Category: Outside Linebacker

LB Devonte Fields, Louisville

6’4” – 240 lbs. – 4.75e

Originally attended Texas Christian, enjoying a highly-productive freshman season before being limited to three games the following year; was suspended for the first two games and then injured his foot. Dismissed from the team in 2014 after being charged in connection with a domestic violence incident. Transferred to Trinity Valley Community College for the 2014 season, then to Louisville in 2015. Has a tall, lanky build which may be ten pounds or so below the weight a pro team would like him to be playing at. Plays on both sides of the team’s defense, often out of a two-point stance; rarely puts his hand in the dirt and may be a bit too lean to be asked to do that often at the pro level. Pretty disciplined, deliberate run defender who will maintain backside contain and avoid overcommitting. Not afraid to take on blockers but generally tries to work around them; gets pretty good extension and has enough suddenness to disrupt attempts. Strong enough hands to discard blockers and make tackles; plays with more power than is typical for a player of his size. However, doesn’t have much of a motor in pursuit; costs his defense by not pursuing at full speed. More disruptive in the passing game than he is as a run defender. Pretty quick off the line, mixing in both inside and outside moves to create pressure. Has enough speed to challenge the edge, but although he flashes the ability to dip his shoulder, generally redirects back inside rather than bending the edge back to the passer. Works some counters into his game, most commonly a spin. Usually relies on his athleticism and technique but has shown the ability to convert speed to power at times. Gets his hands up to contest passing lanes. More commonly a downhill player, but also has extensive experience lining up in space and handling zone coverage responsibilities. Looks very comfortable making limited drops or attacking screens in space. Has pretty fluid footwork, avoids getting too high, and can cover a lot of ground with his strides. Long, athletic defender who plays bigger against the run than he is, can generate pressure off the edge in the passing game, and looks comfortable playing in space. His talent and skills are not in question; however, teams will have to evaluate him carefully because of his issues in the past and because his motor seems to run cold at times. Second-day talent who could easily slide to the third day.

Games watched: Texas A&M (’15), Clemson (’16), Florida St. (’16)

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LB Tim Williams, Alabama

6’4” – 252 lbs. – 4.65e

Was more of a reserve/rotational player in his first two seasons with the team, but stepped into the starting lineup as a junior and has enjoyed two highly-productive seasons, even without playing many snaps relative to other top prospects. Very tall, long-limbed pass-rusher who usually rushes out of a two-point stance off the edge of the line but will also put his hand in the dirt and play out of a three-point stance fairly often. Doesn’t have outstanding bulk but carries his weight well and has added to his frame; weighed just 230 pounds as a junior but is over twenty pounds bigger this year. Plays with more power and physicality than expected, and has the physical and athletic tools to make teams consider carving out a specialized role for him in their defense. Uses his length to get good extension and can create some push with his leg drive. Although his athletic abilities are very impressive all-around (has probably shown more speed and explosiveness than flexibility), his most impressive attribute may be his quickness; capable of making opposing blockers look silly with his inside moves. Can squeeze through gaps without getting disrupted by the congestion. Typically more of an edge-rusher, though; gets good depth and can challenge the edge. Varies his moves regularly to keep blockers off-balance; rip, swim, etc. Good finisher once he gets into the backfield. Isn’t really someone who will probably be asked to set the edge, but looked like a competent run defender in a limited sample size; usually brought onto the field to get after the passer. Length gives him a solid tackling radius; capable of using his extension to make reads and play a bit of a two-gapping game. More of an attacking player but also flashes the ability to handle power. Wasn’t really asked to drop into coverage during the games reviewed, probably because of his value as a pass-rusher but nonetheless a bit disappointing because he seems so well-suited to that type of role. Some teams might question how well he’ll be able to maintain his weight, which has fluctuated within roughly a twenty-pound band over four years. Representative of this year’s class of undersized but disruptive pass-rushers, his style of play is well-suited to the modern game. Impressive tools and pedigree give him a good chance of going within the first fifty picks or so.

Games watched: Auburn (’16), Tennessee (’16), Texas A&M (’16)

LB Ryan Anderson, Alabama

6’2” – 253 lbs. – 4.80e

Redshirted in his first season, then worked into the rotation and played on special teams the following year. Saw his role expand as a sophomore and has been a starter for the past two seasons. Will usually line up as a rush linebacker in the team’s defense, which generally features three down linemen, but occasionally puts his hand in the dirt or will blitz from an  inside position. Predominantly plays on the left side of the defense. Height and bulk are adequate for a rush linebacker role but might be smaller than most teams are looking for in an even-front defensive end. Plays with technique, intelligence, and toughness. Very assignment-sound and consistent. Patient player in run support who can generate some pop on contact, extend his arms, and set the edge; more disciplined than aggressive on rushing downs. Avoids overcommitting and getting himself into trouble, generally taking good angles when flowing to the ball. Pretty reliable tackler although his radius looks average at best. Lacks elite top-end speed and burst but can generate some explosiveness in his lower body and is also sudden enough to beat offensive tackles at the line. When rushing the passer, often tries to convert speed to power but can also challenge the edge and bend back to the quarterback smoothly, albeit without an exceptional closing burst to finish. Uses subtle hand use to slap an opposing blocker’s arms away. Was able to get pretty consistent pressure rushing off the right side of the offensive line and drew some extra blocking attention. Does a good job of disrupting opposing releases out of the backfield; usually able to get a chip in before a tight end starts to get downfield. Was asked to work in coverage more often than most pass-rushers and exhibited impressive range and quick feet with adequate technique; typically was asked to make zone drops or pick up players on shallow drags rather than lining up in man coverage. Can place his hands on opponents and carry them downfield, but gives up some separation at the route stem. A very polished player with all of the mental tools teams look for a pro defender; athleticism isn’t exceptional but looks more than adequate. Experience in a pro-style defense and on special teams should help him find a role early in his pro career.

