Boston College Senior
Hard-nosed guy that plays with fire and intensity. Is a thumper and sound tackler and does a good job breaking down and wrapping up at the point of attack or in pursuit. Plays with good awareness, maintaining outside contain. Able to beat blocks on the edge and make stops in the backfield. Keeps things in front of him in coverage and will come up on the edge to make the stop in the open field. Gets nice depth on his zone drops. Flashes burst off the edge and shows good strength as a pass rusher.
Struggles when asked to play in space and lacks ideal speed and range. Has stiff hips and will struggle to match up in man coverage against quicker backs and receivers. Lacks ideal closing burst upfield when coming off the edge as a blitzer. At times struggles to get off blocks in space. Will overpursue at times and take poor angles in space, leading to missed tackles.
Herzlich as a junior in 2008 was one of the rising prospects in the draft. Then his 2009 season was scrapped because of bone cancer (Ewing's sarcoma), but he managed to beat the odds and return this year to finish out his career. He certainly wasn't the player he was before the cancer, but did show improvement by the end of the season. Team doctors will have to help determine how much upside he has. Is he ever going to get back to the player he was in 2008, or is he about as good as he's going to get at this point on? He still has a titanium rod in his leg. In '08, he led team with 110 tackles, 13 for loss, 3 sacks, 6 picks, 8 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 2 defensive touchdowns. Came back in 2010, and had 65 tackles, 3.5 for loss, no sacks, 4 picks, 4 pass breakups, and 2 forced fumbles.
As a junior two years ago, I would have said at the very least Herzlich would have been as good a 3-4 outside linebacker as someone like Mike Vrabel with the potential to be more. He was never a dynamic pass rusher, but his smarts, ability vs. the run, and ability to be a capable matchup against tight ends would have made him an ideal SAM linebacker in that scheme. He could also have played in the 4-3, playing up near the line of scrimmage. As a senior, you see glimpses of that former ability but it is few and far between. And before his lack of ideal speed and athleticism was made up by smarts and toughness, but as a senior those intangibles couldn't make up for the drop-off and lack of speed anymore. Even if he shows no improvement going forward, he still can make a nice SAM linebacker in most schemes, being able to play in either the 4-3 or 3-4. He won't be a dynamic playmaker, but can be a guy similar to a Ben Leber or Scott Fujita. Although Leber was probably more athletic and rangier coming out of school than Herzlich is, so he probably compares a bit more favorably to Fujita. That means he can be an effective complementary starter at the least in a 4-3 scheme. Although again, I think he'll be comfortable in a 3-4 scheme. He's probably never going to be a big-time pass rusher, but could be effective SAM linebacker in that scheme where he'll drop off an cover the tight end at times. With development, he has the strength to be an effective pass rusher, and be able to contribute 3-5 sacks a year. He's no longer the caliber of playmaker you build your defense around, but can be a solid complementary player that if you plug him into a defense that has other playmakers in their front seven, he'll be a good complement and final puzzle piece because he's coachable, somewhat versatile, and tough as nails.
Herzlich can play in Atlanta. While physically he isn't a significant upgrade over Nicholas, he does bring high intangibles to the table. He's not the type of guy you want covering quick backs, receivers, and the more dynamic tight ends around the league, but he's smart enough that he'll be effective in coverage despite not having the athletic skills to match up. He is good enough to contribute right away as a starter, but is probably best off working as a backup initially to try and get better up to speed. He'll be fine there as a rookie, playing on special teams and by his second year should be ready to take the starting mantle. He'll never be a big time playmaker here in Atlanta, but can be an effective every down player eventually and be a nice complement to more rangy players like Lofton and Weatherspoon.
If doctors are confident that Herzlich can retain some of his former glory, then some team would be smart to snag him in the third round. If not, then you're a safer bet taking him in the fourth or fifth round.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Point of Attack: 3.0
Pass Rush: 2.5
Scouting reports of the linebackers in the 2011 Draft.
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