Scouting the LinebackersThe physical make up for these guys is very important. Usually you want to see these guys over 6-2 and in that 240 pound weight range. If a prospect is taller but a little light there is probably some room to grow. If a prospects is small, 5-11 or 6 foot then you really need to look at his production and make sure he produces. The numbers as always give an good indication of a players athletic ability. In the 40 yard dash 4.4 times are unnecessary, they are a bonus but you want to see guys run in the 4.5s and the early 4.6s. If they are getting close to 4.7s that could be a problem. What is more important for this position is the drills that test lateral speed. Because at this position getting from sideline to sideline is important. A prospects needs to run well with good times in the 3 Cone Drill and the 20 Yard Shuttle. Then of course watch their position play in drills. Is the prospect fluid and loose or stiff in the hips. If your looking at the 3 Cone Drill times most of these guys won't hit that 7 second marker. If they do then watch out. The Bench is not overly important but you want to see a prospect throw up some good numbers and show some strength in the upper body. This will be needed when shedding off blocks. The LBs should be getting in the 20s and 30s range on the bench. Vertical jump and broad are not overly important but it shows good leg power and explosion. Arm Length and Hand Size again not very important but you like prospects with decent arm length to wrap up those running backs.
On tape you have to look for a number of things, first make sure the numbers translate to the field, can the prospect move around from sideline to sideline. Then get into the specifics of the position. Can he tackle and wrap up. Where is he making the tackle on the running back, is it at the LOS or 5 yards down field. Can he find and locate the football, does he ever get faked out. Is he at the bottom of the pile and is always fighting. Can he rush the passer or bring pressure. Can he drop back into coverage, what does he do against the tight ends. What does he do if he gets an intercept. But mainly can he read the offense and put himself in a position to make a play or be around the ball.
On to the prospects...
40 Time: 4.62. Official: 4.68 secs. 10-Yd Split: 1.65.
Arm Length: 32 5/8.
Hands Size: 9 3/4 inch.
Projected Round (2011): 1.
Alabama has developed some impressive running backs and inside linebackers in the past couple years, and Hightower is a shining example of the type of NFL-ready players in the stable that allows them to be so successful at the collegiate level. Hightower has looked the part of a starting Mike linebacker in the NFL for two years, and as an early-entry junior he has a bright future. If he can keep his weight steady and play at a fast speed, Hightower can do many of the same things that Oakland's Rolando McClain or New England's Brandon Spikes did working as the physical inside presence of a defense. Hightower could be a better fit within a 3-4 scheme, as he has the size to shed big offensive linemen who would work free to block him in the run game.
StrengthsHightower is lengthy and imposing lining up in the middle of a defense. He has long arms that he uses effectively to fight off blockers, dip and push to avoid trash at his feet, and keep balls close to him. He is not the most athletic mover in space, but he uses his arms to tie up receivers within his zone and hand fight tight ends off the ball. He is technically sound, although his style of play looks effortless. There are not many wasted motions in his movements, and he takes good angles to the ball when working both sides of the field. Although Hightower doesn't quite possess the speed to be a true sideline-to-sideline inside backer or be the sole tackler in the middle of a 3-4 defense, he uses his instincts well and remains in position.
Read & React: Productive, combines good instincts and fair reaction time for his size. Finds the ball in the trash inside, doesn't take false steps against play-action and gets into his drop quickly and naturally. Missing the quick-twitch acceleration, and thus reaction speed, to project as an All-Pro type.
Run defense: Solid run-stuffer with good mobility. Stonewalls ballcarriers in the hole with the size and leverages one-on-one to churn legs and prevent forward push. Big-bodied with a defensive end's frame to drive linemen blocks inside with the thick arms to maintain distance and shed or scrape to the play. Flashes hustle to reach option toss outside even with delayed read. Aggressive defensive scheme gives him a lot of chances to make plays on run blitzes. Lacks speed to beat the ball outside without taking the perfect angle.
Pass defense: Top zone awareness kept him on the field in passing situations despite average speed. Drops to first-down marker quickly and watches for crossers in front of him. Very aware of RB routes with effort to attack throws to the sideline. Lacks speed and short-area quickness to handle NFL slot receivers and better tight ends in man coverage; can struggle to track and catch up with misdirection. Manhandles receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Tackling: Strong head-on tackler. Gets low and wraps ballcarriers of any size. Reacts quickly enough to shed blocks or grab the legs of backs through a hole. Good chase and closing to the sideline. Leaves his feet to grab elusive ballcarriers in space using his size and strength. Occasionally whiffs, is inconsistent breaking down to attack open-field targets and misses chances when he doesn't bend and get low in tight quarters.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Regular blitzer because of his size and strong hands. Does not have elite edge speed but started to beat tackles with quickness and violent hands consistently. Shows some situational DE potential. Strength to rock back tight ends and linemen with initial contact. Average changing direction but has the length and flexibility to bend around the tackle.
Intangibles: Heady player, often directed traffic. Worked hard to rehab from serious knee injury in 2009. Took the leadership handoff from Rolando McClain as a redshirt sophomore. Spends a lot of time in the weight and film room.
Hightower showed off excellent speed at the Combine for such a big, heavy linebacker. He has the size of a defensive end with the speed of a starting linebacker. Hightower performed well in the field drills too. He stood out at the Crimson Tide's pro day also. The two performances have validated his stock as a first-round pick.
Hightower had a good season for Alabama. He was a tough, in-the-box defender and increased his splash plays. Hightower has shown the ability to be a dangerous blitzer as well. He looks much faster than he did in 2010 when he was in his first season back from knee surgery. Hightower had 85 tackles with 11 tackles for a loss, four sacks, one interception and three passes batted away this season. He had a dominant game against Tennessee and played well versus LSU. Against Georgia Southern, Hightower blocked a field goal and it looked like he was spiking a volleyball.
