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My 2021 Draft Review = Linebackers


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13 hours ago, clayton163v said:

As those who have been following my posts know, I believe that the Jets can offer real opportunity to this year's crop of linebackers.  Not that we need to take them early.  Here we go:

I separate the players I see as worthy of early draft picks from those who are a good fit and are worth a late round pick or invitation as a free agent.  I would not take any linebacker besides Micah Parsons earlier than #86 which is our later third round pick.

First I will say a word about Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame.  He is a Will who carries a first round grade.  While he would make a fine addition to the Jets, he is unlikely to be available at #23 and is not really a fit for our matchup zone.  He is better in man coverage.  Nevertheless, he is an elite prospect and would make a fine Will but he does not project at zone as well as some other players.  I would pass on him at #23.

Pete Warner out of Ohio State is a perfect fit for the SAM in the Jets 4-3 scheme.  He is 6' 2.4" and 242 lbs and carries a 3d round grade.  He is big enough to play the SAM and has the necessary experience covering backs and tight ends to man the strong side.  He fills inside gaps and plays downhill to make plays at the line.  Where he really shines however, is his scheme fit for the matchup zone the Jets will run under Robert Saleh.  Said Ourlads: "At his best in zone coverage, seeing multiple routes and the quarterback.  Does a solid job in pattern read coverage, passing off routes in his drop and playing underneath intermediate patterns."    Some guys just fit.  Warner would be an excellent get for the Jets.  I would not overdraft him but it is hard to ignore his perfect scheme fit.  He would be an every down player.  I would look for him at #86.  If we took him earlier, I would understand. 

Chazz Surratt out of North Carolina is also a perfect fit for the Jets as a multi-dimensional Mike.  He is 6' 1.5" and 227 lbs and carries a 3d round grade.  A converted Quarterback with seven starts as a freshman, he converted to linebacker and developed into a top line starter.   He attacks blocks and can "stun and separate".  A downhill hitter, he fills the inside gaps with authority.  Like Warner, he is at his best in zone.  Said Ourlads: "Displays an understanding of zone concepts seeing threats and reacting to the quarterback's delivery key."  "Consistently finds the throwing lane on high/low routes."  "Often forces bad throws or the quarterback to come off a read."  Unlike most Mikes, he would be a three-down player and is a perfect scheme fit.  I would look for him at #86.

Jamin Davis out of Kentucky is another real good fit.  He is 6' 4" and 240 lbs.  He has excellent wheels and was clocked at a 4.48 40.  He is an excellent candidate for the Will in our 4-3.  He is both long and athletic and uses that length to control blocks and a quick punch to shed and separate.  Says Ourlads, "He is a zone defender" and is "adept at processing route combinations and passing off shallow routes".  He is "tough to throw over in the passing lane" and "has made interceptions and pass breakups with his positioning".   He is a quality special teams player and is not as ready as Warner or Surratt.  I would look for him at #86.    

Nick Bolton out of Missouri is another good fit.  He is 6' and 232 lbs and carries a 4th round grade.  A Mike in our 4-3, he is an explosive tackler who makes solid reads and hits his gaps with power.  Ourlads says "he is excellent in zone pass coverage", he "closes voids between zones" and "gets his hands on a lot of balls".  I would consider him at #107 if we cannot get Warner or Surratt.   

But that is it for the top linebackers.  I am far from done.  Now it is time to examine and sort the cheap stuff.  It is time for the Wills and Mikes.  There is a lot to choose from (there always is) and I hope we draft some late and invite those who go undrafted to our training camp.   After all, this is our first year as a 4-3 team and there are job openings.  Before you laugh, the job at Will is wide open imo.  I would not be surprised to find that third starting linebacker listed below along with the backups at Mike and Will.  Plus two or three on the practice squad while we adjust to the new scheme. 

Let's look at the Mikes:

Derrick Barnes out of Purdue carries a 5th round grade but is a two-down Mike.  I bet we can get him later.  He is 6' and 245 lbs and hits like a truck.  While he has some physical limitations, he is an traditional Mike who comes off the field on passing downs.  

Cameron McGrone (an excellent name for a linebacker) is another traditional Mike.  He is 6" 1 and 236 lbs and carries a 5th round grade.  I also expect him to fall lower than his grade.  He too is likely a two-down linebacker but unlike Barnes he is a solid special teams player on the coverage units. 

