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Part 7, LB: Who is green-dot worthy?
Every dominant defense needs a man in the middle running the show. Nakobe Dean was the heartbeat of Georgia's juggernaut 'D.' Who will lead NFL defenses in 2022 and beyond?
This is the 38th year in which Bob McGinn has written an NFL draft series. Previously, it appeared in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (1985-’91), the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1992-’17), BobMcGinnFootball.com (2018-’19) and The Athletic (2020-’21) … Until 2014, personnel people often were quoted by name. The series reluctantly adopted an all-anonymous format in 2-15 at the request of most scouts … The 12-minute, 50-question Wonderlic test was not administered at the NFL scouting combine this year, perhaps for the first time. Therefore, players generally took the test at spring timing days in 2021 or at pro days in the past two months. The NFL average score is about 19.
The evaluation game for off-the-ball linebackers centers on the basics of football: reaction, tackling, pursuit, man coverage, zone coverage and blitzing.
Perhaps equally vital in a linebacker’s overall package is his capacity to wear the green dot.
Most fans have noticed the green dot affixed to the mid-line on the rear of the helmet. It signifies the defensive player that was chosen to wear an active radio receiver in his helmet to receive the call verbally from the defensive coordinator and then communicate it to his teammates on the field.
Since the NFL allowed a head set for one defensive player in 2008 most of the green dots have been middle linebackers (a second helmet is locked away in the bench area to be used only if the original green dot is injured).
In the last five years, some safeties such as Eric Weddle of the Rams, Derwin James of the Chargers and Jayron Kearse of the Cowboys also have worn the green dot.
The Pro Bowl inside linebackers in each of the last two years epitomized both the mental and physical abilities needed to excel as a green dot.
“You need somebody you can trust to stay on the field for all three downs,” an executive in personnel for an AFC team said. “Direct traffic and get guys lined up. To be able to contribute and handle everything. Not only to clean up mistakes with run fits but also to get everybody aligned when formations are changing and all the shifts. It’s key in this modern day era.”
Eleven linebackers in this draft class received at least one mention from scouts as potential green dots. Nakobe Dean’s name almost always was brought up first.
“Dean would be No. 1 because that’s what he did on their defense,” another AFC personnel director said of the Georgia signal-caller. “He would be the surest bet to do that.”
The 10 other linebackers mentioned in this regard were Devin Lloyd, Damone Clark, Chad Muma, Troy Andersen, Terrel Bernard, Micah McFadden, Mike Rose, D’Marco Jackson, Chance Campbell and Jake Hansen.
“The hardest thing for a scout to find is a three-down linebacker,” said one personnel man. “Everybody’s in nickel 70%. I can find those two-down guys everywhere. But the guy that doesn’t come off the field on third down and can cover, they’re hard to find.”
For scouts and coaches alike, it’s an ongoing struggle finding a green dot with both aptitude and athleticism.
In March 2018, the Giants acquired veteran Alec Ogletree from the Rams. A two-time captain in New York, he started 26 of a possible 32 games over two seasons and had six interceptions. GM Dave Gettleman, however, decided to make Ogletree a salary-cap casualty and instead signed unrestricted free agent Blake Martinez of Green Bay to a three-year, $30.76 million contract ($19M guaranteed).
Martinez had been a 3 ½-year starter, made 595 tackles and wore the green dot. The Packers, however, let him walk even though they had no one to replace him. Martinez was limited athletically, missed too many tackles and was a weakness in coverage.
In New York, Martinez resumed his every-down role but the results basically were the same as they were in Green Bay. In 2021, he suffered a torn ACL in the third game and, in order to return in ’22, accepted a massive paycut.
“The Giants paid Martinez big money,” an NFC evaluator said. “Coaches feel comfortable with those sort of guys even if they don’t have any talent. To do it you’ve got to know it all, to be able to run it and communicate it. Coaches always want somebody who can coach on the field. It could be to the detriment of the team.”
