PROS: A player with good speed. Has a good nose for the ball and shows nice instincts, able to sniff out screens. Closes quickly on the ball, is a sound tackler, and delivers pop as a hitter. Can make the stop at the point of attack. Has good straight-line speed and burst and is able to show that as a blitzer up the middle. Does a nice job shooting gaps to make plays in the backfield and usually takes good angles to the ball in pursuit. Moves well in space and does a nice job when he can keep things in front of him.
CONS: Has a tendency to run around blocks and not as great when working in confined space and traffic. Doesn't show any real pass rush moves when coming off the edge as a blitzer. Lacks good hips and flexibility to work well in man coverage. Doesn't always get good depth on his zone drops and doesn't show ideal awareness there.
OVERVIEW: A nice, rangy player that makes plays all of the field, especially in pursuit and in the backfield. Played rover linebacker position which had him all over the field at times, but was more like an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme or WILL in a 4-3. Productive guy that started 37 games over his Utah career. Finished career with 24.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, two picks, 12 pass breakups, 4 forced fumbles, and 1 recovery.
NFL FORECAST: You like his speed and range, and he is constantly making plays for Utah particularly against the run. He's a physical guy that is always around the ball, delivering hits, and tends to play well in big games, combining for 15 tackles, 3 sacks, and 1 pick six in the past two bowl games vs. Cal and Alabama. His major flaw is his limitations in coverage. I think he's athletic enough that with work and development, he can be a competent cover guy that won't give up many plays, but he's not a playmaker in that regard. He's also a guy that tends to be better when he's allowed to chase and flow to the ball, so that if he's forced to fend off blocks, he tends to disappear. So I think he'll fit best as a WILL linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. But his ability as a blitzer also makes him a nice fit in a 3-4 scheme, because he's able to shoot gaps. He's a guy that plays with a bit of a swagger, and coaches will like that so he'll be able to stick in the league. But I don't think he'll be as much of a playmaker on the next level as he is in college unless he plays in a scheme that can hide some of his flaws. I think he can be coached up in some areas to a good enough degree where I think he'll be a capable starter, but not consistently good. I'd call him a complementary player because if he's playing with or beside other good players, he'll definitely pull his weight. I would compare him to a poor man's Bart Scott.
ATL FORECAST: He's probably not as good in coverage as I think the Falcons would like as a WILL linebacker, but the swagger and ability he would bring as a run stopper I think could off-set that some. He can be coached up to a degree where I think he can be competent and no longer a liability, but not to a degree where you would call him good in coverage. He can be a productive player alongside Lofton as a starter, but not sure he'd be the long-term fixture because of his limitations in coverage and at the point of attack. But he's definitely a Mike Smith-type of player, and I think could compete for and win the job as Mike Peterson's replacement in 2011, but not sure his production would be to a level where he could keep that job for years to come.
VALUE: He's a solid third round pick for a 3-4 team looking for an inside linebacker. For a 4-3 team, I'd probably wait until the fourth round to take him.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
POINT OF ATTACK: 3.0
PASS RUSH: 3.0
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.