Carolina Panthers 2012 Draft: Evaluating The Linebackers

Feb 26, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly speaks at a press conference during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Before I get started, I'd like to give major props to Cyberjag, who came up with a cogent way to measure our former draft picks overall value. In fact, his brilliance inspired me to come up with my own grading system for assessing the value of the incoming 2012 NFL draft class. I can tell you immediately that this formula isn't half as sophisticated as Cyberjag's, but I do hope you find it to be somewhat intelligible and useful.

With that being said, I thought I would start with the linebacker position. Some of the CSR community views this particular position as a high priority need that should be addressed somewhere in the first two rounds. This group of fans will tell you that there is no guarantee that Davis will make it through the season, and this is certainly realistic. They will probably also tell you that Beason may not even be a 100 percent when the season starts, and that is quite plausible.

Then there's another group of fans out there who feel as if picking a linebacker in the first two rounds is unwarranted. After all, if Beason and Davis can manage to stay healthy, and possibly come back better than ever, the use of an early round pick on a back-up linebacker would certainly look asinine in the short term.

While I can absolutely see the logic of both sides, it ultimately doesn't matter in the least what you and I think. When Marty and company do finally find themselves on the clock, they're going to make the decision that they think makes the most since for this franchise, and as a result, we will likely be calling him a fool or a genius in the coming years. Think about it for a moment. The outcome of this draft could very well determine whether or not we hoist that Lombardi trophy over the next several years. Either way, Marty won't be looking at my scoring system while evaluating prospects anytime soon, but you can, and I hope it won't be a complete waste of your time.

Keep in mind that this scoring system does not factor in a prospect's level of competition in any particular game or conference. I'm quite certain that I wouldn't be able to quantify this particular discrepancy. I'll be the first to admit that this scoring system is far from perfect, but I completely enjoyed almost every moment of putting this thing together. Anyway, I'm open to any suggestions or criticism that you may bring my way, and I'll also do my best to answer any questions you might have.

I used the following four criteria to come up with the final scores: Final Season Tackles Per Game, Final Season Impact Plays Per Game, Final Season Percentage Tackles For Loss, and Impact Seasons.

1. FS T/G= Final Season Tackles Per Game

This number is cut and dry because it refers to how many Tackles a prospect had Per Game in his Final Season. This is a way to reward a prospect for how often they were in the right place at the right time to make a tackle.

The poster child for excelling in this category would be Luke Kuechly because his production was simply like none other. He made an astounding 15.92 tackles per game in his final season at BostonCollege.

2. FS IP/G= Final Season Impact Plays Per Game

This number refers to how many Impact Plays a prospect had per game in his Final Season. It is calculated by adding together a prospects total number of impact plays (interceptions, tackles-for-loss, passes broken up, forced fumbles, quarterback hurries, and blocked kicks), then dividing that number by the number of games they actually played in their final season. This is a way to reward a prospect for the amount of impact they had during any given game.

The winner in this category was Terrell Manning because he made 2.59 impact plays per game during his final year at NC State.

3. FS % TFL= Final Season Percentage Tackles For Loss

This number refers to a prospect’s Percentage of Tackles that were actually Tackles For Loss in their Final Season. We should all be able to agree that a prospect who only accumulates a pedestrian 60 tackles for an entire season shouldn’t be judged by this number alone. Maybe they had a shortened season, or were on the field less because they were used as a situational pass rusher some of the time, and as a result, saw less action on the field. This is a way to reward a prospect for the quality of their tackles.

I had to come up with a metric like this one for players like Bruce Irvin. Although he only had 40 tackles in his final season at West Virginia, 14 of those Tackles went for a Loss. This metric seems to balance out the fact that he received a low point total for his overall lack of tackle production.

4. IS= Impact Seasons

This number refers to how many Seasons that a prospect made an Impact during his college career, and it is the only metric that isn't represented in the scoring chart below. A prospect will receive one point for every season that he accumulated at least 40 total tackles and 5 or more total impact plays (interceptions, tackles-for-loss, passes defended, forced fumbles, and blocked kicks). This is a way to reward a prospect for durability and sustained success.

The only player to obtain a perfect score in this category was Sean Spence, who showed sustained success by accruing at least 40 tackles and 5 impact plays in each of his 4 seasons at Miami.

Linebacker Evaluation Scoring Table

Tackles/Game Score Impact Plays/Game Score % TFL Score
12.00-12.99 10 2.25+ 10 45+% 10
11.00-11.99 9 2.00-2.24 9 40-44.99% 9
10.00-10.99 8 1.75-1.99 8 35-39.99% 8
9.0-9.99 7 1.50-1.74 7 30-34.99% 7
8.00-8.99 6 1.25-1.49 6 25-29.99% 6
7.00-7.99 5 1.00-1.24 5 20-24.99% 5
6.00-6.99 4 .75-.99 4 15-19.99% 4
5.00-5.99 3 .50-.74 3 10-14.99% 3
4.00-4.99 2 .25-.49 2 5-9.9.99% 2
3.00-3.99 1 .00-.24 1 0-4.9% 1

** While 10 is ordinarily the top score for averaging 12-12.99 tackles per game, Kuechly was the exception because he averaged an extraordinary 3 additional tackles above and beyond said benchmark. Therefore, he received a score of 13.

2012 Linebackers Final Draft Scores

Prospect FS T/G Score FS IP/G Score FS % TFL Score IS Score Total Score
**Luke Kuechly 15.92 *13* 1.66 7 6.28% 2 3 25
Emmanuel Acho 9.00 7 2.12 9 12.39% 3 3 22
Zach Brown 8.08 6 2.27 10 12.85% 3 2 21
Terrell Manning 6.91 4 2.59 10 19.07% 4 3 21
Sean Spence 9.64 7 1.45 6 13.20% 3 4 20
Ronnell Lewis 6.00 4 2.30 10 21.66% 5 1 20
Audie Cole 8.31 6 1.88 8 11.57% 3 3 20
Lavonte David 10.23 8 1.69 7 9.02% 2 2 19
Miles Burris 5.92 3 1.65 7 25.32% 6 3 19
Alex Hoffman-Ellis 7.33 5 1.50 7 12.50% 3 3 18
Mychal Kendricks 8.08 6 1.38 6 13.33% 3 3 18
Bruce Irvin 3.08 1 1.50 7 36.25% 8 2 18
Donta Hightower 6.54 4 1.85 8 12.94% 3 2 17
Jerry Franklin 7.77 5 1.46 6 9.90% 2 4 17
Noah Keller 8.29 6 1.43 6 6.90% 2 3 17
Keenan Robinson 7.54 5 1.65 7 8.67% 2 3 17
Najee Goode 6.69 4 1.38 6 16.09% 4 2 16
Nigel Bradham 6.62 4 1.35 6 11.04% 3 3 16
James Michael-Johnson 7.69 5 0.96 4 6.50% 2 4 15
Korey Toomer 5.67 3 1.63 7 15.44% 4 1 15
Kyle Wilbur 5.31 3 1.35 6 15.21% 4 2 15
Demario Davis 5.31 3 1.38 6 14.49% 3 3 15
Travis Lewis 7.00 5 1.00 5 4.76% 2 2 14
Vontaze Burfict 5.31 3 0.85 4 10.14% 3 3 13
Tank Carder 5.38 3 0.73 3 6.42% 2 3 11
Josh Kaddu 3.57 1 0.96 4 19.00% 4 1 10
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