After seven players were selected in the first round, here are some Day 2 options at outside linebacker. The Green Bay Packers own two picks in the second round (Nos. 33 and 61) and one pick in the third round (No. 93).
Note: Run-stop percentage and tackling efficiency are from ProFootballFocus.com’s Draft Pass. Run-stop percentage measures impact tackles (less than 40 percent of needed yardage on first down, less than 60 percent on second down and short of the line to gain on third and fourth down). Tackling efficiency measures attempts per missed tackle. The rankings used in this story are based on the top 26 prospects, plus five other top players who we eliminated based on testing.
Tyus Bowser, Houston (6-2 5/8, 247; 4.65 40 4.34 shuttle; 6.75 3-cone): Despite missing five games with a broken orbital bone suffered during a scuffle with a teammate at practice, Bowser was second-team all-AAC with 8.5 sacks and 12 tackles for losses among 47 tackles while playing outside linebacker in the Cougars’ 3-4 scheme. He added nine hurries. Bowser finished 14th in pass-rush productivity but tied for fifth in run-stop percentage. He missed only five tackles. Bowser finished his career with 21.5 sacks, 27.5 TFLs, three forced fumbles and two interceptions. How good of an athlete is Bowser? Following the 2013 and 2014 football seasons, he played on the basketball team. He might be best in a Clay Matthews-like role where he moves between inside linebacker and edge rusher. Houston used him frequently in coverage, making him one of the few players in this class that have that skill on film. Though he needs to add some power, he’s a potential dual-threat player as a rusher and cover man.
Jordan Willis, Kansas State (6-3 3/4, 255; 4.53 40; 4.28 shuttle; 6.85 3-cone): Willis closed his career with a bang. He earned All-America and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year accolades with a school-record-tying 11.5 sacks. He added 17.5 tackles for losses, 52 tackles, three forced fumbles and four hurries. Despite the outrageous production, Willis ranked only 20th in pass-rushing productivity and 23rd in run-stop percentage, plus missed 10 tackles. Willis started the final 39 games of his career and finished with 26 sacks, 40.5 tackles for losses and seven forced fumbles. Willis tallied 9.5 sacks, 15.5 TFLs and four forced fumbles as a junior. He’s a bit of a straight-line athlete, which at least partially explains the high total of missed tackles. Willis’ 39-inch vertical leap at the Combine was beaten only by Garrett’s 41. Willis wins at the line of scrimmage with an explosive start off the ball and beating the tackle to the corner. With tackles fearing that speed, he turns to an effective bull rush. Most of his pass-rush production came against right tackles, so it will be a big step up in competition in the NFL. He was great rushing the passer at the Senior Bowl but not so much in coverage. This story from his senior year at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City speaks to Willis’ split personality: He’s so quiet that he wasn’t voted team captain; he’s so intelligent and thoughtful that he was voted school council president. K-State offered him a scholarship after his sophomore year — before he played a snap on the varsity.
Carl Lawson, Auburn (6-1 3/4, 261; 4.67 40; 4.19 shuttle; 7.46 3-cone): Junior. Lawson is one of the most confounding prospects in the draft. He earned some first-team All-America accolades with his nine sacks, 13.5 tackles for losses and 24 hurries. However, he wasn’t even a consensus first-team all-conference selection, since he posted only 30 tackles. Lawson ranked 10th in PFF’s pass-rush productivity. He is a powerful, well-schooled, high-motored rusher with experience as an interior rusher. In fact, one scout called him the best all-around rusher in the draft, winning either with athleticism or technique. But Lawson was a woeful 29th in run-stop percentage. He’s basically a one-hit wonder. He missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL. In 2015, he was limited to seven games with a cracked hip and recorded just one sack and three TFLs. Beyond the injury history, Lawson is an interesting case in our projecting 2017 through Thompson’s history. Lawson’s three-cone time was significantly slower than any outside linebacker picked by Thompson and his 31 1/2-inch arms are a concern, too, but his shuttle time was great and his 35 reps on the bench press topped the field. His father, Carl, played fullback at Georgia Tech.
