Intangibles vs. measurables

The usual questions sparked conversations about linebackers on Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The value of a three-down, do-it-all inside linebacker that can play the game the way Carolina's Luke Kuechly does wasn't one of them.

"There's not a linebacker in football that understands the passing game like Luke Kuechly,' NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock assessed. "He's kind of redefining the inside linebacker position."

Kuechly did so throughout the playoffs this past season, as NFL Network host Rich Eisen repeatedly emphasized:

"In the history of national Football League postseason never in a single postseason have we seen a pick-six in back-to-back games by the same guy. With all the legendary, secondary snipers that have come and gone in the National Football League or are still in the league, it was a linebacker who was the first to do it. It was Luke Kuechly this year, picking off Russell Wilson and Carson Palmer in back-to-back playoff games for pick-sixes."

So inside linebacker hasn't gone out of style.

There are fewer absolutes involved in identifying the true difference-making players at inside or outside linebacker.


Take a look at some of the prospects during their time at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine

They are what you thought they were (or are they?): Mayock discussed Georgia's Leonard Floyd in the context of a highly-regarded player that could go either way. "He's one of the biggest conversations in this draft," Mayock said. "I love his athletic ability. I love his ability to get off the edge and get to the quarterback. I get frustrated because he struggles against the run and I feel like against quality (offensive) tackles he gets stuck. I know how fast he is but can he convert that speed to power? If you like him he's going to be a Top 15 pick. If you don't like him it's because he's underpowered and you're worried he'll be the next Barkevious Mingo or Dion Jordan."

Intangibles vs. measurables: Mayock cited Temple's Tyler Matakevich as a prospect who plays better than he performs in drills. "I'm intrigued to see where he gets drafted," Mayock said. "He's not going to test well. When you put a helmet on and instincts take over it's a completely different animal. He had 493 tackles, 40 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, seven interceptions, he'll play special teams. He's one of those guys you give a shot. He's a good football player."

The linebacker-vs.-safety debate: Mayock viewed East Carolina outside linebacker Montese Overton as potentially capable at either position in the NFL, something of a developing trend in recent seasons. "Another one of those safety-linebacker-hybrid types," Mayock said. "They way the NFL is changing you look around the league at Mark Barron and Deone Bucannon and guys that played safety in college and because the NFL has become such a pass-first league there's value in them playing either full-time linebacker or 'dime' linebacker."

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