Hightower is a real presence in the tackle box, and would fit well on the inside of a 3-4 defense. On passing downs, he could rush the passer from outside linebacker, or blitz from the interior. Hightower may not have the speed and movement skills to be a three-down linebacker in a 4-3 defense.
"Inside linebacker, nickel backer, defensive end and odd rusher," recited Saban. "He does all those things very well, he is very smart and he has leadership qualities." As a freshman, Hightower was labeled "a freak who can play any position" by teammate Rolando McClain (No. 8 overall in 2010, Raiders). He played up to the hype until he blew out his left knee in 2009 and required reconstructive surgery on his ACL, MCL and meniscus. It wasn't really until last season that he was playing back to top form, which is comparable to a larger and more athletic Brandon Spikes (New England, second-round pick out of Florida, 2010). Hightower combines dutiful film work and great instinct to help get him quickly into position for plays, and then his substantial physical abilities take over. He is a natural leader and weight-room fanatic.
My Opinion: A blown out knee always has me worried. Hightower is really big in the thighs and ass. He is a little pudgy in his torso and arms. He looks like he could get more muscular in the arms. He has decent straight line speed. He wasn't too bad in the position drills at the combine. He was a little stiff in the hips and needs to have better foot work. He needs to work on his hands if he wants to pick off more passes. He runs a little weird or tight, it may be because he has big thighs. I don't see the 'want' or the 'badassery' with Hightower, I generally like that in my LBs. He lined up at DE at times for Bama. He can take on the offensive lineman and is able to shed blocks. He is a good blitzer up the middle. He is not as instinctive as I would have thought, he tends to sit back and wait to make a read then comes forward. He can nail a guy when he has him dead to rights. He finds the football pretty well but takes his time to get there. He is a good tackler, wraps up well. He doesn't have much lateral movement. He is pretty good in zone coverage.
With Hightower he has played his whole college career in the 3-4 and with the 3-4 you can generally hide the short comings of your Linebackers. With Hightower it is his movement. He is slow to get to the ball, when going North-South he his pretty quick but can't move in space. In the 4-3 which the Broncos win that is killer. Hightower should go to a 3-4 team and play ILB. Pair him with a faster guy and he could be a monster. If I was the Chiefs I would look at Hightower over Kuechly at ILB as he is the perfect fit there. But for the Broncos I say no, stay away.
Projected 40 Time: 4.67.
Arm Length: 33.
Projected Round (2012): 2-3.
A four-year starter, two-year captain and three-time All-WAC honoree, Wagner can be called short, but he's not small. He packs the power of a man much larger and uses that effectively to tackle anybody with the audacity to be in his vicinity with a football.
His senior year was his best, with 147 total tackles, including 67 solo, four sacks and two interceptions. His muscular build was impressive at the Senior Bowl weigh-ins and he was hyper-active during the week of practice. But Wagner wasn't allowed to really tackle until the game, when he put on a clinic as he led everybody with seven tackles, including one for a loss, and an interception. For that he was named Senior Bowl MVP.
Wagner was unable to take part in the Combine because he was hospitalized in Arizona with pneumonia.
Wagner is a smart player with a nose for the ball. He is well built, but his frame looks maxed out. That could push Wagner to being an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense at the next level. He had a quality week at the Senior Bowl.
Run defense: Good balance and strong, long arms for the pull-down tackle while engaged in a block. Shows good patience and then closes quickly in the hole. Looks to slip blocks with quick hands rather than forcefully taking them on and shedding with violence.
Pass defense: Cognizant in coverage. Showed better-than-expected fluidity and instincts in coverage during the Senior Bowl practices. A bit heavy-footed and was occasionally beaten to the flanks or down the sideline, leaving questions about whether he has the speed to play outside in the NFL.
Tackling: Wraps his arms on most tackles to bring ball carriers to a quick stop. Good lateral and downfield pursuit.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Experienced pass rusher with enough burst to slip by offensive tackles and enough power to blow through running backs left in pass protection. Shows good effort but only a moderate feel for rushing the passer. Allowed to loop around to find favorable matchups, on occasion, but relies too much on speed and bull rushes rather than using any real technique.
Intangibles: Possesses a thick build with impressive overall musculature. Intelligent and dedicated. Capable of contributing early in his career. Voted a team captain in 2010-11.
After a strong week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl (named North Team's Most Outstanding Player), Bobby Wagner looked to carry that momentum to the Combine, but was a late scratch because of Pneumonia. The illness kept him in a hospital bed for a week, holding back his training. However, Wagner was finally able to work out for scouts last week, running his 40-yard dash in the high 4.4s and low 4.5's -- times that would have ranked him among the best linebackers at the Combine. He also shined in the vertical jump (39.5"), broad jump (11'), weighing in at 6-0 and 235 pounds with 33" arms. While a minor setback, the illness and time missed in Indianapolis was erased with his impressive work out and it's certainly possible he could be drafted in the top-50 picks.
My Opinion: Wagner has had great production in college. He may have been a little heavier at the combine had he not suffered pneumonia. It is easy to lose a few pounds of mass with that kind of illness. He has great measurables. He posses good lateral movement but he struggles to shed offensive linemen. He could show more motor to make a play and get to the ball. He is a good tackler and usually wraps up. He needs to be more violent with the hands to shed blockers. He has decent vision for the ball. He is not going to knock a guy out. He is OK in coverage but needs some work here.
Wagner is not going to start at ILB his first year. He needs to learn more about the game and develop his technique. He maybe could start straight away at OLB more specifically WLB. He is a development prospect and I have him as a 3rd round guy but he will go in the 2nd because of his measureables and potential. If he is there in the 3rd he would be a solid selection to add to the LB core and develop into a starter.
40 Time: 4.41. Official: 4.47 secs
20 YD Shuttle: 4.19 secs
Bench: 24 reps.
