2015 February : Packers Insider

Could Randall Cobb become too pricey for Packers?

February 28, 2015 by  
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From the Pistol, Pete Dougherty, Green Bay Press-Gazette

~The reports on upcoming free agency are trickling in and suggesting the Green Bay Packers could have a problem re-signing Randall Cobb.

Bill Williamson of ESPN.com says the Oakland Raiders, with salary-cap room galore, are expected to make a run at the 24-year-old receiver who will hit the free agent market in about two weeks.

The Raiders have been happy to take guys from the Packers recently, from CJ Wilson to Charles Woodson to James Jones.

James Jones was not offered a contract last year by the Packers, and instead accepted an offer from former Packer front office man Reggie McKenzie with the Raiders.

Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reported the Packers think that Cobb’s market could get “out of hand” and are prepared to move on if that’s the case.

Such difficulties would be a surprise and could drastically alter the Packers’ plans for March and April, because going into the offseason Cobb appeared to be their highest priority to re-sign. His departure would move receiver to or near the top of the draft needs list. It also would improve the chances the Packers would re-sign right tackle Bryan Bulaga.

But it’s not a given Cobb’s market will blow up. And regardless, general manager Ted Thompson will have the cap room and cash to re-sign Cobb and Bulaga, several other of his own free agents and a player or two from another team as well. That’s if he chooses, though, because Thompson also places a premium on maintaining the team’s salary hierarchy and sticking with his assigned value to players when deciding how far to go in negotiations.

Last week the NFLPA projected this year’s salary cap to be at least $143 million, so we now know how much cap room Thompson has to work with this offseason. After cutting A.J. Hawk on Wednesday, the Packers have about $32 million in cap room, according to data obtained from sources with access to NFL salary information. According to OverTheCap.com, that puts the Packers at Nos. 7 or 8 for most cap room in the league.

They also have 11 unrestricted free agents and three restricted free agents, plus their 2015 draft class, and any players they might sign from other teams when free agency opens in March. Yes, Thompson is a good bet to dip into free agency this year, at least for a mid- to low-level inside linebacker to compete for a starting job with the player or players he drafts at that position.

Thompson’s list of free agents includes four who will command high salaries: Cobb, Bulaga and cornerbacks Davon House and Tramon Williams. It’s hard to see the GM re-signing more than three of them, at most, and to estimate how much money he’ll have to work with on those deals it’s instructive to go through some of his other impending cap costs.

We’ll start with the other free agents Thompson is likely to re-sign.

Last year, he retained defensive lineman B.J. Raji for $4 million, and after Raji missed all last season because of a torn biceps, the best guess is the Packers can get him even cheaper on a one-year deal this season. Perhaps for around $2 million.

Defensive lineman Letroy Guion‘s recent marijuana arrest kills his value on the open market, so he’s probably a minimum-salary player now, which means the Packers probably can re-sign him for the seven-year veteran minimum of $870,000. With the veteran’s minimum salary benefit, he’d count only $515,000 against the cap, with up to $80,000 in signing bonus allowed as well, though he might not even have the leverage for a bonus.

Same for fullback John Kuhn and defensive back Jarrett Bush, who are eligible for the $870,000 salary and up to $80,000 bonus but would count only $515,000 plus the bonus against the cap.

It’s possible John Kuhn, or Jarrett Bush might not be back again. For what they provide, there could be some significant cost savings from that coming from a cheap rookie, undrafted or late round.

Backup quarterbacks Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn will be minimum-salary type players also, though it’s unclear whether the Packers will re-sign both. If so, Tolzien ($745,000 plus bonus) and Flynn ($870,000 but with the veteran minimum benefit of $515,000 cap charge plus bonus) combined still will cost less than $1.5 million on this year’s cap. And if the Packers sign only one, it will be half that.

Of the Packers’ three restricted free agents, offensive lineman Don Barclay and safety Sean Richardson probably will get the low tender, which is projected to be about $1.5 million. That would give the Packers the right to match any deal they sign with another team. It’s hard to see receiver Jarrett Boykin getting a tender after the drop-off in his play last season, but the Packers could re-sign him for the fourth-year minimum of $660,000.

So just for the sake of argument, let’s assume the Packers re-sign Guion, Kuhn and Bush for minimum deals ($515,000 cap charge) plus both backup quarterbacks at a combined $1.5 million cap charge, and handle the restricted tenders as suggested ($3.66 million combined). That’s a combined $6.7 million, lowering their cap room to around $25.3 million.

Their rookie class will cost another $4.5 million, though for the offseason only the top 51 salaries count on the cap, and only the first four picks probably will rank among the top 51 when they sign. So the rookie class will count only about $3 million more.

That lowers the cap room to about $22.3 million for Thompson and his cap manager, team vice president Russ Ball, to re-sign Cobb, Bulaga, Williams and House, and any free agents from other teams.

As for guessing who’s back and who’s not among those four, I still think the Packers will get something done with Cobb before free agency starts, and they’ll retain Bulaga as well. But La Canfora’s report on Cobb gives pause.

House and Williams are even tougher predictions. House is the younger of the two (26 in July), and the Packers like him. But I’m not convinced they like him for $5 million to $7 million a year, which he just might command on the open market.

Williams probably can be had for less than that – maybe $3.5 million a year or so – though the worry there is he turns 32 next month, and at that age his play could slip dramatically in one offseason. I’m inclined to think he has some Donald Driver in him, which means enough springiness in his legs for another good season or two. But that’s not a given.

My guess is Williams is back and House signs a big contract with another team. If both leave, then Casey Hayward becomes an outside cornerback, Micah Hyde the full-time nickel back, and cornerback shoots way up the draft priority list.

Re-signing Cobb and Bulaga will be much more expensive.

With Cobb, the contract to look at is Jordy Nelson‘s. Last August, Nelson signed a new deal that by NFLPA calculations averages $9.762 million. But that’s counting only the new money and four years added to the one year he had left his deal. In reality, Nelson signed a new five-year contract that averages $8.51 million and included an $11.5 million signing bonus and $13.5 million in first-year pay.

Though Nelson is more important to the Packers’ offense because of his ability to make plays down field, Cobb has a good chance of topping that deal. In fact, Thompson should be willing to pay Cobb a little more without worry of locker-room fallout.

Nelson opted for the security of a contract extension — you can’t blame him for that — rather than risking serious injury by playing out the season. If Cobb surpasses him on the Packers’ pay scale because he has more leverage after taking the risk, well, that’s the price Nelson paid. He should have no beef.