The Packers tried to get by with veteran retread Christian Kirksey and rookie free agent Krys Barnes in 2020 but the position was no better than when Martinez owned it. In June 2021, they signed ex-Cardinal De’Vondre Campbell to a one-year, $2 million contract. Campbell was so effective as an every-down player and green-dot leader that the Packers locked him up in March with a five-year deal totaling $50 million ($15M guaranteed).
The four Pro Bowl green dots the past two years were the Colts’ Darius Leonard and the Bills’ Tremaine Edmunds in the AFC and the 49ers’ Fred Warner and the Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner in the NFC.
The Wonderlic test is one piece of the puzzle that teams use to determine if a linebacker has green-dot ability. Warner scored 32, Leonard had 24 and Edmunds posted 22. Wagner tallied 8 back in 2012 but it’s clear from his superb career that he was a keen student of the game in every way.
Martinez, by the way, scored 27. Carolina’s Luke Kuechly, a seven-time pro Bowl selection in his eight-year career (2012-’19), posted 34.
Seventeen personnel people ranked the group on a 1-2-3-4-5 basis, with a first-place vote worth 5 points, a second-place vote worth 4 points and so on.
Devin Lloyd led with 63 points and six firsts. Following, in order, were Nakobe Dean (49, five), Quay Walker (39, one), Christian Harris (32, one), Damone Clark (24, two), Leo Chenal (16, one), Troy Andersen (14, one), Chad Muma (11), Brandon Smith (three), Channing Tindall (three) and Terrel Bernard (1).
RANKING THE LINEBACKERS
1. DEVIN LLOYD, Utah (6-3, 237, 4.68, 1): Fifth-year senior, four-year starter. “He’s good, not great,” one scout said. “He’s not (Luke) Kuechly. He’s not Sean Lee. He’s a good, solid player.” Didn’t run a very good 40. “I think he played a lot faster and a lot more athletic than he tested,” said a second scout. Finished with 255 tackles (43 for loss), 16 ½ sacks (eight in 2021) and 13 passes defensed. “All those schemes of Pete Carroll, Robert Saleh and Gus Bradley, they love these tall, long-limbed (33-inch arms) linebackers because they think they can disrupt the passing game in their drops,” said a third scout. “He’s a tall, angular guy. Better as a big-play artist than really down to down. He would make a pick or force a fumble or rush in and make a sack. On a down-to-down basis, he wasn’t much for getting off a block and run in and make a tackle. He made a lot of splash plays for an off-the-ball linebacker but maybe wasn’t as consistent as I hoped he would be. I don’t know about him creeping up near the top 10. He’s a first-rounder, but the second half of the first round.” Was recruited as a safety out of Chula Vista, Calif., before moving to LB as a freshman. “He reminded me just body-wise and the movement of Keith Bulluck,” a fourth scout said. “It’s different how they used him on third down because he’s such a natural pass rusher. They even put his hand in the dirt and let him rush. There’s some unique ability and value.” Scored 20 on the Wonderlic. ”Fluid runner struggles when hands get on him,” a fifth scout said. “He’d rather slip blocks than go through them. Plays with good quickness and speed. I wouldn’t take him in the first.”
2. NAKOBE DEAN, Georgia (5-11, 231, no 40, 1-2): Third-year junior, two-year starter with a degree in mechanical engineering. “Smartest guy on the team, and that defense is very, very complicated,” one scout said.
