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2016 NFL Draft Preview: LineBacker

The Mold


Mike Smith enters his first year as DC with the Bucs and walks into a locker room where Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander are locked in as starters. The team could use a starting strong side linebacker and some depth to go along all spots there. Look for the Bucs to target athletic thumpers with a good balance of down hill attack skills and the ability to cover the flats.


 

Who are the prospects and where do they fit?


 

1. Myles Jack, Outside Linebacker, UCLA **Stats from ’14, Injured in ’15**

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 245 lbs

Class: Junior

Tackles: 87

Tackles for a Loss: 8

Sacks: 0

Forced Fumbles: 0

Pass Breakups: 7

Interceptions: 1

Skillset Evaluation:

Jack is one of the two premier athletes in the draft. Terrific run and chase linebacker, Jack can do it all. Jack displays the fluidity in his hips to turn and run in coverage. Displays the agility and sideline to sideline quickness to cover the flats and chase backs out of the backfield. Jack has played safety as well as running back for UCLA on top of his usual linebacker duties and at each level has shown the ability to adapt, cover and hit. Displays the ability to attack off the edge with tremendous speed and power. Plays with non stop energy and tenacity. Will at times take poor angles and choose to engage when the flow of the play doesn’t quite call for it. Over aggressive at times and will need to harness the energy a bit more. Displays tremendous instincts sniffing out the run and reacts well off the snap. Displays the ability to sit back in zone when asked to and break on the ball.

Background:

Earned offensive and defensive ROY honors at UCLA. Knee injury derailed his junior season. Played multiple roles on the team and took on the challenge each step of the way. On field leader, weight room leader. Leading with play, hard work and emotion it’s easy to see why coaches and teammates enjoyed Jack’s time at UCLA.

Team Fit:

Jack would step in immediately and provide the Bucs with a third 3-down linebacker allowing the team to stay in it’s base defense even when the offense moves to sub-packages. Jacks ability to cover, run, hit and rush would give them the ultimate utility knife at linebacker alongside Kwon and Lavonte. Jack is a top 3 talent in the draft that due to an injury, just may slip through the cracks enough to reach the Buccaneers.

 

 

 

 

11. Deion Jones, OLB, LSU

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 222 lbs

Class: Senior

Tackles: 88

Tackles for a Loss: 12.5

Sacks: 5

Forced Fumbles: 1

Pass Breakups: 3

Interceptions: 2

Skillset Evaluation:

Jones is the lone elite athlete after Myles Jack in this line backing class. Jones displays the quick twitch ability you look for in a safety with tremendous short area explosion. Displays ability to cover running back out of the backfield and run the seam with the slot man. Displays a good back pedal with solid burst coming up out of the zone drop to make a play in the flats. Shows ability to hold up against the tight end off the edge. Showed plus coverage ability this past season. Elite special teams gunner. Jones will struggle against blockers in the second level and lacks the shake to get loose from blocks. Displays only average instincts. Lacks the technique you’d like to see out of a Senior when breaking down in space and taking angles to the ball. A bit undersized but makes up for it with natural athleticism.

Background:

A 1-year starter at LSU, Jones took over the defense from Kwon Alexander upon his ascension to the NFL. Jones was the leader on the defense on the field and in the locker room. Jones was the Defensive Player of the Year his final season in high school and closed out his LSU career with a Defensive MVP in 2015. Selfless, team first guy willing to do whatever it takes to get on the field.

Team Fit:

Jones would slide right in to a special teams gunner role where he showed tremendous ability at LSU. Jones would also fight for and most likely win a role as the SAM backer for the Bucs defense. A trio of Jones, David and Alexander as many Bucs fans have realized would equal the fastest LB core in the NFL.

