Mustard and Mayo
You might call TCU linebacker, Garret Wallow, a one trick pony. Thing is, that pony's one trick is to kick you in the gut.
I calculated how various LBs rank in terms of TFLs per game over their last couple of seasons in college
1. Darius Leonard 1.26 (Playing at South Carolina State, which is an FCS level school.)
2. Garret Wallow 1.23
3. Josey Jewell 1.13 (His final season at Iowa. He was 0.78 over his last 2 college seasons)
4. Luke Kuechly 1.00 (His final season at BC. It was 0.93 for his career.)
5. Devin White 0.98
6. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Notre Dame) 0.98
7. Chazz Surratt 0.94
8. Micah Kiser 0.91 (3 year career. This is a bit misleading, because he had many sacks. I'm focused on run play stuffs.)
9. Clay Johnston (Rams 7th rd in 2020) 0.79
10. Baron Browning 0.78
11. Zaven Collins 0.78
12. Nick Bolton 0.75
13. Micah Parsons 0.69
14. Cam McGrone 0.69
15. Dylan Moses 0.59
16. Paddy Fisher 0.50
17. Jamin Davis 0.40 (one season, since he only started one year)
18. Pete Werner 0.36
This stat doesn't even capture the full extent of the matter, because Wallow made a bunch of tackles near the LOS that didn't qualify as TFLs. If we created a football stat and called it "Stuffs Created", Garret Wallow might be the best LB in the nation in that category. He might be one of the best linebackers over a larger period of time if we included multiple years worth of drafts. These weren't cheap plays either. There were times where he had critical short yardage stops at the most important moments of the game.
Wallow isn't a complete linebacker. He's average to below average in some areas and physical attributes. I don't have an early round grade on him. The NFL is a passing league, not a running league. NFL players are bigger, stronger, faster, and more skilled compared to college. The Rams aren't playing against Big 12 spread offenses. Things that worked in college won't translate to the pros. Michael Sam getting sacks at Mizzou didn't mean that he was a good pass rushing prospect for the NFL. Still, the one thing that Wallow does the best, he does it at an elite level.
My comp for Wallow is David Mayo, a player who was a 5th round pick in the 2015 draft. That year, two of the consensus top 5 linebackers in the class were Paul Dawson from TCU and Stephone Anthony from Clemson. Multiple experts, including Mike Mayock and Lance Zierlein, ranked Dawson as the best LB in the draft.
Paul Dawson was a 3rd round pick. He would have been a 1st round pick, but he ran slow at the Combine. People thought the Bengals got a steal when they drafted him that late. Dawson never started a single game in the NFL. He was waived after 2 seasons with 16 career tackles.
Anthony was a late 1st round pick by the Saints. He started as a rookie and had 112 tackles. After 2 seasons, he was traded and his career flamed out. Sean Payton was candid about Anthony's struggles. Payton said that Anthony needed to improve his instincts and ability to diagnose. He said that Anthony struggled to make even some of the simplest reads, causing him on run plays to drop back into pass coverage, and on pass plays to step forward thinking that it was a run.
Anthony had good size and great testing numbers. He's the type of prospect who shines at the Combine. Playing LB in the NFL involves more than just being big, strong and fast. It isn't all about 40 times and bench press reps. Anthony ended up being a wasted pick by the Saints. They dumped him in a trade for a 5th round pick. That pick eventually ended up in the hands of the Rams, who used it to take Micah Kiser. Anthony is currently a street free agent.
This year's LB rankings by Sports Illustrated, done by NFL Draft Bible, have Wallow and Dylan Moses with exactly the same grade. Wallow is ranked just behind Jabril Cox and Pete Werner.
While researching Wallow, I didn't come across any draft buzz about him. No one seems to be taking about him. No where near the level of attention given to Pete Werner. In my opinion, Wallow and Werner are more similar than they are different. They are both smart on the field, but they are undersized to play LB in the NFL and have athletic limitations. I think Wallow is a better prospect than Werner. Especially if the choice is between using a 2nd or 3rd round pick on Werner or using a 5th to 7th round pick on Wallow, I know which option I'd prefer.
I think Wallow is a draft sleeper. There is a mismatch between his talent and the scant attention he has gotten in the draft process. He's no Luke Kuechly, but I think he could be a solid value pick for some NFL team if he continues to fly under the radar.
Listed at 6'2'' tall and 230 pounds. True Senior.
No measurements and held out of Senior Bowl. He had a positive covid test.
Played strong safety in high school. 3 star recruit, weighed 205 pounds.
Led team in special teams tackles in 2017. Was still playing on punt coverage unit in 2019 and 2020. He lined up next to the long snapper.
Made 6 starts at LB in 2018. Had to play safety one game due to injuries to team's other DBs.
