Mark Herzlich, ILB, Boston College
Height: 6-4. Weight: 244.
Hand Size: 10 in.
Projected 40 Time: 4.69.
Combine 40 Time: 4.92.
Bench: 29. Vertical: 32.5. Arm: 32 3/8.
Projected Round (2011): 4-6.
Date of birth: September 1, 1987 (age 23)
On May 14, 2009, Herzlich announced that he had been diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
Read - React: Rare diagnosis skills. Is seemingly always around the ball. Reads his keys quickly and takes excellent angles to beat the football to a spot. Aggressively attacks the line of scrimmage against the run, but can apply the brakes and change direction quickly if initially fooled by play-action.
Run defense: Good initial quickness toward the line of scrimmage against the run. Slices through gaps, showing good burst, lateral agility and instincts to consistently meet the ballcarrier near the line of scrimmage. Good balance, agility and vision to flow through the trash and the line of scrimmage, as well as laterally to string plays wide. Has an explosive pop to disengage quickly from blockers. Has the prototypical long arms, good upper-body strength and good balance required for breaking free quickly. Rare effort in pursuit laterally and downfield. Goes all out, all the time.
Pass defense: Gains good depth on his initial drop, staying balanced and ready to turn either direction quickly. Efficient footwork. Rarely takes a misstep. Has good, not great, overall agility and straight-line speed for sticking with his receiver or tight end assignment, but understands the angles of the game, remaining consistently in between his opponent and the passer. Tracks the quarterback's eyes and shows good route-recognition and the burst to break on the ball. Good ball skills.
Tackling: One of the more reliable open-field tacklers in the nation. Excellent balance for his size when breaking down to tackle smaller, quicker athletes. Shows proper technique in running through his tackles and his form is a picture of the hit-lift-drive technique. Shows legitimate explosiveness as a hitter, often knocking the ballcarrier backward. Wraps his arms securely rather than relying on impact when leading with his shoulder or helmet. Possesses the long arms and good hand-eye coordination to trip up ballcarriers in pursuit.
Intangibles: Highly respected on and off the field by the coaching staff, teammates and fans. Was a fixture on the BC sideline throughout the 2009-10 season while battling cancer. Helped raise over $200,000 for cancer research. Earned numerous honors for his courage and outreach, including the Disney Spirit Award, an honorary Lott Trophy and the ACC Commissioner's Cup. As part of his treatment for the weakening of the tibia in his left leg, Herzlich had a titanium rod inserted in the center of his fibula for support. He battled various other injuries in 2010, including a stress fracture in his right foot and a broken left hand.
Herzlich has the physical tools, work ethic, character and toughness coveted by every NFL franchise. He displayed these traits not only in his triumph over cancer, but as a natural team leader on the field. Is a complete player against the run. Takes on and gets off blockers quickly and chases down plays all over the field. He can run with tight ends and backs, play in zone, and rush the quarterback. Some teams may continue to view his medical history as a red flag. Additionally, he needs a little polish with his tackling and production was down post-comeback as a senior. Still, Herzlich shouldn't last past the first few rounds.
Durability is still somewhat of a concern after his courageous battle to fight cancer. Could afford to improve his tackling consistency. Would benefit from developing a wider variety of pass rushing moves. Isn't a liability in coverage but doesn't show great explosion out of his pedal.
My take:Herzlich is by far my favourite linebacker in this draft. Not because he came back from cancer but because I see the potential to be a great player. Many and most will disagree with me on this analysis but I can truly see him being a great player. It would not surprise me if the Steelers or Ravens take Herzlich to play inside LB where they can hide him a little and let him develop.
To me Herzlich is a guy who will build every year and is a bit of a project. When I watch him play I can see he is just a bit unsure of himself and needs to build confidence in his leg and in himself. By doing rehab and building the flexible in the leg he could get back to his best and could be one of the best LBs taken in this draft. There is the chance that he may never gain that ability back or that confidence in himself but he will be a solid ST for years and being a late round pick I like him late in the 4th or the 5th, he has great value there.
I see Herzlich as a strong side outside linebacker in the 4-3, has the size to take on TEs and FBs and set the edge. Also has the arm length to be effective and make tackles on the outside, plus his pass rush skills may help him provide a few sacks and occasionally drop into coverage and make picks.
Colin McCarthy, LB, Miami
Height: 6-1. Weight: 238.
Hand Size: 10 ¼ in.
Combine 40 Time: 4.64.
Bench: 23. Vertical: 36.5. Arm: 29 1/2.
Projected Round (2011): 3-5.
Read - React: Good instincts for the position. Reads his keys quickly and efficiently moves towards the ball. Can be too aggressive toward the line of scrimmage against the run, leaving cutback lanes vacant. Over-aggression makes him susceptible to good play-action. To his credit, he isn't fooled for long and doesn't quit until the whistle blows.
