2015 NFL Draft Rankings: 3-4 OLB
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6.) Eli Harold, Virginia (6’4 | 250 | 4.73)
Scouting report – Underrated pass rusher with an explosive first step, the lean to get almost parallel to the ground coming off the edge, and a surprisingly strong punch for his thin frame. Harold also has a great motor, the closing speed to chase down any QB, quick change-of-direction skills, and the potential to consistently set the edge vs the run. His only weakspots are a frame that could be maxed out and occasional struggles shedding blocks from elite tackles. Harold is a high-upside 3-4 OLB prospect with a solid first round grade. If he slips to the 2nd round, some team will get a steal.
Draft grade: 1st round
7.) Danielle Hunter, LSU (6’5 | 252 | 4.57)
Scouting report – Disappointing sack numbers the last two seasons, but they don’t accurately reflect Hunter’s contributions to the defense. He draws a lot of comparisons to the man he replaced in the Tigers defensive scheme, Barkevious Mingo. Hunter hasn’t gotten to the QB often, but has provided plenty of pressure, he plays the run well, and has a knack for deflecting passes. He also has a ripped frame that looks like it could add weight which increases his potential. I’ve heard Hunter mentioned as high as the 2nd round, but I think his lack of productivity could drop him to the 3rd.
Draft grade: 2nd-3rd round
8.) Lorenzo Mauldin, Lousiville (6’4 | 244 | 4.84)
Scouting report – Former DE who had 9.5 sacks as a junior, but switched to a 3-4 OLB this year and showed potential with a 6.5 sack, 13 TFL season. Mauldin may be too thin to play DE in the pros, but unfortunately his slow 40-time and stiff performance in the drills will have teams questioning whether he can play OLB in the league. Right now he’s a tweener, but some team will take a chance on him because he possesses a potent combination of quickness off the line, strength, hand play, pass rush moves, and the ability to change direction on a dime. Mauldin should be able to have an impact early in his NFL career as a pass rush specialist at least. He still needs a lot of work in coverage and needs to improve his run awareness as well. He’s a bit of a one dimensional player right now, but pass rushers are always in high demand and Mauldin has the potential to be a good one.
Draft grade: 3rd round
9.) Davis Tull, Chattanoga (6’2 | 246 | 4.59):
Scouting report – Turned some heads at the combine with the best vertical from a linebacker since 2006 (42.5″), the 2nd best broad jump of this year’s LB group (11″), and a top five performance in the bench press (25 reps). Hull dominated the Southern Conference for 4 years in college and had a big game in his toughest match-up last year against Tennessee (1 sack, 2 TFLs). He will be transitioning to 3-4 OLB from DE, but proved at the combine that he has the athleticism to make the move. Tull is one of my favorite small school sleepers and with a good showing in the 40 at his pro day could lock up draft spot on day 2.
Draft grade: 3rd-4th round
10.) Zach Hodges, Harvard (6’2 | 250 | 4.74)
Scouting report – Showed NFL speed and athleticism at the combine which is important for a kid from the Ivy league. His 4.68 40-time was faster than expected and should boost his stock, but Hodges still needs to get stronger to beat NFL tackles. Hodges has an NFL burst off the ball, good acceleration off the edge and a non-stop motor. Not surprisingly, Hodges is a smart player with a knack for finding rush lanes and good football awareness. Worst case, Hodges should be an effective pass rush specialist but if he gets stronger could ultimately be a 3-down OLB.
Draft grade: 4th round
11.) Xzavier Dickson, Alabama (6’3 | 260 | 4.74)
Scouting report – Played in both even and odd man fronts at Alabama so has experience as both a DE and OLB. Dickson could theoretically play either at the next level, but I think his weakness against the run will limit him to OLB in a 3-4 scheme. He has plenty of talent, but his play on the field didn’t show it until the 2nd half of last season when he played the best football of his career and tallied 9 sacks in a part-time role. Dickson has a quick first step, long arms, has shown a good lean around the edge, has enough power to bull rush OTs, impressive change of direction ability, and a few raw but effective pass rush moves. All the tools are there for Dickson to become a starter in the NFL, but he wasn’t as productive as he should have been over the course of his career and his effort-level wasn’t ideal. Dickson also struggled to set the edge against the run and wasn’t asked to cover anyone in the passing game. There are a lot of questions marks, but the talent is there for Dickson to be an impact player if he can find some consistency in his game and motor. The fact that he had 9 sacks last year as a part-time player gives a glimpse of what he is capable off.
Draft grade: 4th-5th round
12.) Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma (6’4 | 252 | 4.82)
Scouting report – Raw edge rusher who is more of an athlete than a football player. The Sooners have moved Grissom all over the field trying to find a position that best utilizes his elite athleticism. Grissom has flashed potential at OLB showing some natural pass rush ability and innate timing on pass deflections, but still makes too many bad reads and really struggles in coverage. He should be able to have an impact on special teams right away and has the tools to become a dangerous OLB with some coaching.
Draft grade: 4th-5th round