp just to get a closer look for yourself. There's potential in there, as strange as that may sound.

- Obi Ezeh. Is pretty quick in sideline to sideline terms. Quick play recognition. Hard tackler. Not really much of a pass rusher.

Phew! Finally made it all the way through them. Next up is the final group, which will probably be the toughest; defensive backs. That will include both Corners and Safeties. I'm probably just gonna bung them into one post, but I might split it for ease and to get the first post out a little quicker for you all.

After that I have one last nefarious plan before the draft. I'm collecting up a list of all the extra players that I'm seeing along the way, as well as looking deeper at some of the areas previously covered like wide receivers. I'm gonna hopefully crank out a final post that will include all of those and it'll be a mixed bag so it's gonna end up being quite huge. But hopefully worth it.

Expect then either;
a) the first post on Corners by Wednesday/Thursday or,
b) the whole defensive backs some time over the weekend.

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