Cobb probably would be worth re-signing in the range of $9 million a year because he’s uncommonly young (24) for a free agent and a big part of the Packers’ offense, even if his size (5-10, 192 pounds) leaves him susceptible to injury. If the price gets much higher than that, though, I suspect Thompson would drop out.

But even if he re-signs Cobb in the $9 million range, Thompson could do it without taking that big a bite from the $22.3 million we’re projecting he has in cap room. He could structure the deal similar to Nelson’s, which pays $16.55 million in ’14 and ’15 combined, yet counted only $5.925 million on the ’14 cap and $4.6 million on the ’15 cap.

Bulaga is the best right tackle on the open market, so he’ll likely become one of and maybe the highest-paid right tackle in the league. That player for now is Indianapolis’ Gosder Cherilus, whose five-year deal averages $7 million a year and included $15.5 million guaranteed.

Aaron Rodgers (12) tries to find a receiver behind the block of Bryan Bulaga (75) on Mario Williams (94) against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., December 14, 2014. (Photo: Jim Matthews/Press-Gazette Media)

One longtime agent I talked to at the NFL scouting combine last week predicted Bulaga’s average will top Cherilus, but that the guarantee will be less because of Bulaga’s season-ending injuries (hip, knee) in ’12 and ’13

With the cap projected to rise from at least $143 million this year to as high as $160 million in 2016, according to a report on ProFootballTalk.com, Thompson could opt for light cap charges this season with Cobb, Bulaga or both, and still have $12 million to $15 million in cap room for his dealings with Williams or House and any free agents he’d pursue at, say, inside linebacker.

The Packers’ don’t have any other obvious candidates for cap relief now that they’ve cut Hawk and Brad Jones. If Thompson needs more cap room, he could convert some of the 2015 pay for Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews or Julius Peppers into a prorated signing bonus.

But that doesn’t appear likely. Thompson and Ball like to pay as they go, and they should have the cap room this year and in the near future to stay on that path.

Original story here

Combine wraps up: ILB Watch, CB risks, QB options for the Packers

February 24, 2015 by  
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From the great Tyler Dunne, Journal-Sentinel

Packers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (@journalsentinel). @1057FMTheFan contributor. Syracuse grad, Scott Hollow Road native.

~Green Bay — The NFL scouting combine is over. Which means it’s a Mike Mamula kind of week. Surely, you’ve been inundated with highlights and overanalysis already.

Jameis Winston throwing. Byron Jones jumping. J.J. Nelson running.

This year’s combine averaged 314,000 viewers over four days of coverage on the league’s network.

Exactly 20 years ago — training specifically for these events, revolutionary at the time — Mamula blew up the combine with 4.58 in the 40, a 38.5-inch vertical and 28 reps at 225 pounds at the bench. To this day, his name still serves as a cautionary tale. All teams must tread carefully in Indianapolis. The difference between “40 speed” and “football speed” is no exact science and drills mean different things to different players.

So, that being said, here are a few final takeaways from this year’s scouting combine.

And in case you missed it, be sure to check out Bob McGinn’s annual February draft outlook here.

— The Packers want an inside linebacker. At the podium, coach Mike McCarthy said inside linebacker “could probably be compared to where we were last year at the safety position.” Last year, they landed Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. This year, which players could be available? We examined a few possibilities here. UCLA’s Eric Kendricks may be the most complete. Miami’s Denzel Perryman may hit the hardest. Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney may have the best size.

One other name to track? Clemson’s Stephone Anthony. The 6-foot-3, 243-pounder ran a 4.56 in the 40 (third-best amongst linebackers) and his 4.03 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle was second-best.

Stephone Anthony might be a great pick for the Packers at #30. Photo- AP

Teams questioning how Perryman will fare in coverage may still have questions, too. He benched 225 pounds 27 times, yet ran a 4.78 and had a 32-inch vertical. The former QB McKinney, already 6-4, 246, probably turned heads with his 40.5-inch vertical. He’s come a long ways since serving as an athletic, running quarterback at Rosa Fort (Miss.) H.S.

Finding an imtimidator who also can cover won’t be easy.

— The age-old, risk-reward debate could come into play at cornerback for Green Bay. Free agency will dictate which positions the Packers need more than others. Possibly, the Packers lose both Davon House and Tramon Williams in free agency. Either way, it’s a premium position and a few intriguing prospects may trickle down to No. 30. One butted heads with coaches at Washington but is the aggressive cover corner-type teams seek, Marcus Peters. Another suffered a severe knee injury and might not be ready by the 2015 opener, Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

And another (who may be more of a second-round option) played four years of point guard on the basketball court at Miami (Ohio) before switching to football, Quinten Rollins. His coach spoke about this switch earlier. The 4.57 at the combine doesn’t help Rollins’ cause, but few defensive backs in college football possessed his ball skills. In Indy, those football discussions picked up in formal interviews.

After the long hiatus, Rollins says he’s curious himself what his upside is. In Demetri Goodson, the Packers already have one college point guard on the roster.

“Even though I’m a fast learner, I’ve got a lot of learning to do,” Rollins said. “The NFL coaching at the Senior Bowl was great, and I’m just ready to go to an organization and learn their schemes and get some of their coaching and keep continuing to build from there on out.

“In five years, hopefully I’ll be on a second contract and then be one of the household names in the NFL.

— Beware of team meetings. The Packers, and all NFL teams, chat with countless prospects. An all-star game. The combine. During that prospect’s season. You get the idea: at some point prospects talk to practically every team. And the Packers are often coy, too. The only two Top 10 picks in Ted Thompson’s tenure here — linebacker A.J. Hawk and nose tackle B.J. Raji — had no idea the Packers were so interested.

— Major QB decisions are elsewhere in the division — Bears coach John Fox offered a lukewarm support of Jay Cutler. But the Packers do have a decision ahead themselves, behind Aaron Rodgers. Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn are both unrestricted free agents. Again, the draft offers developmental options. UCLA’s Brett Hundley may be the third-best in the draft. Former Oregon QB Bryan Bennett and South Alabama’s Brandon Bridge are dual-threat options.

Then, there’s Bryce Petty. He put up ridiculous numbers (61 touchdowns, 10 interceptions last two seasons) in Baylor’s spread offense but some scouts are unsure how he’ll project to the pros.

In throwing drills, Petty’s natural throwing motion was impressive.

“We were in the spread but at the same time I feel like I am a pocket passer,” Petty said. “I want to extend plays, extend plays within the pocket. That might be a little bit different than most spread quarterbacks who want to run it out of the pocket. For me, I feel like my game can translate easier in that and the fact that I want to play within the pocket and I want to extend plays within the pocket and beat you doing that.”

