Penn State Senior
PROS: Has good speed, and shows nice range to make plays in pursuit. Is quick off the edge and shows potential as a blitzer and able to make plays in the backfield. Has good instincts and awareness and is rarely caught out of position. Shows ability to shed the tight end or fullback and make stop at the point of attack. Shoots upfield, able to take on blockers and free up teammates. Capable when dropping back into zone, showing good awareness in space and able to break up pass. Has nice hips and speed to run with backs in the flat showing potential to develop in man coverage.
CONS: Not as great when he's taking on offensive linemen. Has had durability issues with multiple knee injuries.
OVERVIEW: There really isn't anything that Lee doesn't do well. He's a solid all-around defender that can play multiple positions on the next level. The key for him is staying healthy. He tore his right ACL prior to the '08 season, missing that year, and was hampered by a left knee sprain this past year that limited him to 10 games and 8 starts. He managed 86 tackles, 11 for loss, 2 sacks, 1 pick, and 7 passes defended in those games. In his two years as a starter in '06 and '07, he combined for 228 tackles, 19 for loss, 9 sacks, 2 picks, 10 pass breakups, 5 forced fumbles, and 5 recoveries. He played strongside mostly this past year, although he was slated to play in the middle before injuring his knee last season.
NFL FORECAST: If he can stay healthy, Lee should have a productive NFL career on a similar level as someone like Chad Greenway. He can play and start at all three spots in the 4-3 scheme, and can play inside in the 3-4. He probably fits best in the middle in a 4-3 because his ability in coverage isn't great and you could take advantage of his instincts and leadership better there. He may not be a perennial Pro Bowler, but will be a reliable and productive NFL player that can routinely give a team 100 tackles a year. He's not great in coverage, but certainly good enough that he shouldn't be a liability in man coverage, and could potentially excel in zone coverage. People will compare him to Posluszny and Dan Connor, two recent Penn State linebackers, but Lee is probably better than either because of his range and versatility. He should continue the nice tradition of that school putting good pros into the league and could be the best one since Arrington.
ATL FORECAST: Lee likely would get the chance to play the strongside in Atlanta although he could also play the weakside. But he doesn't have the ideal range and coverage potential to really stick there long-term. And while not your prototypical size for a SAM linebacker, he is probably an improvement in coverage there over Nicholas, and is probably a more instinctual defender. Probably not as physical or a polished pass rusher as Nicholas is, but I think he's smart and good enough to contribute as a bltizer off the edge, even if he's not going to rack up a large number of sacks. He would give the Falcons another smart, tough, linebacker that would work well with Lofton on the outside. And his ability to play all three positions makes him a valuable player if injuries force the team to shuffle the lineup a bit. He wouldn't be a superstar in Atlanta, but a very valuable player (if he stays healthy) and fixture for years to come.
VALUE: Lee is a solid second round pick. He is talented enough to go in the Top 50, although the injury issues probably make him a safer investment in the late part of the round or early part of the third.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
POINT OF ATTACK: 4.0
PASS RUSH: 2.5
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.