Paddy Fisher out of Northwestern is 6' 3" 240 lbs and carries a 6th round grade.  He is a solid run stuffing middle linebacker with plenty of zone experience.  Says Ourlads: "adept at finding the throwing lane, he causes hesitation in quarterback reads" and "makes plays on the ball with positioning".  

Erroll Thompson out of Mississippi State projects at Mike, carries a 6th round grade and is 6' and 254 lbs.  He is a physical linebacker with above average instincts and playmaking skill.  He is a traditional two-down Mike.

Rashard Ashby out of Virginia Tech carries a 7th round grade, projects at Mike and is 5' 10" 237 lbs.  He is a two-down linebacker and is solid against the run.  He is a good special teams player.

Tuf Borland (great name for a linebacker) out of Ohio State projects as a two-down Mike and carries a 7th round grade.   He is 6' 229 lbs.  

Let's look at the Wills

Garrett Wallow out of TCU carries a 5th round grade and projects at Will.  Adept at zone coverage Ourlads says: "he takes precise drops" and has a "feel for the throwing lanes".  He reroutes receivers and "causes some incomplete passes" that do not show up as PBUs.  He is a productive special team's player on the coverage units. 

Tony Fields out of West Virginia is 6' and 222 lbs.  He carries a 6th round grade and projects at Will.  A powerful tackler with sideline to sideline range. 

Ernest Jones out of South Caroline projects at Will and carries a 6th round grade.  He is a solid sideline to sideline tackler and is a good special team's player.

Nick Niemann out of Iowa is 6' 3" 237 lbs and carries a 6th round grade.  He projects at Will and SAM and has good wheels with 4.5 speed.  He is a demon special teams player.  The kind of guy who is hard to cut.  His brother Ben plays for the Chiefs.   

Isaiah McDuffie out of Boston College is 6' 1", 224 lbs and carries a 7th round grade.  He projects at Will.  Has sideline to sideline range and is good in zone coverage.  He is an outstanding special teams player. 

Isaiah Kaufusi (Yes, another Kaufusi!) out of BYU is 6' 1.5" and 220 lbs and projects at Will.  Good special teams player.  

Max Richardson out of Boston College is 5' 11" 230 and projects at Sam.   He is a quality special teams player.

Grant Stuard out of Houston is 5' 11" 230 lbs and projects at Sam.  he carries a 7th round grade and Ourlads says is a "terror on kick coverage units".

 

 

 

 

@kdels62  Must have been following your JN mock.😁

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Very brief $.02 - all of SF’s linebackers played around 230 last year. You listed some big dudes in there. I think speed is going to be a priority. Some of those bigger guys can run anyway and some might cut some weight but I’d guess they stay away from guys like Barnes, Fisher, and Thompson.

The LB depth chart is pretty barren, it looks like there are some good fits late in this draft (including several of the names you mentioned), and two of the 49ers starters in 2020 were a 2019 fifth round pick and a 2019 UDFA respectively. My hope is Saleh identifies a couple/few of his guys on day 3 and in UDFA and Douglas goes and gets them. If that happens I expect a couple rookies to start playing more as the year goes on and hopefully they show well and can be written in pen as starters next year. Even some of those late round guys you mentioned  seem like outstanding fits. Bonus is a lot of those guys can play specials too - perfect for day three.

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8 hours ago, section314 said:

@kdels62  Must have been following your JN mock.😁

I had not see it.  I have been buried in the draft guide.  I will have to take a look.

6 hours ago, kdels62 said:

Idk it’s weird that he describes the Pete Werner doing a bunch of WILL things but then calls him a Sam.

Now, now.  I did say "has the necessary experience covering backs and tight ends to man the strong side.  He fills inside gaps and plays downhill to make plays at the line."  That is the job of the SAM.  The WILL is a run and chase guy.  Nor is the Will going to be covering the tight end, that is the job of the STRONG SIDE linebacker.  

We both love Pete Warner though.  He is a perfect fit.

6 hours ago, derp said:

Very brief $.02 - all of SF’s linebackers played around 230 last year. You listed some big dudes in there. I think speed is going to be a priority. Some of those bigger guys can run anyway and some might cut some weight but I’d guess they stay away from guys like Barnes, Fisher, and Thompson.

The LB depth chart is pretty barren, it looks like there are some good fits late in this draft (including several of the names you mentioned), and two of the 49ers starters in 2020 were a 2019 fifth round pick and a 2019 UDFA respectively. My hope is Saleh identifies a couple/few of his guys on day 3 and in UDFA and Douglas goes and gets them. If that happens I expect a couple rookies to start playing more as the year goes on and hopefully they show well and can be written in pen as starters next year. Even some of those late round guys you mentioned  seem like outstanding fits. Bonus is a lot of those guys can play specials too - perfect for day three.

