Pros: A very aggressive defender with great passion and fierceness. He's a strong tackler and hitter who can knock your teeth out. Has great closing burst to the ball and is like a heat-seeking missile in short area. Does a good job when attacking upfield and has excellent potential as a blitzer. Gets nice drops in zone coverage and plays with nice range. Shows ability at the point of attack.
Cons: Not instinctual. Lacks elite sideline speed. Not going to get off blocks that well and prefers to run around them. Gets caught out of position often times at the point of attack and is inconsistent there. Gets stuck in traffic. Doesn't consistently take good angles to the ball, which he needs to do to offset his subpar speed and range. Misses too many tackles in the open field, tackles high, and hits more than he wraps. Doesn't have great hips or quickness when working in coverage and lacks awareness in space.
Overview: Maualuga is a potential beast, but also a bust. He's good when you allow him to run and hit, but not so much when you ask him to read and react. Production slipped some as a senior.
NFL Forecast: If you put him behind a defensive line that keeps blockers off him and allows him free reign and ﬂow to the football, he'll be one of the more feared middle men in the league. Very reminiscent of Junior Seau with his passion and fierceness in the middle. But the truth is he's not as instinctual, and unless he starts to play a lot smarter, he probably won't reach that potential. He plays like a weakside linebacker. But the problem with him moving to that position at the next level is his lack of speed and quickness. Maualuga has struggled with weight issues in the past and consistently was around 260 when he was at USC. He'll never be a great coverage player, but he has the potential to improve in zone coverage and be effective there. Basically, there are a lot of red ﬂags with him, with the weight, lack of speed, and poor instincts being the three biggest ones. So if he fizzles out in the pros, we'll know why. But his potential and upside to be a dominant defender makes you ignore those red ﬂags. While he has the potential to be the next Junior Seau, he also could be the next Chris Claiborne. Like Claiborne, his potential and upside will keep him around early on, but as time passes and he doesn't really improve his instincts or consistency, he'll eventually become a journeyman. I think Maualuga will fall somewhere in between. He can work both in the 4-3 and 3-4. And probably working in the 3-4 is ideal because there is another guy in the middle that can help cover his mistakes.
ATL Forecast: If the Falcons drafted him, their best bet would be moving him outside to weakside linebacker. He's not as fast or explosive as you want there, but you can hide some of his ﬂaws better there than you would in the middle. The Falcons main issue would be balancing out the plays he makes vs. the mistakes he makes. There will be many instances where he's out of position and it results in a big play for the other team. But what you hope for is that for each time he does that, there's a big play or turnover that he creates himself. It would be a tough burden on a young MLB like Lofton to try to control Maualuga, which is likely where a player like Peterson would come in handy.
Value: Maualuga has Top 10 potential, but because of questions whether he can be a consistent playmaker, makes him a risky pick that high. You're probably better off taking him in the No. 15 to 25 range in Round One.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
POINT OF ATTACK: 3.5
PASS RUSH: 3.5
Scouting Reports of inside and outside linebackers in the 2009 NFL Draft
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