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For the weeks leading up to the NFL Combine event (late Feb.), I go through preview tape of all the prospects attending/invited and give a quick reaction grade and a few sentences on what I’m seeing – a quick guide, of sorts, of what we’re focusing on watching at the event.
It’s a quick eye-test reaction, and grading/scouting typed in pencil. The NFL Combine measurables can/do change things radically for some of the prospects…there’s always a nice (or disappointing) surprise or ten.
After the 2019 NFL Combine results are in, we can load all the results into our computer scouting models to marry up with our performance analytics -- and then start our detailed studies on the top prospects and computer-model sleepers at each position.
Every day for the two weeks leading up to the 2019 NFL Combine we will release another positional preview of the prospects, ranked by our early grades applied.
Today’s group: OLB prospects (not EDGE DEs)
Tomorrow’s planned group: EDGE DL prospects
2019 NFL Combine Scouting Preview/Ranking: OLB (non-EDGE)
OLB Bobby Okereke, Stanford (6’2”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade: D-
Played a lot of ILB but has the build of an OLB…either way, I was not impressed with his tape. Very easily blocked out of plays. Missed tackles/a lot of diving desperately at tackles. The tape I saw was disappointing.
OLB Jordan Jones, Kentucky (6’1”/220) *Preview Scouting Grade: D-
Too easily blocked out by the bigger, better SEC teams. He just doesn’t have the size to be a linebacker of note in the SEC or NFL. Smart, tries hard, built more like a safety. He’s not terrible, but he just feels overmatched against better teams when he’s working as a linebacker.
OLB Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington (6’0”/220) *Preview Scouting Grade: D-
Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year 2018…with 176 tackles. Wow! Exciting. And then I watch the tape and it’s terrible (for NFL prospecting). An undersized middle linebacker waiting for ballcarriers to come to him or him chasing opportunity in gang tackle situations. He’s not a playmaker at all. He got abused by blockers often as he tried to move to the interior…so, he spent a lot of time waiting and chasing. He’s not a real middle linebacker. He’s more of a safety than linebacker. Not interested.
OLB Mack Wilson, Alabama (6’1”/235) *Preview Scouting Grade: D
Not impressed. Good movement skills to be an NFL OLB, but more on a backup level. Not a big playmaker or creator. He’s just solid/OK on a great college defense. Has the size/athleticism to be an OLB prospect, but I don’t think he’ll make any real impact if he does make it.
OLB Cody Barton, Utah (6’1”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade: D
Has 117 tackles in 2018, playing half ILB/half OLB…but seems to have more of an OLB-mindset/style. Likes to drop into coverage as well as chase plays. Isn’t as savvy rushing towards the line on the snap…gets blocked away too easily. Might be a backup/special teamer in the NFL.
OLB Emeke Egbule, Houston (6’3”/240) *Preview Scouting Grade: D
Played primarily as an 3-4/4-3 OLB on the tape I watched. Can move OK, an NFL athlete but lower-end movement among LB prospects. Nothing really stood about his speed-agility, anticipation, or instincts. Kind of a dull tape session. Didn’t have a ton of statistical production in college either.
OLB Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame (6’1”/235) *Preview Scouting Grade: D+
Always looks like a safety to me when I watch him play linebacker…just has that look. Solid enough college player, I’m not sure I saw obvious NFL skills. If he moves to safety/LB hybrid he might have a better NFL chance. I never saw any flashes of ‘star’ potential.
OLB Andrew Van Ginkel, Wisconsin (6’3”/236) *Preview Scouting Grade: D+
Played 4-3 DE on the tape I watched. Seemed miscast as a DE…didn’t see comfortable there and blockers seemed to handle him easily. However, when Van Ginkel worked a little like an OLB…you could see some athleticism and nice reach to make plays. Too small for an NFL DE but might be too average an athlete as an OLB…could use 5-10 pounds of muscle to improve tackling strength as an OLB at the next level.
OLB Dakota Allen, Texas Tech (6’0”/225) *Preview Scouting Grade: D+
Looks like a SAF/LB hybrid planted at ILB for Texas Tech. He gives a great effort and is a willing tackler, but quite a thin frame…he looks more like a safety than a linebacker, but let’s see what the Combine says. Decent cover skills. He feels like a fringe NFL player at this stage.