I did include large guys.    I think that size is necessary to fill the A gaps and take on guards.  It is the nature of the inside fits in a 4-3 scheme.  Sometimes the defensive line intentionally leaves a gap open and the Mike has to fill it.  In man schemes, that means taking on the guard.  I realize the 49ers got away with a smaller player, but that can be for a whole host of reasons.  I tried to list Mikes who are either real good value due to special teams or had tons of playing time as well as experience playing zone. 

We agree that the undrafted free agents will include lots of linebackers.  We have the jobs and practice squad spots.  I would not be surprised to see Douglas spending signing bonus money to compete for them like he did last year with Lamar Jackson and Javelin Guidry at corner and Bryce Huff at outside linebacker.  All of them got some bonus money.  That we kept them all year and played them too bodes well for Douglas's credibility when he dangles roster spots in front of undrafted free agents.  I expect a free for all at linebacker.  

 

5 hours ago, jetstream23 said:

Where is Zaven Collins?

 

Like Azeez Ojulari, I see Zaven Collins as a 3-4 outside rush linebacker.  I think he is too big to play in a 4-3 scheme at linebacker and I also think that he is a poor fit at defensive end in a 4-3 with his hand in the dirt.  Great player, but not a fit for a 4-3 defense.  At least not at #23 and his is a first round pick. 

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6 hours ago, clayton163v said:
12 hours ago, jetstream23 said:

Where is Zaven Collins?

 

Like Azeez Ojulari, I see Zaven Collins as a 3-4 outside rush linebacker.  I think he is too big to play in a 4-3 scheme at linebacker and I also think that he is a poor fit at defensive end in a 4-3 with his hand in the dirt.  Great player, but not a fit for a 4-3 defense.  At least not at #23 and his is a first round pick. 

 

He'd be a fit for the 4-3 IMO.  Played it at Tulsa.  Sure, he's not the prototypical size but he could be an excellent SAM in the 4-3 and possibly even a MLB.  Tenacious, good in coverage, a sideline to sideline guy with great instincts.  His speed is good but not great, however he's so smart and takes such good angles that he gets to the ballcarrier as if he were some speed demon.

I'd grab him at #34 in a second if the Jets had already hit OL at #23.  This is the baller I want for our D.

Impact player.  Instant identity on Defense.  The kind of guy Fred Warner was in SF for Saleh.

 

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What about the obvious potential pick at 23- Zaven Collins. He is fast, athletic and big/strong enough to play either the weak or strong side. He's an absolute monster against the run and has the traits to develop into an impact pass rusher. Tulsa used him all over the place with great success.

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21 hours ago, jetstream23 said:

 

He'd be a fit for the 4-3 IMO.  Played it at Tulsa.  Sure, he's not the prototypical size but he could be an excellent SAM in the 4-3 and possibly even a MLB.  Tenacious, good in coverage, a sideline to sideline guy with great instincts.  His speed is good but not great, however he's so smart and takes such good angles that he gets to the ballcarrier as if he were some speed demon.

I'd grab him at #34 in a second if the Jets had already hit OL at #23.  This is the baller I want for our D.

Impact player.  Instant identity on Defense.  The kind of guy Fred Warner was in SF for Saleh.

 

I agree. I understand what a player typically needs to be to be a good fit for a 4-3 but at the end of the day you have to think about what this player can do on the football field and Collins can do everything you would ask for out of a 4-3 OLB (weak or strong) in a zone heavy scheme. And like you said, he may not be that fast (he's far from slow), but he's really instinctual and takes great angles. He knows how to play zone and he has fantastic athleticism for a guy his size. Then you consider the impact he makes as a pass rusher at 6-5, 260 and this is a star in the making you might be passing on because he may not be a 'great fit'.  

There is no way he falls to 34. I think if the top OTs/Gs are snatched up by 23 and JD doesn't move up to snag one of them, Collins should be in consideration at 23 and JD should go with O-line at 34. 

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On 4/23/2021 at 12:08 AM, jetstream23 said:

 

He'd be a fit for the 4-3 IMO.  Played it at Tulsa.  Sure, he's not the prototypical size but he could be an excellent SAM in the 4-3 and possibly even a MLB.  Tenacious, good in coverage, a sideline to sideline guy with great instincts.  His speed is good but not great, however he's so smart and takes such good angles that he gets to the ballcarrier as if he were some speed demon.

