Breakdown: Linebackers & Ends For The 3-4

April 13th, 2009

Jim Bates loves to work with his linebackers and needs them to carry the load on defense. USC's Clay Matthews seems like a coach's dream and a true first round talent. NFL Draft guru Justin Pawlowski looks at Matthews and a dozen linebackers and ends in today's breakdown.

Joe is in awe of NFL Draft guru Justin Pawlowski.

If there is a more informed, hard working and football savvy NFL Draft expert on the planet, Joe would be very surprised.

Today, Justin analyzes for you linebackers and defensive ends suited for the 3-4 defense.

Pawlowski, a former Division I lineman, looks at the pros and cons of these guys, and their potential impact on the Bucs’ roster, as well as who they compare to in the NFL.

Beautiful stuff you can’t find anywhere else. 

Enjoy. (Justin will release the 4-3 linebackers and defensive ends later this week)
Outside Linebackers:

Brian Orapko – DE/OLB – Texas
6’3’’ – 263 lbs – 4.70
1st Round

Why I’m taking him: Orakpo is the most prototypical pass rusher in this draft.  He is explosive and quick off the line, but also has phenomenal strength.  Orakpo never slows down and is great in pursuit. He is a very intense and competitive player who can play with his hand in the ground or standing up.

Why I’m staying away: Durability is the major concern with Orakpo as he’s had a few injuries the past couple of seasons. He also was inconsistent at times while at Texas, and sometimes took plays off. With the recent play, or lack there of, by Vernon Gholston, teams might be hesitant to draft another player like that.

Impact on the Bucs roster: The Bucs are in the market for any help along their defensive line. It’s unlikely that Orakpo falls all the way to the 19th pick, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see one of the top 3 defensive ends fall. Orakpo would be a good fit for Jim Bates’ defense which calls for the defensive ends to get up the field.  Orakpo opposite Gaines Adams would give the Bucs a good young duo of defensive ends.

NFL Comparison: DeMarcus Ware:  Like Ware, I see a team that plays a 3-4 defense drafting Orakpo and having him mostly be a pass rusher.  Ware’s main strength coming out of college was rushing the passer and using his athletic ability, and I see Orakpo being the same player.

Everette Brown – DE/OLB – FSU
6’1’’ – 256 lbs – 4.73
1st Round

Why I’m taking him: It might sound like a strange reason to take any player, but I love Brown’s first step.  The first step for a defensive end can be the difference between sacking the quarterback and not being close.  He has excellent quickness and explosiveness off the ball.  Brown can also change direction with the best of them.  He also has a large variety of moves to use to get to the passer.  Brown’s got a burst to close, a very strong work ethic, and has proven to be a leader over his time at FSU.

Why I’m staying away: Well, he isn’t a great fit at outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, and might be a little too small for defensive end in a 4-3 defense.  For a 3-4 defense, Brown wasn’t used in pass coverage, and could have a tough time transitioning to that type of player.  Against the run, Brown could be manhandled by the more massive tackles in the NFL.

Impact on the Bucs roster: I believe Brown could be an excellent pick for the Bucs if still available at 19.  His burst off the ball could immediately help the Bucs get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  His size would concern me a tad, but Brown has played bigger than his frame and gets up the field in a hurry.

NFL Comparison: Dwight Freeney:  I could have also gone with John Abraham here, but the point is that Brown might be undersized, but that doesn’t mean he can’t rush the passer.  His first step is almost as good as either of the players I’ve mentioned.  With that first step, much like Freeney and Abraham, you’re in the backfield before the quarterback has time to set his feet.  That will make the entire defensive line better. 

Aaron Maybin – DE/OLB – Penn St.
6’4’’ – 249 lbs – 4.64
1st Round

Why I’m taking him: Maybin has the tools necessary to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.  He is terrific coming off the edge to rush the passer, but is also very quick, has good agility, and changes direction well helping him in coverage.  I like the fact that he has bulked up from 230 lbs to around 250 lbs and only has 4% body fat.  The sky is the limit on Maybin’s potential.

Why I’m staying away: No one knows how well Maybin will make the transition from end to linebacker in the NFL.  It doesn’t help that other former Penn St. defensive ends haven’t faired too well in the NFL.  Maybin only had one good season at Penn St.  I’m not saying he’s a one-year wonder, but it does concern me enough in drafting him early.  He will definitely need to get stronger.

Impact on the Bucs roster: If available, Maybin should at least be considered by the Bucs.  He was extremely productive in 2008 at Penn St.  He is terrific at getting up the field and rushing the quarterback.  His strength would be my only concern.

