Mark Herzlich had enough ability that he would have been a high pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Instead he decided to return to Boston College for his senior season. That senior season was delayed by a year. In May 2009, he was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer in his leg. His football playing days seemed to be over, but Herzlich beat cancer and with a rod in his leg returned to the field in 2010.
Herzlich was a dominant force on the field before the cancer. He did it all. He was explosive, an excellent tackler, strong, and fluid dropping into coverage. It was clear in 2010 that he was still recovering and not all the way back athletically. He relied on top notch instincts and football smarts to anticipate where the ball was going and take a good path to the ball to cut down on what he lost on speed. He also displayed excellent strength and ability to get off blocks.
Herzlich's 40 times will lead to questions about how much athleticism he has really recovered. He ran 4.92 at the Combine and was rumored to be in the high 4.8 range at BC's pro day. He is not a finished product, though, when it comes to speed. Watching game footage of him through the year tells the story of a guy who continued to regain speed and agility more and more as the season went along. He might never regain what he once had, but he is not far off from posting numbers adequate for a position where one works in short space and in traffic, like inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
Herzlich has a lot of qualities the Jets love from their players. Again, he is a very intelligent guy. He clearly loves the game of football, working to get back when doctors told him his career might be over. While he sat out the 2009 season, he served as an unofficial assistant coach to help the linebackers. He is also a high character guy who raised over $100,000 for charity to fight cancer as he was recovering.
I could see him being a fit in the mid to late rounds. The Jets could bring him along slowly for a year as he continues to regain strength in his leg. Then with his size, strength, and smarts, he could become a replacement for Bart Scott at inside linebacker or perhaps for Calvin Pace setting the edge and using a bull rush outside.