11 March 2011

2011 NFL Scouting Combine: Linebackers

We all knew that Von Miller was a good line backer, but he proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. He ran a very impressive 40-yard dash and vertical jump.

There were a few pleasant surprises though, like Dontay Moch from Nevada and Bruce Miller from little Central Florida, both with impressive performances in their own right.

Here are your top performers and floppers at the combine. I did not include defensive ends who experts think will switch to a 3-4 linebacker. Ex: Aldon Smith, Ryan Kerrigan.

Von Miller, Texas A&M OLB: Miller ran a 4.60 40-yard dash and a 37” vertical leap. He has the speed and explosiveness, however his strength could be a concern. He was only able to bench 225 21 times. So there is a risk that a bigger stronger lineman could neutralize Von Miller's affect of the field. Other than that, he is the top linebacker in the draft.

Before Combine: top 20 pick

After Combine: top 5 pick.

Martez Williams, Illinois ILB: If Von Miller had not been at the combine, Martez would have stole all the limelight. He proved to be an explosive athlete in complete control of his body. He ran a blazing 4.44 40-yard dash. He had a so-so bench press showing, completing 225 pounds on the bench press 23 times. He also had a 36” vertical jump to cap of his impressive combine showing. He has impressive size. He is 6' 3” and weighs 250 lbs. He will be a starter somewhere guaranteed.

Before combine: 3-4th round.

After Combine: early 2nd round.

Akeem Ayers, UCLA OLB: He has been viewed as a 4-3 outside linebacker to most. Ayers ran a mediocre 4.80 40-yard dash and had a vertical of 31”. He has on the field speed and some explosiveness. Strength? Not so much, Akeem racked the bar after only 18 reps on the bench press. He could have problems with bigger backs.

Before Combine: 1st round

After combine: Late 1st, early 2nd round

Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina, MLB: He did not run the 40, but had a 34” vertical and benched 225 lbs 21 times. Mediocre. He is still a prospect worth considering for strong side linebacker in a 4-3 defense.

Before Combine: 2nd-3rd round

After Combine: 2nd-3rd round

Brooks Reed, Arizona State OLB/DE. Reed is a big time riser after an impressive Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Brooks ran a 4.66 40-yard dash and had a 30.5” vertical. So right in the middle of the road of vertical leaps and one of the faster linebackers. Now strength is not an issue with this guy either, he lifted that bar 30 times. This man can start right away and he has the physical prowess to be very good.

Before Combine: 3-4 round

After Combine: 2nd round

Bruce Carter, North Carolina, OLB: Came in fairly strong, he completed 25 reps at 225 lbs. Carter has shown that he can be a valuable leader on defense and had to step up last year with several of the UNC defense suspended. I think he could be the next James Laurinaitis, Jerod Mayo. He's that talented.

Before Combine: 2nd round

After Combine: 2nd round

Dontay Moch, Nevada, OLB: This guy was by far the fastest linebacker at he combine, a venerable workout warrior. He blazed a 4.40 40-yard dash and a 42” vertical leap, the highest of any linebacker. So he has blistering speed and tons of explosion. He is raw, very raw. He could be a starter with the right coaching, or he could be a bust like Vernon Gholston, of whom he is remarkably similar.

Before combine: 4th-5th round

After Combine: 2nd round

Mason Foster, Washington, OLB: He ran a decent 4.65 40-yard dash. He is 6' 1” and weighs 245 lbs. He completed 22 reps on the benchand had a sub par vertical, only 21 inches. I might be able to get 21 inches. None the less he, is a solid tackler who might be able to play for a few teams.

Before Combine: 3rd-4th round

After Combine: 4th-5th round.

Greg Jones, Michigan State, OLB: He was viewed as a top prospect and still is in my book. The kid just knows how to play football with elite instincts, he is a tackling machine. Jones was a four year starter at Michigan State and he accumulated a total of 238 solo tackles during his career. At the Combine however, he failed to open any eyes. He ran a lackluster 4.75 40-yard dash. That is decent, but not what scouts were looking for in a smaller linebacker. He benched 225 lbs 21 times, which is same max as several other OLB prospects. He had a 31.5 inch vertical. He seems best suited for the weak side in a 4-3 defense.

Before Combine: 2nd-3rd

After combine: 3rd-4th

K.J. Wright, Mississippi state, OLB: He is a bigger prospect at 6 '3” 246 lbs. He ran a so-so 40 time of 4.70 seconds. He lifted 225 pounds 20 times in the bench. Which is not that good for a 246 pounder. He also had a 32” vertical leap. He has long arms and may be big enough to play an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He might not bring much as a rusher though. His rise is due mostly in part to others failing to live up to expectations.

Before combine: 4th-5th round

After combine: 3rd-4th round.

Ross Homan, Ohio State, OLB: He ran a 4.65 40-yard dash, so he’s got decent speed. He proved to be very strong benching 225 lbs 32 times. That is better than any other linebacker besides Brooks Reed. His 215 career tackles for Ohio State are impressive. also has a 35 inch vertical leap. As a small linebacker (6’ 0” 226 lbs) he should find a home with a team like the St.Louis Rams. After all, 4 out of their 6 linebackers are Ohio State grads. Why not add another alumni. Homan really improved his stock.

Before Combine: 5th round

After Combine: 4th round

Mark Herzlich, Boston College, LB: He is one of my favorite players, coming back after cancer to play in 2010 was impressive all by itself. He had the highest bench reps of any ILB at the combine. He lifted that bad boy 29 times. He had a 32.5” vertical. The cancer in his leg slowed him down a bit. He ran a paltry 4.9 40. However, I still think he can add something to a team that will take a chance on him.

Before combine: 4-6th round

After combine: 4-5th round.

Bruce Miller, Central Florida DE/OLB: I am not sure if I should put Bruce here. He was listed as a 3-4 OLB. But upon watching him play he is obviously a 4-3 end. He is not fast enough to cover tight ends. He ran a mediocre 4.80 40-yard dash at the combine. He has shown quickness on the field though. He benched 225 pounds 35 times at the combine. Stronger than any other candidate on this list. At 6’ 2” 248 pounds he doesn’t have the size to be a 4-3 end, so he’ll have to earn a living as a slow 3-4 linebacker.

Before Combine: 4-6th round

After Combine: 6-7th round

Chris Carter, Fresno State DE/OLB: Carter is a very quick pass rusher, but he may be a little small for a DE. He is only 6' 1” 240 lbs. I can see him being a very good third down pass rusher standing up. He has remarkable quickness and demonstrated his explosiveness with a 36 inch vertical leap and a 4.66 40-yard dash. I think he could be a contributor to a team on defense and special teams.

Before Combine: 6-FA

After Combine: 4-5 round

These are the people I noticed at the combine. We will see how accurate these predictions are when the Draft rolls around. Thank you for reading.

By Quinn Fulton

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