NFL Comparison: Jason Taylor:  Like Taylor, Maybin has an incredible physique with only 4% body fat.  I know that doesn’t sound to “hetero” coming from me, but all I can do is dream of me having 4% body fat.  I guess you can say that I’m envious.  Anyways, Maybin is a terrific pass rusher who can play with his hand in the dirt or standing up.

Clay Matthews Jr. – OLB – USC
6’3’’ – 240 lbs – 4.57
1st Round

Why I’m taking him: Football runs in this guy’s family.  His father, Clay, was a hell of a linebacker, and his Uncle, Bruce, is still one of the greatest offensive linemen of all time.  Matthews’ strength is rushing the quarterback, whether as a defensive end or blitzing as a linebacker.  He’s an intense player whose work ethic cannot be compared to many others.  He’s been overshadowed most of his career at USC, but with more experience could be very special.

Why I’m staying away: Matthews is a stiff player who might be a liability in coverage.  Experience is a worry as well.  

Impact on the Bucs roster: It’s hard to not like Matthews.  He’s got the makings of a solid linebacker and starter in the NFL for the next 12 years.  With the Bucs having so many needs and placing an emphasis on linebackers making plays,{+++} I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs gave Matthews a long look.  The addition of Matthews to outside linebacker would allow the Bucs to keep Jermaine Phillips at safety and have Angelo Crowell and Matthews be their outside linebackers.

NFL Comparison: Keith Brooking:  Brooking was a franchise player with the Falcons for a long time before this offseason.  I see a similar career and similar play from Matthews.

Connor Barwin – DE – Cincinnati
6’4’’ – 256 lbs – 4.50
1st – 2nd Round

Why I’m taking him: Barwin will do anything that’s asked of him.  He played tight end for his first 3 years at Cincinnati, but made the move to defensive end his senior season and had 11 sacks.  If he can have 11 sacks in his first season as a defensive end, I wonder how good he can be with more experience.  He’s a lunch pail guy who works hard, is smart, and is a leader.

Why I’m staying away: I view Barwin as a defensive end more than I view him as a tight end.  The problem here is that Barwin needs to work on his technique and does not have a lot of experience playing the position.  He does a poor job against the run, and must get bigger and stronger.

Impact on the Bucs roster: Barwin would have to be viewed as a defensive end for the Bucs.  His 11 sacks in 2008 makes me wonder how much better he can get with experience.  I remember watching him terrorize USF in 2008, and wouldn’t mind seeing him play like that for the Bucs.  I do, however, see much more pressing needs and better fits for the Bucs in the 1st round.

NFL Comparison: Mike Vrabel:  The obvious explanation here is that Barwin plays multiple positions like Vrabel did for the Patriots.  Vrabel has been a solid linebacker for a long time, and I see a similar career for the hard working Barwin.

Larry English – DE/OLB – Northern Illinois
6’2’’ – 255 lbs – 4.74
1st – 2nd Round

Why I’m taking him: English knows one thing…rushing the quarterback.  He’s a physical athlete with an extremely quick burst off the line.  He has good strength and has shown a wide variety of pass rushing moves and the ability to go inside or outside.  English has been the MAC’s MVP 2 consecutive years, and has been extremely productive over his career at Northern Illinois.

Why I’m staying away: English doesn’t have ideal size for a 4-3 defensive end or the coverage skills of an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.  He didn’t have a very good timed 40 yard dash, although that could be deceiving to what kind of player he is.  English does tend to struggle in space as well, which wouldn’t help him as a linebacker.

Impact on the Bucs roster: I know for a fact that the Bucs have shown significant interest in English because English told me so himself.  I believe English would be a great fit for the Bucs, who want their ends getting up the field and wreaking havoc in the backfield.  English would look very nice at the opposite end spot to Gaines Adams.  English also already has a nice repertoire of pass rushing moves, which is much different from when Gaines Adams came out of college as a raw defensive end.

NFL Comparison: John Abraham:  I know that English could find himself playing linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but I feel the best fit for English might be as a speed rusher in a 4-3 defense.  Abraham was always considered to small to play end in a 4-3 defense, but he is just a pure pass rusher.  English is in that same mold.

Clint Sintim – OLB – Virginia
6’3’’ – 256 lbs – 4.78
2nd Round

Why I’m taking him: Sintim is an ideal fit for a 3-4 defense.  He played outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in college and had a lot of success in it.  He is a fantastic pass rusher and blitzer, but also does a nice job of taking on blocks and stopping the run.  Being a four year starter at Virginia, Sintim has a ton of experience, and was a leader on that defense for a few years.

Why I’m staying away: There are many issues that play into the fact that Sintim might struggle in pass coverage.  The first is his poor timed speed.  His hips are also very stiff which might make it tough for him to turn and run with offensive players.  I have concerns that he might not be able to play sideline to sideline.

