September 25, 2016

Stacking the Board with Second Day Linebackers

by Chris Warner
[email protected] 

picWhen last we left PD, we were trying to determine New England draft targets at the linebacker position. Not sure if they’ll find any Vince-Redd-type developmental projects this month, but it’s a deep pool regarding outside/end hybrids. Let’s dive in! 

(Pool. Dive. Get it? I’m all crazy with the metaphors.) 

The talent projected to be available on Day Two has been broken down into three basic slots: early, mid and late. Early means third round until about midway through the fourth; mid applies to latter-fourth, fifth, mid-sixth; late alludes to mid-sixth onward. No overall pick choices are posted here due to expected trades in the latter rounds making them moot.

EARLY DAY TWO – INSIDE 

Running with the Bull: Though Tyrone McKenzie played outside linebacker for the South Florida Bulls, the 6-2, 243-pounder should make the transition to the middle in a 3-4 scheme. He actually played in the middle for Iowa State and compiled 129 tackles as a sophomore, then transferred to USF and notched 121 and 116 tackles his junior and senior years, respectively (and you’d better show respect, as former West Virginia running back Steve Slaton found out).

Getting into Williams: After his alarm-clock-type pro day woke scouts, Jason Williams of Western Illinois rose up draft charts. While his 17 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles led the Leathernecks (yes, Leathernecks: how cool is that?) his athletic ability makes him a strong candidate for the middle in a 3-4. His coach talks about his flexibility here.  

EARLY DAY TWO – OUTSIDE 

What can Brown do for you? If this is Bill Belichick’s poker face, I’m all in. The coach witnessed Cody Brown’s successful pro day in which he demonstrated his agility in linebacker drills. Despite some of his odd pregame rituals recited during this interview (overeating, wearing crocs, and showering, for example), the 6-2, 244-pounder has the quickness to move to the outside from his productive defensive end spot. Some have him going as high as the second round. If the Patriots were to have a chance on him here, they would prolong his residence in the New England area. 

Fountain of Ute: At 6-foot-4, 263 pounds, Paul Kruger can stop the run, rush the passer, and drop back in coverage (as shown by this interception vs. UCLA). It has been said that he lacks the lateral movement to play outside in a 3-4 defense. Fine. Let’s have him set the edge and serve as an overall nuisance to opposing offenses as we continue this debate into training camp. No dispute that Kruger gives a solid interview, though, as you’ll see in this PD Q&A.

Sidbury’s Stakes: Time to mention Lawrence Sidbury here, yet another fine plum in an orchard of DE-to-OLB converts available in this draft. Sidbury put small-school concerns aside after his combine, when the Richmond product ran a 4.53 40-yard dash. Like Brown, if he’s still around when the Pats pick in the third, he’d be difficult to overlook. Besides, maybe they could use him at tight end.

You know what? Forget I said anything. On to the middle of Day Two! 

MID DAY TWO – INSIDE 

The Brinkley Report: After the type of knee injury that makes one cringe just to hear about it, Jasper Brinkley is up and running again. South Carolina’s inside man (6-2, 249) has increased his speed and agility since the 2008 season, excelling at the combine and the Gamecocks’ pro day. (Notice I didn’t say anything snide about Gamecocks. I’m maturing.) An exclusive PD Q&A with Brinkley can be read here.  

Not just Joshing: The situation has gotten serious with Josh Mauga of Nevada (6-2, 243). He missed the end of this past season with a knee injury, although he did return to play in the Wolf Pack’s loss to New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl (must be nice for the Lobos to have an eponymous bowl). A pectoral injury kept him out of the combine. Now he’s resting after back surgery. Still, an impressive pro day might keep Mauga on scouts’ minds and downplay the risk. Well, he’s from Nevada, so he must be worth the gamble… 

Ba-da-BOOM! I’m here all week, folks!  

MID DAY TWO – OUTSIDE 

In the Hunt: Houston DE Phillip Hunt (6-2, 260) talked about his workouts and the impending switch to OLB in his PD interview. I’m not one to use the term “high motor guy” often, but if I were to use it, Hunt would deserve the moniker. How else to describe a player giving up 50 pounds to his opponents yet ending up with 14 sacks last year?  

Seriously, how else? I’ll take suggestions. 

From an Alcorn springs an oak: In the “getting to know you” file, Lee Robinson of Alcorn State (6-2, 249) had a solid Texas vs. The Nation Game and a good pro day despite nasty conditions to improve his stock. Yeah, sure, he played at Alcorn State, but a) he played both inside and outside, b) he tallied 111 tackles in 2008, and c) so did Steve McNair. Go Braves. 

LATE DAY TWO – INSIDE 

An Appleby a day: Even though Antonio Appleby has been overshadowed by Virginia teammate Clint Sintim, I haven’t given up on the linebacker due to his size (6-4, 245), the aforementioned college, and an inspiring pro day that saw him run a 4.65 40. Call it the aforementioned Redd factor: an unheralded guy comes into Foxboro a step ahead of the others because he’s played the Cavalier’s kinda-Patriot-like 3-4 defense. Not too shabby as a late-round pick. 

Carry On Wayward Mortensen: Having 90 tackles for Kansas last year hasn’t helped Joe Mortensen’s draft ranking all that much, but a better-than-average pro day last month has saved him from being more than Dust in the Wind. Sorry. Had to.   

LATE DAY TWO – OUTSIDE 

Et, tu, Belichick? Playing opposite Brown along UConn’s defensive line, Julius Williams (6-2, 258) had a strong pro day in many senses of the word (41-inch vertical, 36 reps of 225 pounds). Maybe he got Coach Belichick’s attention. In 2008, Williams had six sacks to Brown’s 11. Now that these two have moved on, opposing Big East coordinators can exhale. 

Total eclipse of the hamstring: Coming out of Eastern Illinois, Pierre Walters (6-4, 269) had a lot to prove. While he hasn’t been able to demonstrate his speed for scouts since running the 40 at Northwestern’s pro day and hearing his hamstring pop (ew), his bench press of 29 reps and broad jump of 10 feet, 6.5 inches have put Walters on the board. The defensive end led the Panthers in tackles for loss last season with 16.5. (Also, he’s not to be confused with this Pierre Walters and his love of Bonnie Tyler). 

Tomorrow, check out our Day One defensive back notables.

Comments

  1. Nopointe says:

    Mauga won't be available, the Jets will mistakenly draft him in the 1st round.

    Mauagala, Maualuga, Mallalaga, Mauga thats it, Mauga

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