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MLB in the 2008 Draft: Round 3

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Posted 04-16-2008 at 09:20 AM by hagan714
Updated 06-12-2008 at 07:11 AM by hagan714

7. Philip Wheeler, Georgia Tech, 6019, 248, 4.66, OLB/ILB

Philip Wheeler will not be the biggest or strongest linebacker of this class. However, despite those concerns, Wheeler has great athleticism. Wheeler is a solid cover man for a linebacker and will be able to match up well with most backs and tight ends in the league. Smooth, natural and a great athlete with loose hips. Wheeler is a strong player who can shed blocks and stuff the run with seeming ease. He has good quickness with a burst to close on the ball. Has sideline-to-sideline range. Terrific instincts. Big hitter and solid tackler. A very good pass rusher and blitzer. Extremely active. Versatile, Durable and experienced. Smart

Wheeler can be a bit too aggressive at times. He also is not always stout at the point of attack. He does have some trouble getting off blocks because of poor hand work.

His versatility will get him a long look from a few teams and he could be a steal for the right team in the third round.

2/28 Update: Philip Wheeler had one of the better overall combines of any linebacker. The numbers across the board were solid and Wheeler should reap the benefits. His strength and speed did not blow anybody away, but his combination of skills and quick feet will get the scouts' attention

8. Ali Highsmith, L.S.U., 5116, 230, 4.70 (MLB/OLB)
Highsmith does the one thing all NFL scouts love -- he finds a way to get to the ball. Also, scouts love his versatility, with him capable of filling any linebacker role. His leadership skills also enhance his value. He's able to go sideline to sideline and is a very solid player in coverage. He shows good hip flip in coverage and has the burst to break on the ball. He shows a good understanding of the offense and knows where he should be. As a tackler, he shows good effort and form, and delivers a surprising pop.Solid blitzer and pass rusher. Real active and has a non-stop motor. Good leader. Excellent special teamer.

His lack of size and straiaght line speed will be a concern, since he has trouble at times getting off blocks. Highsmith is often overpowered by offensive linemen and even fullbacks and tight ends. He will need to get stronger. If they can get into his body, he's washed out of the play too easily. Has trouble taking on and shedding blockers. His best asset, unbounded aggression, can also work against him at times. He needs to be more disciplined. Highsmith sometimes runs himself right out of the play, taking poor angles and leaving his feet to dive at the ballcarrier. He'll also fall for misdirection and play action, counting too heavily on his athleticism to allow him to recover. His reaction to the ball is a little slow. Marginal instincts and he is often late to react.

Most scouts expect him to thrive as a weakside linebacker. Classic weakside prospect who is equally effective against the run as well as in coverage and could excel in the right. Might be best suited for a scheme like the Colts or Bucs employ.

9. Tavares Gooden, Miami (FL), 6013, 234, 4.65

Gooden is your typical Miami linebackers -- a cat-quick defender who is very physical with his hands, using them well to maintain separation from blockers. He has had a respectable, yet unspectacular career at Miami until he shifted to middle linebacker as a senior. Tavares Gooden is a great athlete. Few defenders display the lateral pursuit skills that Gooden has. He is also an explosive tackler who consistently drags ballcarriers to the ground. Face-up tackler who delivers a blow on contact and hits with leverage and good wrap-up technique. He does have the speed to make plays while in downhill pursuit and shows the ability to easily run with tight ends and halfbacks in the short area. Fluid and does a nice job in coverage. Aggressive player who will compete until the whistle.

Gooden will have little problem chasing down the opposition in the NFL laterally. Gooden can close downhill like a rocket, but he is not the most instinctive linebacker. Can be fooled by misdirection. He will need to find more balance between speed and strength if his new team wants him to be able to shed blockers and get into the backfield. Must show better recognition skills, as he does hesitate and look slow trying to locate the ball. He is tight in his hips when having to change direction suddenly. Bit of a liability in pass coverage. He is not much of a pass rusher or blitzer. Makes better plays in space than in tight quarters. Injuries impact his performance and he won't play hurt. He lacks toughness off the field.
Gooden is a quality special teams player in the NFL; he is smart enough and experienced enough to get some quality snaps at linebacker as a rookie as well.

Hampered by an assortment of injuries during his first three seasons with the Hurricanes 2004: Suffered a left shoulder sprain vs. Clemson (11/06) that would limit him to reserve duty in the team's final three games.
2005: Dislocated his left shoulder in the season opener vs. Florida State (9/05) and missed the rest of the season, undergoing surgery on October 3rd.
2006: Suffered a concussion vs. Virginia Tech (11/04), sitting out the Maryland (11/11) and Virginia (11/10) contests.

2/28 Update: Tavares Gooden proved what we all knew heading into the Combine: that he is a great athlete. How teams grade his intangibles and ability to gain strength will probably be the difference between a first and second day selection for Gooden
Posted in 2008 NFL Draft
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