Scouting the Draft: Outside Linebackers

Several small-school stars and some possible defense-to-offense projections highlight the final four rounds of the incredibly deep 3-4 outside linebacker class.

Golden photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In Part 14 of our Green Bay Packers draft preview, we examine the Day 3 prospects at outside linebacker.

Lynden Trail, Norfolk State (6-7, 269; 4.91): Trail ended a decorated career in resounding fashion. He was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, which goes to the best defender in FCS. He became the first player in school history to be a three-time All-American and the first to play in the Senior Bowl. He tallied five sacks, 11.5 tackles for losses and 91 tackles as a senior and 19.5 sacks and 41 TFLs in his three seasons since transferring from Florida.

“Scouts recognize Trail as the ‘second coming’ of Jeremiah Trotter – a big, physical linebacker with strong safety-like pass coverage skills and speed trapped in a defensive end’s body. He competes with good leverage and balance, showing urgency moving down the line and has made good strides in improving his footwork dropping back in pass coverage, making him a nice fit as an outside linebacker candidate in an NFL 3-4 defense.”

Markus Golden, Missouri (6-2, 260; 4.90): After serving as a backup to Kony Ealy and Michael Sam, Golden had a big senior season with 10 sacks and 20 tackles for losses among his 78 stops, plus three forced fumbles and three recoveries. He was almost two-tenths of a second faster at pro day. He’s got short arms, big hands and a lot of grit.

“Some scouts think that he might be limited in space, but anyone that doesn't think he is a good candidate to move to outside linebacker in a base 3-4 front needs to view film of his skill-set at that position from his 2010 season at Hutchinson College.”

Obum Gwacham, Oregon State (6-5, 246; 4.72): Gwacham recorded four sacks, 5.5 TFLs and 28 tackles as a reserve defensive end. Those aren’t impressive numbers until you realize that he spent his first three seasons at split end and the first seven years of his life in Nigeria. He’s got long arms (34 3/8-inch arms) and is explosive. Some teams like him at tight end, either immediately or as a fallback.

“As a pass rusher, Gwacham can beat a lethargic lineman with his speed and has the power to take on smaller blockers. He has very good body control and excellent hip snap. The thing I like is the way he can squeeze through the tiniest of creases to get into the backfield. He uses his arm-over moves with very good quickness and rips well. He keeps himself lean to gain leverage and he excels at pressuring the quarterback.”

Frank Clark, Michigan (6-3, 271; 4.79): Clark played 48 games and started for most of his final two seasons. He had 43 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 12 tackles for losses and two fumble recoveries as a junior and 42 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 13 TFLs and four recoveries in 10 games as a senior before he was arrested and jailed on domestic violence charges in November. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct on April 10, sentenced to three days in jail (was given credit for time already served), paid a $350 fine and ordered to complete counseling (which he’d already done). For Green Bay, he’d be an elephant candidate.

“Clark lacks that explosive first step off the snap, but can vary his speed to get the offensive tackle off kilter. In 2014, he showed better body control and hand usage to avoid blocks and work around them to put pressure on the pocket.”

Zack Hodges, Harvard (6-3, 250; 4.68): Hodges, the two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, had 8.5 sacks and 10 tackles for losses among his 26 tackles as a senior. That final number troubled Thomas. For his career, he is Harvard's all-time leader with 27.0 career sacks. Of course, that came against 260-pound offensive tackles.

“Hodges lacks the size, strength and bulk to match up with NFL offensive tackles as a down lineman. He might be converted to linebacker, but with marginal change of direction quickness, no experience in man coverage and slow feet, he could be a liability covering receivers into the second level.”

Shaquille Riddick, West Virginia (6-6, 244; 4.64): You’ve got to appreciate Riddick’s gumption. An FCS All-American at Gardner-Webb in 2013, Riddick — with diploma in hand — moved up a level to West Virginia. He was named the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year by the league’s coaches, as he posted a team-high seven sacks while chipping in 11 tackles for losses.

“Riddick gets to the quarterback on guile and sheer desire. He knows he is going to have a battle on his hands vs. the offensive linemen due to size issues, but he has good hand placement and punch to shock and jolt.”

Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma (6-3, 262; 4.81): After starting five games at defensive end as a junior, Grissom moved to outside linebacker for his senior year. He played in 10 games (seven starts) before a season-ending knee MCL sprain. He finished with 39 tackles, including 3.5 sacks and 6.5 TFLs, two forced fumbles and one interception. He played tight end in high school and was worked out at that position, as well, on pro day.

“Grissom is a determined edge rusher with good speed for this position, showing the fluid and flexible moves sliding down the line or when dropping back in pass coverage. He plays at a low pad level and has good play recognition skills, generating a good surge to consistently split double coverage, using his hands effectively to disengage. He does a good job knifing into the backfield, displaying a strong hand punch and proper technique dipping his shoulder inside.”

Zack Wagenmann (6-3, 247; 4.82): Wagenmann dominated his FCS peers. The senior rang up 17.5 sacks, 22.5 tackles for losses, six forced fumbles and 74 tackles in 14 games to finish third in Buck Buchanan voting. His 17.5 sacks and career total of 34.5 are school records. Wagenmann recently suffered a broken foot during a private workout with an NFL team, which will sideline him for eight weeks — meaning he’ll miss all of the offseason workouts.

