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NFL Draft

NFL Draft: What To Look For In ILB Prospects

Brian Martin



Cowboys Headlines - NFL Draft: What To Look For In ILB Prospects

Today, I will attempt to explain to you what to look for when scouting the inside linebacker position.

Remember that analyzing actual game film is the best tool at your disposal to use when scouting a particular player. To me, it makes up about 90% of the scouting report. The other 10% includes a player’s background check and their pre-draft workouts. All three of these combined make up the final scouting report.

Here are the positions that have been covered so far: Quarterback, Running back, Wide receiver, Tight end, Offensive line, Defensive end, and Defensive tackle.

This article will mainly focus on analyzing linebackers that fit in the 4-3 defensive scheme, because that is the scheme that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli chooses to use.

Scheme Fit

Determining a linebackers scheme fit might just be the most important thing that needs to be done when analyzing an individual player.

In the NFL, there are really just two defensive schemes that are used, the 3-4 defense and the 4-3 defense.

Unfortunately, there are different variations of these two different defensive schemes, so it makes it that much more difficult to identify which defense a linebacker is best suited to play in.

A Rod Marinelli run defense is a variation of the 4-3 defense, but he likes his linebackers to play Cover 2.

This variation of the 4-3 defense usually uses smaller more athletic linebackers that use their speed to make plays all over the field. These linebackers are capable of making plays in both the running and passing game.

The difference between a 4-3 linebacker and a 3-4 linebacker isn’t a very noticeable. A lot of linebackers can play in either defensive scheme. Really, the only real difference is that 3-4 linebackers have to be able to be a little bit more physical because they are asked to take on offensive lineman more often.

Identifying the scheme fit that is one of the most important things to do when analyzing linebacker position.


A linebackers instincts might just be the most important trait to look for when studying game film. This is something that cannot be coached. It is either something they are born with or not.

Some players just have a knack of knowing what’s going to happen on any given play and are able to put themselves in position to make a tackle.

The term “football IQ” is thrown around a lot when discussing a player’s instincts, but I personally don’t like that term. It suggests that a player can study to improve their instincts, but I think that is a misinterpretation.

A player can study game film and learn a teams tendencies and what plays they like to run in certain situations, but that doesn’t improve their instincts. That just improves their knowledge of the game.

When studying game film I like to look for a LB who is continually in position to make a play by diagnosing and reacting, almost like they know what play is being run before the offense does.

Athletic Ability

Athletic ability is much more important for 4-3 Cover 2 linebackers that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli likes to use in his defensive scheme.

Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In ILB Prospects

Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

4-3 Cover 2 LBs are asked to rely more on their speed and athleticism to make plays in both the running and passing game. They are more dual threat linebackers that generally play all three downs.

I like to analyze a LBs change of direction capabilities, because it is rare that a player is running in a straight line to make a tackle. I look to see if a linebacker is able to chop his feet and change directions in the blink of an eye when needed.

Lack of flexibility and hip stiffness can limit a players athletic ability.

Athleticism is a broad term and there are a lot of things to look for when trying to analyze this trait for a player. That is why I just try to look for a linebacker that is smooth and his movements and can make plays all over the field.


A linebackers strength may be more important to those players that are better suited to play in the 3-4 defensive scheme, where they are asked to take on offensive lineman more often, but it is still an important trait for 4-3 linebackers as well.

It doesn’t really matter what defensive scheme a LB is playing in. They still have to be able to fight through traffic and use their strength to stack and shed offensive lineman to get to the ball carrier in the running game.

Strength is also important when making a tackle. Running backs and linebackers are about the same size in the NFL today, so the stronger player is usually the one that wins the battle in most cases.

When analyzing game film I look for a linebacker who consistently is able to use his strength when taking on offensive lineman and win these battles more times than not.


Leadership is an underrated trait for a linebacker. Generally, the LB is the one making all of the defensive calls and the one that provides that extra motivation when the team is feeling down.Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In ILB Prospects 1

I really only look for leadership in quarterbacks, centers, and linebackers because of their responsibilities to the team.

I like to think of linebackers as being the general on the field  and their responsibility is to get the other 10 players to rally behind him when they go into battle.

It’s not a very easy trait to analyze. You really have to pay close attention to how the LB handles himself on the field and even the sidelines.

