With the 2017 NFL season officially over all 32 NFL teams are officially in draft mode. As Packer fans, we have been in draft mode for the last 5 weeks and Pack To The Future has all of your Packers draft content covered this offseason. This year is my first year doing draft analysis and covering my all time favorite position, the inside linebackers. If you haven’t already, check out my first draft piece where I previewed my top 10 inside linebackers heading in to this years draft. In this article, we are going to take a look at one linebacker who stood out to me on tape–Micah Kiser from the University of Virginia.
Kiser (#53) comes in at 6’2 weighing 240. Looking at him on tape, he was one of the bigger inside linebackers in this class. In his sophmore year, which was one of this best, he had an impressive 117 tackles, 7.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. I had him at number 7 on my list of top 10 inside linebackers. Here’s what stood out to me when watching him on tape:
- Good eyes/vision
- Flexible. Can play inside or roll down and play outside
- Good size
- Good run stopper
- Average pass rusher
- Coverage needs work
- Hand work needs improvement
- Can over run play
Lets go to the tape to evaluate a few of these things.
Watch Kiser here, number 53, play from the backside here. When the play goes away from you as an inside linebacker, your responsibility becomes the cutback. You are looking for anything coming back your way. The way to play this is to be patient and “scrape” over the top of the play. A scraping technique is nothing more than playing downhill toward the line of scrimmage and watching for the ball carrier to cut back. A key factor in scraping is not getting cut off by the backside tackle or guard. If reached by either one you can get cut off and the play could spring for big yardage. Watch here how he plays it patiently, gets his hands on the guard and avoids the cut block. When an offensive lineman fires out so low and quickly, a good linebacker gets hands on the shoulders and shoves him toward the ground. This is a great job by Kiser of being patient and rallying to the ball.
Here is an example of Kiser getting too tall when playing the run. He is the strongside inside linebacker here, playing on the right. Kiser reads it correctly and starts to come downhill, but is turned out by the guard. The play goes away, and as he stars to pursue it is cut off by the guard. If he could scrape quicker he might have had this play. This is where hands become a big factor as well. When a guard reaches a linebacker, he must be quick to get a hand on the shoulder with a strong violent punch, and then “rip” through the blocker with his inside arm. A big battle between the linebackers and offensive line is usually who can get their hands on who first. The player who makes initial contact first is usually the one who will win the battle.
Now lets see how well Kiser plays when the run is towards his side. He does a pretty good job here staying square and playing down the line. A good trait in inside linebackers is to have their shoulders square, shuffle down the line and find the ball. Footwork is crucial and the feet should never cross. This is clinic stuff right here. Even when it looks like he is almost beat, he sprints and finds the ball carrier. Finishing plays and defending the run were his biggest strengths when looking at him.
Getting cut off by tackles and guards were one of Kiser’s downsides. Boise State is running and outside zone play and the playside tackle is looking to move to the second level and reaches Kiser. They give up about 10 yards here after the back cuts through his gap. Gap control is a must in any defense. The lack of hands here is troubling. I would like to see him be much more violent with the hands during plays like this. Inside linebackers cannot give ground when teams are looking to run outside.
Lets take a quick look at his pass rushing abilities. Virginia is sending 6 here and Kiser shoots the A gap. He comes through clean and delivers a pretty big hit to the quarterback. He did show impressive speed and solid stunting abilities. This cross stunt is one that Pettine likes to run. The interior defensive lineman are reaching to the B gap with both inside linebackers crossing the A gaps. Kiser stays tight to the offensive lineman on stunts. He doesn’t loop out and lose ground. He takes a straight angle at full speed and makes the quarterback force a quick throw.
There was a lot about Kiser that I liked and things that must improve for him to make his way on to the Packers board. I believe that he must really improve in pass coverage, which is probably the biggest thing he needs to work on before the combine. I expect Kiser to fall somewhere in the third round. He is a good prospect who could be a reliable backup or maybe even see decent playing time his first year.
Go Pack Go!
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