“Put on the tape and all he does is make plays. Not a great three-down player because he’s probably a 4.65 guy, and to take a guy in the first he’s got to be able to play all three downs. Jonathan Vilma is a good comparison. Reminds me of Dat Nguyen.” Was advised not to run the 40, and he didn’t at the combine or pro day. Another scout estimated his speed at 4.68. “He’s probably a 4.65 to 4.75,” a third scout said. “He didn’t have a good pro day. He stumbled and bumbled and fell down at Georgia. He’s like this spiritual ringleader of the Georgia defense. He’s all heart, all head and all that. But when I watched the tape I said, ‘OK, this is a good player, but if you put him up against the smallest linebackers — Dexter Coakley, Ernie Sims, Jonathan Vilma — he’s not as explosive physically as those guys. He’s productive and knows where the ball’s going and can call the defense, but I didn’t see first round at all. He’s going to be a Mike at 5-11, 230? He isn’t Sam Mills, I don’t think.” Finished with 168 tackles (13 ½ for loss), 7 ½ sacks and 10 passes defensed. Two scouts said he wasn’t as good as ex-Bulldog Roquan Smith. “Three-down player with cover skills and a good blitzer,” a fourth scout said. “Has a plan to beat blocks rather than just running into them. First-round talent but he’s not real big. He did not look explosive or twitchy in drills at pro day.” Wonderlic was 24. “I have no reservations,” a fifth scout said. “Plays the game very fast. Instincts are superior. He’s got the ‘it’ factor. My God, he’s got everything you want. That guy’s a supreme leader.” From Horn Lake, Miss.
3. QUAY WALKER, Georgia (6-3 ½, 242, 4.52, 1-2): Played four years on the inside but wasn’t a starter until 2021 when he averaged just 40.7 snaps. “Rotational kind of guy,” one scout said. “Is he a great player? I wouldn’t go that far. If he was there in the second I’d say go ahead and do it. You’re not going to miss on the athlete or the height-weight-speed numbers. If you miss, it would be his instincts. He’s not reactive as an off-the-line player. But once he sees it he can absolutely fly.” Ran fast but his vertical jump (32 inches) and broad jump (10-2) were the poorest of the top 12 linebackers. “I think his instincts suck but the guy can run,” a second scout said. “In the 20’s, guys are going to take a shot on him. Not a green dot. Good kid.” Finished with 139 tackles (11 for loss), five sacks and no forced fumbles. “Physical taking on blocks,” said a third scout. “Needs to have a better blitz plan. Just kind of runs straight-ahead. Reacted better to routes in front of him in zone. Wasn’t sure how instinctive he is or what he’s seeing at times. Flashes a quick trigger but will take false steps or pause to read at times. Played on special teams but didn’t jump off the film. I don’t know if you’d want him as your Mike. He’s the third (best) of the three from Georgia.” Wonderlic of 9. “It’s hard to find those ones that are that big still and can run like that,” a fourth scout said. “He’ll strike you. He’ll be a Mike. He’ll be able to match guys athletically in coverage. Maybe not Year 1 (running the show) but you can get him caught up to speed where he can be functional. I don’t hear anything that says he can’t.” From Cordele, Ga. “I didn’t see much there,” said a fifth scout. “All those other (Georgia) guys go 100 miles an hour and he looks like he’s going about 60. Not a great athlete, not very physical, not very productive. He’s very similar to Lorenzo Carter who came out of there a few years ago. Something’s missing with him.”
4. CHRISTIAN HARRIS, Alabama (6-0 ½, 235, 4.49, 1-2): High-school wide receiver and cornerback moved to LB upon arrival in Tuscaloosa. Third-year junior, three-year starter. “Based on last year, he was the best linebacker in the country,” one scout said. “Based off this year, we’re talking about the fourth guy. In 2020, he was running past Dylan Moses and anybody else at Alabama. He was the first one to the pile. Just terrific production. Explosive. You go there this fall and the Florida game (Sept. 18), you just drop the clicker, drop your head and go, ‘Is this an imposter? Who is this person wearing No. 8?’ He did respond the back half of the year. He ran (fast) at the combine so all the negative things that were said about him went out the window. You could put together an impressive highlight tape and an absolute dud of a lowlight tape.” Scored 14 on the Wonderlic; several scouts questioned whether he’d be a green dot. “He was sort of burdened by it (at Alabama),” said one. “I don’t think he’d want to do it. Maybe he can in the future, but I’d say no.” Finished with 221 tackles (27 for loss), 10 sacks and three forced fumbles. “Very talented athlete,” another scout said. “Has real good man cover skills. That’s probably his best asset. He doesn’t have to think, doesn’t have to look around. ‘You’ve got this guy,’ and he can run and cover them. I don’t think he can play inside (Mike). He has to be outside (will) where’s you’re looking all to the left or all to the right. You’ve got to have instincts to play inside. He’s a hitter, one of those unguided missiles that doesn’t wrap up all the time. LSU (on Nov. 6) was the best game he played.” His broad jump of 11-0 led the top 20 at the position. From Baton Rouge, La.
