Their on-the-field production is paramount. After breaking down the top 15 inside linebacker prospects athletically by ranking them in the key scouting categories, we have done the same with their on-field production.
Here they are, as ranked by the NFL’s longtime head scout, Dave-Te’ Thomas, in rankings provided to Packer Report.
|1. Eric Kendricks||149||101||4.0||0||11.5||5||5|
|2. Stephone Anthony||75||45||2.5||5||10.5||3||4|
|3. Benardrick McKinney||71||35||3.0||3||8.0||4||4|
|4. Paul Dawson||136||81||6.0||5||20.0||9||9|
|5. Denzel Perryman||110||79||2.0||0||9.5||4||6|
|6. Kwon Alexander||90||40||1.5||5||7.5||2||1|
|7. Jordan Hicks||147||75||3.5||4||13.0||2||4|
|8. Mike Hull||140||75||2.0||1||10.5||3||4|
|9. Ben Heeney||127||88||1.5||4||12.0||4||2|
|10. Ramik Wilson||110||56||2.0||6||7.0||2||1|
|11. Bryce Hager||114||76||2.0||8||12.0||3||2|
|12. Jake Ryan||112||67||2.0||5||14.0||3||4|
|13. Taiwan Jones||60||31||4.0||1||12.5||3||3|
|14. Hayes Pullard||95||53||0.0||0||5.5||2||9|
|15. Edmond Robinson||68||54||0.0||1||7.5||2||5|
Note: QBH is quarterback hits; TFL is tackles for losses; T’overs is the combined total of interceptions, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries; PBU is the combined total of passes intercepted and passes deflected.
Obviously, not all defensive statistics are created equally because of schemes and supporting casts. Mississippi State’s McKinney, for instance, was a first-team All-American even though he had less than half of Kendricks’ tackles. If McKinney had played somewhere else and been the centerpiece of a defense, would he still have had 71 tackles? Or would he have had 100, 125 or even 150? Nevertheless, with one point given to the top performer in each category and 15 to the worst, here are their rankings based on collegiate production.
Now, we put it all together. Which inside linebackers have the best combination of testing numbers and on-field production in this year’s class?
It’s no surprise that UCLA’s Kendricks, Clemson’s Anthony and TCU’s Dawson fared well. They’re among the top prospects at the position. However, Texas’ Hicks winds up tied with Kendricks for the top spot. Hicks isn’t at the top of draft boards, however, because he missed most of 2012 with a hip injury and most of 2013 with a torn Achilles.
McKinney and Alexander show up down the list, even though they are expected to be among the top inside linebackers selected. Why? They didn’t pile up a lot of total tackles or solo tackles. What isn’t reflected in our charts but is key in scouts’ minds is the percentage of a linebacker’s tackles that are solo. Scouts want that to be above 50 percent — preferably more than 60 percent — because they want their linebackers delivering the initial blow and not just jumping on piles.
What’s impressive is how Dawson placed fourth in the overall rankings after finishing one point out of the cellar athletically. He’s going to pose quite the dilemma for teams needing an inside linebacker. Can he match his eye-popping production — he finished first in four of seven categories and not worse than fourth — despite limited email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.