Tom Marino: Scouting the Inside Linebackers

Get the scoop on this year's LB crop from an NFL scout with over 35 years experience.

THE BEST

1. Keith Rivers, MLB, USC
40: 4.59v Ht: 6022v Wt: 241v Rating: 1.115
Has outstanding playing skills, runs extremely well, and has very good playing instincts. Has absolutely great intangibles. Good first step quickness and the ability find the ball on the inside. Doesn't linger on blocks and closes to the ball extremely well. Will fail to secure at times, but overall was a solid tackler. Versatile; could play all three linebacker positions and never has to come off the field in sub packages.

2. Jerod Mayo, MLB, Tennessee
40: 4.59v Ht: 6012v Wt: 242v Rating: 1.142
Injured knee late in the 07 season. Young and has a ways to go in terms of strength and keeping his pads down (gets high). I loved his ability to both meet and defeat pressure inside. Smart player with very good instincts. Runs well and showed excellent playing range. Highly productive (Cal. / LSU) although needs more tackle strength. Very good zone drops and awareness (needs some work in man). Not near his full playing potential. 1st rd consideration.

3. Curtis Lofton, MLB, Oklahoma
40: 4.71v Ht: 6000v Wt: 246v Rating: 1.199
A very impressive football player who had a tremendous amount of plays. Impacts the game. Great instincts for the football. Liked the way he filled inside (slips blocks, but also showed some explosive hands and good leverage. Sideline to sideline player. Drive through tackler who finished. Don't see him as a match up guy in pass coverage, but his zone drops were good. Going to play quickly and contribute to winning football games.. Round # 1 consideration.

4. Beau Bell, MLB, UNLV
40: 4.89v Ht: 6015v Wt: 239v Rating: 1.285
Explosive hitter who plays hard and fast. Can leverage, play off and runs to the ball. Excellent speed and backside effort (motor runs on high all of the time. A big hitter (people go backwards on contact). Top teams potential at the professional level. Felt he was marginal in pass coverage (tends to play straight legged -limited reaction). Sustained an MCL injury in Senior Bowl. Late 2nd to top of 3rd draft potential.

5. Ezra Butler-Beaton, MLB, Nevada
40: 4.53v Ht: 6014v Wt: 245v Rating: 1.3
Down guy early who can play and space. Like the way he met pressure, shed and got to the football. Was both explosive on contact and freaky strong. Real force coming off the edge in nickel. Injured for much of the 07 season and didn't play to the same level as he did in 06. A tad tight in coverage (needs work in this area). Excellent teams potential. Possible late 2nd and solid 3rd round draft potential.

6. Erin Henderson, MLB, Maryland
40: 4.79v Ht: 6026v Wt: 244v Rating: 1.41
Has missed playing time due to injuries (knee reconstruction on 2005). Is not a take on guy (struggled to disengage from blocks inside â€" plays small). on the inside and I would have to question his overall playing instincts. Struggled some in pass coverage (breakdown in the open field). Was a productive in terms of total tackles who made plays outside the tackle box. Good range and tackling skills. Far from a complete player, but has some upside. Round 3 - 4.

7. Ali Highsmith, MLB, LSU
40: 5.01v Ht: 5115v Wt: 230v Rating: 1.451
OVA transfer. I liked this players athletic ability, direction change and potential as a edge pass rusher in a 3-4 scheme. Good stride length to top of the rush and bend and use of hands to alter course and finish. Active within the running game showing both range and instincts. Good wrap up tackler. Possible end in 4-3 scheme. Competition level is a concern, but this is a talented high ceiling player. Round 3-4.

8. Spencer Larsen, MLB, Arizona
40: 4.90v Ht: 6016v Wt: 238v Rating: 1.54
Productive player with good instincts and playing character. Somewhat disappointed in his take on skills but has a knack slipping blocks and getting to the football. In pass coverage I felt he was more then adequate settling and reacting in the under zones, but has limited man cover potential. Speed and overall range will limit him to the "Mike" backer position, but looks like a solid back up and special teams contributor. Has mid second day draft potential. Round 5 -6.

11. Jonathan Goff, MLB, Vanderbilt
40: 4.71v Ht: 6020v Wt: 245v Rating: 1.677
Appeared somewhat top heavy. Is an experienced hands with playing smarts and more then adequate range, but I was disappointed with his overall take on skills on the inside. Got walled off and had a tendency to hang on blocks. Inconsistent to wrap up inside, particularly in space. A far more effective player in pass coverage. Got depth in his zone drops and sorted it out quickly. Looks like a "Sam", but lack of take on ability concerns me. Late draft consideration.

