Who says you have to be a 1st round selection to be successful in the NFL? Here are four guys with borderline first round grades who should have a major impact at the next level.
Jeremy Beal OLB, Oklahoma (6’2, 268)
Beal is the most pro-ready 3-4 outside linebacker in this class; period. He’s a true three-down rush linebacker prospect with double-digit sack potential. Oklahoma utilized a hybrid 4-3/3-4 front which gave Beal the experience in both packages. In passing situations, especially on third down, Beal would play with his hand on the ground as an outside edge rusher. On early downs, Beal would play the standup role and showed the ability to contain and make plays against the run. The Oklahoma “tweener” is a tenacious tackler who flies to the football with tremendous speed and agility for a 268-pound lineman. He’s rarely engulfed at the point of attack and his hand technique is matched by few. In 42 career starts, Beal registered 29 sacks and 57.5 TFL. His relentless and tenacious play should earn him a top 20 grade by April. He’s listed 8th overall on my latest big board!
NFL Comparison: LaMarr Woodley, Pittsburgh
Kelvin Sheppard ILB, LSU (6’2, 250)
Turn on an LSU game of the last three seasons and you’ll notice a commonality while watching the defense: Kelvin Sheppard will be around the football. Sheppard, a three year starter, was considered the team leader throughout his junior and senior seasons. At 6’2, 250, Sheppard is a tremendous athlete who has the ability to play in both a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme. The LSU linebacker has legitimate sideline-to-sideline range and his best asset is instincts. False steps are an unusual spectacle when breaking down tape of Sheppard. He has experience at outside and inside linebacker, and he can play both roles at the next level, though he’ll likely stay inside. He currently grades out as an early second round pick; however, I’d use a mid-to-late first if I needed a potential defensive leader.
NFL Comparison: Jerod Mayo, New England
Gabe Carimi OT, Wisconsin (6’7, 315)
The collective concern with Carimi; does he have the feet to handle speed rushers at the next level? We’ll know more after this week when he’s matched-up in one-on-one drills against Ryan Kerrigan and Jeremy Beal. Still, at the very least, if I draft Carimi, I will have a staple at right tackle. Carimi’s strength is matched by few and his long arms and wide frame make him an ideal candidate for any team that utilizes a power running game. While critics knock his foot-speed, there are few who doubt Carimi’s technique as a run blocker AND in pass protection. Carimi, a four year starter, had an excellent senior season, dominating future NFL players Adrian Clayborn and Cam Heyward. If Carimi can prove that he can work with edge rushers, there’s no doubt that his physical attributes are worthy of a mid-first round pick.
NFL Comparison: Bryant McKinnie, Minnesota
Stephen Schilling OG, Michigan (6’4, 302)
It’s hard for interior lineman to stand out on tape… and then there’s Stephen Schilling. Schilling is simply a guard that can do it all. As a four-year starter, Schilling has experience at both guard and tackle. His technique is flawless; he has the feet to dominate in pass protection and the strength to maul in the run game. He’s a natural knee bender and he’s excellent with his hands at the point of attack. He’s rarely pushed off the ball with the bull rush and his kick slide and long arms allow him to keep his man in front of him. Schilling is a technician who grades out as a second round pick only because I wouldn’t select a guard in the first round. He’s my top rated interior lineman in this year’s class—yes, over Mike Pouncey.
NFL Comparison: Logan Mankins, New England
Senior Bowl Preview Notes
- Ryan Kerrigan measured in at 255 lbs. That may rule him out of most 4-3 schemes–and we don’t have tape of him standing up and playing in space. Reminds me of Jerry Hughes who went 32nd overall last season.
- Watch out for Auburn tackle Lee Ziemba. On tape he looks like an NFL tackle, yet he’s only considered a second round pick by most.
- The 2011 tight end class will have little resemblance to the 2010 class. Top senior prospects DJ Williams and Lance Kendricks weighed in at 236 and 240 lbs.
- It will be interesting to see what happens with Von Miller’s stock. He’s a sack artist by trade, athletic and speedy and will certainly run well at the combine. But on tape, his play against the run is suspect.
- All eyes will be on Jake Locker’s week. This will be the tell for whether he’s a top 10 pick or a mid-to-late first rounder.
- The toughest prospect to grade out this week will be Florida safety Ahmad Black. On tape, he plays like the top safety in the class, but there is an obvious size concern at 5’9, 183.
- Keep an eye out in Mobile for Rutgers safety Joe Lefeged. We went to school together at Bullis High School (Potomac, Maryland). He’s a hell of a player. Set a Rutgers record for kickoff return yards in a season.