— Green Bay might not find a better TE here than what it has. Maxx Williams had a so-so 4.78 in the 40; Clive Walford finished at 4.79. Will the Packers add another tight end? Probably. But one scout believes taking Williams in the first round is an “overreach.”
40_LBs

And true, Williams enters the NFL as a redshirt sophomore. He’s 20. Maybe he’s not a substantial upgrade in 2015, but would be down the road.

“I would say my biggest weakness is my strength,” Williams said. “Being only 20 years old knowing that my body’s not fully developed into what it could develop into is a strength. But I feel like my biggest weakness could turn into one of my strengths, as I turn 21, 22, and get those years and experience in the weight room developing my body.”

— The Packers’ 2011 first-round pick at offensive tackle, Derek Sherrod, started one game in four years. If they lose Bryan Bulaga in free agency, the Packers might need to try again in 2015. Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings is an intriguing option. As noted in McGinn’s rundown, Clemmings could’ve played basketball at Providence and Seton Hall. He played three seasons at defensive end before moving to tackle the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

The 6-4 ½, 309-pounder realizes he’s raw.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Clemmings said. “If that is what they feel then that’s fine. I only had two years on the offensive line under my belt and that’s not going to change from now to the draft. I need some work in some things and I am not afraid of that. I am ready to work on things that people feel I need to work on.”

(Washington’s Marcus Peters/AP photo)

Baylor ILB Hager has experience in coverage, stands out in Indy

February 23, 2015 by  
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By the great Tyler Dunne, Journal-Sentinel

~Indianapolis — Back in Pop Warner, Bryce Hager wasn’t even a middle linebacker. He played running back. In fact, he didn’t even play his Dad’s old position until his junior year of high school.

“It ended up working out, I guess,” Hager said.

Now, Baylor’s Hager follows the footsteps of his father, former Philadelphia Eagle Britt Hager, to the NFL.

Finding the right inside linebacker won’t be easy for the Green Bay Packers. You want an intimidator, but you also want a player who can cover backs and tight ends in today’s NFL. This player is difficult to find.

Bryce Hager 6

Arguably no one at the position helped his stock more this week at the NFL scouting combine than Hager. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.60 seconds (tied 6th-best amongst LB’s) and bench-pressed 225 pounds 26 times (tied for fifth). When teams turn on the game tape, they’ll like what they see, too. Hager made the All-Big 12 second team three seasons in a row, finishing with 114 tackles (76 solo), two sacks and two forced fumbles last year.

In the high-flying Big 12, Hager faced plenty of spread offenses, too. Tracking a back on a wheel route up the sideline won’t be new to him.

Whereas first-round prospect Denzel Perryman said last week he was already asked “10 times” about his coverage ability, this might be Hager’s No. 1 strength.

Covering a running back one on one in the open field isn’t easy.
Bryce Hager 7

“Any time you get a one-on-one, one person’s going to lose,” Hager said. “So you always have to make sure that’s not you. Because you get exposed easily.”

His most challenging one-on-one match-up was the one he saw daily — running back Lache Seastrunk.

Hager calls him the most explosive player through the hole he’s ever faced.

“His talent was unbelievable,” Hager said. “That was one player you don’t want to meet one-on-one. … Seven-on-seven, you’ve got him coming up the middle. He’s got the whole field to work with. It’s just you and him. So that’s something you want as a challenge, but he can expose you if you’re not ready for it.”

Hager said he did have a visit with the Packers planned. He knows today’s NFL offense, whether it’s with Shane Vereen or Randall Cobb, seeks one-on-one’s vs. linebackers.

“Yeah, I’m ready for that,” Hager said. “Being in the Big 12, you’re exposed to one-on-one battles. So any time there’s a challenge like that, you don’t want to back down. That’s something you want. You’re looking for those 1-on-1’s to showcase your talent.”

Hager, considered a mid-round prospect by analysts, did struggle at times. The 42-41 loss to Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl wasn’t pretty at times. He missed a tackle in the hole on Jeremy Langford and Langford rumbled ahead for 65 yards. And amid the Spartan’s furious late rally, he was stood up at the goal line on a late touchdown.
Bryce Hager 4

Then, there’s Hager reading and intercepting Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight for a 36-yard return, one quality the Packers could also use at the position.

Green Bay’s inside linebackers haven’t been turning the ball over.

The entire group had zero interceptions in 2014 (Clay Matthews’ pick came at OLB), one in 2013 and zero in 2012. Whether it’s Perryman, McKinney or a Hager beyond the first round, they’ll be on the hunt for a playmaker.

Growing up, Hager said his Dad never pressured him to play football, let alone linebacker. So he feels no added pressure now to perform — Hager said he takes pride in his name regardless.

Playing all of that running help helped, too.
Bryce Hager 2

“Running backs and linebackers pretty much see the whole thing and read the same thing and try to find the open gap,” he said. “As a linebacker, you have to find the open gap and find out where he’s going to be or where he’s not going to be. So it kind of works both ways.”

Hager’s father played in the NFL for nine seasons with Philadelphia, Denver and St. Louis.

His name does come up when he meets with teams.

“Anyone who can bring up past stories about my Dad I haven’t heard, it’s awesome,” Hager said. “Things he used to do. How he was a hard-nosed player. Those compliments, I feel like those are compliments to me too just because they want to bring him up and want to talk about my family.”

Elsewhere at the position, Kendricks ran a 4.61 and had 19 reps and Perryman had a 4.78 but his 27 reps on the bench tied for third best.

Bryce Hager 5

Original story here

2015 NFL Draft Outlook

February 22, 2015 by  
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From the great Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel

~Based on interviews with executives in personnel for five teams, it is possible to narrow down just a little bit the pool of players that might be considered by the Green Bay Packers regardless of position if they exercise their current 30th selection in the first round of the NFL draft April 30.

Prospects are conservatively divided into three categories: As Good As Gone — barring negative developments, these players have virtually no chance of reaching No. 30; Probably Gone — players who appear to have no better than a 50-50 chance of remaining on the board at No. 30; and The Next Level — players who figure to fall next.

The Packers have their own selection in all seven rounds. They’re also likely to be awarded at least one compensatory pick next month for the losses of center Evan Dietrich-Smith (Tampa Bay) and wide receiver James Jones (Oakland).

Here’s an early look at 55 players who figure to fit into these layers of the draft (underclassmen are denoted by asterisk).

AS GOOD AS GONE (10)

Amari Cooper*, WR, Alabama: 6-1, 211. In 2014, he broke the Southeastern Conference single-season record for receptions (124) and was second all-time in receiving yards (1,727). “Dynamic player,” one scout said. “Quick, fast, agile, good hands. Difference-maker.” Third-year junior with 228 receptions for 3,463 yards (15.2) and 31 TDs. “One of the better route runners to come out in a long, long time,” another scout said. “Very skilled, explosive and fast.” On Saturday, he ran 40 yards in 4.42 seconds.

