LB Player Evals: MIKE LB’s

Image result for joe giles-harris
2019 Browns Mike LB’s of Interest

Unfortunately you won’t find a Player Eval for Devin White here…he is entirely out of reach for us now that we don’t have a 1st Round pick. Some evaluators consider him to have good enough coverage skills to play Sam or Will as well, but I think he’s a Mike only in the NFL. Either way, he’s not our priority to talk about here despite being a helluva player!

I think you might find one of these players below ends up on our list of final Draft picks. While our Mike position is manned by Joe Schobert, he is a pretty limited athlete and he gets his production through elite instincts and anticipation. He has a natural sense for where the play is going and gets to the mesh point before other guys can to make a play. But this is not an ideal situation for the Mike as he plays an important role as field general but also must set the tone in the run game up the middle. Schobert is a technician, not a physically imposing tone-setter. Now, I could be completely wrong about what Steve Wilkes is going to want out of his linebackers on run downs, but you don’t have to be a monster-sized old school plugger to make teams regret trying to run on you up the middle.

Knowing that Wilkes will use may sub-packages on passing downs, which generally brings in guys with more Safety-like skill sets, I believe there is still a need and a role for the Mike where you want that super-stud athlete with excellent range, a physical skill set that brings confidence and big hits in the gaps and of course, the icing on the cake is the guy with elite anticipation, but cause if he’s working off that athletic, physical base and knows where to go before anyone else…you’ve got yourself a Pro Bowler!

Who here might be that guy? Unfortunately Devin White might be the most obvious but also the most unattainable. This is the kind of situation where Dorsey earns his money. Can you find that Devin White skill set in a lower round guy? Just maybe.

GOOD: Coney represents exactly what I hope the Browns want in the middle. He has excellent instincts, massively physical player despite not being a large guy and his play speed is top notch. Brings the boom when he tackles in the box, a truly punishing tackler with good form and knows how to set his feet to bring power to his hits. Good but not great coverage skills but he is a no doubt 3 down player. Not a bad blitzer, can handle the job. He doesn’t have the elite range you might want for the Will position, but he’s close and can make plays against the run on the outside with ease. Not flashy, but boy can this dude play!

BAD: You could nitpick about his speed not being elite, but he is by no means slow. Is he truly multiple? Maybe. Could play some Will if he needed to, but honestly I think with his run stop and shedding ability he’d be a better Sam. He lacks maybe the range and length you’d want in your starting Sam but that also is not where his permanent role will be. He just offers you some flexibility.

BOTTOM LINE: I believe Coney is getting overlooked with the national writers and Draft pundits. He gets very little hype but all he did was produce in college and at a very large FBS school. Check out the TFL’s and Sacks in his stats below. Dude knows how to penetrate the pocket and bring pressure. I love that he’s showing useful production, not just tackles.

His biggest issue besides being undersized is his range is limited to perfectly fit the modern version of the Mike. His lateral quickness and movement skills are not top notch and since his speed is good but not great, that won’t allow him to make up the ground. But I believe that in 2 years he is most definitely an upgrade over Schobert, who lacks Coney’s physicality and stack/shed ability. Most definitely good value in Round 2, excellent value if he still there in the 3rd. Would move up with lightning speed to grab him at the top of the 3rd Round.

Stats Courtesy of Sports-Reference

GOOD: Joe G. is an interesting mid-round prospect coming from that has some things to prove before he can be a starter. He has good size, but not a lot of weight on him for being 6’2″, more a large Safety build. He is aggressive and physical with excellent tackling skills. Can stack and shed blockers pretty well and sifts through the trash at the LOS to find the right gaps to make plays. Very effective blitzer. Key to his success are his excellent diagnose skills which he combines with really strong zone coverage skills in the passing game. Fits the Browns likely schemes really well.

BAD: Joe is not an elite athlete. But his production is undeniable and he finds a way to get things done. His instincts certainly help cover up his lack of movement skills. But it does limit his range and his ability to chase to the edges. His man cover skills will be severely tested by athletic and quick players. Can’t flip his hips smoothly to redirect in coverage, so this will be challenging. Because he lacks good lateral movement he’s either got to come out on passing downs or stay in for zone coverage or to blitz.