OLB Nate Hall, Northwestern (6’1”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade: D+/C-
Very good feet…good cover OLB but not anything amazing. So-so/OK tackler. Could stand more work in the weight room and make himself into a legit NFL linebacker…right now, he seems like a fringe LB prospect. There’s hope here but work to do.
OLB Germaine Pratt, N.C. State (6’2”/235) *Preview Scouting Grade: D+/C-
Played a lot of ILB but looks and works more like an OLB. Pretty quick moving around, but most times when he rushed forward on the interior and did encounter a blocker -- he’d get knocked out of the play easily. When he tackles ballcarriers in the interior he tends to get knocked backwards by the ballcarrier. Core strength definitely a question. Has the feet and size of an NFL player, though.
OLB Sione Takitaki, BYU (6’0”/225) *Preview Scouting Grade: C-
Was an undersized ILB on the tape I watched, but he has more 4-3 OLB skills/movement. Has NFL athleticism, but more so as a backup or fringe starter…at first glance. Solid-ish tackler and solid in coverage.
OLB Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii (6’1”/245) *Preview Scouting Grade: C-
Good chaser, good blitzer…not the greatest instincts to make/create plays. Like a good athlete just running around after the ball. He has NFL movement skills to do that, but not sure that will endear him to the NFL if he cannot create plays/stop plays.
OLB Terez Hall, Missouri (6’0”/225) *Preview Scouting Grade: C-
Nice quickness. Aggressive/high energy player. Definitely an OLB prospect…in a 4-3 scheme. Nice in coverage and solid hitter but a touch undersized…almost looks more safety-like than an OLB.
OLB Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas (6’0”/225) *Preview Scouting Grade: C-
I really like his movement skills…I think he could be coached into being a better OLB than he was in college. Saw him drifting around too much. Flashed some real NFL skills, but too often going the wrong way/not making plays/blocked away from the action. The more I watch…the more concerned I am he’s just not that into football.
OLB Azeez Al-Shaair (al-shier), Fla. Atlantic (6’1”/225) *Preview Scouting Grade: C-/C
Good movement skills. A willing hitter. Not the most instinctive, play-sniffer-outer, but if he’s in the area he’ll try to blast you. Saw a little too much lazy chasing of plays away from him that he might have given an extra effort to catch up to or go help at. Physical tools and style feels like a 4-3 OLB.
OLB Terrill Hanks, New Mexico State (6’2”/235) *Preview Scouting Grade: C
NFL speed. A near-perfect physique/no body fat. I want to like him, but I don’t ever see anything on tape to get excited about. When he blitzes and makes a play in the backfield, it’s sweet but then when he stays home to make plays he always seems to guess wrong or is late to the party. Upside…but concerns.
OLB Joseph Kendall, Clemson (6’0”/225) *Preview Scouting Grade: C
High energy, high effort linebacker. Played up the middle for Clemson but looks and plays more like a 4-3 OLB. Solid in coverage, nice in pursuit of ballcarriers. Gook/OK not great.
OLB Chase Hansen, Utah (6’2”/230) *Preview Scouting Grade: C
In a year or two you might have a legit NFL 4-3 OLB here…or he falls flat. Barton is an interesting case…a wildcat QB as a freshman, a safety as soph-junior, then a move to linebacker as a senior – where he made 114 tackles and had 22.0 TFLs. He’s a smart, quick-footed player that still looks a bit lost at times in his new position. A team willing to develop him could get a nice payoff here.
OLB Bryson Allen-Williams, So. Carolina (6’1”/225) *Preview Scouting Grade: C+
He might be one of the faster runners listed at ‘LB’ but he might be more of a SAF or SAF/LB hybrid. Much of the preview tape I saw, he was playing 4-3 DE…definitely not where he will be in the pros. I think he’ll semi-surprise with his 40 and 10-yard times and get himself on the map more. His tape/production isn’t the key as much as his Combine numbers and where teams might then push him to (like strong safety).
OLB Vosean Joseph, Florida (6’1”/225) *Preview Scouting Grade: B-/B
Miscast as a middle linebacker for Florida, built like a safety…so much so it seems odd watching him in the middle for the Gators. However, he can really dart/dodge away from blockers and is a very sound., aggressive tackler. I like his game, but more so as an OLB/SAF type. So very quick when they send him in on a blitz. Has a lot to offer the NFL. Perhaps, he bulks some more and stays at inside linebacker.