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With free agency looming in the next two offseasons for several of their linebackers, the Colts took a look at a productive 'backer at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. How will his skills translate to the NFL field? Can he defend against the pass well enough to fit in with the Colts? Brad Keller has the inside scoop.

Zack Follett enjoyed a tremendous amount of production during his four years at Cal, missing only two games, appearing in 49, and putting up some fairly gaudy statistics along the way — all in a conference that, historically, has been more regarded for offense than defense.  Follett ended his career with 244 tackles, 50 tackles for loss, and 22.5 sacks in those 49 games. 

While he wasn't as productive some other top tier prospects at his position, that still averages to five tackles, a tackle for loss, and a half sack per game over the course of a four year career, which impressive by any measure.


Cal LB Zack Follett
Dino Vournas/Getty

Scout.com's Chris Steuber describes Follett as, "an incredibly instinctive defender who makes plays all over the field.  He moves well laterally, diagnoses the action, and has great closing speed.  He's an outstanding tackler who has excellent range and is highly effective pass rusher."

A good sized linebacker — for the Colts, at least — he is 6-feet-2 and 232 pounds, which is a full three inches taller than Gary Brackett and about the same weight.

He played outside linebacker in college and projects as an outside linebacker at the NFL level, but has the flexibility and range to move inside.  In the Ron Meeks/Tony Dungy version of the Indianapolis defense, he would project as Brackett's backup (or replacement), but Dungy and Meeks are both no longer with the team.

If Follett's pass rushing ability, range, and athleticism were placed at outside linebacker — possibly opposite the pass rushing ability and athleticism of 2008 draft choice Philip Wheeler — that would put a new face on the defense and make it markedly different than the version seen this past season.

It would also displace Clint Session, Freddy Keiaho, and Tyjuan Hagler, or at the very least shake up the depth chart considerably.

However, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, Follett is also the 10th-ranked player at his position and the 107th-ranked player overall.  Although this is a very strong linebacker class, Follett is still ranked behind two of the linebackers from Southern Cal — Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing — and two more athletic linebackers from smaller schools in Larry English and Aaron Curry.

No one can argue with the results that Follett produced during his time at Cal, but all that production occurred while he was heading towards the line of scrimmage, not running away from it in coverage.

A number of scouts must feel that, given the fact that he had only one interception throughout his career, that he is not well-suited to playing pass defense at the next level.

If that is true, then he will have a difficult time catching on with the Colts, nonetheless getting drafted by him, but the fact that he had 15 passes defended in those 49 games could also serve notice that he may just have bad hands.

As it stands now, he'll likely go in the third or fourth round after the run on linebackers has stopped.  How well he does in position drills and workouts will go a long way in determining where he goes off the board in April.

If he runs well and looks sharp in pass coverage — even in seven on seven — then he will rise in the estimation of a number of teams. 

They already know that he has a nose for the ball and is a productive player.  All they need to see is that he has the athleticism to make it in the NFL.

With any luck, he won't run as fast in the 40 or the short shuttle as some might expect and Indianapolis will find yet another underappreciated and undersized linebacker late in the draft.


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