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Monty Rice draft scouting report

Not a Legend

The Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in the 2012 season. Legends Ray Lewis (ILB) and Matt Birk (center) both retired after the season. HOF safety, Ed Reed, didn't return either, near the twilight of his great career. This made LB, S and C all top draft needs for the Ravens in 2013.

Prior to the draft, one of the top ILB prospects was Arthur Brown from KState. Major mock drafts done just before the actual draft projected Brown to be a first round pick (slot 25 to the Vikings and slot 32 to the Ravens.) Brown was a riser during the draft process, climbing up boards. Matt Miller said that 2 of his favorite prospects in the entire draft were Tavon Austin and Arthur Brown. A Bleacher Report draft profile compared Brown to NaVorro Bowman and graded him as a 1st round prospect. An SBNation profile said that Bobby Wagner was Brown's best comparison and had him as a middle of the 1st to 2nd round prospect.

On the day of the first round, the Rams traded down and selected Ogletree at pick 30. The Dallas Cowboys traded down and took Travis Frederick at 31. In my own mock draft that year, I had Frederick going to the Ravens in the first round. At 32, instead of taking Manti Te'o and having just missed out on Frederick by one slot, the Ravens took safety Matt Elam.

(Don't believe the theory that late 1st round picks aren't valuable and don't matter. Consider how the entire following time period for the Dallas Cowboys might have been different if they hadn't drafted Travis Frederick late in the 1st round in 2013. In 2012, Dallas had the 22nd ranked OL. Romo had 19 INTs that season. In 2013, with Frederick starting every game as a rookie, Dallas had the 4th ranked OL. Would Romo still have had the same level of success without such a good OL? DeMarco Murray ran for nearly 3,000 yards in 2013 and 2014. Does that happen without Frederick? Would we still view Dak Prescott the same way today as a QB if Frederick hadn't been the starting center early in Dak's career? Then, think about what would have happened if things had gone according to my mock and the Ravens had been the team to get Frederick, where he would have been playing side by side with Marshal Yanda. Can you imagine how good those 2 would have been together? In 2013, the Ravens had the 23rd ranked OL. How might the addition of Frederick have impacted how we view Joe Flacco as a QB? This single draft pick didn't just impact one position. My argument is that it potentially indirectly impacted the careers of a number of other players who ended up playing with, or not playing with, one of the best centers in the NFL when he was healthy. If it hadn't been for his health problems, Frederick still would be going strong for Dallas, instead of being retired. He's currently 29 years old. Last season, partly due to Frederick being gone, Dallas had the 27th ranked OL. That's not pure coincidence.)

Gino Gradkowski (4th round 2012) became the starting center for the Ravens. In 2013, he was the lowest graded center in the NFL, per PFF. The Ravens traded up in the 2nd round to select Brown at pick 56. They gave the Seahawks a 5th and a 6th round pick to move up 6 spots. In turn, Seattle cashed in both of those picks to trade up and take Jesse Williams, a talented DT from Alabama, in the 4th round. Williams had big medical red flags due to injuries, otherwise he would have been an early round pick. Williams never played in a single game in the NFL. The late 6th round pick that both the Ravens and Seahawks traded away became Theo Riddick, a very good complimentary 3rd down type RB. In 2015, Riddick playing with Stafford and the Lions was 3rd on the team in both receptions and receiving yards with 80 catches for 697 yards.

Mel Kiper gave the Ravens an "A" grade for their draft. This wasn't entirely off base, because some of the later picks turned out to be pretty good. For example, Kyle Juszcyzk at FB turned out to be a useful player.

The Ray Lewis draft pick was one of the moves that helped to build the strong reputation of Ozzie Newsome, the GM for the Ravens. With the Elam and Brown picks in 2013, however, Newsome stubbed his toe and things didn't go as planned.

Arthur Brown never started a single game in the NFL. He had a total of 20 tackles in his career. After his rookie year, Brown essentially never played at all on defense for the Ravens. He was released after 3 seasons. The player who was supposed to replace Ray Lewis never developed into even a backup player. Matt Elam at least started for the Ravens, but he didn't play well and never started another game in the NFL after his 2nd season. Newsome swung and missed trying to replace both Lewis and Reed in the 2013 draft.

