Luke Kuechly leaves Boston College as one of the most decorated linebackers in NCAA history, but how will his game translate to the NFL?
Kuechly isn't a great athlete, nor is he a flashy personality. What he does is make plays between the numbers, racking up unheard of tackle numbers on his way to All-American honors in 2011. Kuechly is a hard-nosed throwback to simpler times. But novelty has little place in today's innovative and specialized game.
The Luke Kuechly Profile
6'2" | 237 lbs | Boston College
2011 stats: 183 tackles (110 solo)
Position Specific Traits
Disengage Blockers: 5.0
Routinely driven off the ball when engaged, Kuechly doesn't show the strength to fight off blockers. He would benefit greatly from using his hands to break free, but rarely does he try. This may work in college, where Kuechly can route the blocker to the run, but in the NFL he will be controlled at the point of attack and driven off the ball.
Man Coverage: 4.0
Kuechly, in three games viewed, was not asked to cover a tight end or back in man coverage. His overall lack of speed and flexibility when dropping into zone coverage indicates a poor skill set to handle man duties.
Pass Rush: 4.5
Kuechly rarely blitzes, instead taking a two or three-yard drop at the snap to read. He will then flow to the ball or drop into an intermediate cloud coverage. Kuechly doesn't show the burst to be an effective pass rusher up the middle—nor does he have the strength to fight through the A gap.
Read and React: 7.5
The best trait in Kuechly's game is his ability to see where the ball is going. He seems to always be in the right place at the right time, which isn't all coincidence. His film study pays off, and he does a nice job directing traffic and recognizing what the offense is doing.
One issue is that Kuechly takes too many false steps. You even notice he will take a drop on run plays, which means he's failing to read his keys (either the guards or nearest back). He's brilliant when clean, but not as sound when blocked.
Run Defense: 6.5
Expectations were high in this area, but Kuechly disappointed.
No player makes more tackles, but rarely are these clean tackles where Kuechly read the play and made a dynamite pursuit and form tackle. He makes a lot of tackles in a pile, which aren't really tackles and are more pile-ups like a traffic accident.
Kuechly is blown off the ball consistently by guards, fullbacks and tight ends. He's easy to wall off due to false steps taken away from the play. Florida State consistently ran at Kuechly, and throughout the game just one "plus" play was charted.
The bottom line: Kuechly makes too many tackles after the runner has gained five to eight yards.
Kuechly isn't always a wrap-up tackler, but he has the strength to pull down runners from various angles and grips. He takes himself out of the play at times, but has the vision to recover and get back in on the action downfield. He's always around the ball and will rack up high numbers and impressive stats.
Zone Coverage: 5.0
Kuechly showed good balance and light movement in his drops. This is an area of surprise. Kuechly did come out high in his stance, but this is easily correctable. He can play over the tight end and did a nice job getting depth in his drops. Kuechly flows to the ball well coming from behind the play.
Average agility for the position. Stands up too often and plays tall. He doesn't show the lateral agility or flexible hips to be a factor in man coverage or as a pass rusher and is stiff from the waist down.
Kuechly has enough recovery speed and good pursuit, but he's not fast enough to run down backs or receivers from behind—which is where he is too often after making false reads and getting driven off the ball.
This is an area where more was expected. Kuechly is strong at the point of attack, but doesn't work off blockers well or hold his ground. Don't expect him to control gaps.
Kuechly is being touted by some as a top-15 player. It doesn't show up on film. Instead, the All-American looks like a third-rounder. And that's on a good day.
Kuechly does nothing particularly well, other than rack up tackles credited to him by a university employee who has everything to gain by giving the tackles to the one marquee player on the defense—a rampant issue in every stadium across the country.
Take away the gaudy tackle numbers and what's left? Not much, honestly. Kuechly is an average athlete with good vision, but poor strength and no ability to work off blockers.
Best Fit: 4-3 MIKE
Kuechly's success in the NFL will be based solely on how well the defensive line in front of him plays. NFL guards, fullbacks and tight ends will dominate Kuechly at the point of attack. He is not the type of downhill linebacker who will crash the gaps and make plays at the line of scrimmage. Instead, he'll fade back and make plays three, five or seven yards downfield.
NFL Comparison: James Laurinaitis, St. Louis Rams
Unlike Laurinaitis, Kuechly doesn't show the strength to be an every-down player in the NFL. Both players left college with loads of hype, but talent evaluators correctly saw that Laurinaitis was limited athletically and would need considerable help from his defensive line if he were to ever become even serviceable at the position.
2012 NFL Draft Grade: Third Round