Missing Links; Linebacker

Making a case for the team to add Linebackers in the draft

After a 9-7 season in their new city of Los Angeles the chargers didn’t seem to have many weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball. The most consistent weakness this unit had was that it was pretty evident that they were getting gashed by the run game up the middle. Well at least that was the case while Denzel Perryman wasn’t on the field. When Denzel was healthy the defense was visibly much more dominate. With the exception of Joey Bosa , Denzel might be my favorite defender on this team. His hard hitting presence makes the world of difference. With that being said , Perryman could use a reliable running mate. Most fans will be clamering for a defensive tackle and while that makes sense, so does adding to the linebacker position. The tackle position is relatively deep this year, so the opportunity to wait on taking one is more reasonable.

Jatavious Brown is good however I see him more as a coverage linebacker. Think more of the role Adrian Phillips had this year. I don’t see the Chargers moving forward into next year with Philips in the same role next year, possibly not even on the roster. He was serviceable, but hardly a long term answer. I would like to see the team start using brown more in this role.  On the other side was Kyle Emanuel. Where Emanuel fits in moving forward is hard to tell, assuming they add another linebacker. He was a natural defensive end switched to linebacker in the NFL due to lack of pro size for the end position. During the beginning of the year he was burned in coverage to many times to count. This is what lead to the afar mentioned Adrian Philips earned his coverage linebacker role to begin with. Later in the year Kyle Emanuel was used as an edge setter. Sadly enough that seems to be his best trait. Lockup the edge blocker weather he be a tight end or tackle and free someone else up to make the play. It’s a possibility he just needs more time to adjust seeing as how he had to learn to be a stand up rush linebacker to 4-3 outside linebacker, but who knows. Korey Toomer displayed a completely inconsistent season. Looking completely incompetent and moments and looking like a potential starter during others. Hayes Pullard was also inconsistent; however both he and Toomer are probably more talented for the position than Emanuel. Simply put there are too many backups at the position being asked to do too much? A linebacker needs to be added threw the draft.

Four candidate’s standout if they decide to take a linebacker in the first round. First is Roquon Smith from Georgia. Smith is a butkus award winner, handed out to the best linebacker in the country. While he is absolutely a top 10 player, how high he goes will hinge on if other teams value the other linebackers more or less. His national championship performance was spectacular despite his team losing. Smith is tremendous in stopping the run and possesses good power behind his hits. While he isn’t great in pass coverage he is still reliable. With nfl coaching he could get better in this area. He is deceptively fast ( 4.5 40 yard dash), so much so that he is drawing comparisons to Dion Jones who is a 2 year veteran for the Atlanta Falcons and who happens to be a great coverage linebacker. Interesting note is that Jones didn’t get picked until the tail part the second round. Whether or not this is because the NFL saw him as to much of a “hybrid” linebacker or because the position is being devalued is unclear as 75% of the time I can’t understand these pro scouts logic. Smith is probably the better run stuffer but not as polished in pass coverage.

 

The second candidate is Rashaan Evans from Alabama. The early consensus on Evans draft stock is he will be a 2nd or 3rd round pick. I myself find that really hard to believe as he has proven to be a well-rounded prospect. He knows he has much to prove as some say he is over hyped do to the fact he is an Alabama product. He has accepted a invite to the senior bowl because he himself is also aware of this. Like many in years before him the attention and draft stock can either soar or plummet. My feeling is that he will end up going mid to late first round. Now as we near closer to the draft and the combine has concluded the experts are agreeing with projections a bit more. He did not run the 40 yard dash at the combine wich is a bit concerning. With a strong championship performance he already solidified his value regardless in my opinion. Evans is a very polished blitzer and has the speed to create havoc in zone coverage. I like Evans a lot due to his draft value at pick #17. Pairing a talent like Evans with Perryman could make this defense be absolutely elite.

Malik Jefferson from Texas would be my next choice. A great blitzing linebacker at times but other times has trouble shedding blocks. Some have said he has a lack of love for the game but I wouldn’t know how true that is myself. Yet coming from a highly talented, yet underperforming squad I wouldn’t doubt it. He tries to work around blockers to often rather than fight through or around them, which could be troublesome for the NFL. He has enough closing speed to where I think if put in the right system can be a very good run defender. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has higher value than deserved based on his combine numbers. Year after year somebody gets over valued based on 40 time or vertical leap measurement. His 4.5 40 yard dash and 36 inch vertical prove this kid has great athletic ability. My guess would be that he will wind up a better pro than collage player as there seems to be something wrong at Texas university and the enthusiasm is just not with that program. Leadership in the NFL locker room could change that. While technically it’s a roll of the dice since you never want a player without passion, he could be a great value pick in 2nd round.

 

Tremaine Edmunds is the fourth that im mentioning however could very well end up being the best linebacker in this class. Measuring in at 6’5’’ 250 ponds, Edmunds is a bigger bodied guy for a linebacker and getting a lot of comparisons to Brian Urlacher. I’m not usually ones for player comps  since they get over played. I only like to use them if the two players have similar style and or tendencies. However in this particular case I feel fairly confident that Edmunds is much like Benardrick Mckinney out of Mississippi state, currently with the Houston Texans. Not only do the 2 player share similar measurement’s and body types but also seem to have similar styles of play. Always seems to be penetrating the line of scrimmage allowing him to blitz from anywhere on the line, inside games, far outside rusher…..it doesn’t matter. On early downs is also very capable run stuffer. Guys like this add grit and size to a defensive unit. Not sure how the pass coverage is outside of covering the flat’s he is, however I wouldn’t ask much more than that anyways.

 

 

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