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?
Shaun Dion Hamilton, ILB/OLB, Alabama
6-0, 232, 4.78
The versatile, speedy, cerebral veteran began this season rehabbing from a torn ACL incurred in the National Championship game. He surely got noticed by the Bills’ last scouting department, as he was lined up next to Reuben Foster. He is calling the defensive signals for the first time this season, which, along with his injury, shallowed out his depth of experience. Shaun Dion had 64 tackles and two INT last year, not as impressive as the others on this list, and he’s on the same pace at this point. He’s been regularly in the RD2A (#50-55) mocks. The Bills haven’t scouted ‘Bama officially yet. The Tide’s two gap 3-4 base scheme may not translate to the Bills’. If they like Hamilton and Evans enough, I anticipate they’ll get credentials for Alabama-LSU Nov 4 and/or Alabama-Auburn on Nov 25.
Position Fit For Bills: B-
— BamaVideo (@BamaVideo_) September 3, 2017
Rashaan Evans, OLB/ILB, Alabama
6-3, 225, 4.77
Evans began his career as an OLB (2 years), then moved inside to ILB last season. He missed time early (groin ) in 2017. See comment above about scheme fit. We’ll know soon enough.
Position Fit For Bills: B