Shows some straight-line burst off the corner to make the stop in the backfield or on the backside pursuit. Can make plays in pursuit, wrapping up ballcarrier or receiver in the flat. Flashes potential as a bull rusher. Can challenge the edge and pressure the quarterback. Willing to take on the lead blocker or pulling guard in the hole.
Gets engulfed against the run when he's down on the line of scrimmage, and looks undersized when he's taking on blockers. Struggles to disengage and can't get leverage at the point of attack. Doesn't have a good move off the corner, and relies on his speed, which isn't very good. Not explosive and won't beat average tackles off the edge. Lacks the killer motor as a pass rusher. Doesn't use his hands well and gets jolted back by the blocker. Will take some bad angles in space and misses stops. Needs to improve his recognition, biting on the zone read and loses outside contain. Can get caught flat-footed and ballcarrier will go right by him on the edge. Doesn't show instinctual ability as a run defender. Not fluid in space and lacks speed when asked to drop in coverage.
Beal is a nice player, but has never been a true playmaker at Oklahoma. Despite solid production, he's never popped on tape, and looks more like a complementary role player for the most part. He plays a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position, playing both with his hand on the ground and off it. But he makes more impact with his hand off the ground and looks more natural there due to his lack of ideal size. But he lacks the fluidity and range that you want in an OLB prospect in the 3-4. A three-year starter that was very productive, combining for 203 tackles, 53.5 tackles for loss, and 28 sacks, 1 interception, 14 pass breakups, 9 forced fumbles, and 1 recovery. When you read Beal's stat sheet, you're thinking you're getting a dynamic player. But he's not, and hasn't been for two seasons now. His stock has fallen somewhat this off-season because of poor Combine workout, and it has reached a point where I think it should have always been.
Beal is not a bad player, but he is a classic tweener. Too small to play defensive end, too slow to play linebacker. He plays quicker than he times on tape, but not to a huge degree. In the end, he's a good short-area player that is good when he can get upfield, but doesn't have the burst or first step to be a good pass rusher at the next level. His lack of speed and questionable hips hurt his chances at linebacker as well because you wonder if he's not a good pass rusher, then he'll have to drop in coverage. In time, he can develop to a level where he's competent matching up against tight ends, but he'll never be good. As a pass rusher, he can be developed some, particularly if he can improve his hands and develop his bull rush more. He has the sort of straight-line speed, and with improved technique, he could be a competent bull rusher that can give a team 3-5 sacks per year off the edge. I think Beal is a player that is going to find a role early in the league as a reserve playing on specail teams, and be developed down the line. And then by the time his rookie contract is up, he'll find a starting role as a complementary OLB in a 3-4 opposite a dynamic player. I think he can ultimately wind up like Jarret Johnson for the Ravens. Johnson was a high motor, undersized 285-pound defensive tackle with 5.1 speed when he came into the league. But he has slimmed down to 265 and become a nice complementary starter for the Ravens, because he plays hard, knows his assignments, and knows the scheme. That's what I think Beal can be. He'll never be a playmaker, but he can be a valuable complementary player once he gets comfortable in his role and in a particular scheme. I think the best thing for Beal is to slim down a bit (250-255 pound range) to become a bit more fluid to project as an outside linebacker. He could go the route of bulking up and becoming a run-defending defensive end, but I think that would be wasting his talent. There is also talk of moving him to inside linebacker in a 3-4, which I think could also work as well down the road. It's basically the same thing which is basically a guy that can stuff the run, take on blockers and be a competent short area player. Again, playing beside instead of across from a rangy, dynamic inside linebacker like Patrick Willis will work for him. Either way, I think Beal is a long-term developmental project that a team should draft for depth now, but could pay dividends down the road.
Beal is a bad fit in Atlanta, because there scheme is going to ask him to play in space more often than he probably would in a 3-4 scheme if he plays linebacker. Again, he could remain as a defensive end, but I think that would be wasting his talent, turning him into a mediocre No. 4 that isn't going to do much early on because he needs time to bulk up and improve his technique. And a defensive end that can't help out a rotation immediately has little to no value. If he was a capable special teams player, he might have a chance to develop as a reserve in Atlanta and then maybe once he gets more comfortable in the scheme, he could be a decent stopgap starter at SAM linebacker. But overall, it's not conducive to him succeeding and the Falcons can find better players to develop.
As a depth piece that could be a nice developmental starter he wouldn't be a bad pickup in the latter part of hte fourth round, but you're getting better value if you can wait until the fifth or sixth round to nab him.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Point of Attack: 2.5
Pass Rush: 3.0
Scouting reports of the linebackers in the 2011 Draft.
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