Pros: A solid run stuffing linebacker that is a strong tackler. Does a good job attacking the line of scrimmage, that does well vs. the inside run. Takes on fullbacks and does a nice job at the point of attack. Has some ability as an interior blitzer and maintains gap responsibility. Shows some ability in zone coverage.
Cons: Lacks speed and quickness. Doesn't change direction well, which means he must take proper angles to the ball. Something he doesn't always do with great regularity and at times will get caught out of position. Won't be a factor in coverage on the next level due to lack of quickness, although he gets by in college.
Overview: He's a three-year starter at inside linebacker in Virginia's 3-4 scheme. He's similar to a lot of past Cavalier ILBs in that he's a nice run stuffer, but lacks the speed and quickness to make an impact in coverage. Appears to play the "TED" position in Virginia's 3-4, which requires him to take on blockers and free up the other inside linebacker to make more stops and plays. I think he should project well to a similar role at the next level.
NFL Forecast: He's going to be hard-pressed to stick on the next level because of how one-dimensional a player he is. He's solid versus the run, and the type of player that you'd love to stick in the middle of your defense as your opponent tries to run up the middle all day. But since NFL teams don't do that, and do their best to exploit weaknesses on defense, his inability to make plays outside the hash marks and in coverage can be exploited. If he can stick on special teams early on, then I think he has a real shot at sticking in the league. With time and some polish, he could be decent in coverage, but it will never be a strength. And he'd have to compensate heavily with what he does on run downs, which I think is a long shot at this point. His most likely future is spending a few years as a backup ILB on a 3-4 team. Maybe he gets the chance to start down the road, but I wouldn't bet on him having a lot of success.
ATL Forecast: Unless the Falcons switched to a 3-4 scheme, Appleby wouldn't be a good fit. There would be no point even inviting him to camp, because moving him out of that scheme would be dooming him to failure. Shouldn't be on the Falcons radar at all.
Value: For a 3-4 team looking for improved depth, he might be worth a look late in the draft, potentially in Round Seven. But other than that, I'd probably try to sneak him past other teams as an undrafted free agent.
Scouting Reports of inside and outside linebackers in the 2009 NFL Draft
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