Second in a series of articles that will attempt to match the Beane-McDermott positional archetype with the players who may declare for this year’s draft.
Which linebackers in the 2018 NFL Draft are the best fits for “The Process”?
The Archetype: In a recent comment about Matt Milano, Sean McDermott mentions his own history; he played both LB and safety. “Get speed on the field” was his reasoning for playing Milano when Humber was injured. McDermott said Milano has “the look in his eye” when he plays on the boundary at weak-side linebacker. Athleticism is important, too. Luke Kuechly’s best qualities were his tackling ability (top tackler in FBS that year), instincts, and technical acumen. When describing what he liked about Khalil Mack, McDermott first cited “work ethic” and “passion“, so we’ll add those qualities into our archetype. McDermott and LB coach Babich like to ease a rookie in, so he’d have to be a strong special teams player first. McDermott sums it up for us: “The thing that jumps out to me the most is [Milano’s] athleticism….We watched his progression in college, how he moved. Played a little bit of the safety position at one point, outside linebacker. Those are the type of the linebackers we look for in terms of the space players, athletic, who can come in and help on special teams.”
The need at LB is two-fold:
- SLB: Highest Need. Lorenzo Alexander ( 6′ 02″ | Wt: 275) is 34, the SLB. Deon Lacey (6′ 01″ | Wt: 227), a waiver claim from Miami, is a backup, and seems the least-prototypical for the SLB position. We’ll tag this the most-likely-replaceable position.
- MLB: 2nd-Highest Need. Preston Brown (6′ 01″ | Wt: 251) MLB, is age 25. Rookie Tanner Vallejo (6′ 01″ | Wt: 225), from Boise State, is penciled in behind him. He’s light for the prototype and has been relegated to special teams when healthy. This is the second-most-likely replaceable position. Luke Kuechly was 6′ 3″| Wt: 242, for comparison.
- WLB: Lowest Need. Ramon Humber (5′ 11″ | Wt: 232), WLB, is 30 years old, playing his best football. Rookie Matt Milano (6′ 00″ | Wt: 216) is the listed backup there. Milano seems to be doing quite nicely, to the point where Humber could lose his hold on the starting WLB job. We’ll designate Milano as “not likely replaced” for now.
So the need is for one SLB to inherit Zo’s spot, and one MLB to back up Brown. Which draftable linebackers might “Babich McBeane” be talking about?
Cameron Smith, ILB/OLB, USC
6-1, 245, 4.74
Described as a “film rat”, Cameron Smith would make an ideal linebacker in McBeane’s system, at either spot of need. He’s put up an average of 80.5 tackles over his first two USC season because he’s s so instinctive – one of those archetypal qualities we’re looking for. Combine that with his impressive explosion off the ball, and his quick-twitch reactions, and you may have a Buffalo Bill here. Smith uses those athletic traits to be an effective blitzer, as well, making him valuable in Lorenzo’s spot. He’s shown the ability to gain and lose weight, adding to his versatility. With one more year of eligibility left, it’s not a slam-dunk that he’s declaring for the 2018 draft, but this Butkus semifinalist has it all. The Bills have scouted USC, but they have a QB you may have heard of, so you don’t know. Smith has been mocked to the Jets, Raiders, and Titans in the RD2#35-42 range.
Position Fit For Bills: A+