The 2016 NFL Draft has defenders of all shapes and sizes. Every so often comes along a player could have played a few decades ago; that guy is former Bama backer Reggie Ragland. His physical, no-nonsense style will translate to the modern-day game as well. I reviewed his 2015 performances against Wisconsin, Georgia, Texas A&M, Clemson, and his Senior Bowl game and practices to get a better understanding of the skill set this young backer will bring to the next level. This is what I saw:
Tag Archives: linebackers
NFL defensive schemes and roles are changing to accommodate more versatile, explosive players like Arizona’s hybrid Deone Bucannon and LA’s Mark Barron. Likewise in the 2016 NFL Draft, there is an exciting play maker with NFL blood lines (related to Jordan Cameron, Manti Te’o, and former Bengals great David Fulcher) that has some similarities to those hybrid players, former Trojan defender Su’a Cravens. I reviewed his 2015 games against Washington, Stanford, California, Notre Dame, and his 2014 game against Nebraska to get a better idea of the skills and attributes this young man will bring to the next level. Here are my thoughts:
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:
Here are a few lists broken down by defensive positions. Check out yesterday’s post for offensive rankings.
- Myles Jack, UCLA
- Darron Lee, Ohio State
- Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky (could also get listed at DE)
- Reggie Ragland, Alabama
- Leonard Floyd, Georgia
- Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
- Kamalei Correa, Boise State
- Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame (would be #1 if didn’t suffer ACL injury)
- Kentrell Brothers, Missouri
- Tyler Matakevich, Temple
- Josh Perry, Ohio State
- Antonio Morrison, Florida
One of the biggest 2016 NFL Draft stories is the recovery of superstar UCLA linebacker Myles Jack. He was a natural force as a running back early on and as a linebacker his entire healthy career for the Bruins. In early reports from UCLA pro days, it seems Jack is getting back to form in time to make an impact in the 2016 NFL season. I reviewed three of his 2015 games against Virginia, BYU, and UNLV along with two of his 2014 games against USC, and Kansas State to get a good idea of what skills and attributes he brings to the next level. Here is what I saw:
The NFL Combine gives dynasty fantasy football fans their first glimpse on whether a player can translate college production into relevant fantasy points. There weren’t any major spoilers revealed, but some players impressed (stock up) while many stayed the same or failed to make a good impression (stock down). Please remember the NFL Combine has already committed to tweaking their events to better translate to the game of football, instead of being about the highly measured 40 yard runs and 225 lb. bench presses. Here are my initial thoughts:
One of the biggest 2015 NFL Draft risers on the linebacker front in my eyes has been Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney. While this year’s class is full of edge defenders, McKinney is more suited to be a strong side inside backer or simply a “SAM” who will spend a lot of his time taking on blockers in the run game and defending the pass against tight ends. I watched five of his 2014 games against UAB, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M, and Kentucky to get a better idea of the skills and talents that he will bring to the next level. This is what I saw:
LB Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State, 6′ 4″ 246 lbs.
Cons: The first thing I noticed is that he lacks fluidity. This is evident with his stiff hips and his difficulty moving laterally quickly. The backer moves quite well north and south though. McKinney often gets outmaneuvered by quick footed backs and receivers. His upright stance (which affects his balance) impedes his ability to shed blockers and keep them away from his body. The linebacker has a bad habit of diving low in space to bring down a ball carrier in desperation. I found him to be more instinctual than having a strong foundation in film watching as he guesses a lot.
In the heart of NFL Draft season, sometimes it’s good to discuss lesser known players such as former Kansas Jayhawk linebacker Ben Heeney. One of my twitter followers asked for my thoughts on him. While draftbreakdown.com only has two of his games against West Virginia and Oklahoma, this shows the young defender competing against formidable offenses with NFL caliber players. It gives me a good starting point to review his skills and abilities in regards to what Heeney brings to the next level. Here are my thoughts:
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas 6’ 231 lbs.
Cons: The linebacker has a bad habit of letting blockers into his body. He doesn’t have much of a punch or power and usually tries to use his quickness or spin moves to create separation from them. This reaction takes him further down the field, which allows the ball carrier more room to maneuver. Heeney runs a bit too high and doesn’t force the offensive player to absorb hits. Instead he prefers to wrap and roll, which can be effective the majority of the time, but hard to do in the open field. The linebacker seems to make a lot of tackles on his back which suggests that his center of gravity isn’t what it should be.
This is the year of the pass rusher and one of the most talked about players in that regard is Kentucky’s OLB/DE Alvin “Bud” Dupree. Many scouts and draftniks have different thoughts about his skill level and how the defender ranks versus the rest of his draft class. I reviewed six of his games against Missouri, South Carolina, Louisville, Mississippi State, Florida, and Vanderbilt to get a better grasp of the talents and skills he brings to the next level. Here are my thoughts:
OLB/DE Alvin Dupree, Kentucky 6’ 4” 269 lbs.
Cons: The first thing I noticed is that the defender lets the blocker, usually the offensive tackle, into his body when running his direction. This makes it harder for him to anchor his spot and force the play back inside. Dupree doesn’t often initiate contact on runs and needs to close the gap in order knock his blocker off-balance. Although the defender is not overly powerful, he relies on his strength over technique. He needs to get his hands up to strike with force more often and shed to the ball.
There are a few lesser known players that many people are not discussing. One of those is inside linebacker, Kwon Alexander, from LSU for all you IDP owners. After watching his games against Mississippi State and the Florida Gators, there were a few things to like and some things that raised my concerns. Here are my thoughts:
LB Kwon Alexander, LSU 6’1” 227 lbs.
Cons: The defender is a bit on the short side and the light side weight-wise to play inside backer in the NFL. While this certainly won’t stop him, it might make it more difficult for him to find a starting job. He strikes me as more of a finesse player who seemed to bounce off ball carriers instead of smashing them. Alexander also has a bad habit of guessing incorrectly. The backer runs around blockers instead of trying to run through them on the way to the pigskin. When he does get tangled up with blockers, it takes him too much time to disengage them to make his way to the pigskin. Perhaps it is his size, but Alexander does not see the field well, got sealed off a lot, and made most of his tackles by the ankles. I’m not sure how much of a pass rusher he is either.
This year’s draft is full of pass rushers. Outside of the top six of Vic Beasley, Shane Ray, Dante Fowler, Bud Dupree, Randy Gregory, and Leonard Williams, there is a lot of debate who should be next. One of the names that get mentioned is Virginia’s Eli Harold. He is a bit undersized for a typical defensive end role, but has some good tape out there. I reviewed five of his games against UCLA, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Miami, and Maryland to get a better idea of what he can bring to the NFL. Here is what I saw:
OLB/DE Eli Harold, Virginia 6’ 3” 248 lbs.
Cons: The defender does not have any specialized skills in trying to get to the quarterback. Most pass rushers use spins, swim moves, dips, and bull rushers in some sort of concert to create separation between themselves and their blockers, not him. Harold shoves and pushes with only a glimpse of a spin or swim move, despite having quick hands. He tends to lunge and get off-balance, which makes it easier to get him on the ground or out of the way. Too many times the defender let the offensive lineman into his body which makes him easy to pass or run block against. Harold needs to use his punch more often and anchor himself forcing the ball back inside. He also fell for a few too many fake handoffs from UCLA’s Brent Hundley; the first time understandable, but to fall for it multiple times…