CFF Overview: LB – Something to Work With
Thomas Maney reviews a set of linebackers who showed they have something to offer.
CFF Overview: LB – Something to Work With
Now we finish our overview with several players who are far from complete prospects, but have still have some traits to get excited about.
Denzel Perryman, Miami
An explosive hitter, Perryman had top-notch production last season with 63 defensive stops (ninth-most in the class), more than 90 tackles, and three forced fumbles. That’s a reflection of his ability to find the ball and wade through traffic at the second level, something his defensive line ensured he had to do fairly often. He plays low, maintains leverage in run defense, and displays good burst when given a clear lane to the rusher (Virginia 3Q, 4:52).
Unfortunately, his grades didn’t quite match the production: Perryman’s overall grade, though positive, ranked 55th among this class of off-ball linebackers. In addition, he actually graded negatively in run defense against Power 5 opponents. Athletic limitations in coverage might also push him down draft boards and last season opponents picked on him fairly often with a target every 5.3 snaps in coverage. Nevertheless, there’s still something to work with here, especially if he can find a team with the defensive line able to keep him clean at the second level.
Signature Stat: Perryman was assisted on 10 of his 60 tackles in run defense.
Jake Ryan, Michigan
With one of the highest overall grades in this class, there’s a lot to like about Ryan, especially in run defense. He has the requisite size for the position and is probably one of the better players at stacking linemen at the second level, flashing good strength in doing so. That was evident early in his game against Indiana (1Q, 14:35), when he put the center on the ground. His 14.5% Run Stop Percentage didn’t compare to Paul Dawson’s ridiculous mark, but still ranked in the Top 5 at the position, both among draft-eligible players and overall.
There are still some concerns with Ryan that have him projected as more of a middle round player. For one, he wasn’t quite as good against the best competition Michigan faced, including negative grades against Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Agility could be a question against more athletic NFL players as he had difficulty breaking down in space at times (Ohio State 2Q 0:17), though his 12 missed tackles show that it wasn’t a huge problem. He also occasionally locked onto the RB which led to getting faked by counters and misdirection or crushed by a blockers that he didn’t see coming (Ohio State 1Q 7:01).
Signature Stat: Ryan had at least two defensive stops in every game last season and nine games of five or more stops.
Hayes Pullard, USC
Watching Pullard we see fluid athlete with decent speed to track players underneath (BC 3Q, 10:39) and good positioning in zone coverage (Washington St 1Q, 11:24). While we like his movement skills, he needs to become more physical as a downhill run defender. He’s much more aggressive pursuing outside with a clear shot at the rusher than when playing downhill between the tackles. There were times when he moved in hesitant jump steps and moved away from the line of scrimmage trying to avoid blocks at the second level.
Even with these concerns, Pullard still managed excellent production against the run, grading as one of 15 best linebackers there. That mark is even higher when you include his positive performance in the Senior Bowl, though in terms of overall grade he doesn’t quite stack up to the best players in this class (35th in overall grade).
Signature Stat: Pullard allowed a reception once every 9.3 snaps in coverage. Only four players in this class gave up catches more frequently.
Ramik Wilson, Georgia
Wilson is a player who didn’t grade particularly well last season; his overall grade, while positive, made him the 118th-ranked linebacker in FBS play. However, there were moments where he showed impressive hands to shed blocks at the second level, though he often gave up ground in the process. This was particularly evident in his game against South Carolina early in the season. Several times he found himself facing A.J. Cann (one of the most highly regarded guard prospects this year) at the second level and made good use of his hands to shed and get in on the tackle, including at 11:19 of the first quarter. Wilson was also a very sure tackler, missing just six all season with 40 defensive stops, similar to the numbers of Clemson’s Stephone Anthony.
The downside is that he’s somewhat lacking in power stacking blocks and plays a bit slow, so instincts are a bit of a question at the position. There is a concern that he might lack optimal mobility and change of direction to excel in coverage.
Signature Stat: Wilson’s Combined Tackling Efficiency Rating of 18.0 would rank among the 10 best marks among NFL ILBs.
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