Run defense: Attacks the line of scrimmage in run defense, taking questionable angles. Can get tripped up inside but did show improvement last year in his ability to protect his legs. Often beats blockers to the point due because he constantly attacks the line of scrimmage, resulting in high tackle production. Provides a quick, physical pop to keep blockers off of him when his good lateral agility isn't enough to elude them. Has seen time at all three linebacker positions. Has at least moderate straight-line speed. Pursues with passion laterally and downfield.
Pass defense: High and choppy in his backpedal and is a bit stiff in the hips. Gains good depth on his drops and keeps his head on a swivel in pass defense, but has only moderate overall agility to keep up with potential receivers. Typically is in position to make the tackle, but may not be athletic enough to consistently break up passes.
Tackling: Arguably his best skill. Is an aggressive, wrap-up tackler that seems to enjoy the physicality of the game. Shows no hesitancy taking on big ballcarriers. Flashes some explosiveness as a hitter, showing textbook hit-lift-drive form. Breaks down well in space to handle elusive running backs.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Moderate speed off the edge as a stand-up blitzer. Can pressure the tackle's outside shoulder and shows some natural pass-rush instincts with his ability to cut back inside. Has to develop better technique; he's overly reliant on the bull rush when engaged. Needs to do a better job of protecting his knees from the cut block.
Intangibles: A standout special teams player early in his career. Was granted a medical hardship in 2008 after four games. Slipped on wet turf during practice and injured his shoulder, which required surgery. Considered leaving for the NFL after his junior season.
McCarthy has a chance to win a job as a starting middle or strong side linebacker. Has great size. Exhibits very good instincts diagnosing against the run and when asked to play in zone coverage. Has enough speed and athleticism for the next level but isn't a guy you want locked up in man coverage or isolated in space against playmakers. Needs to watch his composure at times and stay under control. Put together two productive seasons after a serious shoulder injury so he should check out medically. McCarthy currently carries a Day 2 draft grade.
McCarthy has ideal bulk and good height for a middle 'backer. Is a sound player with good
awareness. Rarely takes false steps or gets fooled by misdirection. Can get off blocks and find the football. Arrives at the ball-carrier quickly inside the box. Good tackler. Tough player with a good work ethic.
Received a medical redshirt for a serious shoulder injury in 2008. Can be taken advantage of in open space. Will play wild, over run plays and wiff at times. Was taken off the field at Miami in many obvious passing downs. Isn't an overly fluid athlete and struggles in man coverage.
My Take:McCarthy did really well in his measurables at the combine and I was impressed. But struggles in coverage and his tight or stiff hips, needs to learn to sink and turn. I like McCarthy on day 3, one of the LBs that I like, but will need a lot of work at the next level.
Nate Irving, ILB, North Carolina State
Height: 6-1. Weight: 240.
Hand Size: 10 ¼ in.
Projected 40 Time: 4.82.
Combine 40 Time: DNP.
Bench: N/A Vertical: N/A Arm: 33 1/4.
Projected Round (2011): 3-4.
Date of birth: July 12, 1988 (age 22)
Irving has shown tremendous fortitude and determination recovering from a devastating car crash that cost him his 2009 season, and he has the tools to compete for a starting job at the next level. He is a bit undersized, but runs well to make plays outside of the tackle box. He has very good instincts and is rarely out of position, but he can get overwhelmed by bigger blockers in a phone booth situation. In the passing game, he plays with good discipline and flashes the burst to jump underneath routes and put pressure on the quarterback when blitzing. Irving will likely be a third or fourth round choice.
Irving is a fast linebacker that makes plays all over the field. Well prepared player that reads keys quickly and has a nose for the football in run support. Drops smoothly in coverage, has terrific ball skills and the closing burst to get after the quarterback on blitzes. Vocal leader and fierce competitor.
A bit stiff in the hips and does not change direction quickly making him a liability in space and man coverage. Struggles to shed blocks at times. Does not always take proper angles in run support and will not consistently wrap the ball carrier. Missed entire 2009 season after a serious car crash.
Nate Irving won the Brian Piccolo Award (along with Boston College's Mark Herzlich) from the ACC, an honor given to the most courageous player in the league. But he's more than just a good comeback story, back on the field after missing all of 2009 because of injuries suffered in a car accident. He led the team with 93 total tackles and ranked fourth nationally with 19.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
A first-team All-ACC performer, second-team Walter Camp All-American and a semifinalist for the 2010 Butkus Award, Irving's 20.5 tackles for loss for the season tied for fourth in Wolfpack history, while his career mark of 39.5 ranks seventh.
- Physicality, Short area quickness and agility, Plays the game with a mean-streak, Awesome instincts
- Terrible injury history, Average speed
My take:Put on size after his accident and played well afterwards. He had a good year, hits hard, not the fastest but makes up with it reading plays quickly. Possible late round prospect that could be drafted to try out for ILB. Irving reminds me a lot of Mays in the way he hits. I think he is a better version of Mays with more upside.
