Packers Path To Draft: Part 9

This outside linebacker prospect piled up 26 quarterback hits during his senior season and comes from a school that has produced surprising talent. The latest player profiled in our Path to the Draft series talked to the Packers at the Senior Bowl.

In a 3-4 defense, you never can have too many players who can line up at outside linebacker.

Hence, even though Ted Thompson's bold trade last year added Clay Matthews III to a corps of outside linebackers that included Aaron Kampman, Brady Poppinga and Jeremy Thompson, the Packers spent a seventh-rounder on Brad Jones and kept undrafted Cyril Obiozor on the practice squad until a late-season promotion.

With Kampman's status in doubt because of a season-ending knee injury and impending free-agent status and Jeremy Thompson's future in limbo because of a late-season neck injury, it's a good bet the Packers will use at least one draft pick on an outside linebacker.

One mid-round possibility is Troy's Cameron Sheffield, who talked to the Packers during an impressive week of work at the Senior Bowl. The 6-foot-2 5/8, 256-pounder tallied seven sacks, 10.5 tackles for losses and 26 quarterback hits during his senior season. Sheffield, the sidekick to the more highly touted Brandon Lang, figures to be a third-day selection, meaning fourth round or later.

While being an under-the-radar Division I program — the Sun Belt is not one of the BCS conferences — Troy has produced some big-time talent on defense. Dallas' DeMarcus Ware and the Giants' Osi Umenyiora are two of the NFL's top pass rushers, and cornerback Leodis McKelvin was the 11th pick of the 2008 draft by Buffalo.

"The one reason why I came to Troy is because I'd heard of DeMarcus and I was watching TV and I heard his name, I heard them say he was from Troy, which put a smile on my face," Sheffield told Packer Report after a Senior Bowl practice. "They left a great legacy definitely and I'm trying to follow up in their footsteps and just do the best I can."

Sheffield is one of many "hybrid" prospects capable of playing defensive end in a 4-3 and outside linebacker in a 3-4. Not surprisingly, he says he'll be happy to play in either scheme, as long as he can put some heat on the quarterback.

"I bring plenty of pressure, I know that," he said.

Sheffield impressed the South team's coaches — the Miami Dolphins staff headed by coach Tony Sparano. "They like my hustle, my constant fast pace," he said. "They want to work on my staying low, working on double teams."

It was a message he clearly was paying attention to. At that practice, he ducked his inside shoulder under left tackle Selvish Capers and got past Capers for what would have been a sack. It was the same move that Matthews used to get the bulk of his 10.5 sacks this past season.

"I'm working on it," he said with a smile.

If he winds up with the Packers, he'll be a project on defense while figuring in immediately on special teams. As a defensive end at Troy, Sheffield wasn't used in coverage.

"Sheffield is an undersized defensive end who projects to be a rush linebacker at the next level," Scout.com draft insider Chris Steuber said. "He plays well in space, makes plays laterally and is fluid moving down the line of scrimmage. He's quick off the edge, disrupts the flow in the backfield, has the agility to change direction and is able to track down the ballcarrier on the edge. He has to use his hands better and get off blocks more consistently. He has to improve his awareness in coverage and get more depth on his drops. He's a solid prospect who will receive mid-round consideration." 


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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