Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Grading The Linebackers At The Combine

Not only do the Green Bay Packers need to upgrade their talent at linebacker, but there are some high priced players who might be released because they're overpaid.

I've grown to accept what LB A.J. Hawk can do for the defense (an average linebacker against the run and pass) but he's wildly overpaid at $7.05 million in 2013. He might agree to a pay-cut, but he might want to test the market instead. The agent for LB Desmond Bishop is optimistic about his recovery, but we won't know until training camp opens, and he had a down year in 2011. So watching the NFL combine to see how the linebackers performed was one of the big events leading up to the draft.
I'm not a hater, but I'm not a fan either. The problem is that he reminds me of Hawk; a big-time college player who's likely to disappoint as a pro. None of the Notre Dame mystique or side-show antics of a fake girlfriend really bother me. But really there is no comparison because Hawk ran a fast 4.59 40 time at the combine in 2006 which cemented his spot at the top of the draft. Meanwhile, Te'o fell out of the first round (and who knows how far) with his 4.82 40 time. There's still a chance Te'o will become a great pro, but it seems a lot less likely.

Meanwhile, Rob Rang took a look at the three linebackers who helped themselves at the combine.

Iowa State ILB A.J. Klein. Replace one A.J. with another? Maybe. He was previously projected as a 5th round pick, but now he's combined his college production with a solid 4.66 40 time. At 6-1, 250, he's can play inside in a 3-4 scheme and he's shown his instincts in pass coverage by returning 4 INTs for touchdowns in college (an NCAA record). If you want the Packers to select another inside linebacker with a mid-round pick, here's the guy for you. Give him a year to get used to the speed of the NFL and he might be a straight-up replacement for Hawk at a fraction of the price.

Connecticut LB Sio Moore. He was already highly regarded and a likely 2nd round pick, but now he's proven his speed (4.65 40 time). He's got the size (6-1, 241) to play linebacker in the 3-4 and he's known as a playmaker in college (43 tackles for a loss over the last three years). He might be a great prospect to play inside and provide an inside blitz against the run and pass.

Missouri LB Zaviar Gooden. While the Packers don't avoid athletes, they do seem to avoid great athletes who don't have a position to play. He might find a NFL team that can harness his ability, but I doubt it'll be the Packers.

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