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2 LBs the Rams have met with in pre-draft process

Grant Stuard and Isaiah McDuffie have really caught the eye of Les Snead

Texas State Bobcats vs. Boston College Eagles at Alumni Stadium Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

What would be the point of using a smokescreen on seventh round targets? Especially using heavy smoke on both?

The LA Rams have reportedly met with two linebackers twice each during the pre-draft process. Neither is a lock to be drafted this year, but could be targets for LA in the seventh round or as priority free agents.

Isaiah McDuffie, LB, Boston College

6’1, 227 lbs, 4.58 40-yard dash, 25 reps, 10’1 broad

McDuffie became a starter for Boston College as a sophomore in 2018, recording 85 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks in 12 games. He was injured in the spring of 2019, returning for the final four games to record 30 tackles, 3.5 TFL, and two sacks in four games. McDuffie was healthy and productive again in 2020, finishing with 107 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks, and one interception over 11 games for the Eagles.

As far as I can tell, McDuffie’s reported time of 4.58 or 4.59 in the 40-yard dash comes via his head coach, I’m not sure if that’s official with the NFL, but we know that Les Snead prefers game speed anyway. If 4.58 was the case however, it would make McDuffie at least as fast as all but four linebackers in this year’s draft.

It would tie him with players like Baron Browning, Hamilcar Rashed, Chazz Surratt, and Pete Werner.

What’s better though is that McDuffie’s 25 reps is more than most linebackers, especially the ones who also tested as fast, and his broad jump is more than passable as far as testing is concerned. He has fair size, good athleticism, lots of production including as a pass rusher, and he played against solid competition. He’s being given about a sixth round grade, which could make him a target for LA either late in the draft or if he goes undrafted.

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McDuffie plays with a palpable energy and rarely gears down until the whistle blows. He’s undersized, but is at his best playing inside. That’s where his recognition talent and instincts take over and allow him to race to run lanes ahead of the block. He pursues with leverage but has the burst to accelerate and attack when it’s time to finish. His full-tilt playing style will lead to occasional issues with pursuit angles and being out of balance as a tackler, though. He’s feisty but takes time to free himself from blockers and was ineffective when asked to drop into coverage. He has the ability to become a quality backup with core special teams value.

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He is a strong tackler when arriving while carrying momentum. A lack of mass is apparent when ball-carriers meet him head up in the hole as he is not consistently able to stop their momentum. His wrap-up is not the strongest and he can get juked out due to a lack of close-quarter twitch. McDuffie projects as a SAM linebacker in a 4-3 who should contribute on special teams due to his athleticism and back up all three linebacking positions if needed. This versatility and athleticism makes him a draftable player who should make an NFL roster.

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When studying McDuffie on film, it’s easy to notice his functional athleticism, quickness, fluidity, and urgency. He’s a good athlete that is hard-charging in pursuit and plays with the game with great enthusiasm. McDuffie is an excellent tackler that aims low, wraps, and rarely comes up empty. From a physical traits perspective, he has the ability to play in space and coverage. With that said, McDuffie has to become a better processor. While he makes quick reads, they are often incorrect. Compounding matters is that he often plays the game through a straw and struggles to get off blocks. McDuffie has many of the characteristics of a matchup linebacker in a 4-3 defense where he can cover, play in space, and pursue, but he has a long way to go in terms of play diagnosing and processing.

Grant Stuard, LB, Houston

5’11. 225 lbs, 28 reps on the bench

You can get a much better breakdown of Stuard from Ferragamo’s scouting report than anything I could write about him. There isn’t a lot of testing with Stuard and that did not help him build a case to get drafted when he’s already a late-round prospect as is, but he explains why that happened in the video at the bottom of the page.

His 28 reps on the bench is unique though — more than any other linebacker in the 2021 draft class other than Purdue’s Derrick Barnes (“He looks really swole, so I’m okay with it,” said Stuard) — and Stuard specifically focused on that goal because there was money going to charity for every rep he did. That is also explained in Stuard’s video below, including video of his 28 reps at his pro day.

He is a rare character, if nothing else, and I think a guarantee to be a positive presence in the locker room.

Stuard is the type of prospect who wouldn’t stand anything to gain in testing anyway. He’s not an athlete but he is a fan favorite because of his aggressive nature to always hustle and his off-field presence as a positive member of the community. In that sense, he could be like the Sebastian Joseph-Day of LA’s 2021 draft class if the Rams do draft or sign him.

He led Houston with 97 tackles in 12 games in 2019, then again with 61 tackles in seven games last year. He’s also had 14.5 tackles for a loss over the last 19 games. He’s one of those guys who seems to have a floor of “practice squad for several years” which is valuable when looking for priority players in free agency.

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Processing and will are his two most redeeming attributes; he’s very decisive, reads his keys well, and attacks the ball carrier to put the defense into a good position. He’s a low tackler whose tackle radius is sub-par.

Did a good job finishing his tackles with aggression and authority. He does a good job as a backside pursuit defender who chases ball carriers down the line of scrimmage using his speed, burst, and understanding of angles.

Short arms affect his ability in coverage—he can’t close throwing windows. He also doesn’t seem to be very aware in coverage—he is a much better processor in terms of playing the run. The lack of length and size hurt him in a lot of areas.

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Strengths:

Energy is infectious – flies around the field and rallies the troops;

Legitimate playing speed attacking downhill – plays with an aggressive mentality;

Has a nose for the ball carrier in the run game – very productive;

Good tackler – gathers momentum quickly to hit harder than you’d expect from a defender of his size;

Special Teams ace in college.

Weaknesses:

Undersized – it’s a shame, but he quite simply doesn’t fill space in the passing lanes;

Lateral movement isn’t smooth – tight hips;

The athleticism isn’t elite for a position switch to safety;

Can get caught guessing – doesn’t have a feel for play-action;

Made very few impact plays – zero interceptions and no forced fumbles in his college career.

Stuard also has a YouTube channel where he shares his experience as a prospect in the 2021 draft process. He’s looking to get to 500 subscribers (currently at 262) and he’ll be doing giveaways for every 500 subs. Show him you’re a fan already: