Category: Outside Linebacker

LB Christian Sam, Arizona St.

6’2” – 244 lbs. – 4.75

Profile:

  • Played safety in high school. Rotated into the defense as a reserve in his first season with the Sun Devils, then put together a highly productive sophomore campaign over thirteen starts the following year. Sustained a season-ending foot injury in his first game of 2016, then came back and put together his best season in 2017, finishing with 127-9.5-3.0.

Positives:

  • Was highly productive over his two seasons in the starting lineup. Has adequate (if not quite desirable) size for a linebacker in either defensive front. There’s some natural power to his game. Likes to play downhill and thump between the tackles in the run game, but isn’t exclusively a “phone booth” type of player; can get outside the hashes a little bit as well. Made a lot of tackles in the backfield this past season. Has some pop as a hitter to help set the tone defensively. Pretty reliable tackler who has just average length but gets the most of it; has big hands, a strong grip, and does a good job of making stops in his area. Stayed on the field on passing downs at the college level. Does a good job of keeping the play in front of him in zone coverage. Looks smooth when shuffling. Can jam receivers at the line of scrimmage to disrupt route timing.

Negatives:

  • Not a particularly fast, quick, or explosive athlete. Can be fooled by window dressing and get caught out of position; instincts leave something to be desired. Overruns too many spots as a run defender; could play with more patience and discipline. Lets blockers into his pads and doesn’t disengage or drop his anchor effectively enough. Probably a two-down player at best. Quarterbacks were able to freeze him or pull him up with play fakes. Looks a little lumbering in his drops and size/athletic limitations may prevent him from matching up with anyone in man coverage at the next level. Season-ending foot injury will require further medical evaluation. Doesn’t appear to have the athleticism for special teams.

 Summary:

  • Seems like a little bit less than the sum of his parts; has a pretty thick build, adequate athleticism, and plenty of production as a tackler in a major conference, but no elements of his game really stand out. Doesn’t take on blocks or read keys as well as a two-down thumper should, and might be limited in coverage as well. More of a late-round possibility for those reasons.
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LB Davin Bellamy, Georgia

6’5” – 255 lbs. – 4.80e

Profile:

  • Redshirted, then rotated into the defense over ten games the following season. Started two of ten games played the following year, but injured his knee and missed the remainder of the season. Started eleven of thirteen games played as a junior, then fourteen of fifteen as a senior to conclude his career.

Positives:

  • Very tall, well-built outside linebacker with good length. Has experience playing out of both two- and three-point stances and could potentially project to either spot at the next level. Has the size and natural power to develop into a two-gapping edge-setter. Stays patient in backside contain when left uncovered. Has some pop as a hitter. Pretty high-motor player. Not the most explosive or creative pass-rusher but had decent production there at the SEC level over the past two seasons. Flashes a slap move that has some effectiveness. Gets his hands up to contest passing lanes. Predominantly a pass-rusher, but also took snaps in zone coverage and will occasionally line up over slot receivers. Size may convince teams he can be groomed into a coverage option for less athletic inline tight ends.

Negatives:

  • Athleticism is just average overall; doesn’t really have an explosive element to his game. Needs to play with more discipline when setting the edge. Doesn’t get the most of his length; should be able to lock opposing blockers out of his frame but lets them into his body too frequently. Instincts are very raw, especially in coverage. Often loses track of his man when playing in zone, or gets sucked in and is caught out of position, creating easy completions for opposing quarterbacks. Struggles to bend the edge when rushing. Doesn’t always have a clear plan and has too much wasted motion to his game. Hand use is marginal. Not as physical as expected for a player with his size.

Summary:

  • Essentially a player who will be drafted by a team that’s willing to take a chance on his size, and length; as it stands right now, instincts and technique leave a lot to be desired. However, ceiling will be constrained by his athleticism, which is nothing special. Consequently, might be more of a late-round pick who could potentially develop into an “elephant” linebacker in a two-gap odd front similar to the scheme he played in at Georgia, or potentially a left end in an even front.