McVay used to coach with Washington. When he was there, Will Compton was an UDFA from the same 2013 draft class as Brown. Compton started 33 games in 5 seasons with Washington. He has 357 career tackles in the NFL. Performance wise, Compton is like a backup level player, but at least he turned out to be better than Brown. Troy Reeder has already done more in his brief NFL career than Brown accomplished. Washington drafted a LB in 2013 in the 5th round (a pass rushing 3-4 OLB.) They thought he was a draft steal, who fell in the draft due to a foot injury. His NFL career lasted one year. He was cut after his rookie year and didn't even make it to the next training camp. He had 2 career tackles as a pro.

It is possible (if not likely) that the exact same thing will happen in the 2021 draft. All of these LB prospects we've been reviewing as potential 2nd round or middle round picks, there is probably some UDFA guy who will end up being a better player in the NFL. Meanwhile, a prospect we thought had Pro Bowl type potential, he'll end up doing very little as a pro. We just don't know who to pick. Ozzie Newsome didn't know back in 2013. Neither did Matt Miller or Mel Kiper.

My comp for Monty Rice is also from the 2013 draft, Jelani Jenkins, a 4th round pick. I think Jenkins is a better prospect than Rice, but they are suited for the same type of role, a 4-3 scheme weakside LB. The Rams don't use a 4-3 defense. So, I don't think Rice is a good fit and I don't think he's that good of a prospect anyway.

Background

Senior Bowl measurements: 6 feet 1/4 inch tall, 238 pounds, 75'' wingspan, 30 3/8'' arms, 8 5/8'' hands

Did not participate in practices or game at Senior Bowl due to injury.

True Senior, sociology major.

3 star or 4 star recruit. Did track, including 100 meters and long jump.

As HS recruit, reported to have 4.62 second time in 40, while at 6'1'' tall and 227 pounds.

Had sprained knee (MCL) in 2018. Made 5 starts and was leading tackler on team when he injured his foot in 2018 and missed the final 4 games of the season. Hurt his foot in pregame warmups. Per PFF, had 3.0% missed tackle rate in 2018, which is very low.

Made 14 starts in 2019, was team's leading tackler. Typically was not on the field on 3rd down passing situation snaps. Had 8 starts in 2020.

In 2020, had lingering foot injury in left foot, causing him to miss practices and only get limited snaps at times. Was in walking boot at one point. Played through injury and was hurt for most or all of 2020 season. Rice says that his foot was hurt all season, that it slowed him down, but that he played through it.

Described as having serious, no nonsense approach to football. I wasn't overly impressed by his interviews.

2020: 49 tackles (30 solo), 4 TFL, Sack, 2 FF, 1 PD

2019: 89 tackles (50 solo), 3 TFL, 3 PD

Career: 219 tackles (115 solo), 10.5 TFL (4.8% of tackles were for loss), 2 sacks, 3 FF, 5 PD.

Zero career INTs.

ESPN 74th overall, 9th ILB (3rd round)

CBSSports 124th overall (4th round)

PFF 106th overall (late 3rd to 4th round)

Strengths

Good speed to run out to the flat and cover the RB. Nearly got an INT undercutting the RB in the flat.

Speed to run with RBs in pass coverage. Doesn't bite at top of route against RB with 2 way go. When RB breaks outside, Rice stays with RB and doesn't give up excessive separation.

Able to run to edge and meet RB, protecting corner.

Athleticism to skip past OL climbers at the 2nd level and avoid blocks. Can use hands to swipe arms of blockers and shed them.

Takes aggressive attack angles towards the LOS and to the ball carrier.

When kept clean by the DL, can deliver heavy hit tackling RB.

Good thickness and play strength. Combination of striking power and speed make him suited to be a run and hit LB in the NFL.

Might be able to add something on special teams with his speed, but I'm concerned that his lack of lateral quickness and balance will make him just an average ST player.

Weaknesses

Short, with short arms.