 

 

 

 

12. Eric Striker, OLB, Oklahoma

Height: 5’11″

Weight: 227 lbs

Class: Senior

Tackles: 67

Tackles for a Loss: 17.5

Sacks: 7

Forced Fumbles: 1

Pass Breakups: 3

Interceptions: 1

Skillset Evaluation:

Striker does a very good job closing on the ball, whether it’s outside chasing down a back or exploding into the quarterbacks lap in the pocket, Striker tends to make stops at or behind the LOS. Striker displays a solid blend of defensive end and box safety traits making him a formidable option at SAM backer. Striker shows good bend and dip in the hips as well as solid balance and footwork. Does a good job attacking from unusual angles when engaging from the outside. Displays good fluidity when dropping into zone coverage and displayed enough athleticism to get outside and cover the flat. Showed the ability to change direction with little loss of momentum. Lacks the functional strength to play down off the edge and the overall speed to play box safety, line backing chess piece has been Striker’s role for Oklahoma. Still needs to improve his take on skills when the run comes his way, shows good awareness when tracking the run away.

Background:

If you’re a Buccaneer fan, the name Eric Striker may ring a bell from his old days stomping the yard at Armwood High school here in Tampa. Striker grew up watching the Bucs and made it to Oklahoma out of high school as a 3-star prospect. OU Bob Kalsu award winner and multiple time All Big 12 honoree. Striker has a clean history on and off the field and has shown to be a hard worker and reliable team leader.

Team Fit:

Striker would be a chess piece type talent for Mike Smith and the Bucs. His ability to rush the passer and play zone coverage would be beneficial to a team that needs to bolster it’s pass rush. Striker produced several years of double digit tackles for a loss and solid pass rush from the linebacker position. The Buccaneers could use him as a rotational player early on while refining his role as time goes on. The team would have to have a plan in place for his development as a true singular role was never asked of him at Oklahoma. Striker holds the school record for sacks at Armwood high school.

 

 

 

 

13. Tyler Matakevich, OLB, Temple

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 238 lbs

Class: Senior

Tackles: 138

Tackles for a Loss: 15.5

Sacks: 4.5

Forced Fumbles: 0

Pass Breakups: 5

Interceptions: 5

Skillset Evaluation:

Matakevich is an incredibly intelligent and calculated player showing very good diagnostic skills and quick thinking pre and post snap. Matakevich displays good instincts and natural field smarts. Displays ability to track and break on the ball when covering the flats. Crosses LOS well and drives to fill the hole against the run. Disciplined against the pass, rarely biting on fakes and displaying the ability to sit in zone coverage. Showed ability to get after the quarterback a bit when the opportunity arose. Shows very good hips and change of direction despite otherwise lacking high level athleticism. Below average strength for the an inside linebacker, which is why he’s listed as an outside guy here. Will get pushed out of play by lineman. Needs to do a better job of breaking down in space to make tackles. Will struggle with elite athleticism in space as he doesn’t have the natural agility and explosion to close out on his own island. Will struggle to track from behind outside.

Background:

2015 Bronco Nagurski Award winner and 3-time AAC first team all conference. Matakevich is one of the most productive linebackers over the last 4 seasons and is revered as a tremendous teammate and good leader on and off the field while at Temple. Coaches rave about his preparation during the week.

Team Fit:

Matakevich is a premium special teams player and has the potential to be a solid starter at outside linebacker. The Buccaneers released Bruce Carter and let Lansanah walk, Matakevich proved while lacking elite athleticism that he can get the job done all 4 years at Temple. Matakevich could provide some steadiness to the  strongside linebacker spot while producing on special teams.

 

 

 

 

14. Travis Feeney, OLB, Washington

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 230 lbs

Class: redshirt Senior

Tackles: 56

Tackles for a Loss: 17.5

Sacks: 8

Forced Fumbles: 3

Pass Breakups: 2

Interceptions: 0

Skillset Evaluation:

Good natural athleticism with run and chase speed to go along with good change of direction. Thin frame and injury history with shoulders will be a cause for concern. Struggles at the POA against the run and shows below average diagnostic skills when moving in traffic. Plays high and tends to look unbalanced when engaged in a block. Has struggled with broken and missed tackles against him. Improved tackling a good bit in 2015 while showing much improved play speed at the linebacker spot. Uses length well and shows lateral quickness to fly into the flats and shoot into the backfield. Shows a mean streak and plays with good determination. Showed the ability to close out the play and explode to the ball.

