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2016 Denver Broncos Rookie Preview: Frank Shannon, LB

Our Rookie Preview series evaluates this year's crop of young Broncos and their chances of making the roster. Next up, Oklahoma linebacker Frank Shannon.

Frank Shannon, LB

Number: 47

College: Oklahoma

Height: 6-foot-1  Weight: 229 Age: 23

40-yard: 4.74 Bench: 20 (225 lbs)

The offseason departure of linebacker Danny Trevathan left a void next to Brandon Marshall in the middle of the defense. While the names of various candidates like Zaire Anderson and Todd Davis have been put forth, could it be former Oklahoma Sooners inside linebacker Frank Shannon who emerges as the dark horse of the group?

Strengths

When Shannon was on the field, he provided a stable presence in the middle of the Oklahoma linebacking corps. His numbers, like most inside linebackers, were never particularly gaudy, but reflective of his role on the defense. In 2015, Shannon posted 47 tackles (one or a loss), a sack, and an interception in just nine games.

His best attribute is easily his run defense. Shannon has shown a good ability to read and react while squaring up with the many formidable running backs that he encountered over his time with the Sooners, like in their Sugar Bowl victory against Alabama's Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1689611-broncos-rookie-preview-he... Even when Oklahoma's defense was spread out against offenses like Texas Tech, Shannon still saw plenty of work on passing downs. When those types of offenses would work out of the empty backfield, Shannon had the ability to go line up across from a slot wide receiver. That's no small task for an inside linebacker. If you can competently handle all three downs as a linebacker, that's a huge boon to your chances of making a squad.

(31:25) Here's a simple read-option play from Oklahoma's home game against Texas Tech from last year. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is in the shotgun with two wide receivers to each side and a running back flanked to his left. Shannon (20) is lined up mirroring the left guard (Alfredo Morales, 56) five yards behind the line of scrimmage.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p...Mahomes takes the snap and Morales shoots out to engage with Shannon, allowing the right defensive end (Charles Tapper, 91) to crash inside and try to blow up the play. Tapper is about to do exactly that, but Mahomes makes a great last-second read and pulls the ball back to keep it himself. Meanwhile, Morales (who outweighs Shannon by a good 90 pounds) fires out with a touch of hesitation towards the linebacker. However, Shannon is able to get leverage and sheds a massive interior offensive lineman with ease, then tackling Mahomes after a five-yard gain.

Shannon can pull this off because, at the exact moment he sees Morales barreling towards him, he immediately bends his knees, drops his pads, and gets lower than he was at the start of the play. When you're significantly outweighed like he is against Morales, leverage is the only thing he has going for him in the matchup, and Shannon exploits that. Not to mention, that's a great job by Shannon to be able to keep his eyes on the ball carrier with Morales in his way. It's not a play that's making the highlight reel, but it's a great linebacking exhibit.

Weaknesses

Unfortunately, the main red flag for Shannon is a significant one. He was suspended for the entire 2014 season after being accused of sexual assault. He maintained his innocence and ultimately was never charged, but the fact that the team hit him with a year-long ban is troublesome. I'm not going to launch my own investigation into the Title IX investigation and dig into the incident, but the Broncos scouting department and front office was comfortable enough to bring him in, so we'll leave it at that.

As a football player and specifically an inside linebacker, Shannon isn't very big at six-foot-one and 229 pounds. Size isn't always the decider in the run game (as I illustrated earlier), but it can be an issue if you want to line him up against a big tight end who might have four or five inches on him. Of course, Todd Davis is roughly the same size and Zaire Anderson is even smaller, so he might actually be the prototype for what the Broncos want at the position. 

Roster Prospects

The good news for Frank Shannon is that the linebacker spot next to Marshall is just about wide open. However, with two years of NFL experience at his disposal, it would be very difficult to make a case against Todd Davis winning the job.

After that, it becomes a numbers game for Shannon. If the Broncos hang onto a hybrid guy like Eddie Yarbrough, it might detract from the amount of pure linebackers they keep on their 53-man roster. But should he flash some of his talent in camp, there's a chance he could unseat a veteran like Dekoda Watson.

A lot will come down to Shannon's athleticism beyond run stopping. If he can prove to the coaches that he can be trusted to match up with a running back or a flex tight end on third down, then he's exactly what the Broncos want from an inside linebacker in the post-Trevathan world.

The opportunity is there, and with a good showing in this upcoming month of training camp and preseason games, Frank Shannon can seize it. 

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Will Keys is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.

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