LB Azeem Victor, Washington

6’1” – 240 lbs. – 4.72

Profile:

  • Redshirted, then appeared in a special-teams capacity the following season before starting eleven of thirteen games as a sophomore. Broke his leg ten games into his junior year, then started only five of nine games played as a senior after being arrested for a DUI.

Positives:

  • Plays the game with a tough on-field demeanor. Has pretty good instincts and often ends up around the ball. Likes to play downhill and is not afraid to step into the hole and get physical with blockers. Understands leverage. Flashes the ability to use his hands to play off of blocks, although is inconsistent in this regard. Reasonably rangy in pursuit. Good hitter who can help set the tone defensively. Gets the most out of his length and has a solid tackling radius. Pretty smooth athlete who is able to get depth when dropping into zone coverage. Can plant and drive to deliver hits on receivers running shallow drags across the middle of the field. Was asked to shade over bunches in the passing game. Exhibits the ability to anticipate snap counts and close with speed when blitzing the A-gap Has experience playing both inside and outside.

Negatives:

  • Physical and athletic gifts are just adequate. Struggles to consistently get off of blocks and locate the ball when engaged. More athletic than instinctive in coverage; has more raw athleticism than controlled footwork when making his drops. May not be able to match up in man coverage. Not as anticipatory in the passing game as he is against the run; can be pulled away from the play by misdirection. Limited value as a pass-rusher off the edge. Arrest and subsequent suspension will raise character flags which will need to be investigated during the pre-draft process. Broken leg sustained as a junior is a medical concern. Play and production dropped off as a senior.

Summary:

  • A better football player than athlete; plays the game with aggressiveness and physicality, can cover a respectable amount of ground as a run defender and in zone coverage, and is a pretty reliable tackler who can help set the tone defensively. Would have been a mid-round talent because of those traits and because of his versatility, but draft stock is a question mark because of the leg injury which ended his junior campaign and his subsequent arrest, which led to a reduction in playing time as a senior.

LB Oren Burks, Vanderbilt

6’3” – 233 lbs. – 4.59

Profile:

  • Began his collegiate career as a safety. Started seven of eight games played there as a redshirt freshman, and all twelve games the following season. Transitioned to linebacker as a junior and spent the past two seasons starting there for the Commodores to conclude his collegiate career. Has added over twenty pounds of bulk since 2014.

Positives:

  • Highly athletic linebacker who tested extremely well, posting excellent numbers in Indianapolis, including a 39.5” vertical leap. Offers smooth movement skills, some explosiveness, and impressive top-end speed. Can play sideline-to-sideline and reach spots. Doesn’t shy away from hitting; closes fast and uses his length to wrap up ballcarriers, offering a wide tackling radius. At his best in coverage; initial role at the pro level may come in sub packages. Capable of sniffing out screens and getting there to make tackles. Looks comfortable carrying running backs out of the backfield and down the sidelines on wheel routes. Has the length and speed to run down the seams with tight ends. Will take some snaps opposite slot receivers, working in man coverage. Rarely used as an edge rusher in the games reviewed but flashes the ability to get upfield and dip his shoulder to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Negatives:

  • Despite added weight, is still a little bit thinner than you’d like a linebacker to be, and that carries over into his functional strength. Struggles to deal with blockers; can be engulfed and struggles to use his hands to disengage. Placed on skates by power. Consequently, isn’t much of a between-the-tackles thumper; game is not predicated around stepping into the hole and mixing it up with blockers. Most of his tackles come downfield rather than at the line of scrimmage. Can be lured away from the play by misdirection. Angles are just okay. Could do a better job of breaking down in the open field; comes in too hot, preventing him from squaring up opponents.