RBs step out of his ankle tackles, because he has short arms and small hands. Not big or heavy, can get dragged for extra yardage by RB.

Hips are a little stiff. Not fluid flipping his hips. Doesn't drop into zone coverage smoothly. Struggles to mirror ball carrier in space. If they juke or even slightly change angle, he doesn't have sufficient wiggle in his hips to match and stay on target.

Runner gets him leaning to inside, then breaks to outside and Rice struggles to get his momentum going back in the other direction to make the tackle.

Minor change of direction by runner and LB stumbles and loses his balance trying to adjust.

QB gets him leaning to outside, cuts inside and LB can't recover in time to prevent TD run.

Unable to make tight radius turn tackle, resulting in first down on short 3rd down run.

Overruns tackles in pursuit going wide.

Gets caught unprepared to take on blockers.

Bangs into middle of blockers. Too square to pulling TE. Gets trucked and planted flat on his back in the hole on short yardage run.

Gets stuck on some blocks, slow to disengage and pursue. Ripped to ground by OT.

Timing of punch not always coordinated, too late to properly shed.

Doesn't attack proper target area or use right technique to take on some blocks. Hits inside shoulder of pulling guard with his own inside shoulder, making it difficult for him to disengage or gain proper leverage against block.

Better in role where other defenders keep him clean and he can just chase, pursue and hit ball carrier, because he's not so good at tacking on blockers himself.

Lacks awareness on field.

Runs into rubs, caught off guard and surprised by contact.

Gets sucked up by play action, steps forward when he should be staying home and paying attention to keys.

Used mainly as a 2 down LB in college. UGA had other more athletic and blue chip recruit LBs and would take Rice out in passing situations. Not given many man coverage assignments. Main value in pass coverage is just speed to cover RBs in flat area. On critical 3rd down with game on the line, team takes him off the field to defend the pass.

Oblivious to TE coming across field after play action run fake, caught out of position.

Completely blind to TE releasing after PA fake in the red zone.

Covering TE in EZ, he suddenly leaves the TE for no reason, giving up TD catch.

Anticipates throw to TE as zone defender, but still takes poor angle, not getting better depth in coverage.

Injury history. When a player has foot injuries and plays a position where they have to constantly cut and put force on it (not just their own body weight, but when they take on big offensive linemen as blockers), I don't like that, it makes me nervous.

Pro Comparison and Grade

Jelani Jenkins (Florida, 4th round 2013, Dolphins.) 5th round grade.

Jenkins has longer arms, a better wingspan, probably a hair faster and is more fluid and agile changing directions. He had foot and other injuries in college. He was considered to be good in zone pass coverage and a reliable tackler. Academically a good student, intelligent. Projected in the 2nd to 4th round area.

As a rookie, Jenkins played on special teams. His 2nd season, partly due to injuries with other LBs, he became the starting weakside LB for the Dolphins and played pretty well against both the run and the pass. Jenkins had 110 tackles that season, making 14 starts. In his 4th season, Jenkins had a bunch of injuries. That was essentially it for his NFL career. Miami didn't keep him and he was waived by the Raiders in the preseason. The Texans signed him when they had a bunch of injuries to other LBs and he made one start for them. His NFL career ended after that.

I view 4-3 WILLs to be a dying breed in today's NFL. The modern NFL game isn't about eating up the blocking TE, lead FB or pulling G and freeing up the WILL to go chase down the RB. I don't think players like Monty Rice have as much value. They are a dime a dozen.

The Rams already have a similar type of LB with Kenny Young, who was drafted by the Ravens in the 4th round in 2018 (this was Ozzie Newsome's final draft for the Ravens.) Young ran 4.60 sec in the 40 at the Combine. Young has more length with longer arms and a better wingspan, and has more potential in pass coverage. Rice maybe has more play strength, but KY is more agile. Do the Rams need a clone or an inferior imitation of Kenny Young? KY wasn't a difference maker or a core defender for the Rams last season. He was "just a guy" . The goal in the draft isn't to pick JAGs. I see Rice as a backup LB in the NFL. I don't see him as a high ceiling prospect.