Mark Jaramillo asked me to do a fanpost about Indiana linebacker, Micah McFadden. Unlike Clark and Rodriguez, who I wrote about the other day, there doesn't seem to be as much buzz about McFadden. He had good Pro Day testing numbers recently, so maybe he can boost his draft stock slightly, but at the moment he's projected to only be a late round pick. Perhaps he won't even be drafted at all. That's not necessarily a bad thing for the Rams, because if you believe that McFadden could be a good player, but that the Rams also have other needs to address in the draft besides LB, mining the late round to UDFA territory for a good prospect can be a way to maximize the limited draft capital the Rams have this year and fill multiple needs.
McFadden was a great college player at IU. His highlights are fun to watch, check out this 16 minute video of him making plays all over the field. My first impression of him was that he was going to be similar to Josey Jewell, the former Iowa LB who was drafted by the Broncos in the 4th round in 2018. Jewell had a round 5 to 6 grade from Lance Zierlein, but in some mock drafts he had been projected as early as a 2nd round pick. Part of the reason his stock slipped was he only ran 4.82 sec in the 40 at the Combine.
Jewell has yet to breakout in the NFL, but he's still one of the better draft outcomes for his 4th round LB peer group. Kenny Young was a 4th round pick and Micah Kiser was a 5th round pick in Jewell's draft class. I remember TST talking about Genard Avery prior to that draft, who was a 5th round pick. Just another LB who hasn't performed as well as Jewell in the pros so far.
If the Rams could draft a LB in the 4th round of the 2022 draft and get return value at least as high as Josey Jewell level, that would be a very solid draft pick. The bad news is I don't think Micah McFadden is the prospect to take at that slot. After watching full games on him instead of just the highlights, I think Jewell was a better draft prospect compared to McFadden.
So, who is my NFL comp for McFadden? It is Troy Reeder. Before you scoff at this notion and dismiss it based on the allegation that Reeder is a "terrible" NFL player who wasn't even drafted, let's look at how the 2 players measure up.
Troy Reeder: (Pre Draft) 6'1'' tall, 235 pounds, 29 7/8'' arms, 9 3/8'' hands, 74 3/8'' wingspan. The Rams listed Reeder as 6'3'' tall and 245 pounds last season.
Pro day results: 4.63 sec (40 time), 37.5'' vert jump, 10'2'' broad jump, 4.14 sec (shuttle), 7.0 sec (3 cone)
Micah McFadden: 6'1'' tall, 240 pounds, 31 1/4'' arms, 9 1/2'' hands, 75.5'' wingspan. Was listed by IU at 6'2'' tall and 232 pounds.
Pro day (bench from Combine): 4.63 sec (40 time), 35'' vert, 9'10'' broad, 4.15 to 4.21 sec (shuttle), 6.88 sec (3 cone)
McFadden has arms about an inch longer, but other than that the 2 players are very similarly sized and almost identical in terms of the testing drill numbers.
The Rams liked Reeder's ST ability, a key reason why they kept him on the roster. Similarly, I think McFadden will be a good ST player and that factor should allow him to stick in the NFL. Unless he gets hurt, I'd be shocked if he doesn't at least make a team's PS. High floor player. On the other hand, just like Reeder, I don't see McFadden ever becoming more than a "placeholder" starter in the NFL. Low ceiling prospect.
Lance Zierlein gives McFadden a 5.81 draft grade. LZ says he's a backup and core special teams player in the NFL. Undersized, average athlete, instinctive, limited lateral agility, lacks speed for man pass coverage, played indecisively against higher quality opponents. Derrick Barnes (5.82) had a similar grade last year from LZ and was a 4th round pick, so it isn't out of the question for McFadden to be a middle round selection this year. Garret Wallow (5.80) also had a similar grade and was a late 5th round pick.
ESPN 21st ranked ILB, 221st overall (late 6th to 7th)
Tony Pauline (PFN) 220th overall (6th round projection)
Ian Cummings (PFN) 186th (6th round)
Oliver Hodgkinson (PFN) 233rd (7th rd)
Shane Hallam (DC) 249th (late 7th, this is the Ben Skowronek draft slot)
Brian Bosarge (DC) 283rd (UDFA)
Drafttek 280th (UDFA)
There's a pretty firm consensus for McFadden to be a late round pick or high priority UDFA. If we averaged all the boards, he'd be a 7th rounder.