Background:

Safety turned linebacker at Washington. Special Teams stand out. Second team ALL Pac-12 honoree in 2015. Voted a team captain by teammates for the 2015 season. MVP of the Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League and All-North Cal first team in high school as a senior.

Team Fit:

Feeney is another hybrid player that made a transformation from safety to linebacker and then took another transformation to the BUCK role as a senior. Feeney has experience rushing the passer, playing the run from multiple spots and dominating on special teams. The Bucs could use a mid to late round guy with special teams upside and potential role to starter type potential at linebacker. Feeney would be a potential SAM option down the road and early on in spot duty.

 

 

 

 

15. De’Vondre Campbell, OLB, Minnesota

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 232 lbs

Class: redshirt Senior

Tackles: 92

Tackles for a Loss: 6.5

Sacks: 4

Forced Fumbles: 1

Pass Breakups: 3

Interceptions: 1

Skillset Evaluation:

Campbell has elite athleticism for the position, displaying great quick twitch movements and explosion. Campbell as a linebacker in the NFL will most likely be a work in progress as his football instincts are lacking. Campbell has a tendency to take a round about approach to getting to the ball, often going around defenders and taking himself out of the play. Rarely plays square to the line, too often getting sideways. Campbell when engaged struggles to slip off blocks and lacks awareness when sitting in his zone. Discipline appears to be good and his raw talent has allowed him to make many plays. Campbell can chase and tackle and when dropping back shows great explosion coming up to the LOS. Campbell plays with good power and converts speed to power well. Displays aggression and initiates contact. Has shown the ability to turn the corner with solid natural bend and utilizes his length well.

Background:

Community College transfer that earned All Big Ten honors as an all conference honorable mention. Campbell was one of the top performers for linebackers at the NFL combine for the 40 yard dash. Campbell was a 3-star recruit out of high school and already has a degree in business and marketing education. Campbell is a hard worker in the weight room and displayed the same work ethic on the field at the East West Shrine Game practices. As one teams direct of player personnel said, “He has the dimension you look for and the athletic ability you look for.” As far as character, Campbell’s is crystal clear. “I have a principle,” Campbell said. “I base my life off of loyalty and being honest. Because when everything hits the fan, you can’t say that you weren’t honest about this or about that. When you lie, you kind of have to maintain this image. So I don’t lie.” When it comes to hard work, Campbell doesn’t shy away from that either. “Football didn’t work out as well as I wanted in high school,” Campbell said. “But it was all a learning and development process. And it helped me get where I am now.”

Team Fit:

Campbell could be a solid special teamer with his speed and power attributes. There is some thought in the scouting world that Campbell’s best chance at an NFL starting future would be with a move to pass rusher in a hybrid role that would limit his need to be out in coverage. Either way you look at it, Campbell is a project player with special teams value and a high ceiling thanks to his elite athleticism for the position.

 

 

 

16. Elandon Roberts, OLB/ILB, Utah

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 235 lbs

Class: Senior

Tackles: 142

Tackles for a Loss: 19

Sacks: 6

Forced Fumbles: 2

Pass Breakups: 5

Interceptions: 1

Skillset Evaluation:

Roberts is a prospect that has a direct role in the NFL that has proven to be a necessity, run stopper and LOS enforcer. With lacking desirable high end speed and lateral agility, Roberts will not be a 3-down player in the league and his value plummets much like that of Antonio Morrison and Blake Martinez. Roberts displays tremendous instincts and a natural feel for the hole and mixes it with a love to crash the party quick at the line and in the backfield. Roberts makes up for his lack of speed by reading and dissecting the play quickly and getting to the spot before the offensive player. Form tackler, squares the shoulders and drives through the ball carrier with explosive hips. Showed improved movement skills from limited play time in ’14 to booming onto the scene in ’15. Showed the ability to track the back out of the backfield into the flats. Struggles when asked to man up in coverage. Can drop into zone but struggles to get deep enough as passes will be easily dropped in over his head. Lacks the ideal quickness to break out of his zone to make a play in the flat against quick receivers. Showed the ability to blitz with good effectiveness and utilize hands and a never ending motor to get to the ball. Shows little in the form of hands and ball skills when the ball is thrown his way.