2019 (12 games): 125 tackles (77 solo), 18 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, INT
2020 (10 games): 90 tackles (50 solo), 9 TFLs, 3 sacks, 3 FF
Team captain in 2020.
Career 32.5 TFLs, one INT, 5 PD, 9.5 sacks, 3 FF.
TCU's coach, Gary Patterson, loves Wallow, praised his football character. Compared him to Jason Phillips, who was the very first pick in the 5th round in 2009. Phillips was a backup in the NFL, then his career ended when he had an ACL injury.
Had 12.6% of his tackles go for loss last 2 seasons, a high number for someone who doesn't play on the edge and get sacks. Compare it to Devin White (10.0%), Micah Parsons (9.4%), Dylan Moses (9.9%), Pete Werner (6.8%), Jamin Davis (3.9%), Paddy Fisher (6%), and Nick Bolton (8.3%).
ESPN 170th overall, 15th ILB (5th round)
Sports Illustrated 4th round
PFF 176th overall (5th round)
Lance Zierlein 5.80 grade. A couple examples of LBs who had similar grades from LZ in last year's draft are Mykal Walker, a middle of the 4th round pick, 5.69 grade and Shaq Quarterman, a compensatory 4th round pick, with a 5.90 grade.
Plays wearing a Leighton Vander Esch style neck pad.
Run Stuffing Machine
The primary reason Wallow stuffs so many runs at or behind the LOS is he's extremely fast at diagnosing the run play, then reading and anticipating where the hole is going to develop. Sometimes, when the RB cuts to the hole, Wallow is literally standing there waiting for him, like an ill tempered maitre d at a restaurant. "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I don't have a reservation under your name for the first down. You are welcome to take a seat at the bar in the backfield, then on the bench on the sidelines. Your estimated wait time is the next offensive possession." Other plays, Wallow knows there is going to be a gap and charges through it to disrupt the run in the backfield before it can even get started.
Outside zone. MLB reads the hole, moves 4 yards up the field, and is standing 1 yard behind the LOS, waiting for the RB in the hole, results in 3 yard TFL. Feels crease in line, stuffs RB right at LOS.
3rd&1. MLB reads the hole, takes on the lead FB. Essentially tackles the FB and pushes the FB back into the RB right at the LOS. Wallow isn't big and strong enough and his teammates don't arrive in time to help, so he ends up getting walked backwards and they give up the first, but this could have been a spectacular stop if someone could have arrived in time to help him push and shove the stacked up RB backwards.
Short 3rd down play. Appears to immediately know what run is coming, beats the OT's block and gets great penetration into the backfield. I have no idea how he read this play so fast, it was like he was in the huddle with the offense and knew what the call was.
Power run, MLB stays patient and doesn't get sucked up too early into wrong hole. He puts his hand on the hip of the OLB, preventing the RB from cutting back and forcing the RB to commit and declare, then flows over the top of the congestion to help make the tackle. Another power run, MLB reads it perfectly, is waiting for RB in hole, forcing it to bounce outside instead of going into the intended gap.
3rd&1, MLB scrapes laterally with hop steps in loaded position, then helps stuff the RB at the LOS, preventing the first down. Races in from slot alignment and helps stuff short 3rd down run, preventing first down.
Outside zone, MLB bursts forward to beat the LG's block and stuffs the RB at the LOS. Outside zone, MLB beats the FB's block, is waiting for the RB in the hole, chops out the legs of the RB and stuffs it for a 1 yard gain.
3rd down run, MLB reads play perfectly, shoots gap and gobbles up the RB for no gain. Waiting for RB in hole, then rudely throws RB to the ground.
Late in 4th quarter of Texas game, the Longhorns are on the doorstep of the end zone, seemingly about to punch in the likely winning TD. Wallow attacks the lineman with strength, getting good pad level under the OL and driving forward, stopping the surge, the freeing his arm and shoulder. The RB just happens to collide with Wallow's shoulder with the ball, causing a fumble, which gets recovered by TCU. Another game, late in 4th quarter, 4th & 1, game on the line. Wallow combines with another defender to stuff the RB short of the marker.
Wallow is a legitimate weapon in 3rd down situations. Has a knack for delivering and answering the bell. I'd be curious to see what TCU's team stats are on defense in short yardage 3rd and 4th downs over the last 2 seasons. In the games I watched, time and time again he stepped up and made plays.
Good soldier willing to sacrifice his body and take hits to free up other defenders. Reads the run and instead of standing back and letting blockers advance towards him, attacks to take out blockers. By doing this, he eliminates and stacks the blockers further up the field, giving his teammate better angles and space to tackle the RB. Doesn't hog all the glory himself, makes the defense as a unit better. Attacked and took out FB, freeing up other defenders to make stop. Sacrificed himself to take out both the C and the FB as blockers, keeping other defenders clean. Sticks TEs crossing the formation and pulling linemen, creating traffic jams at the line.
