+Known as a high character guy and leader
+Solid instincts against the run
-Poor in zone coverage
-Mediocre in man coverage
-Can’t shed blocks
-Poor instincts in coverage
-Lacks strength and power
-Not aggressive enough to be a playmaker against the run (1.5 TFL’s against the run in 2012)
Penn State outside linebacker Michael Mauti is one of the more overrated prospects of this draft. I have nothing but respect for him for his leadership ability and dedication to Penn State football, but, in spite of that, I struggle to take him seriously as an NFL prospect. I see lots of flaws in his game.
First of all, I need to get something off my chest; much of the teachings of supposed NFL draft gurus on the web aren’t credible (Kiper isn’t terrible, most of the others are). A lot of them don’t really watch much film. Case and point: Mauti. I find it hilarious that both ESPN’s Todd McShay’s player rankings as well as those on nfldraftscout.com (the latter affiliated with CBS, admittedly my reference for 40 yard dash times) have Mauti listed as an inside linebacker prospect. Mauti is an outside linebacker. That is not my OPINION of what position I believe Mauti should play in the NFL. That’s a FACT. If you have actually watched Penn State game film, then you would know Mauti plays outside linebacker for Penn State (usually, but not always, on the strongside). Glenn Carson is the middle linebacker, while Gerald Hodges is the other outside linebacker. Apparently, these analysts assumed he was an inside linebacker because he switched from outside to inside linebacker at the start of 2011, playing 4 games before blowing out his knee, before moving back to outside linebacker at the start of 2012. Some people will try to defend these “experts” by saying Mauti’s best position is inside linebacker. Well, considering he had 95 tackles in 11 games at outside linebacker this season (8.6 per game) compared to 21 in 4 games last year (5.25 per game), not too mention, no sacks as an inside linebacker, that’s a tough argument to make. Also; he’s played outside linebacker in 35 out of 39 career games. Needless to say, he is a bit more experienced at outside linebacker, as well as more productive.
While I’m on the subject of credibility, I’d like to establish my own. I know it’s tough for people to take me seriously as a 16 year old sportswriter. I get that. That being said, unlike many other “gurus,” I do my homework when it comes to scouting (and school). I read coaching books during the off-season and I see hundreds of college football games per year. Want proof? These are my scouting notes. That’s undeniable proof that I do my research. So tell me who is more credible: the 30 year old college graduate who doesn’t actually watch much film or research players, or the 16 year old kid who makes sure he knows exactly what he is talking about. If you prefer the former, then you can go ahead and leave this webpage. If you prefer the latter, then please continue to read this scouting report and many others.
But, onto the scouting report. Mauti has solid measurables. He has average height for an outside linebacker at 6’2, mediocre bulk at 235lbs, and respectable speed with a 4.64 40 yard dash. Those measurables scream 4-3 weakside linebacker, since he is fast enough to hold his own in man coverage against a majority of the running backs in the NFL.
Mauti has a ton of durability concerns. But I’m going to let my readers in on a little secret; I am NOT a doctor. I am by no means a credible source as to what kind of long term problems his injury issues will have. All I know is that he suffered his third season ending knee injury last week and has missed other games due to head, knee, and shoulder injuries. But I’m not by any means going to question an NFL team’s evaluation of a player’s durability issues. NFL teams for one, have much more detailed descriptions of the injuries, and, two, have team doctors that can analyze an injury’s long term impact. I am not a doctor. I will let his injury issues affect my opinion of him no more or less than other scouts. I’ll just take there word for it. Because who am I to say that I know more?
Mauti is average against the run. He has respectable range and decent instincts, but he really needs to be a lot more aggressive in pursuit of the ball (95 tackles, but only 4 TFL’s, and that includes his 2.5 sacks, so 1.5 TFL’s on run plays). He can’t get off a block to save his life, and he really needs to learn how to use his hands better, but he has decent flexibility, he’s very disciplined (too disciplined) in pursuit of the ball, he plays hard, he takes respectable angles to the ball, he has good body control and he can make some tackles in traffic. However, he also has below average strength.
Mauti is a mediocre tackler in spite of his intensity and seemingly sound technique. At first, I was pretty confused as to why he could seemingly hit a guy pretty hard but he wouldn’t fall down. Then I got to thinking about something I learned in physics. I noticed Mauti has a bit of a tendency to hit ball carriers in a grey area, that being, near the belly button, that pretty much gets no torque. More torque=better chance of making a tackle, and, by hitting players near their center of gravity, Mauti doesn’t get a lot of torque. Torque is the product of a force applied to an object and the distance force was applied from it’s center of gravity (or axis of rotation). If the distance is smaller, you get less torque. That’s why you can’t open a door by pushing it’s hinges, and the closer your hands are to the hinges of a door, the harder it is to open. Well, the human’s center of gravity is the belly button. If a force is applied close to the belly button, then the best case scenario is that the human is pushed back. If you are neither tackling low nor high, you’ll have to deliver an amazing hit to get the ball carrier to fall down. Mauti sort of falls in that grey area. His arms are too short and he doesn’t have enough upper body strength to be consistent when wrapping up around the shoulders, but he, like most linebackers, never tries to take a guy out by diving at his legs. So he will miss tackles. But, believe it or not, he is definitely a passable tackler, because he plays hard and gets solid momentum into the tackle, and he also can make some tackles in traffic. Still, you don’t like to see linebackers miss any tackles or yield any yards after contact, and Mauti isn’t perfect in this area.
Mauti is a work in progress against the pass. He has a lot of improving to do in this area. First of all, he is and always will be a mediocre pass rusher (so putting him in a 4-3 weakside rush linebacker Von Miller role isn’t an option), since his athleticism, although good, isn’t elite, and he lacks the length to dominate with pass rush moves. He also is very ineffective as a QB spy. So how is he in coverage? Bad. Very bad. Against screens, he is not aggressive and instinctive enough to get into the backfield and breakup passes, yet he also has no viable method of shedding blocks, so he is mediocre at best defending screens. In man coverage, he has problems, but there is hope. Although his lack of height and length limits him against tight ends, he does, in theory have the potential to be at least adequate in man coverage against running backs. He’s a good enough athlete to stay with most running backs and he has good ball skills. However, his instincts in man coverage need a lot of work. The biggest problem is that he can’t read the eyes of opposing wide receivers. In man coverage, you usually have to play with your back to the football, and it really helps if you can read the eyes of wide receivers so you can see them look up and immediately know the ball is in the air. Mauti can’t do this at all. The minute he has to turn his back to the quarterback, he’s hopeless.
In zone, it doesn’t get much better. The one thing Mauti does fairly well in zone coverage is read the quarterback’s eyes. By reading the quarterback’s eyes, he usually has a pretty good idea where the ball is going to be targeted from a horizontal perspective. However, reading the quarterback’s eyes isn’t going to tell Mauti how far the quarterback will throw. Just the direction. And Mauti has absolutely no sense of the depth of wide receivers downfield. It may be a result of poor peripheral vision (I’m just speculating), but, until he learns how to read the eyes of opposing quarterbacks AND gains at least some sense of the position of receivers on the field, he has no chance of success in zone coverage. It’s a pretty big flaw.
In the end, I don’t like Mauti. Although I have nothing but respect for him as person due to his leadership ability and loyalty to Penn State in a time of crisis, I just really don’t like him as a football player. He just isn’t very good. And, as an amateur scout, that’s the only thing I care about.
NFL Comparison: Ross Homan
Grade: 40 (worthy of late 6th to early 7th round pick)
Projection: 65 (will be a mid 4th round pick)