Kevin White, WR, West Virginia: 6-3, 215. Junior-college player for two years. “He’s more of a Larry Fitzgerald-type receiver in that he doesn’t have great speed,” said one scout. “I never see him beat people deep.

But if he is even with them he’s going to get the ball. Very good player.” Caught 35 passes in 2013 for Mountaineers before breaking out with 109 for 1,447 yards (13.3) and 10 TDs in ’14. “He’s got another level to his game that I don’t think we’ve seen yet,” another scout said. Admits that he loves trash-talking opponents. Made a ton of money with 40 time of 4.35.

Brandon Scherff, T, Iowa: 6-4 1/2, 319. Part-time starter at LG as a redshirt freshman in 2011 before starting at LT from 2012-’14. “I like (Bryan) Bulaga, but I think this guy is better,” said one scout. “I didn’t think Bulaga could play left tackle, but I think this guy can. Everybody thinks he’s the best guard, but I’d keep him at tackle and have him disprove he can’t play there. He got hurt early last year and never missed a practice or a game.” Like Bulaga, his arm length (33 3/8 inches) will be an issue for some teams. Massive hands (11 inches). “Real tough guy and can really run,” another scout said. “Good technician. Little stiff. Kind of straight-line. Not real good change of direction. But when he gets you he mauls you. This guy is a lot stronger than Bulaga. He’s tight and can’t use his length. I think guard will be his best position.” His 40-yard dash time was 5.05.

Andrus Peat*, T, Stanford: 6-7, 313. Third-year junior rotated at LT in 2012 before starting the past two years. “He’s the most talented (O-lineman),” one scout said. “His dad was really talented but fat. The dad was probably 6-2.” Todd Peat was a squatty guard for the Cardinals and Raiders from 1987-’93. “Ready-made NFL player,” another scout said. “Left tackle or right tackle. Little bit like Jake Matthews. He won’t be an overly dominating type athlete but just sound. Bigger than Jake. A very good, solid player, no question about it.” Arms were 34 3/8, hands were 10 5/8.

Marcus Mariota*, QB, Oregon: 6-3½, 222. Heisman Trophy winner in 2014. “Kid’s a good athlete,” one scout said. “I kind of like him. But he’s not a passer right now. He’s a thrower. He’s like a better Colin Kaepernick. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but this kid is kind of quiet. He’s going to be a project the first year. But, other than Andrew Luck, all those guys are.” Finished with a phenomenal NFL passer rating of 121.3, and also rushed for 2,237 yards (6.6) and 29 TDs. “You know he’ll put the time in to be a good pro,” said another scout. “That’s about as big an obstacle as there is at the position: guys that are willing to put in the time.” Hands were 9 7/8. Vertical jump of 36 inches. Ran 4.52.

Jameis Winston*, QB, Florida State: 6-3½, 231. Led Seminoles to national championship in 2013 and won the Heisman Trophy. “Has an uncanny ability to know what’s around him and get himself out of trouble,” one scout said. Finished with NFL passer rating of 107.9, and also rushed for 284 yards (2.0) and seven TDs. Has had numerous run-ins with the legal system. “Someone will take him in the first round, but how could you even let that guy in the building?” another scout said. “The second law of thermodynamics basically is the more ways something can happen, the more likely it is to happen. That’s true of players. The more ways they can (expletive) up, the more chances they (expletive) up. This guy’s got a lot of stuff that would lean him more likely to be a bust than a good player.” Played two seasons of baseball at FSU as a closer-outfielder. “If he doesn’t (mature) he won’t be playing football,” a third scout said. “Knows how to play the position. I don’t think he’s Andrew Luck. He’s not a John Elway arm coming out, but he’s a talented kid.” Tested poorly with 4.97 40, 28½ vertical jump.

Melvin Gordon*, RB, Wisconsin: 6-1, 215. Finished second in Heisman Trophy voting as fourth-year junior. “Unique runner,” one scout said. “He’s got a little bit of Jamaal Charles in him. Upright, fast runner.

He’s quick and has very good feet.” Surpassed 100 yards in 22 of his 45 games. Also fumbled six times in his last five games. “He’s good, but against those slow (expletive) Big Ten guys,” said another scout. “That’s what bothers me a little bit.” Played at Kenosha Bradford. Ran 4.52.

Leonard Williams*, DT, Southern California: 6-4½, 302. Nicknamed “Big Cat.” “Probably the most talented player on the defensive side of the ball,” said one scout. “He’s an end and a three-technique. He’s quick, strong and plays athletic.” Has been compared to former Patriot Richard Seymour. Dominating presence for three seasons, finishing with 21 sacks and 36½ tackles for loss. “He’s not a gigantic guy,” another scout said. “He’s not (Ndamukong) Suh. He’s athletic. He moves around good. He played inside and was getting doubled and held and everything else.”

Randy Gregory*, OLB-DE, Nebraska: 6-5, 235. Played two years of junior college and two seasons at Nebraska, where he piled up 17½ sacks and 29 tackles for loss. “I think he’s better than Ziggy Ansah,” one scout said. “He’ll be pretty good. I think he could stand up, too.” Sidelined for two games and playing sparingly in two others last season due to injury. “He’s a run-around guy,” another scout said. “Athletic. Can chase things down. I can’t see him playing the point real well. He’s not that big. (Wisconsin’s Rob) Havenstein did a hell of a job against him.”

Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson: 6-3, 246. Fifth-year senior. “He’s a rusher,” one scout said. “He’s a better football player right now than (Shaq) Thompson. “He’s just running around being an athlete. If you played him as a 4-3 ‘will’ (weak-side LB) you’d take away what he does best. He can really run. He understands leverage. They don’t crush him.” Two-year starter with 33 sacks and 52½ tackles for loss.

PROBABLY GONE (remember, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was in the “probably gone” category last year at this time, and he slid….(8)

DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville: 6-2½, 209. Hauled in 156 passes for 2,775 yards (17.8) and 33 TDs in four seasons. “He’s a large, smooth, play-making receiver who has average speed,” said one scout. “Very good hands. Has run after the catch.” Dogged by injuries as a senior. “He’s got size, speed and was dominating at the end of the season,” said another scout. “He looks a little faster than (Kevin) White.” Ran 4.45.

Ereck Flowers*, T, Miami: 6-6, 329. Third-year junior. “Big frame, good technician, good with his hands, good bulk and anchor,” one scout said. “Has ability to hold up against power rushes but also can handle speed. Physically and athletically, probably more of a right tackle in the NFL.” Started 2½ years at LT. Arms were 34½. Led O-line with 37 bench-press reps.

