For the past few seasons, Ohio State got rewarded with dominate play makers. With the 2016 NFL Draft approaching, most of the Buckeye defense decided to migrate to the NFL and one of their biggest pieces is linebacker Darron Lee. He reminds many people of the Steelers weak side backer Ryan Shazier with whom they share a school and amazing athleticism. I reviewed several of Lee’s 2015 games against Michigan State, Notre Dame, Hawaii, and the last two Michigan contests to get a better feel for what this young man brings skills and attribute-wise to the next level. These are my thoughts:
LB-Darron Lee, Ohio State, 6′ 1″ 232 lbs.
Cons: The play maker is a tweener aka a man without a true position in the NFL. Lee is a tad too short and too light to play anything other than a weak side linebacker in a 4-3 or one of the inside backers in a 3-4 scheme; surely he could hang as a part-time strong safety too. The former Buckeye is not overly muscular, but has little room to add bulk to his already maxed out physique. He isn’t a very physical tackler as he missed 21 tackles and had another five tackles broken over the past two seasons. Lee has a few issues getting knocked off-balance at the line of scrimmage and tends to be over-aggressive in pursuit of the ball carrier. There are also times the backer has problems disengaging from blockers.
Pros: His athleticism and explosion are off the charts with a great performance at the NFL Combine: 4.47 40-yard dash, 35.5″ vertical jump, 133″ broad jump, and 4.20 second three cone drill. He is an amazing student of the game as he played quarterback and safety before moving to linebacker. Lee diagnoses plays instantly and moves through the line of scrimmage to make contact with the ball carrier almost immediately. The former Buckeye has a nice punch that helps him get away from blockers and can make tackles in close quarters.
Lee has good sideline to sideline range that helps him in the run game, but is even more important against the pass. His motor is constantly running and he can change directions with his loose hips effortlessly which makes him quite the asset in pass coverage. It was not uncommon to see if chase a play 25+ yards down the field; almost like an NFL safety. The former Buckeye covers the slot receiver occasionally and has the athleticism to do that in the NFL on designed blitz packages. There were many times he got used as a blitzer himself. The backer has good bend and agility to contort himself around blockers slicing through to get to the quarterback. Lee also shows a proclivity to blocking punts as well.
Initial prognosis: His athleticism is unquestionable, but Lee will need to get placed with a linebacker corps that can take on blockers to free him up. Otherwise, the young backer might only see limited action on passing downs. Perhaps he will be similar to Shazier with amazing production on the gridiron, but struggle mightily with health due to his size.
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