More Day 2 Prospects
Hayes Pullard, LB, USC
A quality run defender, Pullard tackles well downhill. He tracks the ball well and consistently squares up to get ballcarriers down. He adjusted well to USC’s change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme this year, becoming another linebacker who can play in multiple fronts.
Pullard spent most of his time as an interior linebacker this season but is not just a traditional thumper. He is strong in coverage and was frequently asked to cover running backs on screen routes. Pullard is not a flashy player, but he is strong and well-rounded.
Lamin Barrow, LB, LSU
Barrow has good explosiveness which he uses to quickly read plays and fill gaps. He takes good angles in pursuit, cuts off cutback lanes and flows nicely on plays run away from him. He does a good job finish plays with tackles. He wraps up nicely and has a strong frame to bring runners down.
Close to the line of scrimmage, Barrow shows great strength to shed blocks to make plays. He sometimes plays a bit too high, but when he gets low pad level, he can use his quickness to beat blockers and bring ballcarriers down.
Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
Strong as both a run defender and pass rusher, Murphy is simply not a coverage linebacker. He has great discipline and patience in run support, allowing him to pursue down the line of scrimmage and take away cutback lanes. He is a high-energy player who takes solid angles and has no problem engaging blockers at the line of scrimmage.
Murphy will need to be hid in coverage, but with Alonso’s excellence in that area, Murphy could be a good Day 2 gamble for the Bills.
Day 3 Prospects
Yawin Smallwood, ILB, Connecticut
Smallwood reads plays quickly and gets into position well to stop runs, which is what he is best at. He anticipates running plays well, plugs holes and brings runners down. During Connecticut games this year, Smallwood seemed to be around the ball on nearly every play.
Smallwood shows tremendous intelligence to not get fooled by play action passes and keep himself square to the line of scrimmage. He is good at getting off blockers but has a bad habit of arm tackling more than he should. Smallwood isn’t an exceptionally hard hitter, but he is tough to break free from even when he uses poor technique.
Devon Kennard, OLB, USC
After spending three years as a rush end, Kennard became a linebacker and showed real skill against the run in his senior season. He has a strong ability to hold the edge and disengages well from blocks, yet also has the quickness to shoot gaps and make plays in the backfield.
Kennard’s biggest asset is his speed, but he also tends to overrun plays. He is a reliable tackler who is also an elite pass-rusher, making him a strong hybrid linebacker despite some weaknesses in coverage.
Shaquil Barrett, OLB, Colorado State
Barrett does a great job working his way inside in run support and collapsing on plays. He does a solid job using his hands to shed blockers, and can overpower tight ends or give himself space to move against larger lineman. His range is deceptive because he does not look fast; however, he can cover a lot of ground and is frequently involved in plays because he takes good angles.
Barrett plays with a lot of energy and aggression. His biggest problem is struggling to read run plays quickly: He often gets into poor position initially or is pushed out of a play altogether when he misdiagnoses. He has also shown skill as a pass-rusher, however, which gives him some value in a hybrid defensive scheme like Buffalo’s.
Prince Shembo, LB, Notre Dame
Shembo is a good run defender who plays with solid technique and discipline. He sets the edge when needed to turn runners back inside. He is a good tackler, both in the open field and close to the line of scrimmage.
He plays with high energy while keeping control and not over-running plays or missing tackles. Shembo is a bit tight as an athlete, however, lacking the quickness to consistently make plays in the backfield. That will likely restrict him to being a two-down, strictly inside linebacker in the NFL.
Jack Tyler, LB, Virginia Tech
Tyler does a good job finding running lanes and getting to running backs. He is a good athlete and sure tackler who does a good job getting through the mess at the line of scrimmage to make plays.
He tracks plays well side-to-side and fills in cutback lanes as well, which makes up for his lack of strength. Despite his high energy and solid instincts, he is limited in coverage and is a bit smaller, listed at 6’1″ and 230 pounds by Virginia Tech’s official athletics website, than a prototypical NFL linebacker.
Preston Brown, ILB, Louisville
Brown is a big-bodied, physical player who comes downhill aggressively. He can fight through blocks near the line of scrimmage and shed the blocks of bigger offensive linemen to make tackles. He is a sure tackler who has piled up huge numbers in Louisville’s scheme. He gets downhill quickly, closes gaps and makes a lot of tackles around the line of scrimmage.
Despite his lack of overall quickness, Brown is comfortable in coverage, able to track linebackers and keep good angles. He has also been in multiple systems during his time at Louisville, which would make him a good late-round fit as a depth player in Pettine’s defense.
If I had my druthers, the Bills would use a first-round pick on Mack, Barr or Mosley, then use a third-day draft pick on a player like Smallwood or Brown to improve the overall depth of the unit. Regardless, linebacker is a position that needs to be addressed, with many options available to do so successfully.
Continue to Page: 1 2
Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Adrian Hubbard, Alabama, Anthony Barr, Buffalo, Buffalo Bills, BYU, C.J. Mosley, Chris Borland, Christian Jones, Colorado State, Connecticut, Devon Kennard, Florida State, Hayes Pullard, Jack Tyler, Khalil Mack, Kyle Van Noy, Lamin Barrow, Linebackers, Louisville, LSU, Notre Dame, Preston Brown, Prince Shembo, Run-Stoppers, Shaquil Barrett, Shayne Skov, Stanford, Trent Murphy, UCLA, USC, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Yawin Smallwood