Arik Armstead*, DE, Oregon: 6-7, 292. Three-year player didn’t start until 2014. “He plays like a man,” said one scout. “Can be a five-technique. Damn right he has pass rush. Really a good player.” Finished with 10 sacks. “A little bit like Datone Jones but much taller and bigger,” said another scout. “Same kind of player. He has the athleticism but production has been minimal. When you’re a really tall player you have to have either really good strength or play with really good technique and fundamentals. He doesn’t have either yet. He plays hard. He’s got the ability. It’s just not totally there yet. He’s going to be a rusher on the inside.”

Mario Edwards*, DE, Florida State: 6-3, 279. Registered 7½ sacks in three seasons, including two as a starter. “Still kind of a project,” one scout said. “Big athletic guy. Just didn’t have much production or feel as a rusher. You hope he’d be a better rusher to take him in the first round but he’s got size and is athletic.” Father, Mario, played cornerback for the Cowboys after being drafted in the sixth round (2000). Also played some LB and FB. “Huge D-end but could even bounce inside and rush as a three-technique,” another scout said. “Very, very strong upper body. Plays the run extremely well but also can rush the passer.” Huge hands (10 7/8).

Shane Ray*, DE, Missouri: 6-3, 245. Declared a year early after being named Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year. “Tough, fast,” one scout said. “He’s better than the guy (Kony Ealy) from there last year. Little straight-line.” Posted a school-record 14½ sacks in 2014 to go with 22½ tackles for loss. “I don’t like him,” said another scout. “People see who he is, they’re going to fall off him quick. The body structure. No way in hell he can be an outside backer. Competitive, smart and reliable. Wins with effort, urgency and great first step. He has a degree of stiffness. He’s got to win with quickness because of his lack of size and strength.” Tiny hands (9).

Danny Shelton, NT, Washington: 6-1, 339. Three-year starter with 208 tackles (24 for loss) and 11½ sacks, including 9 as a senior. “True nose tackle,” one scout said. “Big body. Big noses go (early).” Another scout said Shelton moved as well as Green Bay’s B.J. Raji. Patterns his game after Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata. Dominated at the Senior Bowl.

Eddie Goldman*, DT, Florida State: 6-4, 336. Third-year junior. “He’s a powerful, explosive guy,” one scout said. “Strong at the point.” Two-year starter with 62 tackles (12 for loss) and 6 sacks. “Three-technique,” another scout said. “He can do it all. Plays hard.”

Dante Fowler*, OLB, Florida: 6-3, 261. Third-year junior, two-year starter. “Played on a very average football team but stood out,” one scout said. “You saw offenses (slide) his way. Double-teaming and chipping. Definitely a pass rusher first. He has the athleticism and skill to play outside linebacker.” Voted team MVP in 2014 after registering 8½ of his 14½ career sacks. “Probably has to be an outside backer for a 3-4 team,” another scout said. “Edge guy. He’s got those first two steps.”

THE NEXT LEVEL (37)

Devin Funchess*, WR-TE, Michigan: 6-4, 232. Enrolled as a WR, played 2012-’13 as a TE and went back to WR last year as a third-year junior. “He’s a wide receiver,” one scout said. “He’s not physical enough as an inside blocker. He’ll be like a hybrid player. He drops a lot of balls.” Terrific high school basketball player in Michigan; declined invitation as a freshman to double as a basketball player.

Not all scouts agree. Some see Funchess as a modern Shannon Sharpe-type at TE. He did alright for a late-round draft pick who couldn’t block.

“Not crazy about him,” said another scout. “He won’t block. He’s got good hands but he drops balls. He can’t play tight end. He’ll get drafted high, too high for me.” Disappointing 40 of 4.70.

Jaelen Strong*, WR, Arizona State: 6-2, 217. Junior-college transfer caught 157 passes for 2,287 yards (14.6) and 17 TDs in two seasons for Sun Devils. “(Plays) like his last name,” said one scout. “Average to above-average speed. He’ll probably play early. His ceiling isn’t high, but he’s going to be a good, solid, starting wide receiver with good hands. Physical frame. Really good field awareness. Very good in the red zone. Just not a stretch-the-field vertical receiver. More of a short to intermediate type.” Ran surprisingly fast (4.44).

Dorial Green-Beckham*, WR, Oklahoma: 6-5, 237. “He’s the wild card of all of them,” said one scout. “He’s a first-round talent, no question. He may even be better than (Amari) Cooper. He’s that talented. But is there a team that will take a chance on him there?” Kicked out of Missouri after drug-related issues, transferred to Oklahoma but wasn’t eligible in 2014. Started 15 of 25 games at Mizzou, catching 87 passes for 1,278 yards (14.7) and 17 TDs. Ran 4.49.

Nelson Agholar*, WR, Southern California: 6-0, 198. Third-year junior coming off 2014 season in which he caught 104 passes for 1,313 yards (12.6) and 12 TDs. “Very similar to Marquise Lee,” one scout said. “Slender build. Good speed, not special speed. Good hands. Probably will make his mark early as a returner. He can line up in all the spots inside and outside.” Returned four punts for TDs. Ran 4.42.

Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State: 6-0½, 196. Consummate deep threat. “A vertical receiver,” one scout said. “That’s where he’s at his best. Hands are average. Route running was average. But a really good stretch-the-field vertical type. Probably not as fast as (Miami’s) Mike Wallace.” Three-year starter with 121 receptions for 2,503 yards (20.7) and 30 TDs; his 33 catches in 2014 averaged an astounding 28.2 (12 TDs). Ran 4.42.

Sammie Coates*, WR, Auburn: 6-1, 212. Fourth-year junior. “Once he runs fast they’re all going to drool over him,” one scout said of his fellow personnel men. “I’m not on board. He’s a large, explosive, stiff, inconsistent guy with big hands. I wouldn’t touch him, but I think he goes late second (round).” Finished with 82 receptions for 1,757 yards (21.8) and 13 TDs. Labored on a bad knee in 2014. Ran 4.43.

Maxx Williams*, TE, Minnesota: 6-4, 249. Third-year sophomore with 61 catches for 986 yards (16.2) and 13 TDs. “He’s one of those guys that jumps over people and stiff-arms,” said one scout. “Real good hands. He blocks downfield and can get on linebackers. He’ll (block) better in-line.”

