When the 2011 season concluded and the 2012 mock drafts started popping up, Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly and the Philadelphia Eagles were a very common match. With the Eagles acquiring DeMeco Ryans, Kuechly is less frequently matched with the Eagles. However, I think he is still very much on their radar and is a guy I think linebacker coach Mike Caldwell really likes.
Caldwell and company spoke with Kuechly at the NFL Combine, and Caldwell also attend the Boston College Pro Day, putting the heralded linebacker through a number of drills.
When you look at Kuechly’s career at Boston College, there is one thing that jumps out at you big time. The guy is an absolute tackling machine. In his senior season alone, he played in 12 games, amassing 191 tackles, a dozen of which came behind the line of scrimmage.
In watching his film, a few things jumped out to me in his run defense. First, despite not having tremendous speed, he moves from sideline to sideline extremely well. He’s not a slow player, but he doesn’t have great top end speed. However, he plays extremely smart and takes very good angles. I never saw him give up on a single play.
I’ve read scouting reports that knock his high amount of tackles because many came further down the field. This may be true, but a large part of this is because he pursues a runner no matter when they are on the field until they are brought down. As much as Eagles fans may be sick of the term, he’s definitely a high motor guy.
Another thing that stood out to me is how I rarely saw him get dominated by a blocker. He has good size at 6-3 242 pounds, but he’s not exactly the biggest linebacker you’ll ever see. His size is of no concern to me as he gets off blocks very well and is always around the football.
Kuechly seems to get pretty high praise in his pass defense as well although I think he has room for improvement. I’ve seen instances where he seems to lose receivers behind him and may focus on the quarterback too much. I think it’s an area he’ll need to work on in the NFL where we’re starting to see more and more athletic tight ends who have become a big part of the offense.
Check out some footage of Kuechly against Clemson this year, via DraftBreakdown.com.
The biggest question heading into the draft is going to be how highly the Eagles still value the linebacker position after trading for Ryans. Tommy Lawlor recently wrote about the Birds still drafting Kuechly and having him take over as the SAM linebacker. This would allow them to strengthen a corps of linebackers that still needs help, provide insurance if something happened to Ryans, and also give them a long-term answer in the middle down the road.
Kuechly is definitely a special player and is the kind of guy you’d like the Eagles to end their drought of not taking linebackers in the first round with. He may not be as athletic as some others at the position, but he has clearly proven that he has other intangibles that make him a great linebacker.
When you look at the Eagles defensive line, another area they may look to address with their first round pick, it needs far less help than the linebacker position currently does. Guys like Kuechly don’t enter the league every year, and I’d be thrilled to see the Eagles take him in the first round, even if it meant moving up to do so.