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Scouting Reports 2015: The Linebackers

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This is one of this years draft most loaded position groups. The linebackers in the 2015 NFL Draft are the best I have seen since the 2012 draft, and there may be even more to pick from than it was then...

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

This years Draft is loaded at the linebacker position. Both inside and outside, you're liable to find what you need. I don't include pure pass rushers (3-4 edge rushers) because they to me are defensive ends, just standing up. To be an outside linebacker in this ranking you have to be able to do more than just rush the QB. Everyone listed here, is good at all.

***ALL PLAYER COMPARISONS ARE BASED OFF OF SKILL SET AND BODY TYPES, NOT A PREDICTION OF CAREERS***

Paul Dawson

6" 235 lbs TCU

POSITIVES:

  • Extremely instinctive
  • Plays full speed every snap
  • Diagnosis plays extremely fast
  • Takes great angles
  • Very good man coverage
  • Fools the QB in zone coverage
  • Consistently makes splash plays
  • Lives in the backfield
  • An excellent blitzer
  • Keeps eyes on ball while evading blocks
  • Very good tackler
  • Plays sideline to sideline
  • Makes great pre-snap reads
  • Powerful tackler

NEGATIVES:

  • Might have the worst work ethic in draft
  • Very lazy
  • Not a gym rat
  • Does not watch his film
  • Questionable commitment to football
  • Could be cancerous in the locker room

THE BREAKDOWN: Dawson is easily the best linebacker in this draft based on tape alone. His total positives are far more than his negatives. But the issue is, his negatives still outweigh his positives. Dawson showed up to the combine ridiculously out of shape. He carries an "I don't care" attitude. There are also reports that he skipped film sessions often. All of this is very concerning, but it's all really impressive as well. Not to try and make a positive out of his negatives - because there is nothing okay about his reputation - but it's impressive because one can only imagine how good he would be if he got his head on right. To never watch film and be able to diagnose plays the way he does is terrifying, which only proves his talent is undeniable. He is a top 15 talent, with the character of someone who goes undrafted. Someone will undoubtedly bring him on board, but at what cost?

PLAYER COMPARISON: Lavonte David

Jordan Hicks

6'1" 236 lbs Texas

POSITIVES:

  • Plays faster than most defenders regardless of position
  • Relentless effort
  • Sideline to sideline defender
  • Excellent blitzer
  • Unbelievable open-field tackler
  • Hits with bad intentions
  • Plays the run very well
  • Very good zone coverage
  • Consistently ran with the RB's with ease
  • Eliminated TE's
  • Takes great angles
  • Disengages blocks with ease
  • Very explosive

NEGATIVES:

  • Extensive injury history
  • Could work on tackling technique
  • Looks for the kill too often
  • Gets flat footed at times
  • Questionable change of direction
  • Hips can be stiff at times
  • Might struggle with shifter backs

THE BREAKDOWN: Jordan Hicks might have been a first round prospect if not for his horrible injury history. But seeing as that's not the case - and he does have the injury history that he has - he's going to be a steal for someone. Hicks plays like his hair is on fire. He's all over the field, and moving at 1000 miles an hour. He's a ferocious tackler, with a bad attitude. Barring any more major injuries, Hick's should enjoy a very productive career. He needs to refine his tackling, and learn when the kill shot is appropriate, and when its not. He also has to learn not to get so relaxed with his feet while diagnosing the play, and when in zone as his hips are not loose enough to recover. He has the potential to play either inside or outside in a 4-3.

PLAYER COMPARISON: Patrick Willis

Stephone Anthony

6'3" 243 lbs Clemson

POSITIVES:

  • Very fast
  • Speed consistently shows up on tape
  • Very good wrap up tackler
  • Gets in the backfield quickly
  • Very high motor
  • Explosive
  • Versatile
  • Does an excellent job diagnosing the play
  • Has ideal size for the position
  • Great open field tackler
  • Plays the run well

NEGATIVES:

  • Over runs the play to often
  • Takes bad angles
  • Needs to improve his coverage
  • Not as physical as his size would indicate
  • Has to learn to disengage blocks
  • Has learn to turn and run in coverage
  • Needs to refine his technique
  • Relies on his athletic ability too much

THE BREAKDOWN: Stephone Anthony has one of the highest ceilings of his position group. He navigates the field with such ease, getting from point A to point B in the blink of an eye. Anthony is a great tackler with good instincts. However, you would like to see him be more physical. His size and stature would suggest he is more physical than he actually is. Because of this, often times he struggles to disengage blocks. He needs to improve his coverage and  technique. His greatest attribute is his eyes. He diagnosis plays extremely well, showing off a high football IQ.

