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Possibility at 17: Rey Maualuga

As we head for the Draft, Gang Green Nation will take a look at some potential picks for the team. Today we will profile Rey Maualuga, an inside linebacker from the University of Southern California.

What NFL Draft Countdown thinks:

Strengths:
Has excellent size and bulk...Extremely aggressive...Tough and physical...A violent, intimidating presence who can really deliver the big hit...Good instincts...Very strong...Explosive...Reads and reacts quickly...Does a nice job of taking on and shedding blockers...Will step up and fill against the run...Solid pass rusher and blitzer...Plays faster than he times and has a burst...Has shown the ability to make big plays in coverage...Productive with a knack for making game-changing plays... Offers schematic versatility...Is still improving and has upside.

Weaknesses:
Does not have elite timed speed...Inconsistent...Can be too aggressive at times...Always looking to deliver the knockout blow and will miss some tackles...Does not always take proper angles...Lacks fluid hips...May struggle to match up in coverage...Average change of direction skills...Range is somewhat limited...Will get caught out of position at times... Still immature...Ran into some trouble off the field.

What SB Nation's Mocking the Draft thinks:

Strengths: Plays with a lot of passion and is as intense of a player as there is in the entire nation. Never quits on a play. Always work hard to get to the ball. Makes audible calls for the front seven. Prototypical size for the position. Has an NFL body. Packed with loads of raw ability and power. Excellent speed for a middle linebacker, especially one of his size. Incredible short-area burst. Changes direction with ease and doesn’t lose much speed. Always appears to be running downhill. Has the strength to shed quickly. An explosive tackler who has made a lot of highlight-reel hits during his career. A technically sound drive tackler.

Weaknesses: He’s not always the first player on the ball. Needs to improve his recognition against the run because he’ll sometimes fill the wrong lanes. Should play with a little more discipline. Could probably benefit from losing a few pounds, which would improve his lateral agility. Mostly a straight-forward pass rusher. Can be inconsistent in his rush and gets his sacks in bunches.

What I think:

Maualuga is a star in the making if a 3-4 team takes him. He possesses a rare combination of agility, ability to get off blocks, and tackling skills. The Jets already have an excellent duo inside in David Harris and Bart Scott, but they still have to consider Maualuga if he is on the board at 17. The 3-4 defense is predicated on linebacker play. A team can never have too many quality players at the position. Harris, Scott, and Maualuga would form an incredibly talented rotation. Rex Ryan would have more freedom to vary the fronts he will show. For example, the Jets could kick Scott outside on occasion with Harris and Maualuga on the inside. They could also utilize the 3-4 Eagle, which Buddy Ryan ran in Philadelphia. A middle linebacker lines up at nose tackle in a two point stance in this alignment. Finally, Maualuga would be a replacement for Harris if the Jets decided to use him and his affordable contract in a package for Jay Cutler. This team is thin at linebacker. Selecting Maualuga would change that in a big way.