It always seems that once the season ends we have a certain idea of who the prospects are who will be productive NFL players. However, once the offseason workouts begin we allow time, the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine, and Pro-days to skew exactly what we think about particular prospects or let them get jumped by other “standouts.”
Luke Kuechly is a prime example of this situation. Earlier considered one of the safest picks in the draft, Kuechly has seen his stock drop a little because of the buzz surrounding others. (Poe, Ingram, etc…) The knock on Kuechly seems to be that people assume his stats and production are inflated because of the lack of serious competition. I, however, differ on this, when I watch Kuechly’s tape I see a very instinctive inside linebacker who will be an excellent pro.
In Kuechly’s 3 seasons at Boston College he posted 532 tackles, 35.5 tackles for a loss, and 7 interceptions. Kuechly hasn’t been quiet this offseason either with a very impressive combine that looked like this:
40 Yard Dash- 4.58 sec
Bench Press- 27 Reps
Vertical Jump- 38 inch
Broad Jump- 123 inch
3 Cone Drill- 6.82 sec
20 Yard Shuttle- 4.12 sec
60 Yard Shuttle- 11.43 sec
Not bad for a linebacker whose draft stock has been “inflated.” After I started to do some research, I started looking at a lot of tape of Kuechly and this is what I came up with:
- Excellent Tackler; squares up and uses good technique to ensure the tackle is made
- Very good in coverage; Kuechly is able to shadown TE’s and RB’s. Also he’s instinctive enough to know who’s around him and indentify who the QB is looking for.
- Fast and strong; able to use his feet to string out runners and in pursuit, his strength allows him to shed blocks fairly easily.
- Always seems to be around the plays. Whether he’s making the play or not, he can always be seen around the action.
- Instincive; can break down plays quickly and makes stops at the point of attack.
- Kuechly can overpursue at times, when he does, he can’t seem to stop himself and makes improper tackles that are usually broken.
- Kuechly, though fast, is not a very good pass rusher. He won’t be able to provide teams a consistent threat on the QB and is strictly a run stopping/sideline-sideline tackler.
Overall, Kuechly is an elite potential linebacker and possibly the best linebacker in this draft. I can’t fathom a situation where he drops out of the top 15. Kuechly is a top 10 talent but considering the way teams are looking someone will get a steal with him. Kuechly offers teams a player who can step right in and be a solid contributor. I don’t know that he’s going to be Ray Lewis but he grades out with me better than Sean Lee, who has been an absolute monster as of late. My advice for a fan of the team who drafts Kuechly: Just because he wont be the hyped pick or a sexy pick, you should be pretty excited to get a franchise player.