5. DAMONE CLARK, Louisiana State (6-2 ½, 239, 4.60, 3-7): After backing up Devin White in 2018 and Patrick Queen in ’19, he started in the middle the past two years. “Big, long-armed (33), athletic and fast,” said one scout. “His instincts are a touch off. They were off two years ago and improved since then. Very productive; he was a bright light in a dark room at LSU this past season. As the season sunk he just kept playing and got better. Reluctantly, he could do it (wear the green dot).” At the combine, one of the Cowboys’ team doctors diagnosed him with a herniated cervical disc. On March 24, he underwent a fusion through the front of his neck and won’t play in 2022. “There’s no way he goes first- or second-round now,” the scout said. “He’s going to sink like a rock.” Finished with 249 tackles (23 ½ for loss) and 10 sacks. “He was the No. 1 (linebacker),” said a second scout. “Not as talented as Devin White but he was all over the place. Just makes plays. Explosive as hell. He can cover and blitz. He’s a Pro Bowl linebacker. He’ll stack. Strikes people. They man him up a lot. He was amazing.” Wonderlic was 9. “Good man (cover) on running backs,” said a third scout. “Inconsistent tackler in space more due to technique than skill. Can have delayed reactions at times. Probably can play all three positions but you might be a little hesitant to put him at Mike based on the mental. Very talented. He’ll start.” From Baton Rouge, La. “I guess you could draft him late or sign him as a college free agent and pay him for the year and see how the surgery goes,” a fourth scout said. “Just redshirt him. But a linebacker with a fused neck? I don’t know.”
6. LEO CHENAL, Wisconsin (6-2 ½, 249, 4.62, 3): Two-year starter declared a year early. “If he’s in an old classic 3-4, thump-the-crap-out-of-them scheme, he’ll be fine,” one scout said. “I don’t know about the coverage and the range stuff. He needs to be playing downhill. He’s big and thick. All that muscle is manufactured. It does affect him when he’s going backwards. I think fourth round is his sweet spot.” Executed punishing, well-timed blitzes beautifully in 2021 when he notched eight of his 12 sacks. “Team MVP,” another scout said. “They said he played in the 260s during the season. Tested well. Very competitive. Plays with a high motor. Shows heavy hands to shock and slip blocks. Strong wrap (tackler) and can deliver a blow. Really effective as a blitzer either coming from depth at linebacker or when he’d mug up in an ’A’ gap. Has coverage concerns in zones. Sucked up on play-action. Lack of ball production in coverage (two passes defensed). More of a starting two-down, old-school Mike. He brings blitz ability, but I’d have to see more development in coverage to play on third down. Third or fourth round. I don’t want to say these guys are dinosaurs per se but …” Finished with 181 tackles (26 ½ for loss). “Struggles to change directions in coverage,” a third scout said. “Struggled flipping his hips. I wouldn’t want him in man. He’s right on the fringe of being a starter, but I do think he is.” Posted the highest Wonderlic (34) of the top 30 linebackers. “He could do some things on third down,” a fourth scout said. “But I don’t think he’ll be the guy calling the defense.” From Grantsburg, Wis.
