Fourth Round, 120th Pick
Outside linebacker Gerald Hodges was one of the few bright spots for Penn State this past season. He was a leader on a defense that lost it's captain in the middle of the season and needed someone to step up. Hodges will have a good pro future ahead of him if his future coaching staff uses him properly. Follow along as we go over the best and worst of Hodges' game:
+ Good, solid wrap up tackler
+ Can cover zones well
+ Run defense is good, but needs to improve hand usage
- Horrible in man coverage
- Terrible hand usage
- Mediocre at best as a blitzer
He could go anywhere from the middle of the third round to the end of the fifth.
Gerald Hodges isn't overly quick or athletic, but he's a strong, solid talent on the field. He's got a ton of leadership and intelligence as well. He relies more on a high football IQ than on his physical gifts and will likely have to get better there once he moves to the NFL. Overall, he's a middling prospect as far as tools go.
Intangibles, Character and Injuries
Hodges has never been suspended or arrested during his time at Penn State. He was a captain on his high school teams. And while he may not have been an official team captain for the Nittany Lions this season, he was the Coach's Award winner.
According to the Penn State official site, it is for the "senior that exhibits pride, dedication, commitment and exemplary leadership in addition to outstanding performance." This sounds like the right kind of guy for any locker room. Outside of an injury early in his sophomore year that had him miss four or five games, he rarely missed any time.
In college, he was used as an outside linebacker in the 4-3 who blitzed, lined up in both man and zone coverages and was forced to shadow tight ends and receivers in the slot. He was wholly misused and would do better closer to the box in both coverage and in the run game. He was hurt by the system at Penn State and will hopefully be used better in the pros.
Pass Coverage ( + and - )
Hodges will line up over slot receivers and can effectively snuff out screen passes. He's one of the few linebackers in this draft who can do that. He covers like someone who was a former safety and it shows on the field. He doesn't allow many yards after the catch despite going against bigger, more athletic targets regularly.
He flows to the ball well even when it's not his man or zone for him to get the player. He tracks the ball well in the air and can knock it away. He's able to show up on broken plays where he is called on for coverage and tackle a mobile quarterback trying to scramble. Overall, his man-to-man coverage is terrible, though.
Pass Rush ( - )
On a delay blitz, there are few who can let the lane open and burst through it better. However, his deficiency in shedding blocks really hurts him here. He can set the edge well as a blitzer and tends to hold his contain well against mobile quarterbacks.
His best role would be to stunt and be used on delay blitzes. If he can ever learn how to not let the offensive linemen get their hands on him, he could be a much better player all together as a blitzer. But as of now, this is something that would be better off doing sparingly.
Against the Run ( + )
He takes solid angles against the run and attacks the ball-carriers. He has trouble shedding blocks but does well staying at home reading the option play. In run blitzes, he holds contain well and flows to the ball with his run fits. He tends to not over-pursue unless on a run blitz.
He has tried making big plays in the backfield and been burned, but the aggressiveness can be harnessed for good. With more discipline and better coaching, this can be something he's just ok at to something that is a true strength of his game.
Tackling ( + )
When it comes to tackling, this is one of Hodges' many strengths. He can wrap up with the best of them and delivers a solid pop. He won't force a ton of fumbles against ball carriers in the run game but he delivers a sound enough hit to separate a receiver from the ball in the passing game. He's a very solid tackler in the open field and doesn't let anyone get by him.
Use of hands ( - )
His hand usage is somewhere between pathetic and non-existent. It's as if he has never been coached any technique. He's a solid player in other areas, but his hand technique allows too many blockers to get into his pads and take all of his leverage away. He would benefit greatly from good coaching and some solid cross-training in mixed martial arts.
Future Role and Scheme Versatility
Gerald Hodges will be best used in either a 3-4 strong-inside linebacker or "Ted" role or the 4-3 strong-side linebacker or "Sam" role. He will be able to step up as a two-down linebacker for whatever team he plays for and could eventually develop into a three down linebacker. He's a quick study and long term has the ability to be a top two linebacker on his future team.