Character background checks and pre-draft workouts/interviews are a good tool to use to find out more about a player’s leadership capabilities.

Pass Coverage

Analyzing a linebackers pass coverage ability is sometimes difficult to do, because you don’t really know what his responsibility is on any given play or where he’s supposed to drop into coverage.Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In ILB Prospects 2

What I try to look for is more about their movement skills and how they are able to position themselves in pass coverage.

Does it look like they have an understanding of where they need to be in pass coverage? Do they seem aware of the routes that are being run by the receivers? Are they capable of running with a receiver throughout the route?

These are all things I try to look for when analyzing a linebackers pass coverage capabilities.

I also like to see if they were able to come away with an interception when the ball is thrown in their direction. It’s just an added bonus when you can find a linebacker that is capable of easily catching a football.


Tackling is an inside linebacker’s main job, right? The easiest thing to do would be to look at the linebackers statistics to see how many tackles he is making per game, but statistics can be misleading.

Where are those tackles taking place? Are they 10 yards down the field or at the line of scrimmage?

When watching game film I like to keep a chart and keep track of where those tackles are taking place. I like to use X’s for when a linebacker makes a tackle and O’s for a missed tackle.

I use a diagram of what type of defense the linebacker is playing in (3-4 or 4-3) when charting where all of these tackles are taking place. This gives you a much better understanding of where the LB is making plays.

I like to analyze whether or not a LB is in position to make a play and how well he is reading and reacting to what is going on.

Using a chart is a handy tool that helps in this analysis.


To me, the linebacker position is one of the more entertaining positions to scout and analyze. They are always always around the ball and in the thick of things from when the ball is snapped, up until the whistle is blown.

The scheme fit is probably one of the most important things to identify when analyzing game film, but all of these traits that were mentioned are things I like to look for when scouting the linebacker position.

The player that has really caught my eye and has somewhat flown under the radar during this entire draft process is Nick Vigil out of Utah State.

He looks as if he has all the traits that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli looks for in a linebacker and might be available in the fourth round when the Cowboys are on the clock.


Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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NFL Draft

Sean’s Scout: UTSA’s Marcus Davenport Fills Pass Rush Need for Cowboys

Sean Martin



Sean's Scout: UTSA's Marcus Davenport Fills Pass Rush Need for Cowboys
Daniel Dunn / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It is not often at all that a team picking 19th overall may be out of range to draft a small school prospect, but this is rightfully the case for the Dallas Cowboys and UTSA’s Marcus Davenport. For scouts who only care about how these prospects can help their NFL teams, Davenport has all of the traits to be an impact defensive end the second he enters the league.

Should the Cowboys find themselves in position to draft Marcus Davenport in the first round, he would fill an immediate need as another pure pass rusher to pair with DeMarcus Lawrence.

Firmly a first round player on my 2018 NFL Draft Board, let’s take a closer look at Davenport’s potential fit in Dallas.

Davenport5 – Streamable

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What is most exciting about Davenport’s projection to the NFL is that he’s an ideal right defensive end prospect that played mostly on the left side in college. That means Davenport is stout against the run as a powerful player who also displays freakish speed, dip, and balance as a quarterback hunter.

“Simply forcing offensive tackles to respect his rare combination of speed and dip allows Marcus Davenport to knock them backwards with hands-above-eyes technique.”

Davenport1 – Streamable

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This quote and accompanying film clip comes from my full scouting report on Marcus Davenport on Slant Sports. There simply aren’t many EDGE prospects at the top of any given draft as complete as Davenport, while still showing elite upside to get even better.

Davenport does not exactly have a plan for each of his rushes, but pointing him at the quarterback on every play from the RDE spot in Dallas could do him nothing but good from day one. This is a player who captures the corner with ease, thanks to his burst and length, doing so with the balance to absolutely punish blockers.

When Marcus Davenport hits someone, they go backwards. This is a great thing to say about any defensive prospect, particularly a pass rusher who can also bend the corner.

Davenport4 – Streamable

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“There simply aren’t many snaps on which he allows a blocker to work inside of his frame.”

The only slight projection that has to be made on Davenport playing defensive end with the Cowboys is his transition from playing mostly in a two-point stance to putting his hand on the ground. This technical change does little to affect a defensive end’s pass rush approach.