7. CHAD MUMA, Wyoming (6-2 ½, 237, 4.65, 3): As a freshman and sophomore he played behind Logan Wilson, the first pick in the third round in 2020. Now he starts for the Bengals. “Remember Logan Wilson?” one scout said. “This is the same exact thing. This is my kind of linebacker. Full-time player. Backpedals easy. Good blitzer. High football IQ. There’s nothing wrong with the guy.” According to several scouts, he’s an almost immediate green dot. Wonderlic of 29. “He’s a Day 1 starter,” said a second scout. “Everybody’s gonna get (worried) about the Wyoming thing but he proves that you know what, they can play football at Wyoming.” Finished with 267 tackles (19 for loss), 5 ½ sacks and just one forced fumble. “The school will tell you he’s not quite as athletic as Logan Wilson (6-2, 238, 4.60) but they thought he was more physical and a better linebacker,” said a second scout. “He’s a first- and second-down run defender. He’s a little more zone-oriented in pass coverage.” From the Denver suburb of Lone Tree, Colo. “Similar to Alex Anzalone,” said a third scout. “He can see it and close fast to the ball. Quick to diagnose and trigger. At worst, he’s a quality backup who can start.”
8. TROY ANDERSEN, Montana State (6-3 ½, 240, 4.43, 3): Born and raised in Dillon, Mont., where his family are cattle ranchers. Carried 90 times for 515 yards (5.7) as a freshman RB, rushed for 21 touchdowns as the starting QB as a sophomore and started 25 games at LB from 2019-’21 (the ’20 season was cancelled). “This is a fascinating story,” one scout said. “He’s not a take-on guy. He’s a flow guy. He sits and waits and catches, but once he sees where the ball’s going the guy can run. Best in space. He does have tightness in zone drops.” Ran the fastest 40 by a LB. His short shuttle (4.07) and 3-cone (6.77) times were the best, too, indicating rare athletic ability. “He has great testing numbers,” said another scout. “There’s level of competition, but when he was at the Senior Bowl he stuck out. That’s good. He probably could do that (wear the green dot).” Finished with 214 tackles (27 ½ for loss), 10 ½ sacks, 15 passes defensed and no forced fumbles. “He’s no good,” a third scout said. “He’s got tons of stat production but he has no idea how to play. Kind of stands around and when he finally sees it he goes and runs. Straight-line guy. Plays upright. Gets caught up in blocks. Doesn’t change direction well. Doesn’t shed well. Very disappointing.” Wonderlic of 29. “Like him,” said a fourth scout. “He’s got upside. He’s only played the position for a year and a half.”
9. CHANNING TINDALL, Georgia (6-2, 228, 4.50, 3): Played 50 games in four seasons but never had a start. “They rotate their linebackers just like their defensive linemen,” said one scout. “You can feel his speed, not only see it. Going sideline to sideline. Explosive collision tackler. Strikes with force. Uncoils on blocks. Not a real big guy, but plays bigger than he is. He can run vertically with tight ends and backs. Has some special-team value because he played it (all four years). Second round is where he ends up. Mike and will flex.” His 42-inch vertical led the position. “He gets locked on a guy and it’s over,” said a second scout. “When he arrives he is not in a pleasant disposition. His issue is he’s not smart. You just worry about him mentally. Might end up being a one-spot guy.” Finished with 108 tackles (16 for loss) and 12 sacks. His best season was last season. “That dude’s going early because he can run,” a third scout said. “He’s going to be like Bobby Wagner or somebody. You hope and pray it clicks when he gets to the NFL.” Wonderlic was 20. “He worked out crazy like all those Georgia guys did,” said a fourth scout. “They use him to do one thing: run in a straight line. That’s all the guy does. They blitz him straight line. He runs over there in a straight line. They drop him to a spot. He plays hard and can run, but this guy doesn’t have instincts, he’s stiff and he’s small. All those Georgia guys play their ass off. He’d be a late (round) guy for me.” From Columbia, S.C.