“He compensates for a lack of ideal height with good leverage and balance on the move. He shows urgency moving down the line and has made good strides in improving his footwork dropping back in pass coverage (could be a good linebacker candidate in the 3-4 defense).”

Max Valles, Virginia (6-5, 251; 4.83): Valles left school with two years of eligibility remaining. He was third-team all-ACC by finishing second in the league with nine sacks and seventh with 12.5 TFLs, plus 55 tackles, eight passes defensed and three forced fumbles. There are questions about his strength (and, therefore, run defense) — which he couldn’t answer because an injury prevented him from lifting at the Combine or at pro day. He could merit a look at tight end.

J.R. Tavai, USC (6-2, 249; 4.91): Tavai recorded 53 tackles, including 13.5 for losses and a team-high seven sacks. He played on the defensive line as a freshman and sophomore before moving to linebacker for his final two seasons. If it doesn’t work outside, he’s worth trying inside — like with Carl Bradford last year.

Cedric Reed, Texas (6-5, 269; NA): Reed started the final 32 games of his four-year career. As a senior, he was a second-team all-Big 12 selection who tied for third on the team in sacks (5.5) — despite playing the season with a torn meniscus, which required surgery in January and prevented him from testing. For his career, he had 18 sacks, 37 tackles for losses and six forced fumbles.

“When healthy, attacking the backfield is what Reed does best, but he needs to be aware of his pad level. He is an active tackler who has a good motor and works to get around the football and is consistently physical with the ability to flash with leverage. He brings his hands up quickly when taking on blockers and holds his ground firmly.”

Deion Barnes, Penn State (6-4, 260; 4.95): Somehow, Barnes wasn’t deemed good enough for the Scouting Combine. As a junior in 2014, he had six sacks and 12.5 tackles for losses, and earned his degree. He was a Freshman All-American, as well, and a 30-game starter. As is the case with fellow Big Ten defender Russell, scouts are concerned about the lack of career-long improvement. He just can’t win on technique alone. He’s slow but did put up 31 reps on the bench, making him a potential fit since the Packers prefer power.

Tony Washington, Oregon (6-4, 247; 4.99): The two-year starter put up back-to-back seasons of 60 tackles, with 7.5 sacks, 12 tackles for losses and four forced fumbles in 13 games as a junior and 6.0 sacks, 11.5 TFLs and three forced fumbles in 15 games as a senior. The lack of long speed notwithstanding, he did well when dropping into coverage so has a chance to be a versatile role player.

Ryan Russell, Purdue (6-4, 269; 4.75): The four-year starter closed his career with a senior season of three sacks, 6.5 tackles for losses and 44 tackles. He’s quick but lacks the jarring punch needed to consistently beat the bigger blockers.

Deiontrez Mount, Louisville (6-5, 249; 4.66): In his only season as a starter, he tallied five sacks and 10.5 tackles for losses. Along with the athleticism, he put up 28 reps on the bench at pro day. With his height, speed and strength, you wonder why he wasn’t more than an average player during his four seasons.

Marcus Rush, Michigan State (6-2, 247; 4.68): There’s no shortage of experience, with Rush starting a school-record 53 games. He was honorable mention all-Big Ten as a senior with 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles.

Cory Morrissey, Iowa State (6-3, 254; 4.79): Morrissey, a two-year starter, had a strong senior season with six sacks and 8.5 tackles for losses. He had a strong pro day workout at outside linebacker, defensive end and fullback.


Ryan Delaire, Towson (6-4, 254): Delaire was a third-team FCS All-American for the second year following a senior season of 11 sacks, 14.5 tackles for losses and three forced fumbles. In two seasons after transferring from UMass, he piled up 22.5 sacks. His plodding 40 time was due to a groin injury. The question is whether he has the athletic ability and strength to beat NFL competition while he learns the ropes.

Sage Harold, James Madison (6-3, 242; 4.66): Harold had a monster senior season with 13.5 sacks, 23.5 tackles for losses and six forced fumbles. That gave him career totals of 25.5 sacks, 39.5 TFLs and a whopping 13 forced fumbles.

Brock Hekking, Nevada (6-4, 255; 4.76): Hekking gained fame at Nevada with his long blond mullet and play on the field. He had eight sacks as a sophomore and nine more as a junior before tumbling back to 5.5 as a senior. He wins with his nonstop motor and a good combination of athleticism and strength (28 reps). If Kevin Greene were still the outside linebackers coach, Hekking probably would be one of his favorites.

Houston Bates, Louisiana Tech (6-1, 238; 4.68): In three seasons at Illinois, Bates had 4.5 sacks. In the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Illinois, Bates had 4.5 sacks. That gave him 10 sacks and 16 tackles for losses as a senior.

Nick Seither, Georgetown (Ky.) (6-3, 273; NA): Seither had a big senior season at the NAIA school with nine sacks, 17.5 tackles for losses and three forced fumbles. At pro day, he had a 39-inch vertical and 31 reps on the bench. He injured his hamstring on his 40; scouts had him at 4.63 during training camp.

Will Schwartz, Saginaw Valley (6-4, 257; 4.72): With his combination of size, athleticism and strength — he added 31 reps on the bench at his pro day — he’ll get a look. He had five sacks and seven tackles for losses as a senior on a really bad team. As a junior, when Jeff Janis helped the team to a 9-3 record, he had 5.5 sacks and 11.5 TFLs.

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