Vertical: 39.5. Broad: 10-7. 127 inch
Arm Length: 31 5/8.
Projected Round (2012): 2-3.
Kendricks has been a highly productive middle linebacker with a physical presence for the Golden Bears. He has had high tackle production and has been durable in his role. He will bring a physical presence to any defense and grades out as one of the top inside linebacker prospects in the draft, with 2nd round value. He is physical and capable of playing in a 3-4 scheme if necessary.
At the Scouting Combine, Kendricks showed there was more to him than first appearance may indicate. His name, for example, is really Marvin Mychal-Christopher Kendricks. The Marvin is from his father, whose name some may remember as the leading rusher at UCLA in 1970-71.
Mychal showed decent versatility in college, starting two years at outside linebacker, then moving inside last year in dramatic style. But scouts at the combine still had a "show-me" perspective on Kendricks, especially after he measured only 5-11 and 1/4-inch tall. But he looked bigger by the moment as he benched 225 pounds 24 times, ran 40 yards in an unofficial 4.47 seconds and added a vertical jump of 39.5 inches.
That sent scouts back to double-check tapes, which showed how Kendricks used all that athleticism to earn Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2011. He had a team-leading 106 tackles, 14.5 for a loss, one sack, one forced fumble, one interception (returned for touchdown) and two fumble recoveries.
There are some concerns, including an injured shoulder and thumb last year and two suspensions for violating team rules. But it still looks like he hasn't played his last season at inside linebacker.
StrengthsHe is a very solid tackler who punishes running backs when he fills the gap on inside runs.
Weaknesses: Shorter than ideal with limited measureables and is too easily engulfed by blockers near the line of scrimmage. Needs to anchor better at the point of attack and was too often knocked backwards or off his feet. More of a straight-line athlete with some stiffness in his hips, lacking the smooth change of direction ability to quickly redirect. Slips off too many ballcarriers and needs to complete tackles -- will go for the big hit too often instead of consistently wrapping up. Has some durability concerns after a shoulder and thumb injury hampered him in 2011 -- wore a cast on his left hand for part of his senior season. Has some minor character concerns after he was suspended for parts of two different games for separate violations of team rules.
NFL Comparison: Curtis Lofton, Atlanta Falcons
Kenricks was the premier workout warrior among the linebackers at the Combine, and his performance sent a charge into his draft stock. He led the linebackers in the 40-yard dash with the fastest time for a linebacker in the past 12 years. Kendricks also led all linebackers in the broad jump and the vertical jump. In the field drills, he looked good moving around in space. Kendricks definitely helped himself, and the Combine could be a catalyst for him to rise up some draft boards.
In 2011, Kendricks had 107 tackles with 14.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, two passes broken up and two interceptions. He increased his tackle total dramatically from 2010, but his sack production was nowhere near the same level as he moved to inside linebacker as a senior after being an outside linebacker in 2010. In the NFL, Kendricks would probably be better off playing on the outside as he is undersized to be a middle linebacker.
Played in all 51 games possible during his four campaigns at Cal from 2008-11 with 29 starts, with all of the starts coming in his final three seasons (2009-11) … earned several All-American honors as a senior, including second-team selections by Phil Steele and College Sports Madness … also a third-team All-American selection of Yahoo! Sports and an honorable mention pick of SI.com … named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection as a senior, after earning second-team all-league honors during his junior campaign … finished his career with 258 tackles to rank tied for ninth all-time at Cal, while adding 36.5 tackles for loss (-144 yards) to miss finishing among the school's all-time leaders by one-half of a tackle for loss … added 13.5 sacks (-98 yards), seven fumble recoveries, four interceptions that he returned for 130 yards and a touchdown, five pass breakups and a forced fumble … also had a punt return in which he was credited with 26 punt returns yards after he blocked a punt before teammate Bryant Nnabuife picked the ball up and ran 30 yards for a score vs. Colorado State in 2008, five pass breakups and a forced fumble … recorded at least 0.5 tackles for loss 24 times in his career, including in 19 of his final 25 games … played inside linebacker as a 2011 senior after spending most of his collegiate career as an outside linebacker.
Of the six players listed in this report, if Kendricks scores as poorly on the Wonderlic as I've been told scouts expect based on his struggles on the white board during team interviews, his stock could drop significantly. Teams hold inside linebackers to a higher standard than many other positions when it comes to intelligence.
My Opinion: He is much shorter than you usually like your LBs to be. He also had a few injuries this season plus he has been suspended twice for violating team rules, these are issues. He has very fast straight line speed. He has a tight compact solid body, there is no fat here. He has decent footwork. He really flies around the field and has pretty fluid motion in the hips. He struggles with offensive lineman, he doesn't have the power to stand up to one thus he struggles to shed blocks. He is really quick coming around the edge. He has really good vision for the ball and picking his way through traffic to get to the ball carrier. Top notch blitzer when coming up the middle because he is just so fast. He is a decent tackler, he won't blast a guy as not that strong. Has a great nonstop motor.
If reports are to be believe Kendricks is meant to struggle with the mental aspects of the game, in other words he is dumb. This may mean he is limited to play OLB (he would be an WLB) rather than the more mentally demanding ILB postion. For me he is a little more athletic version of Woodyard. He just doesn't have the size or strength to hold up at the point of attack and play inside in the NFL. Also there is the possibility of moving him to strong safety? Either way a lot of work would need to be done to get Kendricks ready to start in the NFL plus he will be limited to Weakside Linebacker to being with.
40 Time: 4.56. Offical: 4.69 secs.
3 Cone Drill: 6.89 secs.
20 YD Shuttle: 4.18 secs.
40 YD Shuttle: 11.53 secs.
Bench: 19 reps.
Vertical: 34.5. Broad: 10-1. 121.0 inch
Arm: 31 1/2. Hand: 9 1/8.
Projected Round (2012): 3.
