The 2013 NFL Draft will see a lot of wide receivers, defensive linemen, and tight ends drafted. But not many 4-3 linebackers stand out from the crowd. The 2012 draft class had a number of 4-3 linebackers who made an impact as rookies: Luke Kuechly, Mychal Kendricks, Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner, Zach Brown, Demario Davis, and Miles Burris were all drafted before the fifth round, and they all ended up playing significant snaps, if not starting for most of the year. I’ll be surprised if that happens this year.
One underrated guy hasn’t made a lot of headlines, but he has the potential to be a Pro Bowl weakside linebacker as a rookie. As a converted safety, this player has a knack for forcing turnovers, with six forced fumbles and two interceptions as a senior, to go along with thirteen and six, respectively, in his college career. He’s a dynamic personality who leaves Rutgers as a highly-respected leader on and off the field. That player is Khaseem Greene.
| Ht || Wt || Class || Ranking || Projection |
| 6'1" || 241 || Senior || 50th || Second Round |
Athleticism: It often seems weird to credit a football player for his athleticism, particularly when he plays a skill position, like wide receiver or running back. He’s an athlete! He’s supposed to be athletic! In Greene’s case, he has more than requisite athleticism for the position. Many linebackers get by more on instincts than strength or quickness, and, while he doesn’t lack instincts, he’s incredibly quick and rangy. You can tell he used to be a defensive back. He covers the field from sideline to sideline with ease, and he makes at least a couple “wow” plays a game, either ranging back to defend a pass or knifing through blockers to blow up a screen. Not many college running backs beat him to the edge, and he has the field speed to do the same in the NFL.
Blitzing: He’s an extremely talented blitzer (six sacks as a senior, 11.5 in his college career). He times his blitz well, and he’s fluid and agile enough to evade blockers, with a surprising burst to close.
Turnovers: Like Charles Tillman of the Chicago Bears, and the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu, Greene has a legitimate, quantifiable ability to force fumbles. He has strong, powerful hands, and he has great instincts as he directs his rips at the football. His experience at free safety shows when he drops in coverage, and his ability to run with tight ends will make him an asset in the NFL.
Size: At only 6’1”, he’s slightly undersized for the position. Rutgers’ official website had him listed at 230 pounds during the season, but he weighed in at 241 at the Combine. He tested a lot slower than most people expected, only running a 4.67 40-yard dash, to go with an only okay 4.20 short shuttle, and a poor 7.58 3-cone. Perhaps that extra weight is what did it. If he can maintain his game speed at 241, he’ll be in great shape. However, if he’s forced to play at 230, I don’t think it’ll be much of an issue in this day of the hybrid linebacker/safety like Lavonte David.
Strength: While he has strong hands when he rips at the ball to force fumbles, he’s not nearly as strong when he’s taking on blockers. I’d like to see him take them on with his arms and keep them out of his frame a lot better, but he usually opts to try to slide around them, which sometimes means he slides himself out of a play. Some of it could be lack of experience at the position. But unless he can learn to take on an offensive lineman and defeat the block with strong hands, he’ll be resigned to a weakside role only.
His poor showing at the Combine has affected his stock slightly. His popularity had been growing in the weeks leading up to the event in Indianapolis, even sneaking into the back end of the first round in some mocks. If he has a better performance at his pro day, he could get back into that discussion. As it is, I think he’s a second round lock as a dynamic, playmaking weakside linebacker, not at all unlike Lavonte David (who was drafted by former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano). He should adapt fairly seamlessly to the NFL, and his ability to track and tackle running backs in the open field and run up the seam with tight ends will make him a valuable asset to most teams.