I'd grab him at #34 in a second if the Jets had already hit OL at #23.  This is the baller I want for our D.

Impact player.  Instant identity on Defense.  The kind of guy Fred Warner was in SF for Saleh.

 

Im not claiming to be an expert in tape study, but I watched the Zaven Collins video as I think he is a player that will be there at 23 or even 34 and is alleged to be a good cover LB. What I saw on the tape though seemed like a lot of plays where he got very lucky - balls thrown right at him, lanes opening up where he made a play, etc.  He's absolutely fast and big but has he really been tested playing in space against WRs/TEs?

Id much rather see us with someone like Pete Werner in the 3rd then taking a risk on collins in the first/second when we could fill another spot like OL

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58 minutes ago, BCJet said:

Im not claiming to be an expert in tape study, but I watched the Zaven Collins video as I think he is a player that will be there at 23 or even 34 and is alleged to be a good cover LB. What I saw on the tape though seemed like a lot of plays where he got very lucky - balls thrown right at him, lanes opening up where he made a play, etc.  He's absolutely fast and big but has he really been tested playing in space against WRs/TEs?

Id much rather see us with someone like Pete Werner in the 3rd then taking a risk on collins in the first/second when we could fill another spot like OL

Yes I agree. If you draft him you have to use him situationally until you can transition him to a DE role like a LEO where he is just a pure elite end that gets after the QB. Apparently he put on 10lbs to get up to 270 so I think thats where he wants to be in the NFL. So I think if the Jets take him he won't be a coverage LB for them and if they put him at Sam or even Will they probably won't do it with too many coverage assignments and more so to get after the QB or help shut down the run. Physically you can imagine him developing into a more versatile Nick Bosa type Leo for Saleh, I mean the upside is immense. He just needs to refine his pass rush skills and learn the NFL game. 

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3 hours ago, BCJet said:

Im not claiming to be an expert in tape study, but I watched the Zaven Collins video as I think he is a player that will be there at 23 or even 34 and is alleged to be a good cover LB. What I saw on the tape though seemed like a lot of plays where he got very lucky - balls thrown right at him, lanes opening up where he made a play, etc.  He's absolutely fast and big but has he really been tested playing in space against WRs/TEs?

Id much rather see us with someone like Pete Werner in the 3rd then taking a risk on collins in the first/second when we could fill another spot like OL

I haven't watched every game and certainly not every play, but when you refer to seeing plays where he "got lucky" I'm not sure what that means.  When the ball finds its way into his hands repeatedly with INTs, fumbles, forced fumbles, etc. I chalk it up to more than luck.  He's putting himself in the right places at the right times.  There are just some guys who have a nose for the football (ex. Collins has more INTs as a LB than Jamal Adams does as a Safety over the past two years).

8 games, 54 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 4 INTs, 2 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, 1 Safety, 1 fumble recovery, returning 2 of his INTs for TDs.  This guy finds the football and takes it.

Also, what I posted was a highlight film.  You usually don't see a ton of plays on highlight films where the player covered a TE or RB out of the backfield, the QB looked that way and decided to throw somewhere else because the coverage was good.  Those plays just don't make their way into highlight films.  I'm going to trust the experts on Collins and his scouting reports are stellar across multiple sources and just about all of them talk about him being excellent in coverage.  The guy is simply a gamer, a defender, an identity on D because of his attitude towards the game.  Stop the run, defend the pass, rush the QB.... he does it all, and LB is a need.

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After a high school career in which Zaven Collins was a four-year starter at quarterback and linebacker/safety, Tulsa was the only Division I program to offer him a scholarship. He ended his college career by claiming the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s best defensive player. Collins offers an exciting blend of size, length, power, football intelligence, and versatility that makes him a dynamic prospect for the NFL. Whether it’s defending the run, dropping into coverage, or rushing the passer, Collins has the requisite skill set required to execute and was arguably the most dynamic defensive playmaker in college football for the 2020 season. He demonstrated notable growth in 2020, becoming a complete defender and making high-impact, clutch plays seemingly every week. The Belichick disciples and teams that deploy that style of defense are likely salivating over Collins’ skill set and he projects as an impact defender in the NFL that can make plays in a variety of ways. 

Ideal RoleStarting linebacker given opportunities to rush the passer, drop in coverage, play downhill, and in space. 

Scheme FitCollins projects favorably to a defense that is multiple with its alignments that presents the opportunity for him to unleash the full breadth of his skill set.

https://thedraftnetwork.com/player/zaven-collins

 

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