Carder has been a highly effective player ever since his shining performance for TCU in the 2011 Rose Bowl. A high-motor linebacker, Carder might not have the athletic ability to get drafted in the late rounds, but teams will have a tough time letting him go during camp. His competitiveness and toughness should allow him to find a role on a 53-man roster as a backup and special teams standout. Although he hasn't done it much for the Horned Frogs, Carder could be a special teams contributor at the next level for years to come on coverage teams, and is a reliable and consistent performer.
Millions of people saw Ricky "Tank" Carder (receiving the nickname from his parents due to his size at birth) earn the 2011 Rose Bowl MVP in the team's win over Wisconsin (three tackles for loss, game-winning pass break-up), but few know the road he took to achieve that success. In the seventh grade, Carder suffered a broken back and punctured lung/diaphragm in a rollover car accident. He was his high school's kicker and punter to avoid contact until his junior year, when he got the medical go-head to play any position; opposing coaches have been paying ever since.
The lightly-recruited Carder earned some playing time (nine tackles, one for loss in 11 games) behind future NFLers Jason Phillips and Daryl Washington as a redshirt freshman, then earned second-team All-Mountain West accolades after stepping into Phillips' starting role in the middle in 2009 (89 tackles, 10 for loss, 10 pass break-ups). As a junior, he was named first-team all-conference (60 tackles, 9.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks, five pass break-ups), All-American by multiple outlets,.
TCU's aggressive 4-2-5 scheme asks Carder to attack gaps, taking himself out of plays, but his ability to close on the ballcarrier and make plays in coverage should earn him an early-round selection as a 4-3 strong-side linebacker or inside 'backer for a 3-4 team at the next level. The only bump in the road would be NFL teams' concerns about those injuries suffered years ago, and their potential to derail his career with the car crash-type collisions that happen every play in the NFL.
StrengthsThe Mountain West defensive player of the year has been a seriously consistent performer. He is active in the run game and relies heavily on his instincts to diagnose plays and hit his gaps. His back-to-back POY awards speak for themselves as far as the experience he brings to the next level. He has the size and strength for the next level and is a very productive tackler. Once he sees a play he is quick to get there, and it's obvious that he understands how to read offensive lines to help him diagnose. A strong player who will fight his way into a role at the next level.
Positives: Heady player who always seems to be at the right place at the right time. Attacks ball carriers in a hurry if a lane opens up in front of him. Regularly flows to the ball using the correct attack angle. Dips shoulder or attacks blockers directly when filling gaps. Can anchor to maintain the line of scrimmage. Identifies and avoids pulling guards and fights off multiple blockers in traffic using lateral quickness and strong hands to find his way to the ball carrier. Will hurdle trash on the ground to get into the backfield. Underrated athlete capable of covering running backs out of the backfield. Regularly breaks up passes. Possesses the length and aggressive nature to be a solid tackler. Strikes ball carriers with reckless abandon. Good closing speed and strong hands to be effective as a blitzer.
Weaknesses: Loses the ball and overruns plays at times, sometimes because he is attacking his assigned gap and other times because he is asked to be so aggressive. Lacks great upper-body bulk to keep from being engulfed by NFL-caliber linemen. Fair in dropping into his zone, but could be a bit more fluid moving backwards. Has only adequate upper-body strength to corral stronger ball carriers in the open field. Lacks pass-rush moves.
Carder had a phenomenal Combine and pro day where he showed off more speed than many gave Carder credit for. With those two performances, he illustrated his speed to cover a lot of ground in the NFL.
Carder started out the season slowly and looked like he missed teammate Tanner Brock, but in the second half of the season, Carder picked up his play. He finished with 70 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss this year. Carder also had two interceptions returned for scores this season. One was returned 26 yards and the other was a 69-yard run back. He is a tough football player who has good tackling technique. For the second straight year, Carder was the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.
Carder combines good speed and instincts. He could continue to add some bulk and play on the inside of a 3-4 defense. Carder has the quickness to play outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense and would fit as a 4-3 middle linebacker if he continues to add weight.
My Opinion: Carder has had to come back from injuries which he sustained in a car accident years ago but these should no longer be a problem. When he was timed at the combine he showed a lack of straight line speed. He has a solid body throughout. He could get a little bigger in the torso and shoulders, overall he needs to be more muscular in the upper body and arms. He is pretty good in space and is able to drop the hips and turn. Is a little slow with his footwork but decent with his lateral movement. He has nice soft hands for intercepts. Has a great motor. Struggles with blocks from the offensive line, getting stronger up top may fix this. Has good vision for the ball carrier. Is a very aggressive LB. As such he needs to wrap up when tackling. He was ask to blitz often but probably doesn't have the speed for the next level to do that consistently, he will get a few sacks over time. Is a pretty hard hitter. He looks much faster on tape than he was timed (that is confidence). He was pretty good in coverage and can get from sideline to sideline.
I was worried going in looking at Carder but I came away really liking what I saw. He is the first linebacker I have looked at that I would say is 'aggressive' and will knock people out. But he needs work on his wrap up. For the Broncos I don't really see the fit. He is more suited to the SLB position (Von Miller) to start right away but could play ILB in a year or two when he has worked on his technique and tackling. In the 3rd he is pretty good value and should be able to contribute on special teams and work himself into the rotation early. If we don't bring back Haggan he could be a nice replacement to sit behind Miller for a while.
40 Time: 4.44. Official: 4.50 secs. 10-Yd Split: 1.52.
Vertical: 33.5. Broad: 9-8. 116.0 Inch
Arm: 33 1/4. Hand: 9 1/2.
Projected Round (2012): 1-2.
