Draft prospect: Channing Crowder

Packer Report continues to take a closer look at college prospects that some football experts feel the Green Bay Packers will select in the April 23-24 NFL Draft. Today, we look at University of Florida linebacker Channing Crowder.<p>

Many experts feel that the Packers will use their first selection on a linebacker in order to move Nick Barnett to the outside position. Two of three prognosticators in a mock draft on cbs.sportsline.com currently feel the Packers will take Crowder with the 24th overall pick. Crowder has had injury and off-field problems in his two seasons at Florida, but is considered one of the top linebackers in the draft.

Here is more information on Crowder, according to Scout.com and cbs.sportsline.com:

Ht: 6-2.5

Wt: 248

40 time: 4.71

Year: 2So

High School: North Springs (Atlanta, Ga.) High

Bio: Two-year starter and All-Conference selection last season. Started eight of nine games in 2004, sitting out the Middle Tennessee game after being charged in a fight, and the Vanderbilt and South Carolina games after he strained tendons in his right foot early in the first quarter against Georgia. He still managed to finish as the team's third-leading tackler with 73 hits (44 solo), two sacks, 8.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, three fumble recoveries and an interception.

SEC Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2003 after totaling 106 tackles (65 solo), including a pair of sacks, five stops for losses and four pass deflections.

In two seasons with the Gators, Crowder started 17 of 20 games. He produced 179 tackles (109 solo) with four sacks for minus-28 yards, 13.5 stops for losses of 44 yards and one quarterback pressure. Crowder also recovered three fumbles, caused two others, deflected four passes and had a 22-yard interception return. With his mentor, Ron Zook, fired as Florida's coach and taskmaster Urban Meyer taking over as head coach, Crowder decided to not return to the Gators in 2005 and test the NFL waters.

Positives: Physical, aggressive linebacker with a variety of skills. Excellent run defender and a technique tackler who gets through blocks on his way to the action. Runs with speed laterally and easily brings down opposing ball carriers on initial contact. Forceful up the field, yet displays a good change of direction with the ability to diagnose the action. Disciplined in pass cover assignments, gets depth on drops and solid in zone. Takes good angles to the play and does more than mindlessly rush up the field. Explosive filling gaps in run defense and easily gets off blocks at the point. Solid footwork moving in any direction of the field.

Negatives: Prone to lapses in concentration and considered a loose cannon of sorts.

Injury history: Crowder first underwent knee surgery as a sophomore in high school with an anterior cruciate ligament transplant. After his senior year, Crowder again underwent surgery, this time on both of his knees. Shortly after his 18th birthday, on Dec. 2, 2001, he had additional knee surgery. There was another surgical procedure on the left knee in April 2002 to fix complications from his sophomore operation.

He worked diligently to get back in shape, but had to sit out the 2002 season without enrolling at Florida to save a year of eligibility.

In 2004, he strained tendons in his right foot early in the first quarter against Georgia.

Analysis: A defensive force that can be used in a variety of ways, Crowder makes his presence felt on the field. Besides a game-impacting linebacker, he has also been an outstanding special teams player at Florida. Needs to physically mature and remain focused on the field to have a productive career in the NFL.

Crowder enrolled in January, 2003, but ran into a series of off-field problems in which he was arrested twice for fighting at a night club and once for vandalizing several automobiles with other Florida football players.

A highly intelligent person, he was a member of the National Honor Society, carrying a 3.5 grade point average. On the field, he is brash and cocky, but has the talent to back up his bold outbursts.

Crowder is obviously the blue chip of the class, but his series of knee injuries and off-field issues will scare off a few teams. Crowder is blessed with incredible field awareness, outstanding speed and natural power, but durability and character issues will certainly come into play before a team makes a decision on whether to draft him. If someone can harness that energy and help him mature, he will be very productive at the next level.

Up next: On Tuesday, packerreport.com will take a closer look at University of Nebraska linebacker Barrett Ruud.

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