BOTTOM LINE: Giles-Harris was on his way to another year of excellent production when an MCL tear derailed his senior year. Very unfortunate, but as long as he checks out this is not a concern. His stats show me a guy who has figured out how to use his anticipation skills and aggressive nature to get into the back field for TFL’s. This is NFL worthy of course. And he managed a few sacks each season so he’s clearly been worked into the passing game at least for blitz packages.

But, in the NFL, he’s going to need to convince teams that he can be valuable on passing downs to justify getting picked higher. He’s going to be in play between the 3rd and 6th Round and some teams will find his limitations too much to take him early. He is going to need development time with good coaching and weight room work of course but will find playing time early on Special Teams and maybe sub package work. Potential for starting by Year 2 if he works hard. Good value in Round 4, excellent value anywhere after that.

Stats Courtesy of Sports-Reference

GOOD: Pretty good size & speed profile. Very athletic, play speed is excellent. Has range for days thanks to special athletic qualities and burner speed for a guy who weighs 240 lbs. Has elite lateral movement skills to jump and cut around blockers like they are furniture. Gets skinny and knows how to make himself slippery in the gaps to get pocket penetration. Play strength is a huge plus and he really lays the wood when he brings his feet. Generally good tackler, with strong hands and arms to keep you wrapped up.

BAD: His biggest challenge is he completely lacks NFL level instincts and anticipation. Just does not see the field well, does not predict play development at the level he needs to. He is a see-the-ball-get-the-ball reactor. This won’t do for an NFL starter.

BOTTOM LINE: Certainly some team will take a chance on Summers simply because of his athletic abilities. He is special for his size. Maybe some coach can help him learn to read his keys better and faster so that he can be a step faster and pick his gaps accurately. He doesn’t lack football IQ, but that is different than predicting play development. His bendy skills certainly have value but you can only unlock that if you solve his processing issues.

Maybe he needs to switch positions to Will or Sam in order to play more man coverage so that he just needs to mirror rather than predict. Could be a liability in Zone which will require him to be able to predict play development, but it’s also possible he can’t follow the ball when he is close to the line with so many bodies in the booth, so sitting back in the shallow flats might help him see better? Either way his production in college was only average, with very little penetration results showing up in his numbers. He did not get better every year, so it appears his mental processing is holding him back. I would wait until Round 6 where he would be good value given his limits as a back up and Special Teamer only.

GOOD: Absolutely incredible athlete. Did not get a Combine invite but played in the East West Shrine Game and really impressed coaches and scouts with his speed, strength and lateral movement. Blew the doors off his Pro Day which backed up what they saw during practice and the Shrine Game. Many teams went back to his regular season tape for another look as he seemed to be overlooked. Seems to process pretty well and puts himself in the right place to make plays. His speed certainly helps in that regard.

BAD: At times has trouble shedding, but generally this is not a huge weakness. He can throw off RBs and TEs who stay in to block but at the next level he will have enormous lineman to deal with. Needs to extend and lock out faster. At times will take poor angles to the ball. This can be improved through coaching and reps. Not sure he has the range for Sam or Will role but his generally excellent speed is the right base to start with if his processing is good enough.

BOTTOM LINE: A really fun kid to root for, Holcomb has seen his national profile finally come to life and will likely be a Day 3 pick now instead of UDFA. His production is decent, lots of tackles, but not a ton of TFL’s or Sacks which suggests he is not getting penetration to disrupt or end running plays before they start. His ability to hit gaps fast before a blocker meets him is evident in his stats. His TFL’s did jump pretty dramatically his Senior season, so it looks like he is improving which is good.

What you can’t teach is athleticism and speed, which Holcomb has in spades, so he’s a good risk especially when you consider his ability to be a Special Teams ace. He seems like a classic Dorsey pick like Avery, who had a fantastic base to work from athletically and decent processing skills but just needs some technique refinement, has to learn to play more under control and work on his footwork. Great value starting in the 6th Round. A steal in the 7th or as an UDFA.

BOTTOM LINE: Lewis is another athletically gifted Mike who also was asked to play Will, Rover and even rushed off the edge at times. Has good speed, is a truly violent hitter when he brings his feet and seems to be very rangy to the sidelines in pursuit. Struggles processing at times and doesn’t enter the box ready for contact. Needs to anticipate what he’s going to do when he gets there when in traffic. College production was just ok, not a regular disruptor, but got a few TFLs and Sacks each season. Great developmental player who can play Special Teams to start getting on the field. 7th Round or UDFA at best, but good value in either scenario.