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Inside the War Room: Middle Linebacker Edition

denzelInside the War Room Middle Linebacker Edition

In this week’s Inside the War Room I discuss the top senior middle linebackers, talk about several quick Division II wide receivers, name this week’s player of the week and more.

Top Senior Middle Linebacker

This year’s senior class of middle linebackers has some excellent prospects in Miami’s Denzel Perryman, and Georgia’s Ramik Wislon who could go in the first round of the draft. This group is also one of the deepest positions in the draft and you could see several middle linebackers drafted in the middle rounds of the draft making a significant impact in the NFL.

  1. Denzel Perryman Miami 6-0 242

Perryman is one of the top defensive players in this year’s draft class. Last season he lead the Hurricanes in tackles with 108, and also recorded 5 tackles for loss. Perryman is this week’s Player of the Week as well.

  1. Ramik Wilson Georgia 6-2 232

Wilson is an athletic linebacker, who shows the ability to play sideline to sideline. He has the ability to be a three down player as well leading the SEC in tackles last season with 133, and also showing the ability to drop in coverage or cover backs coming out of the backfield.

  1. Eric Kendricks UCLA 6-0 228

Kendricks has been one of the most productive linebackers in the Pac-12 leading the conference in tackles in 2012 with 150 tackles. He lead the team in tackles last season as well with 106 stops despite missing two games and seeing limited action in other games due to knee and ankle injuries.

  1. Jake Ryan Michigan 6-3 235

Ryan missed the first five games of the 2013 season due to a torn ACL he suffered last spring. However, he still recorded 30 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss in 2013. This year he will be shifting inside to MLB, and with a healthy year should see his numbers significantly improve.

  1. Bryce Hager Baylor 6-2 235

Hager is another player who missed significant time last year. He suffered a groin injury against Kansas State on October 12th which he played with four games, before deciding to give it rest and missing the final four games of the season. He is an extremely smart football player who led the Big 12 in tackles with 124 as a sophomore.

Sleepers

  1.   Zach Vigil Utah State 6-2 232 #12 MLB

Virgil is a physical player who shows the ability to hold up well vs. the run. Last season, he recorded 124 tackles, and 12.5 tackles for loss. He needs to prove he can hold up in coverage in order to earn a fifth round draft grade.

  1.   Ben Heeney Kansas 6-0 230 #13 MLB

Heeney is the top prospect from Kansas, and is one of my favorite prospects in this year’s draft. He is a tough linebacker who led Kansas in tackles with 88 despite missing two games. He is another player who will need to test well to show he has the athletic ability to play in the NFL.

  1.   Michael Taylor Florida 6-0 226 #17 MLB

Taylor is a leader for the Gators both on the field leading the team in tackles last season, and in the locker room.  He lacks great athletic skills, but his strong work ethic should earn him a spot on special teams in the NFL.

The Next John Brown

In the 2014 draft we saw one of the top small school wide receivers come from the Division II ranks in Pittsburgh State’s John Brown who went to the Cardinals in the third round. The skill that made Brown such an impressive player was his outstanding speed clocking a 4.34 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. This year several Division II receivers who hope to follow in Brown’s footsteps and head their name called during the NFL Draft.

The top rated speedster on my board from the Division II ranks is Vernon Johnson from Texas A&M Commerce. Johnson has good size coming in at 6-1 190 pounds, and has impressive 4.38 40-yard dash speed to go with that size. In 2013 he hauled in 70 receptions for 1,350 yards and 13 touchdowns. Johnson’s production and impressive measurable should garner some All-Star game interest where he can prove he has the skills to match up vs. FBS competition.

CHECK OUT VERNON’S HIGHLIGHT HERE 

Another Division II player who should garner NFL interest with his impressive speed is Marquez Clark of Central Oklahoma. Clark was Kansas State’s top recruit coming into the 2012 season, but did not have enough credits to enroll at Kansas State after attending Navarro Junior College. Since he didn’t qualify academically he went to Central Oklahoma where he has been putting up impressive stats ever since.  As a junior he led the team in receptions by 45 catches, and by 865 yards. He also had an outstanding effort on special teams averaging 23.1 yards on kickoff returns, and 18.1 yards on punt returns. If he can have another outstanding year this coming season look for his name to be called on day three of the draft.

The last Division II player who has impressive speed that has a strong possibility of getting drafted this season is Darius Davis of Henderson State. Davis has impressive overall testing numbers recording a 325 pound power clean, 10’5 broad jump, and a 4.31 40-yard dash. He has also produced on the field recording 75 receptions for 1,597 and 16 touchdowns.

Prospect of the Week

Last month the Miami Hurricanes were predicted to win the ACC Coastal division. However, if the Hurricanes are able accomplish this task they will need to significantly improve their defense which ranked 89th in total yards last season averaging 426 yards per game, and 65th in points allowed giving up on average 27 points per game. The player who will have to lead this turnaround is this week’s Prospect of the Week Denzel Perryman.