Greg Jones, ILB, Michigan State
Height: 6-0. Weight: 242.
Hand size: 10 in.
Projected 40 Time: 4.61.
Combine 40 Time: 4.75.
Bench: 21. Vertical: 31.5. Arm: 32.
Projected Round (2011): 3-4.
Date of birth: October 5, 1988 (age 22)
Jones has been one of the most productive linebackers in college football over the last few seasons. He fits as a starting middle linebacker in a Tampa-2 or great backup with special teams upside. Displays outstanding effort and is fearless on the field but is always fighting to overcome his lack of size and strength. Flies around the field, whether pursuing the ball-carrier, rushing the passer, or dropping into coverage, but doesn't possess ideal speed or athleticism for a Tampa-2 'backer. A lot of coaching staffs would love to bring Jones' work ethic and intangibles into their locker room.
Jones is highly productive, extremely durable and has rare intangibles. Displays great range versus the run. Relentless in pursuit, using his hands to slip blockers. Closes on the ball-carrier in a hurry and can lay the wood. Rushes the quarterback from every angle. Blitzes up the middle, comes off the edge and even puts his hand down.
Lacks bulk and strength. Susceptible when teams run downhill right at him. Blockers can overwhelm him with power or get into his legs with cut blocks. Doesn't always take most direct path in pursuit. Has a tough time staying with quicker backs and tight ends in man coverage.
Read - React: Very instinctual player, which helps him play the middle with an average-sized frame. Might take a false step on bootlegs and misdirection but reacts and accelerates quickly enough to prevent big plays. Sees the ball well inside and linemen must get more than a hand on him to negate his playmaking ability because of this suddenness.
Run defense: A bit smaller than teams prefer as an in-the-box presence, yet very effective as a run defender. Flows to the ball and reads his keys well, at times moving towards the play side before the snap. Picks his way through traffic on most plays but gets caught up in trash and engulfed by offensive linemen at times due to his small frame. Plays with leverage, however, against blocks to hold his ground or bounce off to chase plays down the field. Stays low to the ground to defeat cut blocks with his hands. Also uses his hands or a swim move to avoid approaching linemen, albeit consistently. Is a bit aggressive in his angles; quicker backs can beat him to the corner on occasion.
Pass defense: Fluid defending the pass in space with the hip flip and athleticism to stay with running backs out of the backfield. Keeps athletic position when greeting backs in the hole, reads and reacts quickly to out routes or square-ins. Will take a step in on play action and overrun routes, but recovers well enough to make a play on the ball. Faces match-up problems against taller, stronger tight ends over the middle.
Tackling: Excellent pursuit tackler. Excels as a drag-down tackler in traffic or in space, but can be explosive as well when lined up. Goes sideline-to-sideline, giving great effort to chase down fast ballcarriers in order to prevent touchdowns. A bit undersized to stop larger running backs and tight ends in their tracks, but plays with a low center of gravity to hold them up until help arrives. Typically flows well to the ball but will overrun plays occasionally because of his aggressive style. Inconsistent getting off linemen blocks inside but defeats those from most tight ends on the edge. Could be an exceptional special teams coverage unit performer.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Effective blitzer because of his ability to anticipate the snap count, read gaps and explode through them. Uses hands to defeat pulling guards and fullbacks in the hole. Plays with leverage, gets under the shoulder of guards to beat them inside when the space is available. Has speed to turn the corner when blitzing from outside. Hustles to the ball. Good change-of-direction agility to track down mobile quarterbacks in the pocket or chase them down outside of it. His lack of size allows linemen to latch on if they get a hand on him, though he still sometimes manages to get a hand on backs coming through the vacated hole while engaged.
Intangibles: Considered the team's greatest playmaker and leader on defense, as well as a solid young man. Voted co-captain by coaches and teammates. Gives full effort in weight room and on the practice field. Mentors and commands respect from younger players. Durable performer who hasn't missed a game in four years despite mixing it up in the box for half of those games.
He is the first Spartan to earn consensus first-team All-America honors since Bubba Smith and George Webster in 1965-66. Jones closed his career as a three-time first-team All-Big Ten pick and is second in school history with 46½ tackles for loss. To have a similar impact in the NFL, he will have to prove that his small frame can hold up. There is a chance Jones could line up outside to capitalize on his speed.
My Take:Jones is a player that I think could really make it, is smaller, like Zach Thomas or mays, but he brings it and is a great leader. Has put on bulk to help play inside. Is always behind the line of scrimmage, is solid. I like Jones in the 3rd or 4th.
Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, LSU
Height: 6-2. Weight: 250.
Hand Size: 9 5/8
Projected 40 Time: 4.65.
Combine 40 Time: DNP.
Pro Day 40 Time: 4.70 and 4.71
Bench: 22. Vertical: 33.5. Arm: 31 3/4.
Projected Round (2011): 3-4.
Date of birth: January 2, 1988 (age 23)
3-cone: 7.25 seconds.
