If you haven't seen my first post in this series, you can find it here where I examine some of our potential LEO targets in this draft class. I was originally planning to examine 3-techs next but decided to hold off because I want to see the sensational underclassman, Michael Brockers, play for LSU in the BCS National Championship on Monday. So instead we'll take a peek at some OLB prospects in this post.
Identifying potential LEO and 3-tech targets was relatively straight forward. LEO prospects should be pass rush specialists in the mold of Chris Clemons and Dexter Davis. The 3-techs I'll highlight are mostly tall and rangy in the mold of Red Bryant and Alan Branch, except with a greater emphasis on penetration and rushing the passer. Identifying OLB prospects we might be interested in was much more challenging.
There is a wide variety of talents we might or might not value highly. The two OLB draft picks made by this regime are Malcolm Smith and KJ Wright. Smith and Wright are two very different OLBs. Smith is a sideline-to-sideline, undersized LB with legitimate 4.4 speed where Wright as a taller, more instinctive LB who moves with a certain smoothness. Further compounding this difficulty identifying targets is the fact that Wright, who is the more established player at this point, could start at either the WILL or SAM position. Yet Pete Carroll also expressed an interest in giving Smith more playing time in his season ending press conference.
One might wonder why we'd even consider a highly rated OLB prospects but there are several factors which suggest to me we almost certainly will. With the exception of Golden Tate, all of our draft picks out of the first three rounds have been asked to start right away. One of the simplest positions for us to continue this trend would be at OLB by letting free agent Leroy Hill walk away. Hill had a nice comeback this year and was excellent defending the run but he will be 30 next season and we were consistently victimized by TEs in 2011, with Hill as a prime target.
The other factor to consider is Pete Carroll (in that same press conference) spoke to our pass rush and team speed on defense as areas for improvement this off-season. That could mean a LEO draft pick. That could mean getting Malcolm Smith on the field more often. But perhaps more than anything this suggests further draft picks at one or several LB positions where two out of our three 2011 starters are currently free agents.
In conclusion, more than identifying potential OLB "targets," I will try to express what some of the highly rated OLB prospects could offer us in terms of speed, pass rush, and better defending against TEs. All that while contributing to an already very good run defense. Perhaps now one can appreciate why an OLB choice in the first three rounds might be warranted. All but one of the prospects below would play WILL for us. Once again I'll be orienting the prospect in the order I think the Seahawk's front office might prioritize them.
Zach Brown (6-2 230) Senior from North Carolina
If Montgomery and Brockers are who I hope we'll pick at 11/12, Brown is who I predict we'll pick if the LSU duo fall through for some reason. Combine Malcolm Smith's 4.4 speed with KJ Wright's smoothness and that's essentially what you got in Zach Brown. He isn't overly physical or a natural pass rusher but he flies to the football and is a very reliable tackler. He's also something of a ball hawk with six interceptions over the past two seasons.
I'd guess that a big reason why team speed on defense is such a priority for Carroll is because too often we proved susceptible to runs and screens on the perimeter this year. If so then Brown would be a huge addition for us.
Rob Stanton is also a fan and projected Brown to the Seahawks with the 14th pick in his December 28 mock draft. In that mock draft Stanton says "Brown has a bit of Lance Briggs in him." High praise indeed. Here is a scouting report. Below you can watch him against Missouri this year and here he is against Louisville. Here is his 2010 TMBDraft analysis.
Bobby Wagner (6-1 232) Senior from Utah State
Wagner is definitely the most complete LB on this list. Ask me about any one attribute and my response will probably be "pretty good." Wagner is a smaller LB but his absurdly long arms and above-average athleticism help him fend off blockers and wrap up ball carriers. With some coaching I think he could develop into a legitimate pass rusher and not just a blitzer. He looks comfortable in coverage and his instincts seem, well, "pretty good."
Such a well rounded a player would be another welcome addition to our LB corps, especially someone with some upside as a pass rusher. Below you can watch him in an impressive performance against Auburn this year and here he is against LA Tech.
