As a lot of you guys have probably learned over MCM these past couple of weeks, I have shown an excessive amount of love towards one of my favourite player's in this year's NFL Draft: Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska. Now, I understand that LB is not one of our biggest needs going into the draft (I would give that honour to DE, DT, OG/C), however, please hear me out on my reasons as to why we should spend an early round pick drafting one of this year's most underrated prospects.
First and foremost, I have watched as much tape as I was able to find on Lavonte over these past couple of days, and there are three things that stood out on his tape.
Intangibles - During his 2 years at Nebraska, David was well known for being a solid playmaker (case in point: here and at 1:10 of here). In both these videos, we have a view of the game-changing plays that Lavonte David is capable of, but the one thing that I would like to point out in both tapes is his motor and his knack for never giving up on plays. This is highlighted in the first link, where David trips on his path to the WR, but he doesn't let that stop him. He ends up not only stopping the opposing WR, but strips the ball during a key moment of the game. Furthermore, David has the leadership that our Defense badly needs due to the loss of veterans through free agency in the last couple of years (ex. Finnegan, KVB, Bulluck). In almost every single game tape you put on, you can immediately feel David's presence on the defensive side of the ball by his ability to run audibles, make calls and position his teammates in the right position before each play. Another thing I would like to mention is his positive attitude. Every transition period in David's life has been marred by his lack of ability or skills, whether it be his grades (from high school to university) or his size (from Community College to Nebraska and now again from Nebraska to the NFL). However, this hasn't stopped David from trying to reach his goals at every stage of his life, and I believe that even with his lack of size at LB, it won't stop him from being successful in the NFL.
Instincts - Lavonte is well known for racking up immense amount of tackles each game, and after seeing his tape, this is highly credited to his knowledge of the game in deciphering what the other team is running and his ability to quickly react to these plays. It is with these instincts that makes Lavonte a good leader, as he is not only able to read and react quickly, but he is quickly able to set up his teammates in the right position so that they can make a play on the ball. However, I would like to point out one thing in Lavonte's tape. There has been a lot said about the large number of tackles David makes, however, there are a large amounts of these tackles made in the secondary, after the player has gotten the first down. Now, this shouldn't diminish David's skills as a LB, but I would just like to put it out there that you can't base everything on his number of tackles. As a matter of fact, I would like to credit these tackles pursuing the runner in the secondary with David's team-first attitude and his unwillingness to give up on each play.
Pass-Coverage - Now, as everyone knows, the NFL
is shifting towards has shifted towards a passing league, with most of the successful teams in recent years having prolific passing offenses (ex. Patriots, Saints, Colts, Lions) and more and more teams shifting from a focus on their running games to their aerial attacks (ex. Steelers, Falcons, Giants). With this transition period in the NFL has come a greater need for most teams to improve their pass-rush and pass-coverage, which is where David would come in. Lavonte's ability to cover TEs and RBs during pass plays is the best I have seen out of any prospect coming out this year's draft. He can blanket them for a prolonged period of time and his speed and instincts help him in covering ground quickly between him and the receiver. This ability to cover TEs has been missing out of our LBs for years, and with the evolution of the pass catching TEs that have damaged our defenses, I believe that David can single-handedly make an impact in this area of the game.
Now, having said all that, a lot of you guys may be wondering that even with these characteristics and the praise David has received from many analysts, why is he projected as a second round draft pick. Ultimately, it is because of his size. Normally, I don't put a lot of emphasis on the measurables and physical specimen that a player is, even though it may help. However, what people have to realistically understand is that there are some limitations that come along with the size, and the one and only weakness I saw in David's game is his lack of skills to escape from lineman in his pursuit to get to the runner (mainly due to his size). This wasn't present in every game, but there were a significant amount of times in which this was the case. Even with this weakness, I have the utmost confidence that everything else David offers on the table as a football player will triumph over his lack of size and help him in being a solid linebacker in today's game. I hope that the Titans
consider taking David with their 20th pick or trading up from their second round to snatch him, as he is one helluva player who has all the charactersistics, except the size, to be a great defender (natural 4-3 Weakside Linebacker) in the Titans scheme.