Sheppard possesses great height and enough speed. Pretty instinctive player who reacts quickly. Changes directions well, breaks down in space and is a very sound open-field tackler. Can deliver the kill-shot on occasion and looks to strip the football. Is comfortable playing in zone coverage and can match up in man against most RB's and TE's.
Can be dominated by bigger blockers. Has a tough time getting of blocks in tight quarters. Susceptible to being sucked in by play-action. Doesn't take the most direct route to the football on occasion. Can be beat by athletic pass-catchers up the seam. Doesn't have refined pass-rushing technique.
Led the Tigers in tackles for second straight year with 116 to his credit, 46 of which were solo.
My Take:Sheppard I think will be a solid player at the next level, sort of like what Spikes was last year for the Pats. But his size and speed, he would better fit as an inside linebacker in a 3-4. In a 4-3 he would probably have to play on the strong side, and if Herzlich isn’t your cupper tea then Sheppard could play the strong side. But I wasn’t impressed by his effort this year. His 116 tackles and only 46 solo, that tells me a lot of flop tackles on top and not fast enough to get to the player first. But could be an interesting prospect on day 2 or 3.
Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon
Height: 6-1. Weight: 232.
Hand Size: 8 ½ in.
Combine 40 Time: DNP.
Pro Day 40 Time: 4.79.
Bench: Hurt shoulder while doing bench. Vertical: 32.5. Arm: 31 1/2.
Projected Round (2011): 3-4.
Date of birth: January 16, 1989 (age 22)
Positives: Two-plus-year starter is an instinctive playmaker and a passionate team leader. Almost always around the ball. Sure tackler who rarely misses. Excellent at diagnosing and getting in position to make plays. Can anchor against blocks, shed blocks and make plays off blocks. Made a lot of plays behind the line. Can run and shut off the wide rush. Has good ball skills and made plays in coverage. Top intangibles: healthy, durable, productive, football smart and from a legendary football family.
Matthews is the latest in a family of guys who play the game the right way. While he lacks some size and speed, he is a smart, relentless, highly-productive player who will provide solid depth and special teams value while developing into a starter. Overcomes lack of power by reading and reacting quicker than most linebackers. Does a great job of slipping blocks inside the box and is a sure tackler but does not have true sideline-to-sideline range and may struggle when caught in a phone booth. Better suited for zone coverage with his great awareness than man. Matthews could sneak into Day 2.
Matthews possesses very impressive instincts. Diagnoses and finds the football quickly. Not fooled by misdirection or play fakes. Works tirelessly to shed blockers and isn't afraid of contact. Excels at shifting through the trash in the box and has good range. Sound tackler. Displays good awareness in coverage. Intelligent blitzer. Outstanding work ethic.
Lacks size and strength for the NFL. May have a more difficult time taking on bigger blockers at the next level. Has good range but not a true sideline-to-sideline guy. Not a good matchup against speedy running backs and tight ends in man coverage. Doesn't bring top explosiveness or power as a pass rusher.
My take:Casey is intriguing, many will believe that he should play the weakside because of his size, but he is too slow for that position. The best position for him would be at inside linebacker. Where he can be off the line reading the play as he has great intangibles to make the play. His intangibles like Herzlich make him a faster player. Not impressed with his hand size and shoulder problems though. He will be taken on day 3.
Quan Sturdivant, LB, North Carolina
Height: 6-1. Weight: 241.
Hand Size: 10 in.
Projected 40 Time: 40 Time: 4.63 40 Low: 4.52 40 High: 4.74
Combine 40 Time: DNP.
Bench: 21. Vertical: 34. Arm: 32 1/2.
Projected Round (2011): 2-3.
Date of birth: December 5, 1988 (age 22)
Played mostly weakside linebacker, played a single season at ILB before he was moved back to weak for the following season.
Sturdivant's draft stock dipped after missing five games this past season with a hamstring injury, but he is athletic enough to eventually become a starter at the next level. He is a smart football player that flows to the ball and shows a good closing burst. He gets in good position and shows the ability to anticipate routes in zone coverage, and he maintains speed in transition which makes him effective in man. He lacks the necessary bulk and strength to take on blockers and can is engulfed in phone booth situations too often. Sturdivant is likely a third round pick.
Sturdivant is a rangy 'backer with good speed. Reads quickly, fills fast and shows the ability to blow up run plays in the backfield. Drops smoothly in coverage and is athletic enough to stick with backs and tight ends in man coverage. Solid tackler that consistently wraps the ball carrier.
Does not have the strength to take on blockers, struggles to shed quickly and gets lost in traffic too often. Over-aggressive at times and is vulnerable to play fakes. Struggles to break down ball carriers in space. Inconsistent motor prevents him from getting to the quarterback when blitzing. Has some character concerns.
Read - React: Fires toward the line of scrimmage against the run. Can beat the blocker to the spot and is a tackle machine. Susceptible to play-action due to his aggressiveness but is athletic and savvy enough to rarely be caught out of position without recovering. Good understanding of angles in the passing game.