A lot of recent first round TE’s haven’t come close to justifying their draft status (Pettigrew, Ebron- so far, Eifert, etc.) and I worry Maxx might be the next one. He’s not that tall at 6’3″ and change. Not even 6’4″. Lacks that ideal size, and he’s not a burner like an Ebron or Vernon Davis when the Packers passed on him for AJ Hawk in 2006.

His father, Brian, also played for the Gophers and generally started at center for the Giants from 1989-’99. “I would not put him in the category of an athlete like Jimmy Graham or someone like that,” another scout said. “You’re not talking about a dominating type player. Need at the position and lack of players there could move him up to the top of the second (round). If he’s bottom of the first round it’s an overreach.” Ran 4.78.

La’el Collins, T-G, Louisiana State: 6-4 1/2, 305. Started at LG in 2012 and at LT the past two seasons. “I think he has to move to guard,” one scout said. “Big and strong. His effort wanes at times.” Voted team MVP in 2014. Impressive week at the Senior Bowl. “Very talented, athletic,” another scout said. “Good size, good strength and a lot of production. Really effective at guard.” Arms were just 33¼.

T.J. Clemmings, T, Pittsburgh: 6-4 1/2, 309. Spent three seasons at DE (six starts in 2012) before starting at RT in 2013-’14. “An athlete first,” said one scout. “He has the athleticism to start. Just going to take a little bit of time. Still developing his technique, fundamentals and understanding the position.” Long arms (35 1/8). Scored 15 on the Wonderlic intelligence test. Turned down offers to play basketball at Providence and Seton Hall.

Cameron Erving, T, Florida State: 6-5, 313. Fifth-year senior moved from D-line to O-line in spring 2012. “He’s athletic,” said one scout. “Not a very good technician. Still learning the position.” Three-year starter at LT but forced to start the last five games at center in 2014. Arms were 34 1/8. “He’s a lot like Collins,” another scout said. “He could be a left tackle, center or guard. Very versatile second-round pick.”

D.J. Humphries*, T, Florida: 6-5, 307. Third-year junior. “He’s a smaller guy who has gotten bigger each year,” one scout said. “He’ll still need to continue adding weight and growth. He lacks anchor on bull rushes and isn’t going to generate a lot of movement with his drive blocks.” Missed half of the 2013 season with a knee injury and two games in ’14 with an ankle injury. “Talented kid,” another scout said. Arms were 33 5/8.

A.J. Cann, G, South Carolina: 6-3, 313. Started 51 games at LG. “He has size, length, mass, toughs and he’s competitive,” said one scout. “He’ll need a little bit of work in pass pro, and the mental part will scare you a little bit.” Two-time captain. Arms were just 32 5/8. “Second round probably,” another scout said. “Good player. He’s got enough strength and he can move, too.”

Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke: 6-3 1/2, 323. Really helped himself during Senior Bowl week. “He’s a big, square, flexible athlete,” one scout said. “He’s got good movement. He needs to work on his technique and balance.” Four-year starter at guard. Arms were 33 5/8.

Donovan Smith*, T, Penn State: 6-6, 338. Fourth-year junior. “Big guy who is more athletic than his peers,” one scout said. “He has to work through some natural laziness.” Started for three years at LT. Arms were 34 3/8. “Looked good in the Senior Bowl,” one scout said. “Now he’s got to get through the interviews. He’s kind of a different kid. Not bad. Just different.”

Cedric Ogbuehi, T, Texas A&M: 6-5, 306. Started for 3½ years, including both tackles and guard. Followed Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews at LT in 2014. Suffered a torn ACL in third quarter of a bowl game and had surgery about five weeks ago. “He did everything as well as those two (Joeckel, Matthews),” one scout said. Arms were 35 7/8. He still has hopes of being drafted in the first round and playing this season. “He is really talented but soft and doesn’t play very strong,” another scout said. “I’ve been in there three years in a row and have never seen him practice. Guy’s always hurt.”

Brett Hundley*, QB, UCLA: 6-3, 226. Three-year starter redshirted in 2011. “The physical tools are there,” one scout said. “He’s going to need time. He’s going to have to go to a team that will need to have patience with him and just continue teaching him the game. A team at the top of the second (round) that needs a quarterback might throw him to the fire too early, and he’s not ready for that.” Operating a zone-read offense similar to the Eagles’, his NFL passer rating was 103.7. He also rushed for 1,747 yards (3.6) and 30 TDs. Idolizes Donovan McNabb. “I don’t think he can mentally process,” another scout said. “His arm and talent are OK. He’s got a lot of flaws in his game.” Ran 4.63.

T.J. Yeldon*, RB, Alabama: 6-1, 226. Shared carries with Eddie Lacy in 2012 before taking on the featured role the past two years. “He’s different than Lacy,” one scout said. “Lacy’s more power. This guy can run with power, but he also has some moves. I’d take Lacy over him. Only question I have on Yeldon, is he beat to hell and back? All those guys down there (Alabama) get beat up.” Carried 576 times for 3,322 yards (5.8) and 37 TDs, and caught 46 passes. “He’ll go right around 30, 35,” said another scout. “He and Gordon will fight for first back. He probably has the best feet of any back in the draft.” Ran just 4.61.

Todd Gurley*, RB, Georgia: 6-1, 222. Suffered a torn ACL Nov. 15 but expressed confidence he would play in 2015. “That guy is good,” said one scout. “He’s a man among boys. If you’re a deep team why wouldn’t you take a bona fide Pro Bowl back and just shelve him?” Finished with 510 carries for 3,306 yards (6.5) and 36 TDs, and also caught 65 passes. Won’t be 21 until August. “You’re talking about a running back that you will never see run (the 40),” said another scout. “You know he’s fast. You see it on film. The second combine (medical) recheck will be very important for him. He’s a top-10 talent, but he could easily go outside the first round because there’s a lot of backs in this draft.”

Jay Ajayi*, RB, Boise State: 6-0, 221. Fourth-year junior. “Big back with very good speed,” one scout said. “Really came on at the end of the year. He’s just a guy that runs hard. Very physical.” Carried 678 times for 3,796 yards (5.6) and 55 TDs. Ran 4.57.

Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State: 6-0, 208. Redshirted, then carried just nine times in 2011-’12 behind Le’Veon Bell. “He’s not Le’Veon Bell,” said one scout. “He’s a step below. But he can run, catch and do everything well. I’d take him over (Indiana’s) Tevin Coleman because he makes NFL runs. He has to pick and show vision and contact balance. When you spread out all over the damn field and they pitch you the ball and you pick a running lane (as Coleman did), that’s a little different (easier).” Carried 568 times in 2013-’14, gaining 2,944 yards and 40 TDs. Led all RBs with 40 time of 4.42.