Two season captain at IU. 22 years old. True senior. Public and environmental affairs management major.
The lowest rated recruit in IU's 2018 recruiting class. From Tampa, Florida.
In 2021 (12 games) had 77 tackles (49 solo), 15.5 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, 3 PBU, 2 FF, FR. Ejected late in 1st half vs Cincy on controversial targeting call.
In 8 games in 2020: 58 tackles (44 solo), 10.5 TFLs, 6 sacks, 2 INTs.
Combined over 20 games last 2 seasons he had 26 TFLs and 12.5 sacks. Had 4 career INTs and 3 FFs.
In 5th game of season in 2021 he broke a bone in his left hand where thumb connects to wrist, had plate and screws inserted, played with soft cast on left arm. Also reportedly picked up some type of knock in game later in the year, but I couldn't find any additional information. After a great 2020 season, IU slumped in 2021, hampered by numerous injuries and was only 2-10, with McFadden being one of the only bright spots on the squad.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Strong football character. Leader on team, tough and will play through injury. Smart and good communicator on the field, suited to be defense's field general and wear the green dot on his helmet in NFL.
Reads pulling guard, stayed home and wasn't fooled by movement of other blockers, then stops the run.
Has sound basic techniques to defeat 2nd level blocks.
Willing to do dirty work as pass rusher to occupy blockers and free up other teammates to pressure the QB.
Body mass and aggressiveness to run over some RBs who try to pass block him. Head and shoulder fake beat guard's pass block. Not electric as a pass rusher, but useful, though I'd say some of his QB hits and sacks were products of scheme.
Read QB eyes in zone coverage, slid laterally to get into passing lane and nearly deflected pass up into the air.
Patient in zone pass coverage, typically doesn't lunge too early and in the wrong direction reacting to fakes. He's too upright in his pedal. Gets put on his heels in coverage. Not enough length or closing burst to contest the catch point.
Not enough play strength to consistently hold his ground against bigger and longer OL. He's going to get bullied by NFL sized athletes. Lacks effective length to use his hands to stay clean and fend off blockers and stay alive to get to the RB. Got locked up by TE on solo run block, unable to shed.
He's not "slow" per se. Once he gets going, he actually shows some speed to close in on his target. The problem is that he has build up speed, which isn't good for a LB. He doesn't have a good "2 yard burst". Brief delays as he shifts his body weight or changes directions hinder his acceleration. Not light on his feet.
For example, you've seen the Rams repeatedly run a play action pass off of a fake outside zone stretch run, where the QB pretends to hand it off to the RB going wide in one direction, but the QB keeps the ball and bootlegs in the opposite direction, often finding a TE or WR for a short pass. Defending this same play, when McFadden recognizes what is happening, he doesn't stop and reverse field quickly enough to stay close to the TE. He eventually is running just as fast if not faster than the TE, but by that point is too late, he has given up separation and plenty of room for the QB to throw the ball.
A running lane opens up, both the RB and LB see it. McFadden tries to run over and dives at the legs of the RB, but misses the tackle, just not enough burst and his arms are too short. The RB scoots by him and picks up a huge gain.
Looping from outside, he has clear path to the QB, but not enough speed burst to get the sack before QB gets the pass off.
Panics and tackles WR after he's beaten badly by juke move on shallow route. Almost never given man coverage duties.
Turned into pinball at times close to LOS. The nail and not the hammer against better OL. RB bounced out of his tackle attempt, he lacks length to firmly wrap up as well as better LBs.
Limited ability to redirect and mirror quick runners. Shifty RBs apply stress on his tackling angles.
Pro Comparison and Grade
Troy Reeder (Delaware, 2019 UDFA Rams), Late round grade.
McFadden is a classic overachiever, a lightly recruited player who transformed himself into a star in college. He has enough athleticism to combine with his strong football IQ and football character to have a career in the NFL. Maybe someday he can win a Super Bowl ring, just like Reeder.
If the Rams want to add LB depth late in the draft or by signing an UDFA, McFadden would be an excellent prospect to consider. If the Rams are trying to discover a "future starter" at LB, I don't see McFadden as the solution. The Rams would probably be better off hoping that a vet like Josey Jewell is allowed to hit FA and that they'd be willing to sign with the Rams on a cheap contract.