Struggles a bit when changing direction and can get himself in trouble in the open field against slippery runners. Seems to always make the tackle, but it isn't always pretty or textbook execution.
Pass defense: Possesses the straight-line speed to remain at outside linebacker in the NFL, though he offers only average balance and agility to remain with tight ends and running backs one on one. Has a rare understanding of the passing game for a linebacker due to his experience as a quarterback. Reads the quarterback's eyes and breaks on the ball well, showing better than average ball skills for the position.
Tackling: Isn't a classic striker despite his gaudy tackle numbers. "Catches" many of his tackles, as he has a tendency to overrun the play slightly and is forced to break back inside to ride the ballcarrier to the ground. As such, he isn't always the prettiest open-field tackler, but consistently gets the job done. Scouts would like to see him become a bigger, more explosive hitter.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Only occasionally asked to rush the passer in this scheme, though he does show a burst to attack the line of scrimmage when blitzing. Relies too much on his speed to beat the pass blocker, getting stalemated when his initial speed rush is stopped. Still a work in progress disengaging from blocks. Shows little to no technique rushing the passer.
Intangibles: Proved his work ethic by graduating from high school early to enroll at UNC and adjust to the linebacker position. Was a highly successful quarterback in high school, earning conference offensive player of the year honors and leading his team to the state playoffs. Characterized by those close to the North Carolina program as a team leader. Teams will question Sturdivant about his arrest in July 2010 for marijuana possession.
As was the case for most of the team during the 2010 season, Sturdivant struggled. A troublesome hamstring limited him to only seven games but his productive play stood out as he finished among UNC leaders with 49 stops, including 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks -- but it wasn't the season he and scouts expected. With four starting seasons, however, scouts know Sturdivant well enough. Sturdivant might not boast some of his teammates' flashiness or rare athleticism, but his versatility and steady, productive play is certain to create interest from NFL clubs in the middle rounds.
My take:Not the biggest, not the fastest or the flashest, just solid. But I don’t see him fitting in at ILB or at SLB in the 4-3. If he falls could be interesting.
Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois
Height: 6-4. Weight: 250.
Hand Size: 9 ¾ in.
Combine 40 Time: 4.44 unofficial and 4.49 official
Bench: 23. Vertical: 36. Arm: 34 5/8.
Projected Round (2011): Top 40 Pick.
Date of birth: September 21, 1988 (age 22)
Read - React: Not the most instinctual player. A step or two late to recognize run or pass, and will be fooled by misdirection. Excellent reaction speed once he sees it develop. Finds a crease to attack the backfield or slice through a stretch play.
Run defense: Gap-attacking defender who uses his length to bring down most backs in the hole. Lanky-framed linebacker with fair upper-body development. Extends his long arms to keep offensive linemen at an arm's length as they try to reach him. Works his way through traffic near the line. Better when he sling-shots around blockers than trying to stack-and-shed. Good speed to get the angle down the sideline to minimize big plays. Willing to hit backs head-on in the hole and stand them up. Needs to get stronger in pro strength and conditioning and be more violent with his hands to shed blocks. Overpursues and is too aggressive reading angles.
Pass defense: Gets a hand on receivers crossing over the middle to knock them off their routes. Good speed to get deep in his drop. Runs the seam with receivers, sometimes 40-50 yards downfield. Great length and speed to affect passing lanes when focusing on the quarterback. Good hustle to the ball in zone coverage. Should handle man coverage against tight ends. Only adequate anticipating routes into the flat, too often gets caught in no-man's land between pass rush and defense. Must improve his ability to read routes. Susceptible to cut blocks in run and pass defense.
Tackling: One of the leading tacklers in the country, relying on his length and speed. Not usually explosive upon contact but slows down backs and makes a lot of ankle tackles when other linebackers would not even get a hand on the ballcarrier. Shows good hustle, comes off blitz to pursue 15-20 yards downfield. His height hinders his ability to drop his hips and get low, rolling off ballcarriers instead of sticking them. Only average flexibility, which could limit his 3-4 role to the inside rather than a pass-rushing outside 'backer. Nice range allows him to help teammates bring down receivers and can beat the ball to the sideline.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Uses his slim frame to get skinny through holes inside to regularly bring down running backs in the backfield. Also uses length and speed to beat tackles outside with swim or rip moves. Very good closing speed to the quarterback. Lines up with his hand on the ground occasionally, flashing get-off but lacking great flexibility to turn the corner.
Intangibles: Relied purely on athleticism early in his career. Began watching film before 2010 season. Had surgery on a herniated disk in his neck after the first game of the 2009 season, redshirted. Still wears neck protector. Suffered knife wound coming to the aid of teammate De'Angelo McCray, who was being beaten outside a Champaign bar in December 2008. Focused more on academics and football after the incident.
Wilson is a pretty impressive physical specimen with good measurables. Probably projects best as a strong side outside linebacker in a 4-3. At that position, should be able to hold outside contain using his long arms and strength to keep tight ends off his body against the run, and jam at the line or pressure the quarterback in passing situations. Is susceptible to good ball handling and doesn't show good awareness dropping into coverage. Has character flags and endurance has been questioned. However, Wilson's frame, straight-line speed, and upside will likely entice a franchise to select him on Day 2.
Wilson is a great looking prospect on the hoof with good height, length and speed. Finds the football quickly. Displays the ability to take on blockers, shed, and make plays close to the line. Exhibits sideline-to-sideline ability. Dangerous pass rusher off the edge who brings speed and power. Has experience rushing with hand on the ground.
Can be fooled by play-action and misdirection. Unsound positioning and awareness in zone coverage. High-cut player who needs to watch his pad level and battles hip stiffness on occasion. Struggles to break down in space at times. Has difficultly mirroring in man coverage after jamming. Appears to lack adequate in-game stamina at times.
My take:If he had the intangibles of Herzlich or Matthews and had a clean injury history he would be a top 5 pick. Wilson is one of the most athletic LBs to come out in a while. But he lacks understanding and making players. If he makes the commitment to studying and learning the game he will be one of if not the best linebackers in the league. But I worry that he gets his pay check and just goes through the motions his whole career. Boom or Bust guy, but I really like that he worked hard his final year but again worried that it was for the paycheck. I like Wilson in the second but he may sneak into the first.
Ross Homan, OLB, Ohio State
Height: 6-1. Weight: 240.
Hand Size: 9 ¾ in.
Combine 40 Time: 4.65.
Bench: 32. Vertical: 35.5. Arm: 30 1/2.
Projected Round (2011): 4-6.
Date of birth: March 5, 1987 (age 24)
Read - React: Excellent nose for the ball, which is his best asset. Good feel for creases inside to stop the run and knows the correct angles to take to prevent big plays. Reacts well against misdirection plays, often beating pulling blockers to the spot. Might take a false step against play-action but gets back into coverage quickly.
Run defense: Instinctual run defender who seems to always find his way to the ball. Feels his way through traffic inside to make tackles, avoiding pulling guards and catching backs from behind. Takes good angles to the ball and won't overpursue. Can explode from athletic position to stop running backs in the hole or from going over the top in short yardage. Protects himself from cut blocks, feeling them coming or defeating them with his hands. Lacks great size to deal with linemen or H-back blocks when they reach him, but generally holds his ground and can disengage.
Pass defense: Very active pass defender. Quarterbacks must account for him on any throw between the hashes. Takes on slot receivers at times and has fair change-of-direction skills to mirror. However, he will get beat in this situation against NFL receivers. Gets good depth in his pass drop. Knows where the first-down marker is and gets underneath deep crossing routes. Has some man coverage skills, lining up in the slot and man-up against tight ends. Understands zone routes and will light up receivers over the middle. Looks for the passing lane by reading the quarterback. Shows good hands for the interception, though he has had some drops. Will hustle to the ball in zone coverage to prevent yards after the catch.
Tackling: Solid tackler who consistently wraps up but is not particularly explosive. Stays low and square to stop ballcarriers when meeting them in the hole. Breaks down in space and has the quickness and change-of-direction ability to prevent backs from getting the corner. Shows the speed and instincts to catch backs before they build a head of steam. Good chase and hustle to get to the opposite sideline. Gets angles to prevent big plays crossing the field. Is consistently the second or third man into the pile. Many tackles come several yards downfield as linemen or tight ends push him back. Lacks size to get off blocks at the next level and his arm tackles will not slow NFL running backs. Should have value as an assignment-sure contributor on special teams coverage units because of his football intelligence and secure tackling.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Fair first step coming off the edge or through the middle as a blitzer. Flexible enough to turn the corner when attacking the passer or trying to grab running backs from behind. Adequate hands to beat fullback blocks but could improve in this area to prevent slowing down his rush. Needs to develop counter pass-rush moves.
Intangibles: Tough player who plays hurt; tried to get through turf toe in 2007 but had to shut it down and redshirt. Suffered a concussion against Illinois in 2009 but did not miss any time. Missed just two games after spraining the arch of his right foot. Relished taking over leadership role when senior linebackers graduated before 2009 season. Academic All-Big Ten. Cousin of former Ohio State players Bobby and Tom Hoying.
Homan is an undersized linebacker with good speed that could potentially develop into a starter on the weak side. He runs very well and shows the ability to chase running backs down from behind. He is a smooth athlete that makes plays in space and flashes the ability to mirror tight ends and running backs in man coverage. However, he lacks the strength and shedding ability to be a run stopper at the next level and can be a non-factor on running plays directed at him. Homan has the skills to be a quality Tampa 2 linebacker and will likely be a middle round pick.