10. BRIAN ASAMOAH, Oklahoma (6-0, 225, 4.64, 3-4): Fourth-year junior. “He’s an old Tampa-2 weak-side linebacker that will run and chase,” one scout said. “He can go. Kind of a space guy. Not really a guy that’s going to be calling the shots. I do think he’s smart but he hasn’t been asked to do that. He’s got to be in the right scheme. He’s not a bigger guy so that will be a bit of an issue at the point of attack. He’s like that kid that plays for Washington. Cole Holcomb. He’s in that fourth-fifth range. You find starting linebackers in that range.” Redshirted in 2018, backup in ’19 and started the past two years. “Looked like a safety,” a second scout said. “Loved the way he played. Goes 100 miles an hour. Little bit out of control, but you love the temperament and the speed. But questionable instincts and struggles to take on.” Finished with 178 tackles (13 for loss) and five sacks. “Old-school guy,” a third scout said. “He’s not a stick-your-arms out and skate-down-the-line-of-scrimmage guy. He’s a physical thumper guy. He’s gonna be a nickel backer.” From Columbus, Ohio.
11. TERREL BERNARD, Baylor (6-1, 222, 4.59, 3-4): Regarded by scouts as an ideal green-dot candidate. “He’s better than the Wyoming guy (Muma),” one scout said. “A great kid, and really, really smart (Wonderlic of 30). But he’s little and he had a broken shoulder last year.” That wasn’t the half of it. He also a knee scope, hand surgery and a broken foot during his football years. “He’s tough but not strong,” a second scout said. “He’s extraordinarily smart. Great makeup. He’s a leader. He’s an alpha. But he’s small, and in the NFL they will start running power at you. They’re going to make you go straight down that pipe and take on that 330-pound pulling guard. He’s going to get bounced around. I wish I could say I liked him more. Put it this way: if he succeeds it wouldn’t surprise me. He’s the type of guy that will find a way.” A three-year starter, he finished with 317 tackles (31 ½ for loss) and 16 ½ sacks. Never forced a fumble. Hands (30 ¼) were extremely small. From La Porte, Texas.
12. DARRIAN BEAVERS, Cincinnati (6-3 ½, 243, 4.70, 3-4): Began his career at Connecticut, making 15 tackles as a safety-LB in 2017 and 23 with a team-high four sacks as a DE in ’18. Started as the weak-side LB for the Bearcats from 2019-’21. “His best position is 3-4 inside guy,” one scout said. “He’s big and stout, and for a 3-4 inside guy he moves pretty well. Some people are trying to make him a defensive end but I didn’t see that. He’s a decent pass rusher. He could also play outside in a 3-4.” Finished with 231 tackles (28 ½ for loss) and 14 ½ sacks. “Great kid, very good communicator,” said a second scout. “Sometimes he talks too much. Leader type kid. Not sure where he’s best suited. He’ll make it somehow.” From Cincinnati. “He’s will fit a lot of teams’ needs if they want a big body in the middle of their defense,” a third scout said.
13. BRANDON SMITH, Penn State (6-3 ½, 244, 4.56, 4): Five-star recruit wanted by virtually every top program. “You talk about an underachiever,” one scout said. “He just kind of floats around. He’s a grabber, not a tackler. He’s kind of around the pile but never on it. But he is a real good athlete. A couple times a game you see it. He’ll start chasing somebody and run him down from behind. He just does not play to any of those numbers.” Third-year junior, two-year starter on the outside. “He gets blocked, he’s out of gaps,” a second scout said. “He doesn’t have any gap integrity or discipline. He is a genetic talent but very raw and very young as a linebacker. Somebody’s probably going to take a chance on him in the top 50 but, wow, you better have somebody next to him that can tell him what to do because he looked lost at times. Little bit naïve. He sees himself as Micah Parsons.” Finished with 132 tackles (14 for loss) and two sacks. His arms (34 5/8) and hands (10 ¼) were the largest at the position. Vertical jump of 37 ½. Has a congenital back issue (scoliosis). “You know how people are with backs,” a fourth scout said. From Louisa, Va.
