Scout Watch: NFC West Favorite After Top LB?

The football universe is frantic about the start of the 2009 season and NFL organizations have already started planning for the 2010 NFL Draft. Scout.com's Chris Steuber has the latest and continues to trail an NFC West favorite as they scout 2010 draft talent.

The NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals had a busy week scouting talent for the 2010 NFL draft. In addition to visiting Tulane, which was reported by Scout.com earlier in the week, its been confirmed that representatives from the Cardinals also attended practice at Kent State and San Jose State this week searching for under the radar talent.


Cole is among the best hybrids in the nation and is a rising prospect.
AP/Paul Sakuma

When you think of Kent State and San Jose State, they’re not havens for top talent, but both schools have produced some good prospects over the last few seasons. Kent State has two players on the draft radar this year in senior tight end Jameson Konz and promising junior safety Brian Lainhart. But between the two programs, San Jose State has the most promising prospect in senior outside linebacker Justin Cole. At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Cole is an athletic defender who possesses elite intangibles and upside. He’s a rangy player who breaks down well and is effective in space. He plays with a great degree of suddenness and uses his athleticism to his advantage when in pursuit. He has a nose for the ball and quickly diagnoses the action. He has to improve his coverage skills and get better depth on his drops, but he has progressed in this area and has shown promise.

A fifth year senior, Cole made a name for himself last year as he recorded 68 tackles, 8.5 for a loss and five sacks. That performance, along with his tremendous potential, elevated his status as a prospect, and he’s currently the ninth rated outside linebacker (89th overall) in Scout.com’s 2010 NFL Draft Rankings.

For the second straight year, the Cardinals designated Karlos Dansby as their franchise player and once again were unable to negotiate a long-term deal with their best defensive player. It appears likely that Dansby will test the free agent market after the season, even though he said he’s optimistic the two sides can come to an agreement on a contract. If the Cardinals allow Dansby to walk at the end of the year, a replacement will be needed. The Cardinals did draft former Connecticut hybrid Cody Brown in the second round this past April, and he will be a contributor this season and could be the eventual replacement for Dansby. However, with the Cardinals switching to a 3-4 defense, the more athleticism and youth that they have at linebacker will be beneficial moving forward. At this time, Cole is projected to be a mid-to-late second round draft pick in ’10 and could climb even higher up draft boards after the season. His size and skills are a perfect match for a 3-4 defense, and with the Cardinals playing some players out of position this season, the reality of Dansby leaving makes Cole a possibility.

Other draft hopefuls from San Jose State are senior defensive end Carl Ihenacho and his brother, junior safety Duke Ihenacho. The Ihenacho brothers, along with Cole, make up most of the production on defense for the Spartans; Carl had an outstanding ’08 season totaling 64 tackles, 18.5 for a loss and seven sacks, while Duke emerged on the scene last year with 66 tackles, 5.5 for a loss and five interceptions.



A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: csteuber@scout.com.


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