Summary:

  • His combination of size, length, and athleticism is very intriguing, and should allow him to compete for a role as a coverage linebacker in sub packages at the next level. While his functional strength, hand use, and instincts are not quite where you’d want them to be, it’s possible that, as a player who transitioned from safety to linebacker just two years ago, a couple of seasons of development could allow him to compete for a starting role. Probably a mid-round pick.

 

 

LB Roquan Smith, Georgia

6’1” – 236 lbs. – 4.51

Profile:

  • Rotated into the defense as a reserve during his true freshman season, then started ten of thirteen games as a sophomore in a productive campaign before enjoying an outstanding junior campaign (137-14.0-6.5) and declaring early for the draft. Played in the middle for the Bulldogs but could project to the weakside as well.

Positives:

  • Team captain who comes with two years of high-end SEC production. Fast and instinctive player who is always around the ball; patient when making his reads and doesn’t take himself out of many snaps. Capable of playing sideline to sideline. Angles in pursuit are very efficient. Does a good job of avoiding blocks and weaving through traffic to get to the ball. Makes a lot of stops in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage. Generates a lot of pop on contact and demonstrates hit-and-wrap technique. A true three-down player. Has experience making drops into zone coverage and is fast enough to carry opposing running backs out of the backfield on passing routes. Sniffs out crossing routes over the middle of the field and can plant and drive on a spot to stick opponents. Can shade over bunches, diagnose screens, and get to the sidelines to make tackles. Excellent closing burst as a pass-rusher; deadly when he finds a lane as a quarterback spy.

Negatives:

  • Size is on the low end, which may necessitate a transition to the weakside or limit the range of schemes that he’s considered a fit for. Doesn’t have much of an anchor when it comes to taking on blocks in the run game and might need to be protected by blockers up front so he can roam to the ball; length is just average, so he relies on his athleticism to make plays. Probably too small to match up against opposing tight ends in man coverage. Reportedly has some medical flags which may impact his draft stock.

Summary:

  • One of the best players in this year’s draft class; doesn’t have the size of some of the other top linebacker prospects, but offers an outstanding combination of instincts, range, and explosiveness which should make him a defensive cornerstone on a team which protects him with big bodies on the defensive line and allows him to run to the ball. Should be a top-ten pick if he checks out medically.

LB Mike McCray, Michigan

6’1” – 243 lbs. – 4.76

Redshirted, then appeared sparingly on special teams the following season before not appearing in a game as a redshirt sophomore. Finished his career by making twenty-six starts at linebacker over the following two seasons, being named a team captain. Has good bloodlines; father, Mike Sr., was a captain at Ohio St. Thickly-built outside linebacker who was listed at 6’4” but measured in at the Senior Bowl at just over 6’1”, so height is just adequate; arms measured 33” in Mobile. Doesn’t show a specific tendency toward either outside linebacker position; probably takes more snaps on the weakside, but may project to other positions for some pro teams. Plays with a physical on-field demeanor, and has been praised for his leadership skills. Likes to play downhill against the run, extending his arms and using his hands to keep blockers out of his pads and shed them. Has enough short-area quickness to avoid getting engaged, but can sometimes be washed down the line by opposing linemen. Does a pretty good job of flowing toward the ball, but may not be a true sideline-to-sideline player because his athleticism is just average overall. At his best when he’s using his quickness to knife through the offensive line and make tackles in the backfield; racked up plenty of tackles for loss over the past two seasons. In terms of tackling, is a thumper with long arms who can lapse into hitting at times but helped to set the tone defensively and demonstrates the ability to drag down ballcarriers with his arms. Was an every-down player for the Wolverines, remaining on the field in sub packages and dropping into coverage extensively. As mentioned previously, is not a great athlete, but looks comfortable making his drops from a technical/footwork standpoint, and was trusted to work in deeper zones at the college level; may be more of a robber at the pro level. Didn’t do much man coverage in the games reviewed and may not really have the athleticism to match up against opposing running backs or the size to cover most tight ends at the next level. May have more pro upside as a blitzer, a role he handled in college as well. Also contributed on special teams throughout his career. A pretty good college player whose average size and athleticism may limit him to more of a reserve/special-teams role at the next level.