Brown might be one of the fastest straight-line linebackers to ever enter the NFL draft, therefore making him one the most intriguing prospects of this class. While speed is the most striking feature of Brown's game, there are many aspects that are question marks as he enters the NFL. It has been well-documented that he possesses track-type speed. He does show it on the field and stands out as a player who effortlessly is in position to be a high-tackle production linebacker. Brown could be effective in nearly any variation of linebacker in any defense but projects best as a 4-3 outside linebacker who can be active in pass defense. There are many uncertainties that surround Brown's game, including his overall ability to adapt from the college game to pros, where he could display minimal effort and make plays. In the end an athlete of this size and speed won't last much later than the first round because he has yet to scratch the surface of his potential as a player.
He is only beginning to learn how to maximize his exceptional ability on a football field, but Brown is fast and fascinating.
He has an abundance of one natural ability that can't be taught -- speed. Brown officially set a school record in track with an indoor 60-meter time of 6.72 seconds in 2009. He checked in at the Combine with an unofficial best of 4.44 seconds in the 40 and actually seemed off stride in the middle of the run. He added a vertical jump of 33.5 inches.
His raw athleticism is tantalizing, but he lacks the instincts to be a great linebacker and may need to add even more bulk than the additional six pounds he put on for the Combine since the season. Meantime, at the very least, he can be a terror on special teams, same as he was in college.
StrengthsBrown finds the ball, reacts, and finishes through the ball carrier. His speed is without a doubt his strongest asset and the key to his game. Brown is a natural mover, and his strength isn't compensated by his play speed, as he is well-polished in removing himself from blocks and getting to the ball. He is strong over the tight end and has the footwork and hip mobility to run with any tight end in coverage. There are few running backs even at the NFL level who can outrun Brown and get an edge in the run game, and few will slip open against him in the pass game. While he excels out in space, he is also able to play in the box and sniff out runs as a gap defender and make explosive plays at the point of attack. He uses his pure athletic ability and speed to dip and run by linemen into the backfield. Brown also displays the power to run through running backs both in protection and carrying the ball. He is a productive tackler and rarely falls off the ball once getting there, making it likely he will continue that high-volume production for years to come.
Read & React: Still a work in progress in this area, though he showed improvement as the 2010 season wore on. Takes a false-step on occasion, but is an alert player whose rare speed puts him in position to make the play. Reacts quickly in pass coverage once the ball is thrown. Hustles to the ball.
Run defense: Not an overly physical defender. Relies on his speed and elusiveness to evade blockers, rather than taking them on. Too often is stale-mated at the point of attack when blockers are able to get their hands on him. Doesn't use his hands well to shed blocks, at this time. Possesses excellent speed to beat backs to the edge, however, and has the burst to slip through gaps to create tackle-for-loss opportunities.
Pass defense: Often fooled by good play-action, but has the flexibility and straight-line speed to recover. Gains good depth on his drops when in obvious passing situations. Keeps his head on a swivel and shows some feel for zone coverage. Reads the quarterback's eyes and can plant and break on the ball. At least average ball-skills for the position and has the athleticism to be a threat with the ball in his hands on a return (see INT return against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl). Has the physical skills to eventually excel in this area.
Tackling: Doesn't possess a great deal of explosiveness as a hitter. Demonstrates good, but not great lateral agility to break down and make the tackle in the open field. Will overpursue and leave himself vulnerable to the cut-back, on occasion. Uses his long arms to "rassle" down the ball-carrier, rather than striking him and making the secure stop.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Very raw in this area. Possesses the explosive athleticism you can't coach, but relies almost exclusively on his speed and agility to elude blockers, including running backs. Doesn't show much in terms of pass rush technique.
Intangibles: Two-sport athlete who also participates in track for North Carolina. Set the school record in the indoor 60-meter dash with a 6.72 time in 2009. Unofficially clocked at 4.28 seconds by UNC coaches during off-season conditioning in 2009. Was named a special teams captain in 2010 for earning the most points in Carolina's scoring system.
As expected, Brown had a fabulous Combine performance with an ultra-fast 40-yard dash. Perhaps the most impressive feature of Brown's Combine was that he had added bulk without losing speed. Brown was eight pounds heavier than he was at the Senior Bowl. There is no doubt that Brown has rare athletic ability, but his team interviews were critical to his draft stock.
Brown made the case to be considered the top 4-3 outside linebacker in the nation in 2011. He consistently produced splash plays while also being a solid tackler. Brown had massive games against Rutgers, North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Louisville. For the year, he had 105 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, four passes broken up, three interceptions and three forced fumbles.
Brown has rare speed and demonstrates the instincts to take advantage of his fabulous skill set and be more than just a good athlete. He has some off-the-field maturity concerns that could knock him down in the draft. Brown was suspended from playing defense against Georgia Tech and the Tar Heels really missed him. At the Senior Bowl, he flashed at times but wasn't consistently dominant.
While many were touting Brown's athleticism throughout the 2011 season, I've preached caution due to his lack of physicality and questionable instincts. The lack of recognition skills aren't just based off tape.
My Opinion: Brown would have to play WLB at the next level. There are issues with smarts and work habits. What I want to know is how well he takes to coaching. He has a pretty solid frame, needs more muscle in the legs and in the torso. He has decent footwork. He needs to do better in coverage. He is not as fast with his lateral movement as you would think. Comes across as the silent type, probably not a focal leader. He needs to wrap up, he misses a lot of tackles. He usually takes poor angles and over shots the play. He is not very instinctive. I question his motor, he gives up to early on a play. He takes a while to react and make reads. I also think he may be a little afraid of contact. He gets defeated easily when blocked.
I really was looking forward to seeing Brown play and was shocked. The tape I saw was terrible and raised more questions than giving me answers. I also noticed how they don't talk about his production anyway here in this analysis. Don't get me wrong the potential and athletic ability is there. But all the mentor stuff and his motor is not. He needs a lot of work and coaching to bring him up to the level of potential he should be at. He is not worth a 1st or 2nd round pick in my book. Tank a 3rd prospect above had much better production and tape than Brown. I would give Brown a third round grade as a poor, poor mans DJ Williams. For the Broncos stay away! Don't fall in love with him and draft him early he is going to take a few years to get it. Brown will fall come the end of April.
