With the NFL combine over and on-campus pro day workouts approaching, we at Scouts Inc. have gone back into the film room to get a better feel for some notable prospects. Here's what I've seen from five outside linebacker prospects in recent days, all of whom have gotten a boost from the skills I've seen on film.
Nebraska's Lavonte David (Scouts Inc. grade: 86)
There's not much David (6-foot-0⅝, 233 pounds) can't do. He has a good motor and above-average speed (4.65 in the 40-yard dash) and shows solid instincts as a run defender. He is also better than anticipated at the point of attack, given his size. He'll never be an elite take-on guy, but David has good functional strength (19 bench-press reps at 225 pounds), diagnoses plays quickly and knows how to drop his pads and play with leverage, giving just a little to shed blocks and get back into the play.
He also wades through traffic well and rarely gets caught in the trash on his way to the play, keeping himself alive in pursuit by taking good angles and going over the top of blocks rather than taking the easy way out and cutting underneath blockers.
David is a three-down linebacker with excellent man-coverage skills and the fluidity, awareness and athleticism to stay with running backs and tight ends in coverage. He also shows the ability to stick with slot receivers on occasion. Finally, David is a solid tackler, and while he does leave his feet at times he does so with his head up and is good at cutting a ball carrier's legs out or wrapping him up. Given his overall skill set and value as an every-down defender, David is solidly in the second round at this point and would be a great fit as a weakside linebacker in an 4-3 scheme.
Miami's Sean Spence (75)
Spence is another undersized (5-11⅜, 231), 4-3 weakside prospect. His movement skills are a little cleaner than David's, but Spence is not as instinctive or strong at the point of attack. However, Spence's instincts are still above average and he flies around the field. He is quick on his feet, has good change-of-direction skills and is a reliable tackler.
He struggles to get off blocks at times, though, and as a result doesn't always get a solid hit on the ball carrier. Spence also gets caught in the wash at times and has trouble avoiding trash, but he has good range and developing instincts in zone coverage and the ability to match up in man coverage. Spence has the look of a third-down contributor in sub packages as a rookie, and combined with his contributions on special teams that has him on the fringe of Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) at this point.
Florida State's Nigel Bradham (71)
Bradham (6-1⅞, 241) still has some learning to do in terms of instincts and awareness, but he's a run-and-hit linebacker with a violent style. His range is good (4.64 in the 40), and his combine jumps (37-inch vertical, 10-foot-1 broad) confirmed the ability we've seen on film to explode into ball carriers. He could get a little better taking on blocks, but Bradham has long arms (33.6 inches) and is a solid wrap-up tackler who will fill hard when necessary.
Bradham also displays good range in underneath coverage, and his size, speed and ability to run and deliver big hits should make him a valued special-teams player while he learns a defensive system early in his career. Bradham is working his way into Day 2 consideration.
Arkansas State's Demario Davis (69)
Davis (6-2, 235; 4.61) is similar to Bradham in that he is a good athlete with the ability to play on the strong side in a 4-3 scheme or as a weakside inside linebacker in a 3-4. Davis has exceptional short-area burst and impressive closing ability, which could be seen on a first-quarter play against Virginia Tech, when Davis ran down Hokies RB David Wilson from the opposite hash.
Davis is raw, though, and needs to play more under control. Davis comes in too hot at times when chasing plays, and he needs to drop his pads and break down more effectively when he reaches the ball carrier. He's also learning how to get into passing lanes and become more aware in zone coverage, but Davis time pressures well and can close hard on quarterbacks. He's another strong special-teamer and his overall skill set should get him some consideration early on Day 3, and it won't be a huge surprise if his name is called late on Day 2.
Kentucky's Danny Trevathan (52)
Trevathan (6-0¼, 237) lacks elite strength and will never be a knock-back tackler, but he is instinctive and gets to ball carriers all over the field. Like Spence, he can get sealed off at times and will be engulfed by bigger blockers at the point of attack, but when Trevathan moves laterally he absorbs contact and protects his feet well in pursuit.
He's not as fluid as David or Spence in coverage, though, and will have trouble matching up with athletic tight ends. That makes him more of a sub-package/special-teams contributor with a mid-to-late-round grade.