Many college football players just don’t fit into a NFL position and the reasons are many. Most often, it can be boiled down to size or athletic traits, but it can also be how that player fits and was used in one the myriad of defensive schemes/formations at the university level. As the draft shifts into the mid and later rounds, players without traditionally defined roles can offer value to teams who are willing to take on development projects.
Looking at the Los Angeles Rams current roster, the team has perceived needs at linebacker and on the edge. Les Snead may very well fill these needs with experienced players who are of the plug-and-play variety before the draft. It would make sense, because barring another blockbuster move, his draft capital is more akin to developmental players.
While finalizing my draft board, three players who were moved around between linebacker and edge during their college careers flashed out, Arron Mosby, Demarcus Mitchell, and Daniel Hardy. Don’t believe any of them have draftable grades by the experts, but I see them all as having the developmental traits to make an NFL roster.
What are those developmental traits?
Of course, when it comes to defense, size, speed, and the ability to turn that speed into power are the gifts that keep on giving. Along with those athletic skills, you can add the anatomical traits, arm length, wingspan and natural flexibility. A combination of these traits make for the potential to be a high draft pick. Every draft season includes a substantial amount of players chosen simply because of their athleticism and measurables.
Each position on the field has its own individual wants and needs, but since this conversation is going to be about linebackers and edge players, there are three traits that will be focused on. Vision/play recognition, burst/hustle, and coverage/tackling ability.
One caveat, these players are not early round prospects. All have the ability to play special teams, but have a lot of work ahead of them before challenging for a role on the Rams defense.
Arron Mosby - Fresno St. 6’ 2” 245 lbs. @ Hula Bowl
Originally recruited as a safety, moved to ILB as a sophomore and finally to a E/LB hybrid for his final two seasons, so obviously, he has versatility. Can cover, particularly in a zone scheme, read and react behind the line, or bend around the edge.
To become an NFL edge player, Mosby will need a lot of work in the weight room and on his technique, much like LA’s 2021 seventh round pick Chris Garrett. He has the speed to get around the edge, but not the strength or technique to to compliment it. Once a tackle gets his hands on him he struggles to break free.
His best fit would be a role at line backer. Mosby is always wary of where the football is and his ball skills/playmaking ability shows it, resulting in many strip sacks and forced fumbles He has good burst, a tenacious willingness to take on blockers and relentlessly pursues through the traffic from sideline-to sideline. He can both gets skinny to squeeze between linemen and keep his pads low and drive through blockers.
In space, he reads well and reacts quickly and decisively. He’s agile and moves well laterally. His pass coverage tape is three years old but he looks natural in zone. Stays low in back pedal and watches quarterback, much better coming downhill than turning and running.
He played on special teams for all four college seasons. Arron Mosby has good tape versus top talent (UCLA and Oregon), and was rated a standout in both the Hula Bowl and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. He’s a low risk prospect who can diagnose a play, hustle his way into position, and wants to make the tackle on every play.
TURNOVER TOWN#GoDogs | #GoDogs | @ArronMosby @LevelleBailey6 pic.twitter.com/c8cpywti5r— Fresno State Football (@FresnoStateFB) November 25, 2021
Demarcus Mitchell - Purdue 6’ 2” 256 lbs. @Hula Bowl
Mitchell comes from a 3-4 scheme and was moved interchangeably in all positions, finally settling as the “LEO”, a linebacker/defensive end hybrid. He started his career at the junior college level, where he played both ways, linebacker and wide receiver, as well as special teams. He originally committed to Louisiana Tech but followed his defensive coach to Purdue.
In the box is where Mitchell does his best work. He brings a physical presence to wherever he lines up. At linebacker, he’s the traditional thumper who storms into gaps taking on blockers and pugging lanes. Over his 18 game career at Purdue, he mopped up 56 tackles including 12.5 for loss.
Out on the edge, he plays like an old school outside linebacker. Not a flashy pass rusher, he sets the edge, reads and reacts to RPO’s, and pursues down the line of scrimmage. It’s not that he cannot rush the passer, he had five sacks and four passes knocked down, but his first round draft choice teammate, George Karlaftis, had the pass rushing role.
There is not a lot of tape showing his pass coverage skills, just a few of him dropping straight back from the inside position and rotating into the flat from his edge spot. In what there is, he looks relatively smooth.
Whether standing up or with his hand on the ground, Mitchell’s best traits are his ability to read the play (QB), react and use his plus athleticism to bring physicality to the point of attack.
There's a TON of ⬆️ to @DaMarcus_M, who rotated along a very talented #BoilerUp D-line! His 10.5 TFLs the past two seasons speak to his disruptive ability, but #NFL scouts are excited about his potential as a DPR at the next level and are excited for his @NFLPABowl opportunity! https://t.co/qL9fzlyMWG— Dane Vandernat (@DVandernat) December 26, 2021
Daniel Hardy - Montana State 6’ 2” 239 lbs. @ NFLPA collegiate Bowl
No, not the draft darling from the Big Sky State, Troy Anderson. It is his freakishly athletic running buddy. After two years of special teams play and linebacker rotational roles, Daniel Hardy moved out on the edge in 2021 and exploded onto the FCS football scene with 16.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
He has an explosive first step, great bend and flexibility to get around the corner. He plays the game with a hell-bent-for-leather style. Right now, he is able to run right by most of his current competition, but shows the ability to quickly change direction, keep his pads low for leverage, and keep his eyes on the ball to maximize his angles. All transferable traits to the pro game. His hand fighting skills are good, when he uses them. His arms were measured at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at 34”, with an 80” wingspan and he will have to use that length and his upper body strength at the next level.
Hardy needs some work versus the run. With his relatively small size and lack of experience/technique, he can be overpowered by tackles that can latch onto him. If he can be groomed to use his length, he will be able to convert his speed and burst into a strong power rush. When I compare his tape to that of current Rams edge Chris Garrett, Hardy clearly is the better prospect.
For the Rams defense schemes under Raheem Morris to succeed, a strong pass rush is paramount. Daniel Hardy has the traits to be that type of player. Couldn’t find any pass coverage tape but his athleticism and the way he follows the football would seem to portend an ability to succeed.
6-3 240 FCS All American Edge @Dhardy44 will be one of the @PFF_College Freaks of this years @NFLDraft 42 inch Forward hurdle hops!— Tracy Ford (@TFordFSP) January 24, 2022
..@DraftDiamonds @JohnClaytonNFL @MSUBobcats @NFL @NFLPAFmrPlayers @NFLPABowl pic.twitter.com/pcoassscO9
What all three prospects share
A passion for football. They all stand out on film as having stellar athleticism for their size, an insane motor, and are standout special teamers. They are not alike, though. Mosby looks to be able handle either the linebacker or edge positions, Mitchell is a physical, tough guy who will do the dirty work in the trenches, and Hardy has explosive game changing potential. Drafting any one of these prospects will improve the LA Rams overall athleticism and depth.