The strength Marcus Davenport shows in his hands is absolutely stunning, and equally as impressive is his controlled acceleration ability. These two traits alone are more than enough to expect Davenport to be able to beat left tackles at the next level with consistency, attacking them before they can reach this lengthy prospect.

“Tapping into Davenport’s full potential could be as simple as getting him in the habit of rushing the half man on every rep, but expecting him to do so right away is a projection.”

With Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli notorious for getting the most out of his defensive linemen, there is no question that Dallas is an ideal landing spot for Marcus Davenport to instantly reach his full potential.

The key to unleashing Davenport on the NFL will be teaching the mental aspects of the position to a player who dominated with raw traits in college.

Davenport3 – Streamable

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The Cowboys have some numbers to sort out at defensive end before the draft, as the likes of Charles Tapper and Randy Gregory could potentially give them enough of a presence across from Lawrence to warrant looking elsewhere with the 19th overall pick.

Of course, Dallas also used last year’s first selection on DE Taco Charlton — who took major strides in his game towards the end of 2017.

None of this should deter them from reinforcing their defensive front with another versatile pass rusher.

Marcus Davenport has a legitimate case to come off the board within the first 15 picks of the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft, making him a great value for the Cowboys, slated to pick 19th.

Sean Martin ✭ on Twitter

My latest scouting report is UTSA’s Marcus Davenport. Get to know this tenacious EDGE prospect —

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: UTSA’s Marcus Davenport Fills Pass Rush Need for Cowboys” in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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NFL Draft

Cowboys Land Small School WR in Latest PFF Mock Draft

Kevin Brady



Cowboys Land Small School WR In Latest PFF Mock Draft
Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post

It’s officially draft season around the NFL, meaning — whether you like it or not — it’s now mock draft season. Pro Football Focus is the latest of the national football media outlets to release a mock draft. Their version of the draft was controversial towards the top, but their pick for the Cowboys was equally intriguing.

PFF has the Cowboys taking Colorado State Wide Receiver Michael Gallup, with the 19th overall pick, a player they graded with a 92.1 in 2017.

“Dallas could go a number of ways here, but they add another receiving threat in Gallup, who can win with speed down the field and toughness at the catch point. He was the nation’s top-graded receiver in 2017 at 92.1 overall, and he adds another weapon for QB Dak Prescott.”

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Michael Gallup. As I stated in my scouting report of Michael Gallup for Slant Sports, I believe he is one of the top-five receivers in the 2018 draft class. Gallup caught 100 passes last season for Colorado State, finishing with 1,413 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns.

At 6’1″ and about 200 pounds, Michael Gallup is the perfect productive Z receiver that any NFL offense would want.

nfldraft2018 michael gallup 2 – Streamable

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Gallup is a smart, athletic, and tough wide out, with consistent hands and excellent ball tracking skills. He was incredibly productive in college, and should be able to contribute to an NFL offense right away as a rookie.

Drafting Gallup in the first round, however, may not be the best move.

I think he’s a fantastic day-two option for the Cowboys. But if they were to pass on Vita Vea and Roquan Smith for Michael Gallup, as they did in this PFF mock draft, I don’t think Cowboys Nation would be too happy.

Of course, this is just one of many mock drafts circling around the inter-webs, but Michael Gallup would be a great fit for the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas desperately needs this type of wide out in their offense, but I hope they can get him 50th overall, rather than 19th.


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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds

Brian Martin



Cowboys Draft Target: Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmonds 1

Draft season! Draft season! Draft season! Pardon my excitement, but it’s one of my favorite times of the year. We all get the chance to study and speculate about the new crop of rookies coming in and determine their potential fit with NFL teams, and in this case, the Dallas Cowboys.

This draft season, especially, is shaping up to be an exciting one because the Cowboys have clear needs pretty much across the board. That means there is no clear answer as to which direction they will go with any of their draft picks, especially when they’re on the clock at 19 in the first round.

There is of course one draft need that has to be near the top of the list, if not #1 overall.

There can be no arguing the Dallas Cowboys absolutely need to address the linebacker position, especially with Sean Lee’s continued health concerns and Anthony Hitchens‘ potential departure via free agency.

Finding linebacker depth through the draft is a must!

A lot of Cowboys fans have already become enamored with former Georgia Bulldogs LB Roquan Smith, and rightfully so.