40 Time: 4.56. Official: 4.65 secs.
3 Cone Drill: 7.28 secs
20 YD shuttle: 4.22 secs
Bench: 19 reps.
Vertical: 36.5. Broad: 9-11. 119.0 inch.
Arm: 31 3/4. Hand: 8 3/4.
Projected Round (2012): 2-3.
Lavonte is one of the premier linebacker prospects in this year's senior class. The Fort Scott Community College transfer is undersized but able to overcome that through his instincts and speed. He has enormous tackle production throughout his two years at Nebraska, posting over 260 tackles in his short time there. Instincts are the key to his game, as he always seems to be in the middle of action whether rushing the passer or covering tight ends. Lavonte will need to stay off blocks at the next level and either gain strength to shed linemen or continue to play instinctually to stay free entirely. His athletic ability allows him to play loose and fly around, and he should go in the late first round to a team who loves undersized, athletic linebackers.
StrengthsLavonte has speed that is evident from the second the play starts. He is an instinctive player who is able to read offensive lines and trigger to get to the spot he needs to be. He understands angles and leveraging himself when taking on blocks, which allow him to overcome his size deficiency. His footwork is fluid in transition and when moving laterally, he routinely fits up against running backs in the hole and stonewalls them at the point. He can pursue against the run to the outside and use his instincts to meet players where they ultimately will be, and rarely whiffs on tackles. He can cover tight ends close in man and works well in zone coverage as he has natural, fluid hips to turn and pass set.
Read & React: Tough player with excellent instincts and quick reaction time, involves himself in many run and pass plays all over the field. Occasionally guesses, flying into holes instead of finding the ball then attacking it and leaving his area open to receivers and running lanes.
Run defense: Plays mostly in the box, flies through creases to wrap up the legs of backs trying to find a hole or attempting to get to the sideline. Despite his lack of size, attacks oncoming linemen with a punch or stiff-arm into their chest and makes tackles in the box with blockers on his back. Gives and gets the worst of collisions inside.
Pass defense: Strong in coverage, often used as the only linebacker on the field against spread defenses. Possesses the quickness to stay with running backs on wheel routes or trail across the middle. Stays with underneath routes while in zone, able to break up passes in front of receivers with front hand without interfering. Gives up size to most NFL-caliber tight ends and better backs separate during routes with length and strength. Bites on aggressive arrow routes, loses his balance when trying to change directions at times.
Tackling: Hustling chase tackler who hits the thighs and wraps up legs very effectively. Tries to strip the ball when tackle is secured, has good success even against tight ends. Bigger ballcarriers can stiff-arm him in the open field because of his lack of size and length, but it does not happen too often.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Explodes through creases to reach the passer, bringing down most with a strong hit. Also chases down quarterbacks escaping the pocket to rack up sacks. Rips off running back blocks to chase the passer but freezes too often when initially facing them, making him late to reach the ball.
Intangibles: Good football work ethic and intelligence. Possesses strong character and humble attitude, called "coach's dream" by Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini.
Quietly, David had a strong Combine to validate his stock. The most impressive aspect was that he added enough mass to weigh in in the 230s after being 225 at the Senior Bowl and throughout his collegiate career.
David played extremely well this season. In 2011, he totaled 133 tackles with two interceptions, 12 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. David sparked the Cornhuskers' comeback win over the Buckeyes and made a series clutch plays to seal their win over the Nittany Lions. He was one of the few Nebraska players who played well against Wisconsin.
David finished the season with big games against Michigan and Iowa. If the senior were bigger, he would be a first-round pick. David had a quality week at the Senior Bowl.
NFL scouts aren't sure whether to play him at linebacker or strong safety, but somebody will draft him and put him on the field somewhere, and he will do what he has always done - tackle people. He worked hard to get this far, so being told he is too small won't faze him. David had a sensational high school career with Miami Northwestern's No. 1-ranked team, but because of low grades he played at Fort Scott Community College, where his team lost a national championship game to Cam Newton's Blinn College. When he finally arrived at Nebraska, David proved he was a tackling machine by setting a school record with 152 in 2010 and finishing his career with 285. He has pass coverage and ball reaction instincts to be an excellent nickel linebacker.
For his career, David posted 285 tackles in 27 starts. He added 28 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, ten pass breakups and two interceptions. He was named Big 12 Defensive Newcomer-of-the-Year as a junior after collecting 152 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and six sacks for the Cornhuskers.
My Opinion: He looks a little bigger than 230 pounds. He probably needs to add another 10 to stay in the NFL. He is pretty muscular in the arms and torso, but needs to add bulk. He gas good footwork. His lateral movement is good but needs work on his breakdowns and cuts. He has good vision to find the ballcarrier. He makes reads and reacts quickly. He is very good in coverage especially against Tight Ends. He covered receivers in college but won't be able to do that in the pros. He is a good tackler but won't blast a dude. He struggles with blockers, he needs to be more violent with the hands and get stronger. Has a decent motor. He is not much of a blitzer. He can be faked out but recovers pretty well.
I was impressed with David, mainly his coverage skills. He is probably the best cover linebacker in this group and explains why some said he could play safety. The only problem with David is his size. He needs to get bigger before he can start. Weakside Linebacker is most likely going to be his position, if he adds 10 pounds and can stay in that 240 range he could make the move to Inside Linebacker. I like him as a development prospect.
40 Time: 4.53. Official: 4.64 secs. 10-Yd Split: 1.65.
3 Cone Drill: 7.18 secs.
20 YD Shuttle: 4.37 secs.
Bench: 24 reps.
Vertical: 37. Broad: 10-1. 121.0 inch
Arm: 33 3/4. Hand: 10 1/2.
Projected Round (2012): 3-4.