Alvin “Bud” Dupree, DE-OLB, Kentucky: 6-3½, 269. Started 36 of 45 games at both end and linebacker. “Very good athlete,” one scout said. “Has played both up and down. As he’s gotten better the defense has gotten better. Pass rusher. Great kid.

OLB is not near the top of the “need” list for the Packers. But Bud Dupree migth be there and might be too tempting, too much of the BPA for Ted Thompson to pass on. He’d make Mike Neal or Nick Perry expendable. Or he’d make Clay Matthews have to play more INSIDE backer next year, which I don’t think Clay wants.

He can be a physical player.” Finished with 21½ sacks. “Athletic, but he’s got no instincts,” another scout said. “I just don’t think he’s real smart.” Scored 13 on the Wonderlic. Extremely soft-spoken.

Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA: 6-3, 267. Fifth-year senior who sat out all 2013 after undergoing hip surgery. “Kid’s got instincts and agility and strong hands,” one scout said. “Question is, how much bigger is he going to get? He wins with power.” His father, Peter, is serving three life sentences for a triple homicide shooting at Appalachian School of Law (Va.) in 2002. “Really athletic,” another scout said. “Tough. Just doesn’t have great instincts.” Huge hands (11).

Danielle Hunter*, DE-OLB, Louisiana State: 6-5, 252. Third-year junior. “LSU has these type players every couple years,” said one scout. “Barkevious Mingo was one. Really tall and long. Looks like a football player. He will run like a deer. Hasn’t had consistency of production yet. He was a 1½-sack guy this year, but that’s kind of been the norm. Mingo came out (early) and had 6 sacks and went top 10 (in 2013). Hunter is that type of player.” Two-year starter with 4½ sacks.

Malcom Brown*, DT, Texas: 6-2, 319. Started two of three seasons. “Typical Texas guy,” said one scout. “Has talent but little bit of an underachiever. He has more ability than he’s showing. He can be a three-technique or a shade. Has some upside.” Last season, he became the first Longhorn DT since Tony Degrate in 1984 to lead the team in both sacks (6½) and tackles for loss (15).

Jordan Phillips*, DT, Oklahoma: 6-5, 329. Started four games in 2013 before suffering a back injury that required surgery. Came back to start all 13 in ’14 before declaring early. “He has a bad back,” said one scout. “He has quickness and he can run, but he plays so damn high and he cannot get off a block. It could be back-related. If that’s not an issue, he has something that you can’t coach, and that’s physical talent. I think he’s tough enough. He’s just not a good player. He does not dominate. He’s not effective. That bothers me. Character-wise, everything’s positive about him.” Finished with 58 tackles (nine for loss) and 3½ sacks.

Carl Davis, DT, Iowa: 6-4½, 320. Fifth-year senior and two-year starter. “He has some ability, but he’s lazy,” one scout said. “He was off the field (late in the season) on passing downs and didn’t seem real upset about it. Nice kid.” Played extremely well in the Senior Bowl. “He plays like he is, a nice guy,” said another scout. “Never finishes things. He has talent but wasn’t very consistent. His character is impeccable. He’ll get drafted pretty high, but he scares the hell out of me.” Massive hands (11).

Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State: 6-2, 293. Two-year starter with 18 sacks and 31½ tackles for loss. “His true position is three-technique,” one scout said. “Good football player.” Both of his parents graduated from West Point. “I thought he disappeared too often in games,” another scout said. “Enough athletic ability. Not sure if he’s quick enough for a smaller guy to win on a consistent basis. Doesn’t always finish plays. He’s not as talented as Jurrell Casey. Not even close to Aaron Donald.”

Shaq Thompson*, OLB, Washington: 6-0, 228. Winner of the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player. “Really good athlete,” one scout said. “Not great instincts. He’s the best athlete on that team. He could be the best running back. He’s a rusher. He can play on and off the ball.” Third-year junior scored six TDs in 2014, including three on fumble returns and two as a running back.

Eli Harold*, OLB-DE, Virginia: 6-3, 247. Third-year junior, two-year starter. “Good athlete, not elite,” one scout said. “Just a solid, productive football player. He’ll get six, seven, eight sacks a year. Probably never reach double digits, but you’ll like him because he plays the run well and rushes the passer well.” Finished with 17½ sacks.

Benardrick McKinney*, ILB, Mississippi State: 6-4, 246. Fourth-year junior, three-year starter. “He’s like a Dont’a Hightower,” one scout said. “Big, physical guy. I think he can (play every down).” Led Bulldogs in tackles past two seasons. ”
Benardrick McKinney 1
We don’t know if he can run yet,” another scout said. “I don’t know if he’s a dinosaur or he’s a new-breed backer.” Tiny hands (9).

Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami: 5-11, 236. Started 37 games over four seasons. “Explosive tackler,” one scout said. “Physical. Tough. He’s second or third round. It will be interesting to see how he runs.” Generally played middle linebacker but started all 13 games outside in 2013. “We’ve got people who love him,” another scout said. “I think he’s gotten too big. I talked to those guys (coaches) there and he doesn’t want to lose the weight. Doesn’t look like he can run as well as he should. Got some stiffness to him.”

Paul Dawson, ILB-OLB, Texas Christian: 6-0, 235. Two-year starter. Ideally suited for weak side in a 4-3 but also might be able to play inside in a 3-4. “Very instinctive football player,” one scout said. “Little bit of a freelancer. Kind of does his own thing, which coaches don’t love. But he’s got a lot of ability.” Regarded as a character risk by some teams. “He’s late for meetings, all that kind of stuff,” another scout said. “He’s just never done the right things.”

Trae Waynes*, CB, Michigan State: 6-0, 186. Melvin Gordon’s teammate at Kenosha Bradford. “He’s probably the best (corner) of the bunch,” one scout said. “He can press and play off. He can run. He’s got length. Very even-keeled. Good teammate. He’s not going to talk trash. He does a lot of good things, but he doesn’t have rare athletic traits. He could walk in and be a starter.” Fourth-year junior played 36 games in three seasons and intercepted six passes. “Those guys there have really been well-coached,” another scout said. “Kind of a weird built kid. He’s long, but he’s kind of thin. He can be a press guy but not very good playing off. At the right place he’ll have a chance to be a player.”

Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest: 6-0, 188. Redshirted in 2010 before starting 41 games in four seasons. “He could be gone by 30 based on need,” one scout said. “Somebody’s got to go and if it’s going to be anybody it’s probably going to be him because he’s the most steady. I’d really have a hard time taking any corner in the first round. Very good technique, awareness, instinct, ball skills. All that good stuff. But he’s not a burner and he’s thin. Just a good, solid, all-around corner.” Intercepted seven passes.