12. Thomas Williams, MLB, USC
40: 4.79v Ht: 6011v Wt: 227v Rating: 1.685
Starting primarily as a result of injuries, but showed a solid skill level.. Liked his play instincts and football smarts. Unselfish player with a lot of heart and playing toughness. See him as a limited area player (not going to get to the boundary) and I don't believe him to be as a true asset in pass coverage. Not a fast twitch athlete. Didn’t see top play speed or a closing burst. Late round consideration, but is more likely a priority free agent within the league.

13. J. Leman, MLB, Illinois
40: 4.95e Ht: 6016v Wt: 245v Rating: 1.785
Make a lot of plays, but is as limited an athlete as there is in this year's player draft. Tough and highly instinctive. Was non explosive on contact and just doesn't run well. Very limited play range. Took intelligent angles and played very hard, but doessn't have the speed or closing burst. Tight in his lower body (hips), which seriously limits his participation in coverage. That being said, has to much smarts and heart not to play, but just isn't the answer. Rd. 7 or PFA

14. Danny Lansanah, MLB, Connecticut
40: 4.74v Ht: 6003v Wt: 248v Rating: 1.792
Has some athletic ability, but I felt he was somewhat of an underachiever. Good first step movement and playing instincts, but again was not explosive on contact (not sure if he's the nasty thug team's look for in the middle). Has the talent to play, but somebody need too light a fire under him (always looks to be costing - no urgency). If he mentally ready in camp has a real chance of factoring as a back up special teams performer. Late compensatory or PFA

16. Ben Moffitt, MLB, South Florida
40: 4.67v Ht: 6007v Wt: 224v Rating: 1.799
Great young man who loves the game. Try hard guy but was very stiff and had a particularly tough time getting off blocks. Got bounced around pretty good on the inside (catcher) Very much a limited area player who wasn't stout on the inside. Looked more comfortable in coverage. Got depth in his drops and sorted things out quickly. Can run with the TE or RB on flat and arrow routes. Has a outside chance of being drafted late, but was more likely a priority FA.

THE REST

Robert James, MLB, Arizona State
40: 4.79v Ht: 5104v Wt: 226v Rating: 1.8

Dante Floyd, MLB, New Mexico St
40: 4.75e Ht: 5110e Wt: 235e Rating: 1.795
Unranked, undersized transfer (LaneyJC) inside linebacker who impressed me with his effort, tenacity and production. Good athletic ability. Playing in an unusuall 3-3-5 scheme where he led his team in tackles in 07. Played inside runs well when he was protected and allowed to run to the ball. Good range and a very good wrap-up tackler with some pop. Not a fit for every club, but project high as a special teams and contributing back up. Late round (7th) or PFA.

David Vobora, MLB, Idaho U
40: 4.71v Ht: 6012v Wt: 236v Rating: 1.8

Derrick Doggett, MLB, Oregon St
40: 4.58v Ht: 6022v Wt: 218v Rating: 1.8
Can play both Will and or Sam in a pro system. . Had solid play production and used his hands well, but is under sized. Doesn't run especially well and did not match up well in coverage. Good overall production. Mid level free agent

Chris Graham, MLB, Michigan U
40: 4.90e Ht: 5101v Wt: 235e Rating: 1.8

Christian Taylor, MLB, UCLA
40: Ht: 5115v Wt: 229v Rating: 1.8
UCLA's defensive heart and soul. Very much a high motor player who makes plays on the inside. Tackle to tackle player (short with short arms). Smart and aggressive. Has limitations from an athletic standpoint (pass coverage & foot speed) Back up Teams p

Joshua Johnson, MLB, Marshall U
40: 4.70e Ht: 6010e Wt: 245e Rating: 1.8
Was suspended for part of the 07 season. Wasn’t very productive (only 51 total tackles on the season). Will bite on misdirection and gets out of position. Not smooth or fluid in space (makes few plays in the passing game). Free agent.

Matt Castelo, MLB, San Jose St
40: 4.75e Ht: 5105v Wt: 231v Rating: 1.8

Shane Simmons, MLB, Western Washington
40: 4.66v Ht: 6011v Wt: 239v Rating: 1.8

Steve Octavien, MLB, Nebraska U
40: 4.73v Ht: 5115v Wt: 238v Rating: 1.8
Harper JC transfer. Has been prone to injury for virtually his entire career on up to 2007. Let Nebraska in 2007 with 92 tackles (56 solo, 15 for loss), two sacks, three passes breakups and nine quarterback hurries. Solid college player. Not a quick study nor did he show top instincts. Good special teams potential. Top track athlete in JUCO. Late round potential, but more likely a free agent.