Bradham is an impressive specimen at the linebacker position. He is physically imposing and a strong player who is a feared tackler in the ACC. He will bring a physical presence to the NFL and make big plays early on in special teams. He has speed and has been productive for Florida State, but has struggled to find the field at times and will be somewhat of a project at the next level. Either way, teams will love his special teams ability early on.
Bradham was a celebrated five star high school prospect who had 145 tackles and 8 sacks as a senior.
Bradham played as a True Freshman in 2008, and then took over as starting Will in 2009 and has led the team in tackles for the past three years. Stats were 93 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, two sacks, one interception and one pass defensed in 2009, 97/5.5/5/0/5 in 2010, and 86/9.5/2/2/5 in 2011. Bradham appears to have a perfect health record, which is understandable given his chiseled body.
Bradham looks a bit like a giant safety. Hips are a bit high, arms are long, and waist is narrow. Bradham, despite his build, holds up well in traffic, and makes a lot of plays by engaging a block, shedding, and pursuing. He is completely fearless and will always try to plow into the largest piles, and has a good knack of ending up glued to the ball carrier. Cover skills, in both man and zone, speed, quickness, and agility are very good.
Bradham could fit in the NFL at any 4-3 LB position, and inside in a 3-4 because he doesn't offer much of an edge rush. Ferocious against the run and very good in coverage, Bradham is extremely versatile. Best fit would appear to be outside in a 4-3, either side.
StrengthsBradham is a very physical and reliable tackler working from his outside linebacker position. He can jolt an offensive lineman and get outside to make plays and tackle running backs. He is quick to react to the outside run, chasing it down from the inside-out. He is a reliable jump-and-dive tackler who excels when pursuing the ball in the open field. He is also an effective blitzer and just as able to defend the run between the tackles. He is good to sink his hips and fit on running backs.
Positives: Fearless, relentless and fast. Covers a lot of ground on the field. Is usually around the ball. Solid tackler. Can turn and run with TEs in coverage. Can anchor despite slightly high cut build, and uses hands well to shed blocks. Dedicated hard worker on and off the field with virtually perfect durability record.
Negatives: A bit high-hipped, which limits ability to anchor and turn. Not much of a pass rusher if there is not an open lane. Ball skills are just average. Takes some dumb penalties.
NFL Comparison: Jacquian Williams, New York Giants
Bradham played well in 2011, becoming the first Seminole since Marvin Jones to lead the team in tackles for three straight seasons. Bradham had 86 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, three passes broken up, two interceptions and a forced fumble this year. He played well against Miami and Oklahoma.
Bradham is fast and physical, but his awareness and instincts can be off at times. He played well at the Senior Bowl and had an excellent Combine. Bradham blazed a fast 40 time did reasonably well in the field drills.
As he turned Wednesday afternoon to speak to the pool of reporters at his pro day, who last saw him outside the Citrus Bowl two months ago, former Florida State linebacker Nigel Bradham pulled out a pair of eyeglasses and offered an apology. "Sorry about the glasses," the linebacker said, cracking a grin. Propping on his face the similar designer non-prescription glasses that NBA stars LeBron James and Dwayne Wade have made fashionable for athletes off-the-court these days, Bradham began an interview session. It was all part of putting on a new look for an apparently new player. In the time since Florida State's Champs Sports Bowl victory Dec. 29, Bradham has seen his NFL Draft stock rise from a fourth- or fifth-round projection to a likely third-round pick. After a strong Senior Bowl performance at the end of January, and an even better showing at last month's NFL Combine, teams have begun taking notice. That was also the case Wednesday morning when he joined about 15 other former Seminoles in taking part in FSU's Pro Day. "From what I was just told, I've helped my stock a lot," Bradham said just after talking to scouts. "It's pretty much just showing what I can do. Getting out of breaks and showing my quickness and speed." He didn't participate in the timed speed drills, but did work out with others, including former FSU linebackers Nigel Carr and Kendall Smith, in agility and position-specific workouts. During his ball drill work, Bradham showcased his athleticism and ability to catch. "I didn't drop any balls," he correctly said. "I heard people kept saying I couldn't catch. So I was trying to just work on my hands a lot. Worked out with tennis balls and on the Jugs machine.
Senior linebacker who is the lone starting linebacker returning in 2011 as well as the team's returning leading tackler. Covers the field well and brings a wealth of knowledge to the linebacker corps having played in 40 career games. Named to the preseason watch lists for the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Award which are awarded to the top defensive player in the country. A Preseason All-ACC pick by several publications who will also be a candidate for the Butkus Award given to the nation's top linebacker. Earned one of six community service awards given out at the end of spring practice.
My Opinion: Nigel has all the measurables that you want for a linebacker. He is big and muscular, you can really tell the difference between him and say David in the torso, needs a bit more muscle in his lower legs though. He has surprising good straight line speed. He has decent footwork. He has good lateral movement and speed. He is a bit stiff in the hips when turning. He needs to do more to shed blocks. He has decent vision for the ball carrier. He looks a little slow on tape, his reads are a little slow. He is a decent tackler. He can find his way through traffic. He needs to work on his angles. He looks unconventional on tape, he looks like a lanky player even though he is only 6-2. His lower legs need work so he can move around better. He doesn't blast a guy often.
When I watched Nigel nothing stood out and amazed, everything was average. He didn't do one thing really good just everything OK. He needs to build his body up a bit and work on his technique before getting onto the field. He is a development player for a few years. For us he could sit at SLB for a few years and develop.
40 Time: 4.53. Official: 4.61 secs.
3 Cone Drill: 7.19 secs.
20 YD Shuttle: 4.28 secs.
60 YD Shuttle: 11.65 secs.
Bench: 32 reps.
Vertical: 38.5. Broad: 10-4. 124.0 inch.
Arm Length: 32.
Hand Size: 9 inch.
Projected Round (2012): 4-5.
