Jeremiah Attaochu LB Georgia Tech #45
Size/Athleticism: Adequate overall size. Relatively long arms. Impressively straight line speed and shows quality overall athleticism. Looks very fluid in his movements and has the agility to give offensive linemen issues as an edge-rusher.
Run Defense: Impressive balance and change of direction ability for his size allows him to adjust and make plays in pursuit. Does a great job working through traffic in pursuit. Struggles to anchor at the point of attack. May be a liability in this area if he lands in a 4-3 scheme.
Pass Rush: Quick first step off the edge. Strong enough to bull-rush and shed blocks. Impressive burst and acceleration. Closes quickly and can deliver a big hit on the quarterback. Doesn’t show many pass-rush moves, relies on his ability to win with speed. Can shed blocks and gives a great second effort but needs to develop a repertoire of moves. Surprisingly effective blitzing on the inside—hits gaps quickly and has the power and balance to work through off-balance attempts from blockers.
Coverage: Limited experience dropping into zone coverage. Can drop and cover a short area but will struggle in man assignments. Likely not be asked to drop often at next level.
Intangibles: Born in Nigeria. Has a reputation as a hard worker.
Durability: Missed one game in 2012 with an undisclosed injury. Missed time with a leg injury in 2011. Suffered a hamstring injury during the Senior Bowl which prevented him from working out at the combine.
Comments: Attaochu doesn’t really have first-round talent in any one area, but he’s extremely solid across the board. His second effort as a pass-rusher is among the best in this class, as he consistently disengages and comes back with a nice burst. His ability to accelerate and generate momentum in tight spaces gives him potential to be a disruptive force in the backfield. He probably fits best in a 3-4 scheme, but has experience playing with his hand on the ground also.
Kyle Van Noy LB BYU #3
Size/Athleticism: Average height and overall size. Certainly not physically imposing on the field, but can hold his own. Extremely short arms which hurts him in certain aspects of the game.
Run Defense: Struggles to shed blocks due to modest strength and short arms which hurt his ability to be violent with him arms and hands and disengage. Patient letting the play develop, but almost to a fault. Seems a little late to react sometimes. Takes smart angles in pursuit which helps make up for modest speed when the play is in front of him, but when he doesn’t see it develop perfectly he gets twisted around and takes some awkward movements which often removes him from the play.
Pass Rush: Very limited ability as a pass-rusher. Moderately effective as bull-rusher, but lacks the elite strength to consistently and efficiently plow his way into the backfield. Short arms hurt his ability to keep offensive linemen from getting into his pads and locking him down. Does a nice job keeping his eye on the quarterback and getting arms up into passing lanes.
Coverage: Does a nice job reading the quarterback in zone coverage but has limited range. Can be a liability in man coverage in certain matchups. Can really only handle man assignments with possession tight ends on shorter routes.
Intangibles: Arrested for DUI as a senior in high school. Was in jeopardy of losing his scholarship to BYU due to school’s honor code, and one month later was against caught with alcohol and arrested for evading polices (charges later dropped). School eventually accepted him anyway and reportedly has stayed out of trouble since.
Durability: Played through a shoulder injury at end of 2013 season.
Comments: Van Noy meets all the basic physical requirements of the position and has been effective throughout his college career. However, he fails to stand out in any one area. He’s limited in terms of his range against the run, he’s too stiff in coverage and he isn’t explosive as a pass-rusher. He shows enough ability in each area to potentially develop into an adequate starter, but his long-term upside is limited.
Ryan Shazier LB Ohio State #2
Size/Athleticism: Lacks ideal size for a linebacker but is well built and strong for his size. Straight-line speed rivals some cornerbacks and overall mobility as a sideline-to-sideline defender ranks among the elite prospects in this class.
Run Defense: Elite range. Can make plays from sideline to sideline. Fast enough to chase down the ball carrier in pursuit. Phenomenal closing speed and can lay a big hit when lines up the ball carrier. Takes great angles, which allows him to make plays just about anywhere on the field. Does a decent job fighting through traffic, but can get caught up sometimes because he lacks the strength to move people out of his way.
Pass Rush: Dangerous on delayed blitzes because of his speed. If he can find a gap in the line, he has the ability to quickly close on the quarterback and flush him from the pocket. Limited in his ability to take on offensive linemen when he can’t win with speed. Can cause problems as a speed-rusher on the edge in certain matchups.
