As I wrote a few weeks ago when the Seahawks selected Bobby Wagner with their 2nd round pick, Seattle wanted to get faster in their front seven this year, and choosing Wagner as a follow up to DE Bruce Irvin is a great way to accomplish that. The former Utah State linebacker is 6'0, 241 pounds, and ran the 40 in a blistering 4.46 seconds at his pro day. Wagner is an explosive athlete at the linebacker position, and registered a 39" inch vert, a ridiculous 11' broad jump, he bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times, and ran a 7.09 in the three-cone drill after sitting out the Combine with pneumonia.
Immediately after the selection was made, Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin offered his take on the pick: "I can tell you why they took him. He has a mean streak at the linebacker position. He shows consistent passion when he plays. A John Schneider and Pete Carroll kinda guy."
While I'm sure those character attributes are very important to PCJS - and both Pete and John mentioned Bobby's 'chip on his shoulder' multiple times during the follow up press conference on NFL Draft Day 2, there are also some things about Wagner's technique that also stood out, obviously. Gus Bradley mentioned the other day, "The great thing about Bobby is that we do feel that he can play all three linebacker positions. When we evaluated Bobby, we watched just his block protection, getting off blocks, because that's really important, especially on the inside, and we felt like among the linebackers, he really showed up there. It was a need area for us with the loss of David Hawthorne, we really felt like we needed an inside linebacker type."
Pete Carroll described the pick at the Day 2 presser, noting that, "He's played all across the board. He's played on the edge, he's played inside, and all the positions that we need him to play in. It was an easy evaluation in that regard. He's played so much football, and been a big time producer there. He's 240+ pounds, and he's really fast. He's an explosive athlete. And, he's a natural athlete, moving in space, doing the coverage things that he's gotta do, and he's a good man-to-man cover guy as well. He can do everything."
John Schneider added, "He really has great length, and can play off blocks, and play in space, and his range is ... I mean, don't ever steal anything from him because the guy can run you down. He's all over the place like that."
The first couple times I watched Wagner's tape cutups I didn't really look for that ability to disengage from blocks - I was more focused on watching his diagnostic skills, his tackling, and his range. My evaluation of Wagner is that he can do all of those things well - he wraps up, he moves laterally very well in anticipation of the run, can get back into plays after being initially blocked, and has apparent speed - but on my second pass his ability to disengage from blocks really came to light. He uses his long arms to hold off blockers at the point of attack, then sheds them well with violent hand whips. He keeps his eyes in the backfield - almost approaching blockers like they're a pesky annoyance and not even bothering to look them in the eye. He's slippery for his size, again, something that will come in handy in the middle, and rarely gets completely engaged on a block.
Anyway - another angle to take a look at with regards to Wagner, a player that I expect should be starting Week 1 in the middle, and if not, soon thereafter.
Big thanks as usual to DraftBreakdown for the excellent scouting videos they put together.