Thomas "Red" Keith, MLB, Central Michigan U
40: 4.90e Ht: 5100e Wt: 240e Rating: 1.9
Tough and productive. Limited range. Plays too high. Marginal strength and playing leverage. No coverage potential. No depth and movement in his drops. Free Agent

Mike Klinkenborg, MLB, Iowa U
40: 4.97v Ht: 6013v Wt: 238v Rating: 1.9
This player has some off the field concerns which need to be considered (2 kids) / was dismissed from Tennessee / Not a particularly disciplined player / marginal play instincts / not polished / limited body quickness / no pass cover skills

Justin Roland, MLB, Kansas St
40: 4.87v Ht: 5116v Wt: 242v Rating: 1.9
NE Oklahma Juco transfer. Team captain and second leading tackler as a senior after backing up as a junior.

Lance Brandenburgh, MLB, Nebraska U
40: 4.80e Ht: 6000e Wt: 235e Rating: 1.9
Is a solid college football player who will fight through blocks, but lacks the athletic skills and movement to play beyond this level of play.

Daniel Brooks, MLB, Jackson St
40: 4.81v Ht: 6022v Wt: 244v Rating: 1.9
This player has some off the field concerns which need to be considered (2 kids) / was dismissed from Tennessee / Not a particularly disciplined player / marginal play instincts / not polished / limited body quickness / no pass cover skills

James Martin, MLB, No Carolina St
40: 4.89v Ht: 6002v Wt: 243v Rating: 1.9
This player has some off the field concerns which need to be considered (2 kids) / was dismissed from Tennessee / Not a particularly disciplined player / marginal play instincts / not polished / limited body quickness / no pass cover skills

Darren Mustin, MLB, Alabama U
40: 4.84v Ht: 6015v Wt: 237v Rating: 2
A quality individual, but is just plain not good enough to take his game to the professional level.

AhiJah Lane, MLB, Fresno St
40: 4.80e Ht: 6006v Wt: 234v Rating: 2
This player has some off the field concerns which need to be considered (2 kids) / was dismissed from Tennessee / Not a particularly disciplined player / marginal play instincts / not polished / limited body quickness / no pass cover skills

Brandon Renkart, MLB, Rutgers U
40: 5.00e Ht: 6015v Wt: 235v Rating: 2
This player has some off the field concerns which need to be considered (2 kids) / was dismissed from Tennessee / Not a particularly disciplined player / marginal play instincts / not polished / limited body quickness / no pass cover skills

Maguell Davis, MLB, Norfolk St
40: 4.80e Ht: 6010e Wt: 235e Rating: 2
This player has some off the field concerns which need to be considered (2 kids) / was dismissed from Tennessee / Not a particularly disciplined player / marginal play instincts / not polished / limited body quickness / no pass cover skills

Quinton McCrary, MLB, Memphis U
40: 4.75e Ht: 6010e Wt: 235e Rating: 2
Left squad during the 2007 season

Matt Robertson, MLB, Northwest Missouri St
40: 4.80e Ht: 6004e Wt: 235e Rating: 2

Weston Dacus, MLB, Arkansas U
40: 4.65e Ht: 6010e Wt: 235v Rating: 2
Undersized backer who lacks strength can't get off blocks on the inside and is not athletic (stiff in the hips) enough to play on the outside. Marginal in coverage. Is smart and experienced, but lacks the necessary skills to play at the next level.

SCOUTING NOTATION 101
The small "v" which follows the HT, WT, and forty time is the designation for verified. Other designations may include "e" for estimated, "b" for borrowed (from another scout), or "c" for coaches measurement or timed by a college coach.

Heights: The first number in the four numerals height represents the individual in feet while the second and third numbers represents a player in inches, while the last number in fractions of an inch (exclusively by the 1/8th of an inch.  Thus the following examples:

5105v - 5 for five feet, the10 represent ten inches, and the 5 (five) represents five-eights of another inch.

6017v - Six feet, one and seven-eights verified. 

All professional prospects and or suspects are measured numerous times during the course of a scouting season.  The first takes place generally in the spring of his junior at regularly scheduled "Pro days" at his university. At the conclusion of the season, scouts will on some occasions measure a prospect during a school visit.  Players are weighed and measured at every post season all-star contests.  At some lower level games, players are also given the opportunity to run. The next occasion takes place at the Indianapolis scouting combine, followed by individual or team workouts at the university and finally when a player if flown in to visit at a team site.

 


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