Homan has the speed to make tackles from sideline-to-sideline. Reads quickly, takes proper angles and fills fast in run support. Fluid athlete that can stick with backs and tight ends in man coverage and can jump underneath routes in zone. Breaks down ball carriers in space and is a sound wrap-up tackler.
Does not have the strength to be stout against the run and struggles to shed blocks. Lacks a mean streak and will not have an impact between the tackles. Does not always anticipate routes and sloppy footwork limits his effectiveness in coverage at times. Balls skills are less than ideal. Missed significant time due to injuries.
My take:Homan I think is a guy that could surprise a lot of people. He lacks that killer instinct that I like in a LB, like McCarthy. But he has all the tools and can play all 3 positions in the corps. I like Homan on day 3.
K.J. Wright, OLB, Mississippi State
Height: 6-3. Weight: 242.
Hand Size: 9 in.
Combine 40 Time: 4.70.
Pro Day 40 Time: 4.73.
Bench: 20. Vertical: 34. Arm: 34 7/8.
Projected Round (2011): 3-4.
Wright's a well-rounded linebacker prospect who could line up as a strongside outside linebacker in a 4-3 front or inside for a 3-4 team. Very nice combination of length, speed and size that can hold up against the power running game, chase down plays across the field, rush the passer and play some in coverage. Main drawback is his lack or pure linebacker instincts. Susceptible to misdirection and run-action. You'd like to see him diagnose a bit quicker and get his physical tools in motion sooner. Wright's a mid-round prospect who could turn into a quality starting with more development and experience.
Wright is rangy and well-built. Keeps blockers off his body with his length and active hands. Closes well in pursuit. Sure tackler who can deliver the big blow. Smooth athlete for a high-cut 'backer and comfortable tackling in space or playing in zone coverage. Gets after the passer with speed and power. Durable.
Recognition skills and overall awareness need improvement. Can get walled off when he's a tick late locating the football. Pad level is higher than you'd like on occasion. Needs to watch his angles of pursuit, isn't always direct to the ball-carrier. Has trouble with quicker tight ends and backs in man coverage.
Wright finished second on the team with 98 total tackles (51 solo) with 8.0 tackles for loss and 3 sacks in 2010.
My take:Has the tools, but doesn’t know the game, needs work and if he learns the game I think he could be dominate on the outside on the strong side. Again another option on day 3.
Mason Foster, OLB, Washington
Height: 6-1. Weight: 245.
Hand size: 9 5/8 in.
Projected 40 Time: 4.66.
Combine 40 Time: 4.65.
Bench: 22. Vertical: 21. Arm: 31.
Projected Round (2011): 2-3.
Date of birth: March 1 1989 (age 22)
Foster projects as a future starting 3-4 inside linebacker or SAM 'backer in a 4-3. Will immediately provide excellent depth and contribute on special teams. Nice combination of size and speed. Shows impressive awareness and instincts reading run, staying in position against misdirection, and in coverage. Has good range against the run, is athletic enough to hold up in man coverage, and is a sure, reliable tackler. However, doesn't have sideline-to-sideline ability, struggles at times shedding blocks, and doesn't bring much production as a pass rusher. Foster is a low-risk prospect who could help out a team as a rookie and should be selected on Day 2.
Foster has terrific size with enough speed. Has outstanding instincts. Diagnoses quickly and flies to the football but also plays disciplined. Moves well for a big 'backer and has good range. Does a good job sifting through the trash. Sound tackler. Displays good awareness in zone coverage and can matchup in man. Good motor. Special teams experience.
Needs to become more consistent taking on blockers. Can be swallowed up in the box. Adept at slipping blocks but goes this route too often and runs past plays. Has enough range but not a sideline-to-sideline guy. Will over pursue out of control at times. Not much of a pass rushing threat.
Read - React: Instinctive defender. Reads keys quickly and gets to the ball with on wasted motion. Great production and made many tackles beating blockers to the point. Rarely fooled by misdirection, though he is aggressive in attacking the line of scrimmage and can be tricked by good play-action. Keeps his head on a swivel in coverage and reacts quickly to the throw. Is always around the ball.
Run defense: Very instinctive. Not a particularly physical linebacker despite his production. Prefers to slip past blockers by recognizing the play or using quick, strong hands to slap away blockers' attempts to get into his chest. Willing to take on the fullback at the point of attack. Does a nice job of leading with the correct shoulder to slip off the block in tight quarters and make the tackle at the line of scrimmage. Slips blocks as well as any linebacker in the country. Lacks the power, however, to physically jolt blockers to disengage. When blockers are able to get their hands on him, he struggles to come free. Gives excellent effort, however, in pursuit.
Pass defense: Inconsistent with his initial jam of the tight end at the line of scrimmage. Gains good depth on his initial drops, but isn't a great athlete capable of running with backs or speedy tight ends down the seam. At his best in coverage playing zone and reading the eyes of quarterbacks. Breaks quickly when the ball comes out. Good ball skills and has four career interceptions.
