Instincts: While watching him up close in Mobile it was clear Borland excels in the run game because of his ability to quickly diagnose plays, which in turn develops into quickness moving downhill with urgency to fill his gaps and make the play. With less than average size for an NFL linebacker, Borland thrives by consistently using his instincts and attacking the ball carrier.
Those same instincts come handy in pass coverage as well, allowing him a quick first step with good speed and change of direction while dropping back. Borland also shows off fluid hips turning and staying with receiver in coverage, and can finish the play by driving on the ball with his quick feet. Overall Borland shows great timing in coverage by putting his body in good position to make the play while staying disciplined out in space.
Borland came into the college game as a two-star linebacker from Ohio and has continuously grown in terms of diagnosing and reading the play. This helped him eventually become the leader and captain of his defense.
Motor: If you come into this game with less than ideal size or athleticism then you better have a strong motor to compensate, and Borland has exactly that. It's no secret that Borland's mind and body are always in fifth gear. He is a no-nonsense linebacker that is always determined to get to his target and finish.
The level of intensity Borland plays with goes hand-in-hand with his production on the field as he rarely stops moving his feet to lunge at his opponent, but instead will continually churn his legs while driving through his hips.
Finishing the play one of Borland's bread and butters as he will wrap up ball carriers and drag them to the ground with authority. Although he likely lacks the speed to run sideline-to-sideline at the next level, Borland's effort is never in question.
Size: More worrisome than Borland's lack of height is his short arms. He was measured at the Senior Bowl with the shortest arms of any player in Mobile at just 28 5/8 inches. This is a red flag for scouts as it will hinder his ability to shed blocks and be effective near the line of scrimmage, and is something that is very evident from watching the tape. When trying to make a play at the line of scrimmage Borland has a hard time maneuvering his way through traffic because of his lack of length.
Borland's biggest challenge at the line is taking on interior lineman. When matched up against bigger bodied players Borland has a very difficult time holding his ground and shedding his block. With his awareness of this, Borland will try to overcompensate by running around his blockers, and in turn will show up too aggressive on tape running himself out of the play.
Borland's lack of size hinders his ability to rush the passer as well. Due to his short arms, Borland lacks functional strength as a rusher and will in turn rely on his spin or swim move instead of beating his man with power. Although he does show good bend and flexibility around the edge, big bodied offensive linemen can push or wash Borland out of the play far too easily as times when he is rushing the passer due to his small frame.
If you've followed Borland throughout this draft process, there is a great chance you've heard him being compared to former Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas. The similarities are certainly recognizable as the knock on both of them coming out of college is their less than ideal size. What makes them both special however, is their elite instincts and ability to dissect the play, resulting in great open field tackling using fundamental technique.
Almost all of Borland's weaknesses can be traced back to his small size and short arms. So although he was highly productive for Wisconsin becoming the Big Ten defensive player of the year, his lack of NFL size will be tough for teams to overlook. Nonetheless, Borland's college production, football smarts, and gritty high motor will certainly be enough for scouts to entertain the thought of him during the end of day two of the draft.
There are rumors Borland's size will push him into the fourth round, which would be tremendous value for any team in need of depth at the linebacker position as he could eventually turn into a three-down starter with the proper coaching.
There is no denying Borland's potential to be a highly productive tackling machine at the next level. But in order for him to do that, the team that drafts him must mask up his weaknesses of poor play at the line of scrimmage by giving him an effective nose tackle to play in front of him. A good nose tackle will soak up two blockers and free up lanes for Borland to do what he does best, and that is react and attack the ball carrier at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Without an effective nose tackle however, interior linemen will be able to reach the second level of the defense and wash Borland out of the play due to his lack of length and size with ease.
Although any team could add a nose tackle of this nature during the free agency or draft process, teams that already possess quality at the position and at the same time are in need of linebacker help are the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Diego Chargers. While the teams that are desperate for any type of help at the position regardless of their nose tackle are the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and New York Giants.