When scouting Perryman the first thing that stands out is his run stopping ability. Last season, he led the Hurricanes in tackles with 108 tackles, and also had 5 tackles for loss. What makes him such a great run stuffer is his outstanding strength. This summer he posted 435 pound bench press, and broke the 29-year-old squat record for linebackers squatting 605 pounds. Perryman has outstanding football intelligence as well. He very rarely overruns a play and shows outstanding instincts and patience on a consistent bases.  Perryman is a consistent tackles as well who shows good tackling form and he rarely misses a tackle. One other aspect of Perryman’s game that stands out to me is his ability to get off blocks. He shows the ability to use his hands to get off blocks, and his impressive strength helps him in this area as well. I also like the versatility Perryman shows having played both inside and outside linebacker at Miami.

The biggest concern I have with Perryman, and the main reason he earned a 3rd round draft grade by the College Advisory Committee after last season is due to his lack of great height. He is currently listed at 6-0 which would be on the small side for an inside linebacker. While Perryman holds up well in zone coverage I do have some concerns about his ability to be a three down linebacker in the NFL. This is due to a lack of great agility as he seems stiff at times, and he also lacks elite speed running a 4.7 40-yard dash.

If the Hurricanes are able to live up the high expectations they have this season it will be largely due to Perryman having the outstanding season he is capable of having. If he produces like he is capable of producing this season, and can prove to teams he can start in the NFL despite a lack of great speed and size look for him to earn a late first round draft grade.

Ten Football Thoughts

  1. I think the NCAA will be sending the wrong message if it allows Dorial Green-Beckham to play this season. To me it says if you get in trouble at one school go to another school, and you can play right away. This is a something a player can’t do if he does everything correct, but a player who gets in trouble can do.
  2.    I think one area Sean Mannion of Oregon State must improve on is his footwork. He tends to throw off his back foot way too often for my liking, and also overstirides at times. His lack of footwork affects his accuracy, and lead to several interceptions last season. With that being said he is still my number one senior quarterback due to his impressive passing skills including a very strong arm.
  3.    I think a great new home for Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder would be with the Chicago Bears. The Bears don’t have a proven backup quarterback in Jordan Palmer or Jimmy Clausen, and should be in the market for a proven veteran quarterback. Ponder is currently on the third team, and has said he is not happy with his situation in Minnesota so a trade could be a strong possibility for Ponder.
  4.    I think it will be interesting to see the development Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace made this offseason. He spent a portion of the summer working with Tom House on the finer points of quarterback play. I currently have Wallace as the top senior quarterback in the SEC, and I think he could lead Ole Miss to an outstanding season if he does not wear down at the end of the season like he did last season.
  5.    I think this is a very weak senior class of quarterbacks. I only see two players who have the potential to start early in their NFL careers in Sean Mannion, and Bryce Petty. The class then contains several developmental quarterbacks like Braxton Miller, and Bryan Bennett. This year’s quarterback class will definitely be lead by underclassmen like Marcus Mariota most likely being the top quarterback in the 2015 NFL Draft.
  6.    I think the top wide receiver in Division II football season is Trevor Harmon of Shippensburg. While Harmon lacks the great speed you see from the Division II receivers I talked about earlier he has the skills to get a long look in the NFL. He recorded 105 receptions last season, and hauled in a very impressive 22 touchdowns.
  7.    I think an FBS receiver who will impress team’s with his great speed is Miami WR Phillip Dorsett. Dorsett recorded a very impressive 4.21 40-yard dash this summer which is the fastest time in school history. He should be able to make a significant impact as a slot receiver, and kick returner in the NFL.
  8.    I think it is a shame to see David Wilson have his career ended by a neck injury at such a young age. After watching his speech you can tell how important football and his teammates were to him. I truly hope he can find a future in the NFL whether that be as a broadcaster, coach or in some other manner.

9. I think with Devonte Fields joining the Stephen F. Austin football team he automatically becomes the best player in FCS football. I also think he will declare for the draft after this season, and should be a first or second round draft pick.

10. I think it is nice to be back coaching football. The fact I am back in the game will allow me to understand the game more in-depth which will help me evaluate players better.  

Notes

Alabama DT Brandon Ivory has been suspended from the football team. … Miami quarterback Ryan Williams became a father last week. … Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, and Auburn cornerback Jonathon Mincy will not start in the first game of the season due to the fact they were charged with possession of marijuana. … Arizona safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant has decided to leave the Arizona football program. …USC junior TE Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick has been declared academically ineligible. … Wake Forest senior DT Johnny Garcia tore his ACL this week, and will miss the season.  … Washington State QB Connor Halliday has added 10 pounds this season, and is now up to 200 pounds. … Texas RB Joe Bergon will transfer to Texas A&M Commerce. …

Make sure you follow John Blair of Inside the War Room on Twitter @NFLDraftITWR 

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at nfldraftdiamonds@gmail.com

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