Coverage: Athleticism gives him potential in this area, but he’s still developing in man coverage. Gets lost at times and turns his back on the quarterback too often. When his assignments stay in front of him, he does a nice job staying in his space and reading the quarterback. Much more effective in zone coverage at this stage of his career. Can run with most tight ends and running backs. Lack of size hurts him in certain tight end matchups, and at the next level the elite pass-catching tight ends will be able to box him out in 50/50 situations.
Intangibles: Captain in 2013.
Durability: Slowed by a knee injury in 2011 but did not miss any games.
Comments: Shazier’s lack of size will turn off some coaches and he likely will be removed from some draft boards because he simply doesn’t meet the measurables requirements for certain schemes. But in the right system, he can be an effective three-down linebacker who can impact the game in a variety of ways. His range against the run and in coverage, and his ability to get to the quarterback on blitzes gives him the well-rounded game necessary to play and be effective immediately.
Khalil Mack LB Buffalo #46
Size/Athleticism: Excellent blend of speed and strength. Lacks elite height and length, but more than makes up for it with athleticism.
Run Defense: Elite range. Almost exclusively played off the line in college, giving him plenty of room to operate in space. Was rarely engaged off the snap, so his power and ability to quick shed blocks was not often tested. Extremely weak at the point of attack when engaged off the snap—should not be put outside in the 3-4 scheme in run situations as a result. Impressive speed to make plays in pursuit. Displayed patience and an understanding of his assignment against the read option.
Pass Rush: Lines up off the line and does a great job converting speed to power. Played with his hand on the ground in certain sets, but often from a wide-nine position which still gave him room to build momentum. Delivers a nasty initial punch to linemen in a deep set, frequently knocking them on their heels. The better linemen he faced, were often able to recover if he didn’t immediately follow up his initial punch with a second move. Once engaged, he struggles to effectively shed the block and continue to pursue. Plays a little out of control sometimes and loses sight of the quarterback/ball carrier. Also got unsuspectingly popped by a lineman coming in for a double team on a few occassions. Uses a spin move, but with inconsistent balance.
Coverage: Looks very fluid dropping in zone coverage. Awareness and ability to read the quarterback are still developing. Very limited experience in man coverage, but has the athleticism to develop in this area.
Intangibles: Suspended for one game in 2012 for getting into a fight with a teammate in the locker room.
Durability: 48 career starts with no known issues.
Comments: Mack has elite potential, but it does somewhat depend on where he lands in the NFL. He projects as an elite strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, where he’ll have plenty of room to operate and will rarely be engaged off the snap—his one significant weakness. Mack’s strength is adequate, but he needs room to move and to build up momentum as pass-rusher and he will struggle to find that consistently if playing outside in a 3-4 scheme. In the 3-4 system, he could shift inside but his limited experience dropping in coverage raises some doubt. 4-3 teams should view him as a elite prospect, worthy of a top-five pick. 3-4 teams will almost certainly still view him as a first rounder, but there he is less of a sure thing in that system.
Anthony Barr LB UCLA #11
Size/Athleticism: Elite athleticism for the position. Played tight end/running back early in his career before switching to defense prior to 2012 season. Closing speed and range are impressive. Moves through traffic fluidly.
Run Defense: Patient and disciplined when containing on the edge. Awareness and ability to spy in the backfield improved in 2013, but is still a work in progress. Doesn’t always pick up the ball carrier and bites on play fakes. Really struggles at the point of attack when he’s engaged off the snap.
Pass Rush: A pure speed-rusher on the edge. Does a nice job lowering his shoulder to slide past linemen on the edge. Elite change of direction ability allows him to throw linemen off balance with subtle fakes when blitzing off the edge when he has room to built momentum. Strength is marginal and he’s easily stood up and thrown off balance when a lineman is able to get set and deliver a solid punch. Not a threat once he’s engaged due to a limited bull-rush ability, but he does do a great job converting speed to power and get walk a lineman back into the pocket if he uses a deep set and builds momentum.
Coverage: Has the potential to develop into a quality zone coverage linebacker, but has limited experience and awareness is below average. Still learning how to keep an eye on the backfield while remaining aware of movement around him. Struggles to read the quarterback and seems to guess a lot.
Intangibles: Made a smooth transition from offense to defense. Coaches praised his work ethic. Made significant stride in terms of fundamentals from 2012 to 2013.
Durability: Missed time due to knee surgery in 2011.
Comments: Barr projects as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 or a strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 system. He has the skill set to be a true three-down linebacker. At this stage of his career, he’s still winning mostly with raw talent but he has made huge strides his terms of his knowledge of the game and technique since switching to defense two years ago. There may be some growing pains early in his career and he may not be guaranteed a starting job in 2014, but his potential is up there with the elite prospects in this class.