Melvin Ingram (6-2 276) RS Senior from South Carolina
Melvin Ingram is the only LB on this list who would play SAM for us. He could also rotate in at DT/DE in passing situations, similar to Anthony HHargrove this year. Ingram isn't slow but he's certainly not fast. What Ingram gives up in speed he makes up for rushing the passer and defending the run. What impresses me most about Ingram is his ability to rip, swim, and especially spin his way past blockers while still retaining an uncanny awareness of where the ball is. It's usually either one or the other but Ingram's ability to do both makes him a real presence in the backfield.
Ingram would make our strong side a black hole to run against (assuming we're able to re-sign Red Bryant) and could provide some much needed pass rush on first and second down. He was rarely asked to drop into coverage in college but he still managed two picks in 2011 due to his uncanny ball awareness and seemingly solid hands. I suspect that he'll be decent in a zone but probably have trouble matching up against TEs in man.
Lavonte David (6-1 225) Senior from Nebraska
To put it simply, Lavonte David is a hunter. It's a lot of fun to watch David play. I can almost hear David Attenborough narrating the hunt as David
stalks his prey anticipates the play and knifes through the wall of full grown adults blockers to tackle the vulnerable infant ball carrier to the ground before feasting on it's flesh. David amassed an unreal 276 kills tackles over his two year career at Savannah University Nebraska.
It's possible that we won't highly consider David because of his undersized similarities to Smith. David offers many of the same attributes as Smith but at a much higher level, especially concerning anticipation and tackling. David is only an inch taller than Smith but he seems longer limbed and thus maybe a little better suited against big TEs. He's not a pure pass rusher but he's very opportunistic as a blitzer,
just as any hunter should be when he smells weakness. He gambled a lot in college and will need to temper that at the next level but overall he's an exciting playmaker.
Here is a scouting report. Below you can watch him against Michigan this year. Here he is against Iowa and here he is against Washington (bummer I know), also from this year. Here is his 2010 TMBDraft analysis.
Keenan Robinson (6-3 235) RS Senior from Texas
I'm a big fan of Keenan Robinson. A lot of teams might shy away from Robinson due to his tall, skinny build but that didn't discourage the Hawks from drafting KJ Wright. Robinson would be Wright's weakside equivalent. He's not quite as strong as Wright but he's a lot quicker and is faster to the sidelines.
I really appreciate Robinson's willingness to take on blockers despite his slight frame. He's not especially stout but can provide an initial pop while using his length and quickness to separate. He's generally tackles well but too often goes for the big hit instead of wrapping up. He's very capable in coverage and will match-up against a modern era TE about as well an LB can be expected to. He also plays with an attitude and really fights for the ball. He was almost never asked to rush the QB at Texas but has an intriguing skill set for it. There may be some untapped potential there.
Here is a scouting report. Below you can see Robinson in the 2010 Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma and here is his 2010 TMBDraft analysis, which starts with the Oklahoma game. Unfortunately I couldn't turn up any film from this season.
Ronnell Lewis (6-2 240) Junior from Oklahoma
Ronnell Lewis would offer the greatest upgrade as a pass rusher from the WILL position on this list and could even see snaps at LEO on passing downs. He played DE and rush LB for the Sooners. Lewis didn't show much by way of pass rush moves but he's strong, has excellent foot speed, and closes extremely quickly. He'll be a great blitzer as a pro. Lewis is also a violent tackler and hits like a ton of bricks and could contribute on special teams.
Ironically, Lewis actually reminds me a lot of a slightly larger and younger version of Leroy Hill. Like Hill, Lewis probably won't offer much in coverage but will be an excellent blitzer and a force against the run. Lewis would probably platoon a lot with Malcolm Smith depending on the situation, which could end up as a nice arrangement for both men.
Below you can watch him against Texas this year and here is a pretty awesome highlight video.
Travis Lewis (6-2 227) RS Senior from Oklahoma
Travis Lewis came into the season with a lot of hype but only had a lukewarm Senior season. Still, there are a lot of qualities to like about Lewis. He is plenty fast and pretty well rounded. Lewis is an excellent coverage LB who changes direction quickly and reads the quarterback's eyes. In run support he's very adept at shooting the gap to bring down the ball carrier near the LOS. He's a sound tackler and can lay a hit if given the opportunity. He is surprisingly tough for his small stature but can be engulfed by larger blockers if they get their hands on him. He's an alright blitzer but won't fight through many blocks if he's picked up.