Games watched: Tennessee (’15), Arkansas (’16), Southern California (’16)

LB Vince Biegel, Wisconsin

6’4” – 246 lbs. – 4.70e

Redshirted as a freshman after sustaining a foot injury, then appeared in a rotational capacity the following season before stepping into the starting lineup in 2014; has put together three productive seasons since then, although his output dropped off substantially as a senior. Team captain with good bloodlines; grandfather, father, uncle, and brother also played college football. Plays rush linebacker in Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense, shifting from the left to right side regularly (usually plays on the weak side.) However, looks a little bit more like a linebacker in a four-man front, with bulk on the low end for a rush linebacker despite impressive height; length may also be below-average for the position. Has pretty solid instincts/play recognition skills; generally doesn’t take himself out of plays. Gets pretty good arm extension as a run defender and has the athleticism to flow down the line. Willing to take on blocks but functional strength is average at best and can be driven off the spot or knocked off-balance by a strong initial punch; will get turned out of the hole and put on skates by powerful linemen. More comfortable using his suddenness to penetrate into the backfield and disrupt play designs; uses inside moves and swims the most frequently. Doesn’t have elite top-end speed but is fast enough to make some plays in backside pursuit; works sideline to sideline. Not a particularly forceful tackler and may have some problems because of the constraints his lack of ideal length places on his radius. Has some speed to challenge the edge in the passing game; often lines up with a wide alignment and spins back to the passer if he gets too deep. Primarily but not strictly a downhill player; occasionally lines up off the line of scrimmage and has been asked to handle some coverage responsibilities. Wasn’t really aligned opposite slot receivers in space or tight ends in man coverage very often; most of his drops were zone/spot drops. Has the athletic ability to play in space, but could stand to clean up his balance and footwork when backpedaling, as technique suffers with distance. Can do a little bit of everything, with his overall instincts, movement skills, and pursuit being his greatest strengths as a player. Looks best when playing downhill but might need to add some additional bulk and strength before he can work his way onto the field in an odd front; could also get some looks as a blitzing strongside linebacker behind a four-man line.
Games watched: Nebraska (’15), Northwestern (’15), Louisiana St. (’16)

OB HAYES PULLARD, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

OB #10 HAYES PULLARD, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

6’1” – 230 lbs. – 4.65e

Team captain. Started on the weakside for his first two seasons, then slid inside in 2013. Reasonably thick for his height but nonetheless appears undersized for a middle linebacker and may draw interest as a potential candidate to convert back to weakside linebacker. Typically lined up in the middle of Southern California’s defense, but played on the outside on occasion. Runs well for his position; has the speed to play sideline-to-sideline and make zone drops in coverage, sometimes from the outside linebacker spot. Looks comfortable planting and driving on routes when in coverage. Has been asked to assume coverage responsibilities on slot receivers; also looks like he would be a strong candidate to cover running backs out of the flats. Not a forceful hitter, but remembers his tackling technique and doesn’t miss many opportunities. Takes on blocks a bit better than anticipated for a player of his size, at least as a downhill player; exhibits active hand use to prevent blockers from getting into his pads. When given a clear path to the quarterback, closes fairly quickly; could be effective on delay blitzes. Contributed on special-teams units, which could offer him an avenue for rookie contributions. Doesn’t diagnose plays as quickly as you’d like; is typically not the first player to arrive at the ball, and can be fooled by misdirection. Lack of top recognition skills neutralizes his athleticism, but he does offer considerable untapped potential for the same reason. Was asked to blitz fairly regularly, but is forced to take indirect routes to the quarterback due to his lack of bulk. Capable of running with tight ends, but may be physically overmatched by some of the true inline “Y” options at the pro level. May not hold up if asked to eat blocks in a 3-4 defense; best suited to a scheme in which he’s protected by bigger defensive linemen. Has enough athleticism to make up for his lack of size and should interest teams as someone who can work in both base and sub defenses, but often finds himself out of position as a result of his below-average diagnostic abilities, which are particularly concerning given his extensive starting experience, including two years under legendary Cover-2 coach Monte Kiffin.

Games watched: Arizona (’13), Arizona St. (’13), Stanford (’13)