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OLB in the 2008 Draft: Round 2

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Posted 04-02-2008 at 11:52 AM by hagan714
Updated 06-12-2008 at 08:18 AM by hagan714

4. Jerod Mayo, Tennessee, 6013, 242, 4.54

Mayo is an outstanding physical specimen. He possesses great speed and agility and shows good strength and explosiveness as well. He has been very productive and made a smooth transition from OLB to ILB in 2007, where his athleticism has served him well. Mayo covers a lot of ground, as evidenced by his high number of tackles ( 140 tackles -- 79 solo). He's explosive off the ball, which makes him an effective blitzer and he's capable as a run stopper and in pass coverage. He's able to stop on a dime, square up, and redirect quickly, not falling prey to the jukes and moves of the ball-carrier. He has good instincts and is a hard hitter. He doesn't miss many opportunities to make tackles. Has terrific range and does a great job in pursuit Mayo is especially comfortable in coverage who is fluid & smooth in coverage. Smart with good awareness and instincts. Physical and plays bigger than he is. Plays aggressively and has a nice motor.

Mayo needs to improve at the point of attack and become better at shedding blockers, a key to success in the NFL. Despite his production, Mayo still shows some inconsistency. He'll make a great play and then get caught out of position on the next one. Undersized and doesn't have either the ideal height or bulk that you look for and will needs to be protected up front. He's not nearly as physical a player as he needs to be on the inside. He also needs to improve at closing down running lanes. He'll also miss tackles when he tries to blow up the ball-carrier with a shoulder instead of wrapping up. Durability may be an issue.

Mayo enjoyed a couple very good seasons for Tennessee. Best fit may be as a middle 'backer in a Cover 2 or he may do better with a return to WLB in a 4-3 scheme where he can utilize his athleticism and ability to read and react. Not a traditional thumper but he will prove awfully attractive to teams that are willing to sacrifice some size for speed.

Mayo also has some injury history, having missed the final 4 games of 2005 with a knee injury and then playing through a knee injury at the end of 2006.



5. Cliff Avril, Purdue, 6030, 251, 4.51, 17, 32, (DE/OLB)

Avril is the next Purdue pass rusher capable of making an impact in the NFL. He has great burst off the snap and because of his strength, hustle and strong hand play, he can be an effective 4-3 defensive end. Avril is a good enough athlete, however, to play in space, and has developed into a cerebral defender potentially capable of making the switch back to outside linebacker. A linebacker turned defensive end turned linebacker had a big senior season in 2007. Too undersized to be any every down defensive end, but he has good upper-body muscle tone, ideal arm length, big hands, tapered thighs and calves, along with the feet, balance and change-of-direction agility to bring better value as a strong-side linebacker. Versatility-has the ability to play up or down. He will generate better production standing up, but even with his hand down, if he gets a dip inside, a slower blocker can't recover. Avril can impact the pocket coming off the edge, using his sudden burst to slip past a lethargic blocker. He also has the agility to bend down the line and cover ground well, showing good urgency closing on the pocket. His best asset is his initial step off the snap, as he is quick to elude, dip his pads and redirect to plays underneath. Takes good angles coming off the edge and shows good vision to locate the quarterback and flush him out of the pocket. Does a nice job of shedding blockers. Has a good feel for reading blocking keys and is usually in proper position, rarely biting on play-action. Is quick to react to the play when he locates the ball and has the short-area quickness to spill inside, getting his hands up to deflect passes at the line of scrimmage. Better performer on the move that can Sifts through trash and has the balance to quickly redirect and close. He has good balance, staying on his feet and bounces up quickly when cut. Capable of getting very good production making plays from the backside, as he seems to work his hands better there in attempts to shed blockers and fall underneath. Has exceptional closing speed vs. plays in front of him and the lateral agility to string plays wide. Gives total effort in his chase and plays with his head up, showing good instincts to find the ball, especially vs. naked bootlegs. Good go-with-the-flow outside run container who can run, slide and move in space to make plays. Has a decent feel for the blitz and with his speed, he can bring the heat, thanks to good change-of-direction skills that make it difficult for slower linemen to block him. Smart player who will have no problem digesting a play book at multiple positions (down lineman/strong-side linebacker/rush end). Hard worker with top intangibles, Productive and made a lot of impact plays..Hails from a program that is known for producing similar types of prospects. Great size to play linebacker.

Undersized defensive end who converted from outside linebacker and is not strong enough to plug the inside rush lanes as a defensive lineman. Is not stout at the point and could be a liability against the run. Can get engulfed by bigger offensive lineman. Much more effective playing in space and on the move. Needs to wrap up and get in front of the opponent better when tackling. Despite his burst off the snap, however, Avril isn't a natural pass rusher. He needs to add some more pass rush moves and keep his hands more active when attempting counter moves. Must refine his pass drop depth and open his hips quicker to come out of his breaks

Avril will most likely play linebacker at the next level, most likely inside 3-4. Some teams have projected Avril as a rush end, but due to his lack of bulk and size, he could shift back to strong-side linebacker. Much like Shaun Phillips, Avril relies on his impressive foot speed and ability to shed blocks on the move to be a constant nuisance in the backfield. Will be more of a seek an destroy type that you can't really drop into coverage. Limited upside.

Cliff Avril played well at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. He registered 2 tackles and looked good against several top tier offensive linemen. Avril's coaches were impressed with his pass rushing moves during drills. If he can impress scouts during the combine, he could easily improve his draft stock.

2/28 Update Cliff Avril was one of several Big Ten prospects to show up at the NFL Combine and show that he was far more athletic than anticipated. Avril ran a 4.51 40 yard dash, which was one of the fastest times by a front seven defender. He managed just 17 reps on the bench press, but Avril showed off his athleticism during the other combine events. Avril has moved up draft boards, and will likely go at the end of round two or the top of round three.
Posted in 2008 NFL Draft
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