One of the things I want to do over the next month and a half before the NFL Draft is get fans of the Arizona Cardinals as much information about possible players that could be in play come draft day 2013.
Two weeks ago, we looked at three late round running back prospects, and the consensus seemed to lean towards Dennis Johnson being the fan favorite.
Last week we took a look at some safety prospects that could be in play come day three of the draft, and Duke Williams and Shamarko Thomas seemed to split the fan vote. Both are players that are also moving up draft boards it seems.
This week we will continue our trend of defensive players, moving to the inside linebackers. While Ron Wolfley has talked about the possibility of Sam Acho being moved to inside linebacker, I would still like to see one brought via the draft to help create some depth.
Here are three inside linebacker prospects to keep an eye on for day three possibilities for the Cardinals.
Kevin Reddick, LB, North Carolina – 6-1, 243 lbs
Reddick is an outstanding run defender, does a great job reading his keys in the run game, knows his assignments and doesn’t try and go outside of them.
He is excellent working his way through trash to get to the running backs and strong enough to wrap up and bring down the ball carrier. Reddick is a strong tackler who does a great job in the phone booth when taking on blockers, working around them and getting to the ball.
Where Reddick struggles is in space, whether that’s in the run game or when dropping into coverage. He lacks elite athleticism, even though he is an excellent short area athlete, and doesn’t do well when chasing down receivers or ball carriers.
Reddick can work his way through his reads too fast, opening up cut back lanes, as he’ll get upfield and won’t be able to recover quickly.
Jon Bostic, LB, Florida – 6-1, 245 lbs
Bostic is a downhill, run-stuffing inside linebacker that knows how to take on blockers and win in the run game consistently.
Bostic knows how to stack a blocker and shed him to get to the ball carrier with a strong upper body, controlling players with his hands and drills the running back.
Bostic does an excellent job following his keys, and more importantly. knows how to get his teammates lined up correctly and in a position to make plays consistently — part of the reason Florida was so good defensively last season.
Where Bostic has trouble, like Reddick, is when he is out in space. He lacks top end, elite athleticism and can get sucked into the play and not get out because he isn’t nearly quick enough.
One of the major concerns with Bostic is his lack of burst if his keys are off, which was rare his last season in college, he can’t make up for it like a Daryl Washington with athleticism. His head works faster than his feet at times, and it makes him susceptible to getting caught in the muck on the second level.
Bostic is a hammer in the middle of a defense, a player I would like to play next to Washington, as he would be the perfect run-stopping compliment.
Nico Johnson, LB, Alabama – 6-2, 248 lbs
Johnson was a leader in the Alabama defense; the guy responsible for taking on the lead blocker, whether it is an offensive lineman or fullback and opening up the play for teammates — something the Cardinals could have him do similarly for Washington.
Like Reddick and Bostic, Johnson is not an every down linebacker. He is more of a run-stopper that can come in and play in the run game, but he isn’t necessarily out of sync in coverage.
Where Johnson separates himself, and something that will likely push him into round four, is that he can be effective when covering tight ends or backs out of the back field. While it isn’t something you want him doing consistently, it is a good thing to see on film at times.
Johnson won’t be overly effective against players when they are trying to get to the edge, and while he can flow with a pulling guard, he doesn’t look nearly as comfortable doing that as he does taking on an inline blocker.
It’s one of the bigger needs on the Cardinals roster at this time, as I think it is important for the Cardinals to find a fit next to Washington that will continue to allow him to be the playmaker he is, and not ask him to do more than what he is already doing.
These three players could meet that need, either in year one, or as a contributor on special teams to a rotational player and competing for steady playing time in year two.