Impact on the Bucs roster: Sintim is a much better fit for a 3-4 defense than the Bucs 4-3 defense.  If the Bucs were to somehow draft Sintim, I believe him and Crowell would end up being your outside linebackers.  This would not be good news for Adam Heyward, Geno Hayes, and Quincy Black.

NFL Comparison: Keith Bullock:  I’ve never been a huge fan of Bullock’s covering skills, but have always loved his ability to blitz, play the run, and be a leader.  Those are all qualities that Sintim possesses.

Cody Brown – OLB – Virginia
6’2’’ – 244 lbs – 4.6
3rd – 4th Round

Why I’m taking him: Brown is a very productive player who had a lot of game experience at UCONN.  He’s got good speed and a nice burst off the edge.  Unlike other pure pass rushers in this draft, Brown changes direction very well which helps him in pass coverage.  He’s also a tough player who has big potential on special teams. 

Why I’m staying away: Strength is a big issue for Brown, as he will need to get stronger to take on offensive linemen in the NFL.  That lack of strength makes him vulnerable to being dominated by bigger offensive linemen.  Brown is a nice pass rusher, but a liability against the run.

Impact on the Bucs roster: Brown’s not really a great fit for the Bucs at either end or outside linebacker.  He would not be much if any of an upgrade to Quincy Black, Adam Heyward, or Geno Hayes.  If he isn’t an upgrade, why draft him?

NFL Comparison: Shawn Crable:  Brown’s best fit will be in a 3-4 defense for a team who uses multiple linebackers.  Crable found his way to the Patriots even though it seemed as though they had enough linebackers.  Teams like that are always looking for extra pass rushing linebackers, and Brown fits that mold.

Defensive Ends

Tyson Jackson – DE – LSU
6’4’’ – 296 lbs – 4.95
1st Round

 Why I’m taking him: I view Jackson as an ideal fit for a 3-4 defense.  He is big with great strength to be stout at the point of attack.  I can’t ignore the fact that he had 3 years of starting experience in the toughest conference in college football.  He’s a hard worker, a team leader, and does an excellent job of holding his own.

Why I’m staying away: While I said he does a good job of taking on blockers, he does not do a good job of shedding those blockers.  With that being said, he is not a threat when rushing the passer.  He’s also got just marginal timed speed.

Impact on the Bucs roster: Although I like Jackson as a player, I do not feel he’d be a good fit at all for the Bucs. 

NFL Comparison: Marcus Spears:  This seems to be the easy comparison.  Spears came out of LSU a few years back as an ideal fit for an end in a 3-4 defense.  He went on to be the 20th pick in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys. 

Jarron Gilbert – DE/DT – San Jose St.
6’5’’ – 288 lbs – 4.76
1st – 2nd Round

Why I’m taking him: I like Gilbert’s athleticism more than anything else.  He’s extremely quick, has nice balance, and excellent agility.  Gilbert also has an excellent frame with natural strength.  His frame and height will allow him to add weight in the NFL.  He’s still improving as a player and has plenty of upside and potential.

Why I’m staying away: Although Gilbert has good natural strength, he needs to do more work in the weight room to get stronger.  He’s also more of a finesse player, and isn’t that physical.  His technique is very average and he does not do a good job of shedding blocks.

Impact on the Bucs roster: In the Bucs new defense, Gilbert wouldn’t be a very good fit at end or tackle.  His athleticism is intriguing and would’ve been a good fit under Kiffin, but he’s gone.

NFL Comparison: Chris Canty:  Although I believe Canty is much more physical and aggressive than Gilbert, I believe they both have nice frames, both had and have a lot of potential coming out of college, and both are very athletic.

Kyle Moore – DE/DT – USC
6’5’’ – 272 lbs – 4.90
3rd – 4th Round

Why I’m taking him: Moore has very good size, with a nice frame and long arms.  He does an excellent job of shedding blocks and getting to the quarterback.  I’m also taking into account the fact that he played defense at USC.  I know that he will be ready for the NFL.  He can also hold his ground against the run.

Why I’m staying away: He might not be great at any one thing, just average at a bunch of things.  He isn’t an elite pass rusher and is not dominant against the run.  He definitely needs to get stronger.  I’m not so sure how much better of a player Moore can actually be, making his upside very limited.

Impact on the Bucs roster: None of the defensive ends this week are good fits for the Bucs.  They are not fast enough to play end and too small to play tackle.  

NFL Comparison: Jimmy Wilkerson:  I was going to compare Moore to someone else, but I thought a Buccaneer analogy might be better.  I like Wilkerson, and I believe he is sufficient to do a lot of things good enough.  However, he is not elite by any means.  Moore could be similar in that regard.  Moore could be a valuable backup and provide valuable depth, but I wouldn’t expect much more initially.

Comments are closed.