Background:

True leader on and off the field. Shows up early, puts in the work and stays to ensure others follow suit. Coaches rave about his pre game and in game leadership qualities. Vocal and respected. Roberts played inside and outside for the Cougars and started at MLB during the All Star game this spring. “It’s going really good,” Roberts said. “I’ve been doing great as an all-around linebacker. I had some real good shots on the fullback and running backs. I really shut it down quick. It’s been a really good experience. “I’m talking to a lot of scouts and they’re really liking me. I was talking to my UH defensive coordinator, Todd Orlando, and that didn’t surprise him at all because he knows I can go.” “That guy is a production machine,” Houston coach Tom Herman said. “He’s not going to wow you with any measurables, but he has very, very good instincts. No one is able to measure his leadership qualities and heart. We’re going to miss him, not just his production and play but as the vocal leader of our team.”

Team Fit:

The Buccaneers are in need of depth at the linebacker position badly right now after letting Lansanah walk and moving on from Bruce Carter. The arrival of veteran Daryl Smith is a stop gap and could be just the guy to help Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander groom a young leader like Elandon Roberts. Roberts could be groomed for the SAM spot and continue to bolster the heart beat of the defense at linebacker.

 

 

 

 

17. Blake Martinez, OLB, Stanford

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 237 lbs

Class: Senior

Tackles: 138

Tackles for a Loss: 6.5

Sacks: 2

Forced Fumbles: 1

Pass Breakups: 6

Interceptions: 1

Skillset Evaluation:

Played middle linebacker and shows the instincts to stay inside at the next level if need be. Displays good instincts and down hill attacking. Displays good gap technique and sticks with his gap responsibility. Shows the ability to ride the line on blocks and shed off when needed to make the stop. Squares his shoulders to make the stop and mirrors the line. Showed the technique and discipline to sit in zone coverage, lacks the athleticism to run in man coverage with backs out of the backfield. When in zone, instincts take a dip and pass coverage in general is lacking. Struggles to change direction and lacks the speed to catch up to the play. Lateral quickness is poor. Due to limitations as a natural athlete and a seemingly cap on his instincts and processing speed, Martinez is a 2-down linebacker in my eyes.

Background:

Martinez is a rare 4 year player for Stanford that never redshirted. Martinez took over the MIKE role and is the teams leader emotionally and physically out on the field. “He’s one of the most infectious leaders I’ve been around,” senior cornerback Ronnie Harris said. “He commands the front end and the back end of the defense.” Martinez is a selfless player and understands exactly what the coaches want out of him and does so to the best of his abilities. “He has a really good understanding of the defense, what his job is, how it fits with the other 10 guys,” defensive coordinator Lance Anderson said.

Team Fit:

Martinez would slide outside and command the SAM spot on the defense if he were looking to the quickest route to starting anytime soon. With an emphasis on the use of sub packages in today’s NFL, players like Martinez can focus on the early downs attacking the LOS and come off the field in lieu of more pass savvy defenders in the nickel and dime defenses. Martinez is a late round prospect whose athleticism will cap his overall ceiling but could be a solid 2-down player in the right situation. As depth, Martinez would provide a solid backup for Kwon Alexander inside where he spent the last four seasons in Stanford’s defense.

 

 

 

 

18. Antonio Morrison, ILB, Florida

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 232 lbs

Class: Senior

Tackles: 96

Tackles for a Loss: 11

Sacks: 2.5

Forced Fumbles: 1

Pass Breakups: 1

Interceptions: 0

Skillset Evaluation:

Morrison is a dynamite competitor and leader on defense. Manning the MIKE spot for the Gators the last couple seasons, Morrison made a living as a tackling machine around the LOS. Morrison has a dominate personality and it shows in his play. Morrison has solid lateral quickness and plays well close to the line. Shows good play recognition and fills the gap and beats lineman to the spot on run plays. Squares up and sinks hips into tackles. Ignites into tackles while wrapping up. Displays good balance and foot quickness when around the LOS. Relentless in pursuit and showed the ability to blitz through the middle with good results. Since knee injury, top end speed and turn and burn ability have been severely limited. Lacks the length many teams covet inside. Struggles to track down defenders, relying on quickness and keeping the play in front of him versus making sideline to sideline stops. Struggles to disengage from blocks. Struggles with patience in zone and is poor in man coverage. Gets lost when sitting back in a zone and struggles with quickness when asked to cover. Struggles with play action.

