Is Maualuga on Atlanta's radar?

Just check out YouTube if you want to see the trail of devastation that USC linebacker Rey Maualuga left in his wake the past four years. He's a man who intimidates with both his presence and his intensity. So which teams have been showing him the most interest while he's worked out this week at the Senior Bowl? Read on to find out...

First off, let me explain who I am. My name is Scott Eklund and I am the new "NFL Draft guy" for FalconsInsider. I also moonlight as a reporter for the Washington Huskies site on the network and because of that, I have gotten an "up-close" view of USC LB Rey Maualuga.

Needless to say, the man from Eureka, California is a presence as well as one heck of a football player.

The way he carries himself with his teammates as well as his intimidating manner on the field alone is impressive, but then when you get see the way he runs to the ball while punishing every opposing player foolish enough to venture into his area it's just the icing on the cake.

Maualuga is a player that many teams (including the Detroit Lions, New York Jets and Oakland Raiders) are looking at, obviously, but apparently the Atlanta Falcons have shown quite a bit of interest, even following the talented defender to different "position-specific" drills to get a look at his footwork, flexibility and overall athleticism.

Reports have been mixed on Maualuga's performance against air, but that isn't where he's made his name. It's when the pads come on that the three-year starter and team captain comes to life.

First off, Maualuga isn't a top-notch athlete. He's a bit stiff when asked to play in reverse or in man-to-man and he's not real adept at reading the quarterback while sliding into his zone. He's also a bit slow getting into his drops and as a result he never seems to get the depth necessary in zone coverage.

That being said, when he can play downhill and run to the ball with abandon, there is usually a violent collision that follows and often the offensive player stays on the ground.

Maualuga will need to work on being overly aggressive. Against Pac 10 level players as well as other elite programs across the country, he could guess and if he was wrong he was fast enough for a man his size to still make the play.

In the NFL he's going to have to get better at reading his keys and then diagnosing the play so he can flow to the ball. A false step will kill you at this level and that will be an area he needs to work on.

Many times in workouts in Mobile over the past few days ball-carriers would end up going backwards when Maualuga filled the gap. He uses his hands really well, he doesn't get caught up in traffic and he's a sure tackler, but at times he neglects to wrap up and this can cause him to miss tackles that he shouldn't.

He's very comparable to Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens in that, he's got ideal size and he's just as intense, but Lewis is a much better athlete and he rarely leaves the field even at the ripe old age of 33, whereas at this point Maualuga would probably be a two-down middle linebacker who would need to get better in coverage before he could attain Pro Bowl status.

Currently, Maualuga is holding onto a late first to mid-second round grade and he's had some off-the-field issues that he's dealt with, but they may cause him to drop a little and that could create some great value if he were to fall past the middle of the second round.

Rey Maualuga Scout Profile

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