PLAYER COMPARISON: Alec Ogletree

Vic Beasley

6'3" 246 lbs

POSITIVES:

  • Cannon like explosiveness
  • Amazing motor
  • Great field awareness
  • Great work ethic
  • Very physical
  • Disengages with ease
  • Extremely fast
  • Very athletic
  • Very powerful
  • Very loose hips
  • Uses his hands extremely well
  • A chase down artist

NEGATIVES:

  • Struggles the run
  • Does not always use his power
  • Often plays too high
  • Inexperience as an OLB
  • Takes on blocks without freeing up-field shoulder
  • Will lose the ball carrier
  • Has to keep his head up

THE BREAKDOWN: It's not very often that I project a defensive end as an outside linebacker. In fact, it's not very often that defensive ends have success with that transition. In recent memory the best examples would be Von Miller and Bruce Irving. Beasley has often been compared to Miller. I think Miller was a much better tackler coming out and he played the run better. Beasley struggles when the ball is ran at him. He is however a chase down master. He comes from the backside fast and furious, and when you add in his motor there is no escaping, which makes him the ideal weakside backer. His loose hips and field awareness translates to - potentially - being a great cover backer. As for blitzing, that will come natural to him. He will need to be taught some basic fundamentals of the position, which is where his work ethic will come into play.

PLAYER COMPARISON: Bruce Irvin

Eric Kendricks

6' 232 lbs UCLA

POSITIVES:

  • Very instinctive
  • Has amazing field awareness
  • Phenomenal blitz ability
  • Plays the zone as well as anyone
  • Very good tackler
  • Great leader
  • Very smart
  • Consistently wraps up
  • Uses his hands very well
  • Does a great job reading the QB's eyes
  • Reads the run extremely well
  • Extremely productive
  • A good athlete
  • Hits with a thump

NEGATIVES:

  • At times over-pursued
  • Took some bad angles
  • Poor change of direction ability
  • Does not disengage well

THE BREAKDOWN: Eric Kendricks is going to make a team very happy. He brings a whole slew of both tangible and intangibles to the table. He's an excellent leader on and off the field, with instincts to match. He also is a much better athlete than he gets credit for, and he has a high football IQ. His ability to dissect the play and get to the ball is second to none. He spends the vast majority of his time near the ball in some way. He also excels in zone coverage, as he does an excellent job reading the QB's eyes. He gets down hill in a hurry to attack the ball carrier and spends a lot of time behind the line. One down fall to this aggressive approach is he at times overruns the play giving the ball carrier a nice cut back lane. There's also something enigmatic about his game. He uses his hands well, but for some reason still struggles to disengage blocks in the run game. Although, this is not an issue when rushing the passer. Overall, Kendricks is a complete package LB.

PLAYER COMPARISON: Bobby Wagner

Benardrick McKinney

6'4" 246 lbs Mississippi St.

POSITIVES:

  • Prototype size
  • Very athletic
  • Versatile
  • Explosive
  • Excels in the chase down
  • Excels in taking on blocks
  • Smart player
  • Takes good angles
  • Displays excellent lateral agility
  • Good pass rusher
  • Drops in coverage with ease

NEGATIVES:

  • Took far too many plays off
  • Does not always use his size to his advantage
  • Played soft at times
  • Relies on this athletic ability to much
  • Struggles with pre-snap reads
  • Gets caught guessing
  • Reads and reacts more than instinctive

THE BREAKDOWN: Benardrick McKinney has the tools to be the best linebacker in this draft class. He's damn good. The issue is he knows that he's damn good, and acts like it. He takes far too many plays off, giving half effort. Then the next play he makes it look so easy, it's like he's showing off. For a player his size, it's baffling he's not more physical. He has to stop relying on his athletic ability so much. He needs to start taking his technique more seriously and not take so many plays off. Even so, McKinney is a game changer, but it's only when he wants to be. He can make plays anywhere any time, and he makes them look easy.

PLAYER COMPARISON: Brian Urlacher

***THE ROUND PROJECTIONS ARE PROJECTIONS BASED OFF WHERE I THINK THEY WILL BE DRAFTED AND NOT MY PERSONAL OPINION OF WHERE THEY SHOULD BE DRAFTED***

Rank


Player


Projected Round


Ceiling


1

Paul Dawson

2-UDFA

All-Pro

2

Eric Kendricks

1-2


Pro Bowler

3

Vic Beasley

1

All-Pro

4

Jordan Hicks

3-4


All-Pro

5

Denzel Perryman

2


Pro Bowler

6

Benardrick McKinney

1-2

All-Pro

7

Shaq Thompson

2-3

Pro Bowler

8

Stephone Anthony

3

10 yr Starter

9

Kwon Alexander

3-4

10 yr Starter

10

Ramik Wilson

3-4

10 yr Starter