Derek Rivers, Youngstown State (6-3 5/8, 248; 4.65 40, 4.40 shuttle; 6.94 3-cone): Rivers had career-high figures of 58 tackles, 14 sacks, 19.5 tackles for losses and three fumble recoveries to help the Penguins reach the FCS championship game. PFF only charts games involving FCS schools so Rivers’ numbers are incomplete. In his limited sample size, he ranked eighth in pass-rushing productivity but second in run-stop percentage. Rivers, a three-time first-team all-conference selection and two-time All-American, had four-year totals of 37.5 sacks, 56.5 TFLs and three forced fumbles. While he didn’t put up elite numbers in the agility drills at the Combine, he brings athleticism to the party — especially when getting around the corner. Where Rivers did put up elite numbers was the bench press (30 reps). He has surprising skills if you come with a small-school bias.
Vince Biegel, Wisconsin (6-3 1/4, 246; 4.67 40; 4.30 shuttle; 6.92 3-cone): Despite missing two games with a foot injury that required surgery, Biegel was second-team all-Big Ten as a senior. He logged 44 tackles, including four sacks and six for losses, and added seven quarterback hurries. He was third-team all-conference as a junior (66 tackles, eight sacks, 14 for losses) and second-team as a sophomore (7.5 sacks, 16.5 TFLs, two forced fumbles). Biegel finished ninth in pass-rush productivity but fifth in run-stop percentage. His 11 missed tackles are tied for the most in our Top 31. He’s got a great motor and plays with an edge, and his Combine workout certainly earned him a few bucks. He just might need a year or two to maximize all of those gifts. Biegel is a fifth-general cranberry farmer from Wisconsin Rapids. “I would say that I am a first-round type of player. And any team that doesn’t get me in the first round is getting a steal on me. What I mean about that is by my professionalism, how I go about my business, my work ethic and my upside. I think definitely I’m a first-round talent.”
Tarell Basham, Ohio (6-3 3/4, 269; 4.70 40; 4.35 shuttle; 7.27 3-cone): Basham was the program’s first MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Among 49 tackles were 11.5 sacks and 16 tackles for losses. He added 12 hurries and one forced fumble. Basham ranked 11th in pass-rushing productivity but 20th in run-stop percentage. He missed eight tackles. His big-play production dwarfed his junior campaign, when he had 5.5 sacks and 10 TFLs. His 11.5 sacks as a senior and 29.5 sacks for his career set school records. “I’m pretty sure we get doubted some coming from a smaller school, but I never doubted myself which is the most important part.” Basham’s length is an asset (34 1/4 arms) but his lack of strength at the point of attack on Saturdays showed up with his meager total of 15 reps on the bench. However, he explodes off the ball and has sort of a bull-in-a-china-shop approach. There’s a lot of upside.
Trey Hendrickson, Florida Atlantic (6-4, 266; 4.65 40; 4.20 shuttle; 7.03 3-cone): Hendrickson put up big numbers during his final three seasons with 27.5 sacks, 39.5 tackles for losses and eight forced fumbles. All of those are school records. After piling up 13 sacks, 14.5 TFLs and five forced fumbles as a junior, Hendrickson faced more attention as a senior but was named Conference USA’s Defensive MVP with 9.5 sacks, 15 TFLs and one forced fumble. Hendrickson led the charge in PFF’s pass-rushing productivity but was only 23rd in run-stop percentage and missed 10 tackles. He led the nation with four blocked kicks. The Combine times show an explosive player with a strong motor and a thirst for the quarterback. He destroyed offensive tackles and had success rushing inside and outside. He’s got short arms and needs to get stronger if he’s going to be anything more than a third-down rusher.
Jo Jo Mathis, Washington (6-2 1/8, 266; DNP testing due to late-season foot injury): In 34 career games in his first three seasons, Mathis had four sacks and eight tackles for losses. In the seven games before his senior season was cut short by a foot injury that required surgery, he had five sacks and 7.5 tackles for losses. When he played, he was tremendous. Mathis ranked second in pass-rushing productivity and fourth in run-stop percentage. He didn’t miss a tackle, either. However, the one-year wonder history and injury problems are knocks. Mathis wins with physicality and not athleticism. He is a tremendous bull rusher and uses his power to be a consistent winner against the run. The Packers prefer power rushers so he could be a fit. He went from 24 bench-press reps at the Combine to 32 at pro day. Can he stay healthy? Can he improve his quickness? Those questions will define his career.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.