Alex Carter*, CB, Stanford: 6-0, 196. Started for 2½ years and had two interceptions. “Tall, good-sized corner,” said one scout. “Solid speed, not special. Still developing his game. Fundamentally raw. I don’t know if he can step right in and start early in his career. He’s got man-to-man skill.” Tom, his father, was a Notre Dame cornerback drafted in the first round by Washington in 1993.

Jalen Collins*, CB, Louisiana State: 6-1, 203. Started in 2014 after serving as a nickel back for two seasons. “He won’t run well enough to be a first-rounder,” one scout said. “Real good size. Little raw. His ceiling is as a No. 2 type corner.”

Landon Collins*, S, Alabama: 6-0, 228. Played alongside Green Bay’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in 2013 before leading the Crimson Tide in tackles (103) as a junior. “Where did the Packers get Clinton-Dix (21)?” one scout asked. “He’s the same guy. Same grade. He’s OK. I’m not going to say sure-fire great. I think he’s smart and physical. He’s the best safety.” Added another scout: “I thought he was better than the guy in Green Bay. Little better movement.”

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Draft 2015: Denzel Perryman’s hits Pack a Punch at Inside Linebacker

February 22, 2015 by  
Filed under News

From the great Tyler Dunne, Journal-Sentinel

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~Green Bay — The back-up quarterback position was not addressed before the 2013 season… and it came back to bite the Green Packers. The inside linebacker position was not addressed before the 2014 season… and that didn’t help, either.

By mid-season, the Packers mashed together a combination that sparked the run defense. Clay Matthews and Sam Barrington took on larger roles and the Packers’ last-ranked run defense finished the regular season strong.

Then, with Matthews out, Marshawn Lynch cut loose in the NFC Championship.

Chances are — whether its free agency or the NFL draft — general manager Ted Thompson won’t be ignoring the inside linebacker position again. Whether it’s a veteran in free agency or a prospect in the draft, the Packers could use more muscle in the middle.

And that’s where Miami (Fla.) inside linebacker Denzel Perryman enters the discussion.
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Wearing the No. 52 carries a heavy responsibility in Miami, linebackers coach Hurlie Brown said, back to Ray Lewis in the 1990’s. Coaches gave Perryman that number and now the 5-foot-11, 244-pounder is considered the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect by many.

“He’s so powerful,” Brown said. “He’s so strong in his hips and legs. All of his tackles are real big hits. But he’s so powerful and explosive, you don’t see many people make those plays and bend at the hips like he can.

He’s extremely strong. And he’s smart. He really understands the defense. He understands the philosophy and how offenses are trying to attack him. He’s pretty much the total package.”

A throwback at middle linebacker, he first brought an attitude. All of his point-blank collisions inspired teammates, Brown said.

He points to two hits specifically — one fourth and 1, one third and 1. Against Cincinnati, on fourth down, Perryman delivered what Brown described as “one of the biggest hits I’ve ever seen.”

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“It wasn’t one of those hits where you’re coming down as a safety at 10, 12 yards full speed,” Brown said. “He steps right on your toes and the next thing you know, you’re going backwards. He’s just so powerful like that.”

Then, there’s the leap over South Carolina’s offensive line.

Perryman front-flipped over the offensive line, contorting his torso on the way down, grabbed quarterback Dylan Thompson and pulled him back behind the line.

One of those “dream plays,” Brown said, that “you never see.”

“He studied film,” Brown said. “He felt he knew the play was coming. He took a chance, took a shot. The ball was snapped and he jumped over the line and it was perfect timing. Even the way he jumped over the line, his body twisted to where he was able to land facing the back of the quarterback to where he could pull the quarterback back.

“It was one of those freak things it takes a special person to do.”
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On an up-and-down Miami team, Perryman had 110 tackles last season — 50 more than anybody else — with 9.5 for loss, two sacks, six pass break-ups and three forced fumbles. Vocally, Perryman was the one usually speaking up in practice and barking on game day.

While that leap over South Carolina was athleticism at its finest, athleticism may be one concern with Perryman. Can he cover? Can he play three downs? For all of the wincing hits into next week, he’ll also need to cover backs and receivers in the NFL. The next level is a game of match-ups with coordinators always isolating 1-on-1 situations.

“We didn’t do a lot of that,” Brown said of linebackers covering. “So obviously, he’s going to have to work on it. But he can do it. When he’s called upon to do it, he’s fast enough and athletic enough to do it.”
Gerald Hearns, Denzel Perryman

He’ll also face questions about his height, the same questions Wisconsin’s Chris Borland faced last year. Both are sub-6 feet.

Yet the playing style — triggering decisions quickly vs. the run, setting a tone with big hits — is something that can apply. In 14 games (eight starts), the third-round pick Borland finished with 108 tackles and two interceptions.

Possibly Barrington did enough to warrant an opportunity to start in 2015. Meanwhile, the careers of A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones in Green Bay may have ended in Seattle.

Perryman is one violent option via the draft.

You’ve got to have a guy in the middle who can control the defense and spark everybody’s play — get everybody lined up, is smart enough, physical enough and athletic enough to make plays,” Brown said. “That’s what he does for us. That’s what he did for us.”

He believes Perryman can do what former 52’s did before him, too.

“Definitely,” he said. “Without a doubt.”

A few other linebackers to track into the NFL scouting combine…

OLB Shane Ray (Missouri): A potential Top 10 pick who may time in the 4.4’s at Indy with a 40-inch vertical. An explosive pass rusher who’s still raw, Ray is this year’s potential star worth a high pick. Had 14.5 sacks, 22.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries.

OLB Shaq Thompson (Washington): Did it all. The 6-2, 230-pounder played linebacker, running back, safety and special teams, earning first-team All-American honors and winning the Paul Hornung Award as the country’s most versatile player. Last season, he had 81 tackles and three forced fumbles, also rushing for 124 yards per game as the Huskies lead back for three games.

OLB Vic Beasley (Clemson): Doesn’t have Ray-like length rushing off the edge, but Beasley can turn the corner quickly. He’s the all-time sacks leader at Clemson with 29.

ILB Eric Kendricks (UCLA): Started three seasons, featured in both 3-4 and 4-3 looks. Brother is Eagles LB Mychal Kendricks. Earned the Butkus Award as nation’s top linebacker as senior, finishing with 101 tackles (11.5 for loss), four sacks in three interceptions.

ILB Benardrick McKinney (Miss. St.): At 6-4, 250, he’s a large man, who played in the middle and also rushed off the edge for the Bulldogs. First team All-American. He can cover tight ends down the seam and is a reliable tackler. Should test well at Combine.

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