Inside LB Countdown: Scouting Hicks

Here's the scouting report on Texas' Jordan Hicks, the seventh-ranked inside linebacker in the draft, straight from the NFL's head scout. What excited scouts about Hicks in 2014, when he finally stayed healthy and had an All-American season?

The big thing for Jordan Hicks was trying to stay on the field. He missed the last nine games of the 2013 season due to a torn Achilles tendon, and sat out 10 contests in 2012 due to a suspension and hip injury. He was also bothered by groin and hamstring issues during his sophomore season, making most scouts regarding him as an injury risk.

During a banner senior campaign, he was named All-American second-team, adding Academic All-American honors, as he used his sixth season to record 147 tackles, tied for seventh-best in school history and the most by a Longhorn since Winfred Tubbs posted 157 hits in 1992. Only three major-college players recorded more tackles in 2014, as Hicks also picked off two passes and had 3.5 sacks among 13.0 stops for losses.

While the 2014 season was exceptional, teams are concerned about the list of injuries being a factor, as some scouts feel his previous hip injury issues could make him a better fit playing inside, in order to not expose him much to running longer distances. Our staff is not concerned about future injuries. At the present, he shows a player with excellent instincts and vision to spot misdirection and locate the ball. He does a very good job of avoiding blocks and can see through blockers and get to the ball quickly.

This is a player with a very good nose for the ball. He plays on his feet with good ward-off and shed ability. He shows the strength, aggressiveness and quickness to make plays in pursuit. He is very powerful when engaging blockers, using his hand swipes with force to shed blocks and create separation. He is a solid and aggressive tackler with wrap-up ability. He is even more powerful vs. plays in front of him than on the move (will revert to arm tackles then).

From the statistical standpoint, he will generally get negative yardage when meeting ball carriers at the line, as he drives hard with his legs and takes good arm extension to wrap and push the opponent back through the hole. This is a player that puts every ounce of effort and strength behind his frame to plug the gaps.

Hicks is quick to locate the ball working inside and will hold his ground firmly at the point of attack to make negative yardage tackles. He also shows the burst and speed to close and cut off the ball carrier on the outside. He generates good striking speed and velocity in the short-area and plays the game with an intense motor.

Hicks might be a better fit as an inside linebacker, as he is an instinctive player who reads the play quickly and has the hand usage needed to beat blockers to the point of attack, whether by utilizing his speed or generating the power to blow up the cutoff in the short-area He demonstrates good urgency to fill downhill and in plays vs. the run, he is very effective at mirroring ball carriers well between the tackles and is very difficult to outrun with his long wingspan and great chase speed.

Perhaps due to past hip problems, Hicks is not that fluid moving laterally, but can knife through the fast moving traffic to make the big stop. He does need to watch leverage, but he closes fast on the ball and is a strong tackler who can drive through and finish. His hip issues are evident when he shows stiffness opening and turning in coverage, and this will see him struggle when trying to blanket in the underneath zone.

While Hicks generates a good burst when he locates the ball, he does tend to lose some in transition opening and turning to run. He needs to play with a bit more hip-sink and is not good playing in space (another reason I do not project him outside), as his lateral pursuit angles are too inconsistent and can be rounded.

His move to middle linebacker will greatly benefit Hicks, as 2014 proved that he has a very effective vertical game. With hip questions still lingering, due to his lateral agility being below par, he is more suited playing downhill in a heavy pressure system.

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