Tackling: His best asset. Breaks down well in the open field and is a reliable tackler. Does a nice job of wrapping his arms around the ballcarrier, usually at the knees or lower for the secure stop. Leads with his shoulder and brings his hips, delivering a nice pop, though he isn't a truly explosive hitter. Has a short-area burst to close. Quick hands to rip the ball away. Can force fumbles upon contact, including six in 2009. Good hand-eye coordination to make the diving stop.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Lacks a true pass-rush repertoire, but is an experienced blitzer who times the snap well. Good burst and flexibility to avoid blockers and shows a burst to close when he has an open lane. Re-directs well and can chase down the scrambling quarterback. Rips at the ball, rather than just going for the sack, when he has a blindside hit of the quarterback. Registered 10.5 sacks in his career, including 6.5 as a senior.
Intangibles: A standout special teams player. Might be an ascending player whose best football is still ahead of him. Credited with one of the biggest and unusual plays in UW history with an interception -- on a deflection off the foot of an Arizona receiver -- and 37-yard return for a touchdown in 2009. His touchdown, Washington's second in the final three minutes, gave the Huskies a stunning 36-33 victory.
My take:Another SLB. Foster is one of the better players in the draft at LB, tackles really well. Could even see some time in the middle. Has everything you look for in a LB.
Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina
Height: 6-2. Weight: 241.
Hand size: 9 ¼ in.
Projected 40 Time: 4.60.
Combine 40 Time: DNP.
Bench: 25. Vertical: N/A Arm: 32 5/8.
Projected Round (2011): 2-3.
Date of birth: February 19, 1988 (age 23)
Carter is an excellent athlete, but he tore his ACL in November and has a long road to recovery. He is an explosive athlete that takes proper angles in run support and has excellent speed to make plays from sideline-to-sideline. He is a very fluid, transitions with ease and is very effective dropping into coverage. He struggles to disengage from bigger blockers in and must add more bulk to become stouter against the run. If Carter recovers fully from his injury, he has the athleticism to develop into a very productive weak side linebacker and may still be an early Day 2 pick.
Carter is a tall muscular player that runs very well. Flashes great explosiveness at the point of attack and has the closing burst to make plays in the backfield. Drops smoothly in coverage and possesses the fluidity to stick with backs and tight ends in man coverage. Very disciplined player that maintains leverage and does not bite on play fakes.
Lacks the bulk to consistently take on blocks and struggles to disengage. Possesses less than ideal instincts and is a step slow reacting to the play. Not overly aggressive and waits for the play to come to him at times. Does not have a repertoire of counter moves when pass rushing and is too easily stymied.
Carter was tracking toward a very productive senior season when he suffered a season-ending knee injury that required reconstructive surgery in December. Carter is an explosive athlete, but it's unlikely he'll be able to work out for scouts before the draft.
Read - React: Generally does a nice job in reading his keys. Aggressively attacks the line of scrimmage and underneath routes, often breaking on underneath passes before the quarterback has even released the ball. Is so aggressive that he can be susceptible to good play-action. Only average ability to locate the football, but pursues hard and has fine closing skills due to his explosiveness.
Run defense: Aggressive in meeting, greeting and discarding blocks against the run. Has the lateral agility and vision to elude blockers and makes plays at the line of scrimmage. Also shows some explosiveness in his upper body with his ability to stack and shed blocks. Rare straight-line speed and good agility to avoid tripping up through the trash. Chases hard laterally and downfield in pursuit.
Tackling: Possesses legitimate explosiveness as a hitter. Generates great momentum in only a few steps and can deliver highlight reel collisions. Generally a reliable open-field tackler, but sometimes drops his shoulder for the big hit and fails to wrap up securely, resulting in some missed tackles. Also has a tendency to arrive on the scene so fast that he's a bit out of control, overrunning the play slightly. Generally athletic and strong enough to make the lunging tackle anyway.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Generates good speed off the edge as a stand-up blitzer. Typically relies on his speed to run around the offensive lineman, showing good flexibility and agility in doing so. Gives blockers an explosive pop to disengage from blocks, but has yet to develop a variety of pass rush moves or the hand technique to fight through once they've latched on to him.
Intangibles: Underwent ACL reconstruction surgery on his left knee on Dec. 14, 2010 and may not be available to work out for scouts before the draft. Prior to the injury he was recognized as a workout warrior. Reportedly has been timed at 4.39 in the 40-yard dash, and owning a 40.5-inch vertical jump and a 440-pound max bench press, 605-pound squat and a power-clean of 374 pounds. Special teams demon for North Carolina in 2008. Led the country with five blocked kicks, including four punts. Blocked eight kicks for his career.
My Take:The knee injury scares me, other than that this guy has it all and can play all 3 positions. But will probably go in the second and I don’t think he is worth that, but if he falls into the third I would take him. Doesn’t seem to play as fast as he times.