Scouting The Draft: Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin

Gregory Shamus

We continue to look at some of the top prospects for the 2014 NFL draft in relation to the Jets.

Introduction

So here we are, officially in the off-season and everyone is back to 0-0. Sure Seattle will celebrate for years but for the rest of us, this is a clean slate. The flavour of the week is sure to be defensive players, defense wins Championships after all, well it does now a strong defense led by the 'Legion Of Boom' won it all. So here I am back with a scouting report on the defensive side of the football. Anything post Superbowl is draft season for me, so expect these reports to be coming thick and fast between now and the middle of May. We have a lot of time, but a lot of prospects.

If you are a draft junky, you were paying close attention to Mobile, Alabama recently for the Senior Bowl. Some of the very best prospects pitting their skills against elite talent. Scouts love the senior bowl and it gives us a real chance to compare some of these guys. If you were paying close attention then the name Chris Borland will be familiar. If you weren't then you could be forgiven for not knowing the name. I'll be honest and say I didn't know too much about Chris Borland before he started turning heads. Fortunately with so many games in storage I was able to go back and take a closer look at him, and I like what I saw.

First of all Borland wasn't a heavily recruited guy. He was a 2 star linebacker/kicker coming out of Ohio, however when he committed to the Badgers he quickly showed why many teams missed a trick in not recruiting him. After redshirting his first year, he saw extensive action as a rookie and throughout his career he has either broken or chased down several prestigious Wisconsin records. Now he may well be chasing down a 2nd round draft selection. He may have started his career at Wisconsin as a kicker, but he certainly finished it as a linebacker.

Measurables

Height: 5'11

Weight: 248lb's

Class: Senior

Projected 40: 4.7

Statistics

Year Tackles Tackles for a Loss Sacks Interceptions Pass Defences Forced Fumbles
2013 111 8.5 4 0 2 1
2012 104 10 4.5 0 6 3
2011 143 19 2.5 2 7 5
2010 8 2 1.0 0 0 0
2009 54 10.5 5 1 3 5

Positives

  • Productivity: Looking at the numbers, you can see that Borland has been an extremely productive college player, both in terms of tackling and making plays behind the line of scrimmage.
  • Intelligence: Regarded as one of the smartest football players on the field, became a leader on the defense and was often seen diagnosing plays and communicating it to the rest of the D.
  • Instincts: Outstanding instincts make up for a lack of ideal height, length and speed. Often jumps the count and diagnoses the play quickly, allowing him to make plays in the backfield.
  • Tackling: Really is a very sound tackler, takes on blocks well, uses his hands to ensure he doesn't get engaged and really comes downhill with some power and pop.
  • Game Speed: Plays a lot faster than his timed speed, quickness off the snap allows him to appear a lot quicker than you would think for his timed speed.
  • Motor: He is a non-stop player, he could play 100% of the snaps and still be performing at full capacity on the last play as he was on the first play.
  • Vision: This comes back again to the instincts and intelligence angle, but he shows a great deal of vision out there, when he has the ball in his hands.
Negatives

  • Height: A touch below 6'0 makes him very small for an inside linebacker. Some teams really won't like this, especially considering how much vertical he will give up if matched against a linebacker.
  • Pass Rush: Doesn't do a great job coming up field when asked to rush the QB, doesn't show the same burst off the snap as he does when playing the run.
  • Jump: As mentioned in the positives he often jumps the count to compensate for his lack of elite speed. Sometimes however he takes the wrong first step losing gap assignment. In the NFL that could be deadly.
  • Play-Action: In every Wisconsin game I watched, he was baited on the play-action at least once. To his credit his ability to react and make-up lost ground was good, but that's against college competition.
Conclusion

There is something about Borland that I really like. I think it may be the instincts and the play recognition, and the fact he takes on a lot of responsibility to diagnose plays. Personally I think he has a really promising future in the NFL and I'm really not surprised that he is being touted as a late 2nd round pick now. He could even go earlier in my opinion. Some team will really fall for him as he has the capacity to be a tackle machine at the next level.

Would I draft him for the Jets?

This is a tough one for me because as much as I like him, I don't think I can get on board with drafting a ILB with a 2nd round selection and I would be surprised if he lasted until our selection in the 3rd round. However if the team are going BPA when we come to select and they believe he is the BPA, then I'm more than happy to get on board with him. His lack of elite speed does worry me, but his instincts are almost on par with Luke Kuechly coming out of college so I'm not going to get too caught up in that.

Video Highlights

Chris Borland Highlights (via Wisconsin Badgers)


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