Background:

Morrison is the definition of a leader both on and off the field. Morrison was the unquestioned alpha male of the Gators locker room in 2015 and earned the respect of everyone, players and coaches, after returning early from multiple surgeries on his knee. Morrison has had off field brush ups from punching a bouncer to barking at a police K-9 and resisting arrest.

Team Fit:

Morrison will end up in a 2-down role at linebacker in the NFL and will be forced to either play the weak inside linebacker role in a 3-4 or move to SAM in a 43. The Buccaneers signed Daryl Smith and Morrison would be a good guy to bring in behind to eventually take over that role down the line.

 

19. Dadi Nicolas, OLB, Virginia Tech

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 235 lbs

Class: redshirt Senior

Tackles: 45

Tackles for a Loss: 7

Sacks: 2.5

Forced Fumbles: 2

Pass Breakups: 2

Interceptions: 0

Skillset Evaluation:

First thing I noticed with Nicolas was that he clearly played out of position at Virginia Tech. Nicolas has great foot speed and short area quickness. Moving laterally and accelerating with ease jump off the film for me. Shows good burst and bend off the edge. When asked to drop back into space Nicolas showed good awareness and appeared to be comfortable in doing so. Showed the ability to drop back and break on the ball and has the speed to get outside and make the stop. Focusing on translatable traits to linebacker, Nicolas shows the functional strength to hold the point of attack against a tight end. Nicolas attacks the LOS well and appears to have the base skillset to be a two down linebacker and potential stand up pass rush specialist. Must improve his lower half strength and utilize length better. Struggles to convert speed to power which further emphasizes the need to switch up positions.

Background:

Nicolas is a well liked teammate and determined competitor. Showed the willingness to give 100% effort despite being miscast at defense end. Nicolas is a team first guy ad hard worker with no off-field concerns.

Team Fit:

Nicolas would need to make the switch to SAM backer and this move would take time and come with a learning curve. Nicolas would need to find a way onto the special teams unit to make the roster most likely and pending the teams desire to use odd fronts, Nicolas could land  role as depth at 34 pass rush specialist.

 

 


 

 Grades:

  1. Myles Jack – 9.3
  2. Darron Lee – 8.1
  3. Jaylon Smith – 8.0
  4. Reggie Ragland – 7.9
  5. Kentrell Brothers – 7.8
  6. Leonard Floyd – 7.8
  7. Joshua Perry – 7.6
  8. Kamalei Correa – 7.5
  9. Dominique Alexander – 7.5
  10. Kyler Frackrell – 7.4
  11. Deion Jones – 7.4
  12. Eric Striker – 7.3
  13. Tyler Matakevich – 6.9
  14. Travis Feeney – 6.7
  15. De’Vondre Campbell – 6.6
  16. Elandon Roberts – 6.6
  17. Blake Martinez – 6.3
  18. Antonio Morrison – 6.3
  19. Dadi Nicolas – 6.1
  20. Joe Schobert – 6.1
  21. Scooby Wright III – 5.9
  22. Jared Norris – 5.8
  23. Terrance Smith – 5.7
  24. Josh Forrest – 5.7
  25. Curt Maggit – 5.7

Grade Scale:

9.0 – 10 (Top 5)

8.4 – 8.9 (Top 10)

8.1 – 8.3 (Top 15)

7.8 – 8.0 (1st Round)

7.5 – 7.7 (2nd Round)

7.2 – 7.4 (3rd Round)

6.8 – 7.1 (4th Round)

6.4 – 6.7 (5th Round)

6.0 – 6.3 (6th Round)

5.7 – 5.9 (7th Round)

0.0 – 5.6 (Undrafted)

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1 Comment on 2016 NFL Draft Preview: LineBacker

Jauggs said : Guest Report 4 months ago

GilArciaTBC glad to see y'all are on the Jack train too. Man is a monster. Any chance he slips? Hoping him not running 40 gets him to 9

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