Smith will likely be the first linebacker off the board when the 2018 NFL Draft gets underway, which means he won’t be available for the Cowboys at 19.

But don’t be disheartened Cowboys fans, I think there is a linebacker in this draft class who possesses the God-given talent to be even better. Let me introduce you to a linebacker who I believe has Superstar potential.

Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds

Tremaine Edmunds checks all the boxes for an NFL linebacker. He is one of the more intriguing prospects in this entire draft class because of his versatility to play in any scheme. But, most intriguing is he is slated to be the second youngest (19) prospect ever drafted, only Amobi Okoye was younger.

But don’t let his youth fool you; he’s a monster on the field.

Tremaine Edmunds is a natural in so many phases of the game, and it has everything to do with his rare athleticism.

Edmunds has the size of an edge player (6’5″, 250), but the movement/athleticism of the smaller and quicker linebackers we’ve seen become popular around the NFL. To put it simply, he looks like a lion, but moves like a gazelle in the open field with his long strides and flexible hips.

Here’s an example of his loose/flexible hips in coverage.

Tremaine Edmunds loose hips in coverage – Streamable

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This isn’t a play you would typically ask a 6’5″, 250-pound man to make, but Tremaine Edmunds makes it look easy.

On this particular play, Edmunds drops into his hook/curl zone coverage. He then realizes the quarterback has decided to pull the ball down and scramble. He shows excellent field awareness and breaks from his coverage responsibility to make the open field tackle on the QB, despite the referee getting in the way.

This play probably wouldn’t have been possible if Edmunds was unable to flip his hips to change direction in order to make the tackle after covering the tight end. He does this with ease.

What I really like about Tremaine Edmunds is his versatility to play in any kind of defensive front/scheme. But, I personally believe he fits best in a 4-3 scheme, which is why I think he makes an excellent Cowboys draft prospect.

I think he fits best in the 4-3 scheme because of all of the different positions he can play. In the 4-3 scheme, Edmunds could play:

MIKE (middle): He has tremendous gap-shooting ability and play anticipation.
SAM (strong-side): He has the ability to stop the run and still drop into coverage.
EDGE: He has the size, athleticism, flexibility, and explosion.

Tremaine Edmunds played all of these positions while at Virginia Tech, and I think he could even play WILL (weak-side) as well, but that’s something he wasn’t asked to do in college.

But, you don’t have to take my word for it.

Edmunds at MIKE:

Tremaine Edmunds read/react – Streamable

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Here you see Tremaine Edmunds playing the MIKE LB position. He quickly reads and diagnoses the play, shooting the gap to make the tackle for a loss on third down.

It’s an excellent play and shows the God-given talent he was born with. You can’t teach those kind of instincts.

Edmunds at SAM:

Tremaine Edmunds covering RB – Streamable

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On this particular play, Edmunds is lined up at the SAM LB position and has responsibility of covering the running back out of the backfield. Not only does he once again show his loose hips in coverage, but he makes an excellent open-field tackle on third down for a minimal gain to get the defense off the field.

Edmunds at EDGE:

Tremaine Edmunds off the edge – Streamable

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Tremaine Edmunds was also utilized as an edge rusher, at times, while at Virginia Tech. Here you see him lined up in a two-point stance on the defense’s left side.

At the snap of the ball, you can really see his first-step explosion, natural bend and athleticism.

The TE trying to block him had no chance, and Edmunds probably would have gotten the sack if not for the slight hold and the QB’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

As you can see, Tremaine Edmunds is an intriguing prospect for the Dallas Cowboys, and could probably start right away at the SAM LB position while also providing much-needed depth in other areas.

He’s not a polished prospect by any means, he’s still raw, but I believe he has the upside to be one of the great ones.

If I were to compare him to a current NFL player, I would compare him to either Anthony Barr (Vikings) or Jamie Collins (Browns). Both players have been successful as inside linebackers as well as edge players in the NFL, and that’s what I envision Edmunds will do in his career.

I think Edmunds is going to open a lot of eyes once we get further into the draft process, especially after he puts on a show at the combine. He will likely shoot up draft boards, which means he should be in play for the Dallas Cowboys with the 19th overall selection. I have absolutely zero concerns about taking him there.

What do you think about Tremaine Edmunds as a Cowboys draft prospect?


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