LB Uchenna Nwosu, Southern California

6’2″ – 251 lbs. – 4.65

Rotated into the defense lightly and played on special teams in 2014 and 2015, then spent the following two seasons in the starting lineup, enjoying by far his most productive season as a senior. Has added thirty pounds of bulk since arriving on campus and looks like his frame is almost maxed out. Lines up as a stand-up edge rusher in the team’s 3-4 base defense, but despite his gaudy 2017 sack total, may be viewed as a candidate to transition to a more traditional off-the-line role at the next level given his borderline height, bulk, and length for a rush role. High-motor rusher who’s pretty light on his feet, with adequate get-off and speed to finish. Not the type of prospect with the speed, explosiveness, and agility to win with his speed rush and bend back to the passer; more likely to use his hands to make his way past opponents. Mixes in an inside move that he’s had some success with. Could stand to develop additional counters; has a spin move but it’s not particularly violent. Has good instincts to sniff out short passes and knock them down at the line; batted thirteen passes this past season and five as a junior. Also has some experience making limited drops into zone coverage. Motor as a pass-rusher doesn’t always carry over into the run game. Disciplined in backside pursuit against the run (if a touch slow to diagnose), and holds up better against power than his frame would suggest because of his active hands. Doesn’t take himself out of too many plays by flowing away from the play direction, but could finish plays with more physicality and aggressiveness; tends to be a pile inspector and delegate tackles to teammates. Not quite fast enough to make plays sideline-to-sideline or chase down running backs from behind. A little bit difficult to evaluate in that his primary value at the college level was as a pass-rusher, but who doesn’t really have the frame, explosiveness, or bend that teams look for on the edge. Consequently, may end up as more of a traditional linebacker for a team which allows their off-the-line players to blitz at times. Looks like a mid-round pick whose prior experience on special-teams could allow him to contribute to a team while he transitions to a role more commensurate with his physical and athletic profile.

LB Tegray Scales, Indiana

6’0″ – 230 lbs. – 4.77

Played in all twelve games as a freshman, rotating heavily into the defense. Started one of eleven games the following year and saw his production escalate, then spent the following two seasons as a full-time starter, earning All-American honors as a junior and first team all-conference honors as a senior. Two-time team captain and emotional leader of the defense. Predominantly a weakside linebacker and projects best there at the next level as well, although he takes some snaps from the middle. Size is on the borderline of what’s acceptable for his position, so Combine measurements will be important. Has a very likable game with excellent athleticism and an excellent motor. Heat-seeking missile who diagnoses quickly and flies around the field; seemingly always around the ball. Loves to pin his ears back and play downhill; makes a ton of plays in the backfield. Very fast in a straight line, with impressive ability to plant and drive. Quickness and active hands allow him to play off of blocks better than is typical for a player with his size; willing to mix it up with opponents. However, gaudy tackling statistics are more a testament to his instincts and athleticism than to his tackling ability; lack of length limits his radius, and lets some ballcarriers slip through his grasp. Makes a lot of shoestring tackles. Run fits leave something to be desired at times. An every-down player who can do a little bit of everything on passing downs. Athleticism allows him to work in man or zone coverage; can carry running backs out of the backfield or even work against slot receivers. Exhibits fluid hips when covering opponents over the middle of the field in man coverage. Eagerness to come up and play the run can sometimes cause him to bite on play fakes. Probably not big enough to cover opposing inline tight ends. Effective pass-rusher who uses his explosiveness and hands to penetrate into the backfield; recorded thirteen sacks over the past two seasons. Closes very quickly when operating as a spy and given a clear path to the passer. Has a very appealing combination of instincts, athleticism, versatility, and intangibles which should allow him to play in sub packages and as a weakside linebacker behind a four-man defensive line despite his lack of ideal size.