Didn't sit back passively and allow the combo block to work up to him. He aggressively attacked the RG and jolted him in the chest, creating a roadblock for the FB, kept his inside arm free, then disengaged from the block and tackled the RB.
Patiently lets play develop, then splits two 2nd level blockers to tackle the RB.
Moves around the field in good stance, both on run and pass plays. On runs, can read as he hops sideways with feet apart, knees bent, crouched, balanced and loaded, weight properly forward, good pad level, keeping his shoulders parallel to the LOS. Allows him to play with more power than his listed size, both against blockers and when attacking the RB. Can sift through traffic and find a path to the RB.
Tackling technique mostly good, with exceptions discussed below. Hits RB with head up, striking with shoulder and head to the side, strong body positioning.
Reads counter well and is waiting for the pulling OT at the LOS. His feet are wide, back angle strong, knees bent, active hands, attacks the OT block with proper leverage.
Adequate range in pursuit.
Functional arm length is okay. Outside zone run, extended both arms into OG, stacked and shed him. Able to keep some OTs at bay with arm length. Strikes at shoulder or pushes arm of OL to gain control against block. Ripped ball out for fumble from WR.
TE block, Wallow does subtle side step, then discards the TE with one arm, tackles the RB.
Consistent, solid in coverage
Patient, not fooled by play action, stays home and doesn't get out of position. Eyes scan well in pass coverage. Not fooled by fake WR bubble screen, stays home, and is in position to defend QB draw.
In pass coverage, keeps feet apart, patient, light, choppy steps and doesn't lunge or get caught flat footed. Adjusts well to react at the top of the route and to switch off onto other receivers when in zone.
Aware to TE sneaking out late on route after initially blocking. Ghost motion with play action fake to WR, intended to distract the LBs. Wallow isn't fooled and does a good job covering the RB going up the seam.
Outstanding reaction to play action fake, helps carry TE up seam, not giving QB good window for pass.
TE runs up the seam, with WR on crossing route under it. MLB recognizes route combination immediately, switches off with perfect timing, stays with the WR and makes an immediate tackle after the catch, zero YAC, preventing the first down. Able to turn and run to carry TE over the middle of the field.
Patient, doesn't bite early against option route, then drives on WR after break. Not able to close space enough to contest catch, but able to make immediate tackle. Patient against RB on Texas route, doesn't fall for fake and sticks closely as RB tries to go inside.
Covering Devin Duvernay, the Texas WR, in the slot. He doesn't bite against the WR's head fake and stutter steps, keeping his feet balanced and wide. When Duvernay tries to break inside, Wallow is sitting on the inside, all over it. This crosses up the QB, because there is zero separation and he's not sure what the WR is going to do. Ehlinger throws the ball inside and Wallow gets the interception.
Has enough length to redirect receivers and TEs off the line.
He's a former safety, so he's not uncomfortable handling coverage assignments. Only has one career INT (which was thrown right to him), but I didn't see any evidence that he has poor hands or can't make plays on the ball if given the opportunity.
Calls out presnap adjustments and audibles, responding to motion and shifts in offense's formation. Communicates well with other defenders to alert them to changes.
One game, looked like he turned his ankle in the 1st half. I wonder if he was hurt, because he had been on punt unit early in the game, but then he wasn't doing any more punts after that. He stayed in and played on defense the whole game. I noticed that after an INT, he didn't even try to run down the field to make a block. Maybe he couldn't run fast.
Competitive and passionate on field. Leadership skills. Team oriented, helps other players and is supportive of them.
Special teams experience. Solid speed running down the field on punt coverage. Not so great change of direction in open field, but good tackler.
Gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar. His gambles for TFLs and attempts to anticipate can backfire. When he jumps into the hole, he's not always right and ends up taking himself out of the play. Tries to go under blocks and when it doesn't work, the defense gets gashed for yardage. Protected cutback too much on run, got sealed off, resulting in large lane for RB.
Not very good as a blitzer. Lacks explosion and speed. Not able to redirect to the QB at speed. Doesn't threaten or beat blockers in pass protection. Unblocked on pass rush, not enough burst to get to QB in time.
Too small, not enough size and bulk. Needs more play strength. Got knocked backwards by RB in pass protection. Blasted by RB on run block, unable to recover and tackle the QB. Has to rely on attacking the edge of the blocker or ambushing them, or using his quickness to get advantage, because he doesn't have enough size or long enough arms to retaliate and hold his ground.
Short 3rd down. Reads hole perfectly, stuffs the lead FB, disengages from block, then tries to tackle the RB, but he's not big enough and can't prevent the first down. Reads run perfectly on short yardage down, shoots gap, but he doesn't have enough length and ends up missing the tackle. Can get dragged for additional yardage by RB.