14. MICAH McFADDEN, Indiana (6-1, 238, 4.62, 4): Three-year starter at middle linebacker, two-time captain. “High-motor Mike,” said one scout. “Instinctive and aggressive. Best playing downhill. Struggles in space. Size will be an issue. I like him rushing the passer.” Finished with 216 tackles (37 for loss), 14 sacks and four interceptions. Wonderlic of 28. “Tough player that gives everything he has,” another scout said. “He’ll be a good special-teams player.” Lightly recruited out of Tampa. “He might be a better fit as a 3-4 inside guy if you have guys that are holding up the blockers to free him up,” said a third scout. “He ran the fast time but I didn’t see that (in his play). Really instinctive.”
15. JOJO DOMANN, Nebraska (6-1, 230, 4.63, 4-5): Arrived in 2016, suffered a torn ACL and redshirted in ’17 and played some safety in ’18. Moved from safety to LB in ’19 and started for three seasons. “He’s a backup linebacker who has a chance to start because he’s very smart and can cover,” one scout said. “He’s an off-ball guy. I don’t want him on the ball. I want him in coverage and dropping. I’m bringing him in on sub and third down.” Finished with 209 tackles (25 ½ for loss), 5 ½ sacks, nine forced fumbles and 18 passes defensed. “Undersized and athletic,” a second scout said. “Plays with instincts in coverage. Lacks strength around the line of scrimmage. Can cover in the slot, but I’d be concerned in the run game.” Tore the same ACL twice in 2017. Also underwent shoulder and finger surgery. From Colorado Springs, Colo.
OTHERS: Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State; Mike Rose, Iowa State; Jeremiah Gemmel, North Carolina; D’Marco Jackson, Appalachian State; Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin; Aaron Hansford, Texas A&M; Chance Campbell, Mississippi; Jeremiah Moon, Florida; Zakoby McClain, Auburn; Baylon Spector, Clemson; Josh Ross, Michigan; Nephi Sewell, Utah; Jake Hansen, Illinois.
Malcolm Rodriguez, Oklahoma State: A high-school QB, he started at strong safety as a redshirt freshman in 2018 before starting three years at weak-side LB. Rodriguez (5-11, 236) is short but stout, ran a sizzling 4.52, posted a 39 ½-inch vertical jump and led LBs on the bench press with 36 reps. Looks like a fifth-round pick and special-teams dynamo starting out.
Jake Hansen, Illinois: Will be 24 in June. Forced to redshirt in 2017 after suffering a torn right ACL. Started 35 games from 2018-’21, missing time with shoulder surgery in December 2018, a bulging disc in his back in November 2019 and a torn left ACL in October. Led the nation in forced fumbles with seven in ’19. “Before he was hurt he was a hell of an inside linebacker,” one scout said.
SCOUT TO REMEMBER
Stan West: In 1965,West became the first full-time scout in the history of the Cardinals. He followed the team from St. Louis to Phoenix in 1988 before retiring after the draft in 1991. One colleague remembered him as a jokester. Another colleague said West offered him this advice early in his career: “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.” West (6-2, 235), a native of Enid, Okla., was an All-America lineman at Oklahoma under Bud Wilkinson. In 1950, the Rams drafted him in the first round (No. 12). He was a two-time Pro Bowl guard in a playing career that lasted until 1957. After working in the oil business, West became a member of Norm Van Brocklin’s staff, first coaching in Minnesota from 1961-’63. Following retirement, he lived in Norman, Okla., until his death in 2005. He was 78.
QUOTE TO NOTE
NFL executive in personnel: “This is not a great draft at the top because there are no elite quarterbacks. You can poke holes at whoever is picked in the top 5. It’s a good draft, not a great draft. But with this double senior class because of the COVID repeat there is so much volume. You’ll find players in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. I really believe that. And free agency is going to be super competitive.”