LB Shaquem Griffin, Central Florida

6’0″ – 227 lbs. – 4.38

Twin brother and teammate Shaquill was a third-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks last season. Missing his left hand. Redshirted in 2013, then appeared in just one game the following year. Played on special teams over twelve games as a sophomore, then converted from safety to linebacker, stepped into the starting lineup, and was named the conference player of the year as a junior, and a first-team all-conference selection as a senior. The first thing that stands out on tape is his outstanding motor. Combined with his athleticism, is able to play sideline to sideline. Flows very well to the ball, and is typically around the play. Fast enough to chase down opposing runners in backside pursuit. Can make it out to the sidelines and make tackles on opponents. Doesn’t shy away from  contact and was better at the point of attack than his frame would indicate; is a little bit inconsistent in terms of staying square and maintaining his balance against opposing blockers, but flashes the ability to set the edge and funnel runners back inside despite his marginal size. A pretty reliable tackler, but who takes some aggressive angles to the ball which can occasionally cause him to run himself out of the play. Can get stuck on blocks for too long. Was very effective as a stand-up edge rusher at the college level, with explosiveness off the snap and the ability to dip his shoulder and bend around the edge; one of this year’s most productive rushers overall in terms of the amount of pressure he generated. Runs a smooth arc to the passer and closes well, with impressive burst. Was able to mix up his approach a little bit, with a spin move that also looks like it might translate to the next level. Picks up a lot of coverage/effort sacks. Also responsible for making drops into coverage on a regular basis, typically in zones; covers a lot of ground when shuffling, with quick feet when working backwards. Is able to sniff out screens and make tackles. Athletic enough to take the occasional snap in man coverage against an opposing target. Does a good job of closing the distance on targets and putting himself in position to make plays on the ball. However, probably lacks the size to match up against most tight ends at the next level. Can lose track of route developments at times when playing zone coverage. Backpedal is too quick but too upright. The type of player you don’t like to bet against, but who will probably be more of a mid-round pick because of his lack of size.

LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma

6’2″ – 253 lbs. – 4.77

Spent his first two seasons as a reserve, then entered the starting lineup as a junior and put together two highly-productive campaigns to conclude his collegiate career, culminating in being named his conference’s defensive player of the year this past season. A true every-down linebacker who can play the run, rush the passer, or drop into coverage; typically plays on the strong side. Also takes some snaps with his hand in the dirt. Has adequate height, bulk, and length, although weigh-ins will be important in order to confirm that his official size is accurate, as they are on the borderline of what is acceptable for his position. Has a desirable on-field temperament. Rangy, high-motor linebacker who can pursue sideline to sideline. Flows well to the ball, with good vision to locate. Has plus athleticism, with top-end speed which is good but not elite. Physical at the point of attack. Anchors better than his size would indicate. Willing to mix it up with opposing offensive tackles and demonstrates the active hand use to shed blocks and chase ballcarriers. Able to set the tone defensively as a tackler; maximizes his length, but radius is just adequate because of relatively short arms. Lack of length can also let opposing linemen into his pads at times. Able to sink his hips and use his suddenness to penetrate as an edge rusher. Effective inside move to beat opposing tackles on the outside. Also works in a swim move and a spin. Has the agility and balance to dip his shoulder and bend back to the quarterback. Uses his hands well. Exhibits the balance to stay on his feet when being blocked low. Has extensive coverage responsibilities. Does a lot of work in zone, but can also carry running backs and tight ends into the flats or up the field on wheel routes, or defend screens. Explosive plant-and-drive to close on targets when working in zone coverage or spying opposing quarterbacks. Overall feel for zones is just adequate; can lose track of opposing receivers. May lack the size to cover inline tight ends in man. Did a little bit of everything at the college level, with one of the most complete games among this year’s front-seven prospects. Fits very well into the modern game, and value on all three downs should allow him to come off the board before the end of the draft’s second day. Could potentially play outside in either defensive front.