Simply gets overpowered by bigger and strong OL. Blasted some plays out of his gap, shoved and driven to the side or backwards. Unable to set the edge at times. Hands not violent enough to defeat better 2nd level blocks. Reads counter run quickly, but the TE pushes him back 5 yards. Stuck on blocks and can't disengage against bigger blockers. One game, he went up against a huge dude 6'5'' and around 340 pounds. Could not handle him.
Average athlete. There are many plays where he reads and beats the block, penetrates into the backfield or gets into position at the 2nd level, but he's not agile enough to turn at a sharp angle and redirect himself to the RB or QB and can't make the tackle. Not enough "2 step explosion" when he had a bead on the runner. Results in too many "you almost had him" plays. Missed QB on scramble, giving up long run. Misses sacks. Beat block, but slipped trying to go sideways, nearly leads to long TD run.
Misses tackles in a variety of different ways. Goes too high, around the collar or nameplate, unable to grab the RB and they break free. When he is the 2nd defender, trying to clean up when a teammate misses a tackle, similar thing can happen. He isn't able to wrap up, arrives too high and bounces off. Had RB set up for a loss, but RB spins out of his grasp and stumbles forward for a 4 yard gain and a first down. Comes in too high and hot, missing tackle on RB on screen pass.
Average speed. Not fast enough to win races to the edge against faster skill players. Doesn't have true sideline to sideline range, especially against NFL level speed.
Never seemed to have any true man coverage snaps.
Not much of a pass defender. Just average. Not enough athleticism and length to provide blanket coverage. Instead of trying to be right on top of receivers, he gives them a "safety cushion". He rarely makes any plays on the ball to deflect passes or get INT opportunities, instead having to settle for just trying to make the tackle after the catch. He's smart and patient and doesn't get burned, but he's not a shutdown cover type defender. If you have a good NFL TE or RB, you could probably attack him and generate some plays in man coverage. Just be careful in zone, because his positioning will typically be good and if the QB makes a mistake he could get an INT.
Gives up separation on short out breaking routes and concedes completions. If you need him to tightly cover a TE (like close to the end zone), he might not be up to the task.
Fell asleep on shallow crosser on short 3rd down. QB was in trouble and might have been sack, but instead a simple dump pass turns into a 30 yard gain, because Wallow didn't stay close to the WR.
Athletic limitations hinder him in getting depth in zone after play action fakes. Has good eyes read the PA well and he tries to get back, but he's just not quite quick or fast enough doing it. One play, looked like the pass goes inches over his outstretched fingers as he jumps in the air.
Could have scheme and position limitations. Similar to Werner, I don't think he's fast enough to play a run and chase type weakside LB position and he doesn't cover well enough to use in a strong side role if he has to shadow TEs all the time. Even though some boards have him as an OLB (maybe because he's too small), I think he's better suited to play inside, either as a 4-3 MLB or as a 3-4 ILB. You want him close to the interior of the line, because his best attribute is attacking the LOS to get TFLs. I think it is a bad idea to move him to the outside where he can't make as much of an impact. I also think he's better as one of the initial defenders at the POA instead of being the clean up guy the defense is trying to force the RB towards. Wallow can't disrupt the blockers if the DC makes him hang back and watch the action develop in front of him.
Probably has average starter type ceiling. Not a super athletic or big player, so upside could be limited in comparison with some of the other prospects (but also has a higher floor and less bust potential.)
Pro Comparison and Grade
David Mayo (5th round 2015 Carolina Panthers, Texas State.) 5th round grade.
Mayo was 6'1'' tall, 235 pounds with 30.5'' arms. He ran 4.74 sec in the 40. With the Panthers, Mayo was mostly a core special teams player. Carolina had several other good LBs at the time, so Mayo was a reserve and only started a few games with them. His best season came in 2019 with the NYG.
In 2018, the Rams traded Ogletree to the Giants. BJ Goodson, a 4th round pick in 2016, was also on the roster. When the Giants dumped Goodson, they signed Mayo as a replacement.
In 2019, Mayo made 13 starts. He had 82 tackles, which was more than Ogletree, with a good PFF grade of 72.9. PFF said Mayo was very good against the run, but poor against the pass. Tree was cut after the 2019 season. The Giants rewarded Mayo by signing him to a 3 year $8.4 million contract, with $3.5 million guaranteed. Mayo hurt his knee and only made 2 starts in 2020. Mayo hasn't had a great career, but he's still done better than Paul Dawson and Stephone Anthony. Just a few days ago, the Giants released Mayo.
If you don't want the Rams to use an early round pick towards inside linebacker and wonder if there are any later round prospects who are worthwhile, I'd keep an eye out for Wallow. The Rams already have one very disruptive force up front with Aaron Donald, who commands attention and extra blockers. If you stack another instinctive defender almost right behind him who can also attack downhill into the backfield, good luck running the football NFL. Your RB better be prepared to get Rammed right in the gut.