The 2011 NFL Draft is close, and I am cramming. We just got done with an intense look at safeties. We have posted on various offensive linemen. I think now is a good time to talk linebackers, and more specifically weakside linebackers.
Quentin Groves did an admirable job in his first year as a weakside linebacker, but he is not starter material. Travis Goethel got a lot more playing time as the season went on and he recovered from back surgery, but I didn't see enough from Goethel to feel comfortable handing him the job for the foreseeable future. I did see enough to not rule him either, but the dude did have back surgery, which could be problematic for a guy planning to make a career out of turning his body into a wrecking ball.
And that all adds up to a need for an infusion of talent. Ideally the Raiders will land a guy that is a sure tackler, solid in coverage and quick to the run. Pass rushing is not a big concern as the Raiders rarely send there linebackers on blitzes. Jump over to get this party started....
The name I have seen most commonly mentioned is Boston College's Mark Herzlich. So I'll start there. Sons posted earlier on linebackers and I will try to cover everyone discussed in that thread, please mention anoyone else in the comments, or put together a post, and I'll throw him in the closing poll. Also let me know if you have heard of any linebackers the Raiders have brought in for a visit or they worked out. I haven't seen one.
I am sure most of you know the story of Herzlich—it is an inspiring one. He was once considered a first-round talent. Then he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. Herzlich battled and learned he was cancer free in September 29, 2009. He took the field again in 2010 and now he is preparing for the draft.
Herzlich has solid size at 6'4" and 244 pounds. He is far from the fastest linebacker, and he was clocked at the Combine with a 4.92 40. He put up 29 reps on the bench, had a 32.5" vert and a 9'4" broad jump.
The folks at NFL.com give us some scouting insight into his talents:
"Herzlich has the physical tools, work ethic, character and toughness coveted by every NFL franchise. He displayed these traits not only in his triumph over cancer, but as a natural team leader on the field. Is a complete player against the run. Takes on and gets off blockers quickly and chases down plays all over the field. He can run with tight ends and backs, play in zone, and rush the quarterback. Some teams may continue to view his medical history as a red flag. Additionally, he needs a little polish with his tackling and production was down post-comeback as a senior. Still, Herzlich shouldn't last past the first few rounds."
Herzlich capped off his Senior season with an underwhelming performance in the Senior Bowl. Joel Welser of fftoolbox.com:
"The Senior Bowl was not good to Herzlich. He was too often easily blocked by running backs on blitz attempts. On top his of his poor pass rushing, Herzlich was also beat in coverage. Unfortunately, a player who was considered one of the best NFL prospects just a couple years ago has slipped to the second round and is now falling even further."
He is mentioned now as a third to sixth-round player. And while the Senior Bowl highlighted some real risks with this pick he also comes with a tremendous high side.
"That first year back—especially after going through what he went through—he got his feet wet. His best football is going to be next year and in the next two years because of Mark getting that comeback season under his belt when you have to deal with a lot of things physically and mentally.
"He'll have even more confidence and more ability his rookie season."
If Herzlich can battle back to his previous physical form he will be one of the steals of this draft. There is no question that he is going to work hard to get there, and it is hard to imagine an easier guy to root for. His talents are a solid fit for the Raiders, although he may struggle in man coverage. I'll let the National Football Post and then Herzlich himself take us out.
"Does a nice job quickly getting out of his breaks and cleanly closing on the football in zone. Now, lacks an elite initial burst when asked to click and close on the throw and isn't a guy who can consistently make plays in man....
"Now, isn't the most nimble of athletes and will struggle to break down on shifty ball carriers in space, but uses his length well and simply finds a way to get his man on the ground. Does a nice job when asked to set the edge and anchor on perimeter runs. However, he isn't a real consistent stack and shed guy. Doesn't possess a great punch/pop on contact when trying to shed and can be sealed at times from the play."
There are more vids of Herzlich with traditional camera angles, but this is pretty cool.