Davis is a big linebacker who is competitive and had a lot of tackles for the Red Wolves of Arkansas State. He can run, and speed is by far and away his best asset. He could challenge to run in the 4.5s throughout the pre-draft process, and that kind of speed is hard to ignore. Davis is big enough to play the position in the NFL, and has fifth-round value to a team who needs a guy that can run down plays and be effective against both the pass and run. Davis can be an awesome special teams candidate early on, and this will likely be the key reason he is on a field in Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season.
StrengthsDavis can really run, and it shows in every play he is in against the run. He has a burst in short areas to move toward the ball immediately off the snap, and can run down almost any back to meet him outside the tackles and cover the outside run. He chases hard and fast every play, and would be an excellent option to play outside 'backer in a 4-3 defense in which he could play free and really contain the run from sideline to sideline. He is a good tackler once there and has that obvious explosion to drive through his hips and really deliver a blow on a ball carrier.
WeaknessesDavis needs to gather better when running down plays from the inside-out. He is so fast that he can overrun guys at times and fly off them as his momentum takes him outside on a tackle. Against one-cut runners at the NFL level, he could have a tough time gathering to make a secure tackle on the run. His athletic ability really doesn't translate to pass defense, where he can look awkward and out of place at times when playing within a zone. He needs to learn to better diagnose plays and could struggle against faster offenses.
In 2011, Davis recorded 69 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss, three sacks and one interception. He was a late addition to the Senior Bowl, but Davis held his own against the better competition. He is fast and has some physicality.
At the Combine, Davis showed off his rare combination of skills. He sprinted a very fast 40 time and was one of the leaders on the bench press. His vertical and broad jump measurements were excellent and showed his explosion. Davis is a sleeper prospect who could be a big reward in the NFL.
My Opinion: He is big bodied and is solid throughout. He could add a little bulk to get into that 240 range. He has decent footwork. He is very long legged and a little slow in his lateral movement but generally pretty good. He has good vision for the ball carrier. He is a great special teamer and could start day one there. He is physical and he will take on offensive linemen but like most linebackers coming out of college he needs to be violent with the hands and shed the block. He has to work on his tackling. He is a decent blitzer up the middle.
Davis I would love in the 5th round. He can come in and start right away on special teams and provide depth to all 3 linebacker positions. Plus in a few years he can work himself into the rotational and maybe a starting job. He is great value in the 5th.
40 Time: DNP.
Bench: 18 reps.
Vertical: 31.5. Broad: 9-3. 111.0 inch.
Arm Length: 32 1/2 inch.
Hand Size: 9 1/2 inch.
Projected Round (2012): 4-6.
Trevathan is a fluid athlete who is undersized but crafty and uses his athletic ability to make high tackle production. In the right NFL system that can keep offensive lineman off him (likely a 4-3) Trevathan can hit a lane hard and make plays in the backfield. He struggles, due to his size, once blockers engage him and this will likely be his Achilles' heel at the next level. Due to his athletic ability and enormous production he has fourth-round value and could be selected even earlier by a team looking to take a risk on an undersized guy who could contribute immediately on special teams.
StrengthsTrevathan is a good lateral mover who makes plays sideline to sideline. He can run everything down. He relies on his speed to rush the passer and brings a physical, explosive drive-shoulder tackle when he reaches the quarterback. He has good hands to secure interceptions and is active in the pass game even though he struggles when dropping. A classic undersized, athletic lateral mover at outside backer.
Trevathan didn't run at the Combine, but he needed a good performance to help him stand out. In his senior season, Trevathan recorded 143 tackles with 11.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, four interceptions, five forced fumbles and five passes broken up. He finished sixth in the nation in total tackles. Kentucky did not qualify for a bowl games so Trevathan had one less than game than many players who barely passed his tackle total.
Trevathan added some bulk for 2011 without losing his speed. He is a physical and explosive linebacker who routinely makes splash plays. Trevathan flies around the football field and dishes out some devastating hits. He is a sleeper prospect who made game-changing plays all year. Trevathan did not participate in the Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine. He is underrated.
Became the first linebacker in Kentucky history to earn first-team All-America honors … Two-year starter at weakside linebacker … Chief asset is his outstanding speed, which he combines with an instinct for the ball and an ability to play off blocks … Has complemented his speed by continuing to add strength and size in the weight room … Went through the NFL, draft evalution process in January but decided to return in order to gain more maturity … Will enter the 2011 season with a streak of nine-straight games with double-figure tackles … Has played in 39 games, starting 18 … Participated in a unique event in May as he worked with children during a one-week service trip to Ethiopia.
My Opinion: He could get bigger and probably needs to if he wants to play in the NFL. He lacks some muscle in his lower half. He looks tiny on tape (must have put on weight for the combine, he was 220-225 in college I think). He needs to get better in coverage but he is one of the better backers I have seen doing it. He is an Ok blitzer. He has great vision for the ball carrier, always knows where the ball is. He is an excellent tackler, maybe the best wrap up guy from this group. He struggles with offensive linemen blocks. He has had great production and is a tackling machine. He finds his way through traffic easily. He is always activity, he has a great motor.
Danny is the one guy I want to draft, above all others. He could be the Wesley Woodyard of this draft. If he makes it deep into the fifth or sixth round you have to pick him. He provides depth at ILB and WLB and could be a special teams ace for years. Develop him for a few years and grow his body and I think he could be a starter in the NFL.
After going through the linebackers up to Danny there wasn't a guy that stood out to me and said 'Draft me'. Tank Carder is probably the only early round guy I would look at because I like his intensity and he can fill that SLB spot which is vacant. None of these guys would be an upgrade at ILB over Nate Irving. The only ILB that should be drafted to play that position is Kuechly but he should be long gone before it comes to our turn.
Don't believe me here is this for your consideration, tell me who you would pick:
Now I am going to bounce on out of here ~ Aussie.