Keith Pough is an underrated linebacker from Howard University in the MEAC. He's one of the more unique prospects in this year's draft because he could have easily played in the FBS but chose instead to go to the FCS. He's the kind of prospect almost any coach in the NFL would love to have.
Let's explore how Keith projects to the NFL:
+ Athletically gifted player on film
+ Excellent, reliable tackler
+ Tremendous pass rusher
- Coverage instincts aren't great
- Will wash out in the run game from bigger blockers
- Competition questions from playing at a smaller school
He should be taken anywhere from the middle of Round 3 to the end of Round 6.
Best Team Fits
ATL, BAL, DEN, MIA, NYG, NYJ
Tools ( + )
Keith Pough has a long, lean frame with the ability to add a ton more weight if need be. He's extremely quick but it didn't show up in his drills at the NFL Scouting Combine He's got more on-field speed than natural athleticism. He's extremely intelligent and can diagnose plays quickly.
Intangibles, Character and Injuries ( + )
Off the field, Pough is about as squeaky clean as you can get. He was rumored as part of a textbook voucher scandal (via Eric Detweiler of the Washington Post), but nothing seemed to materialize from that scandal (via Steve Yanda of the Washington Post). As far as injuries are concerned, he rarely misses time due to that. He was also made a team captain as a senior by Howard's coaching staff.
In college, Pough was used as both an inside and outside linebacker. He was used on blitzes off the edge quite a bit. He rarely was used in coverage and excelled as a run defender. He was used on both sides of the field and when he was on the strong side, he tended to look more at home.
Pass Coverage ( - )
Pough can sniff out screens very well. He reads the blockers and knows how to engage and explode through them. He can drop deep on plays but shouldn't be expected to man-up receivers. He has trouble turning his head around and his ball skills in coverage are pretty much nonexistent.
When sitting in zones, Pough is solid over the middle as a tackler and doesn't allow much after the catch. But he still allows too many catches right in front of him to trust him in coverage. Ideally, he plays more of a blitzing outside linebacker on third downs.
Pass Rush ( + )
Pough reads the snap count almost perfectly every play he is designed to blitz. He knows how to read the blockers well and sheds away blockers on his way to the quarterback. He relies on his athleticism to create quick pressure on the quarterback and is very effective at doing so.
Can close the deal most of the time, but will sometimes overrun the quarterback in the pocket. He loses contain a couple times when rushing the passer, but overall does a nice job as a pass-rusher. The only thing that he could really improve here is closing the deal against mobile quarterbacks.
Against the Run ( + and - )
Gets washed out in the run game if forced to take on a tackle or a guard. However, when his defensive line can absorb the blocks, he sets the edge very well. He can read zone- and man-blocking plays equally well and is able to explode them from the backfield.
He chased down a ton of plays in the backfield on run blitzes. He also doesn't over-pursue on the majority of plays. When he is tied up with a blocker, he also tends to do well in keeping an arm free to get on the ball-carrier as he passes by him.
Tackling ( + )
Normally he's a very solid wrap-up tackler who makes sure to get his arms around the ball-carrier to take them down. As the games wear on, he tends to lose form and care more about popping the ball loose. He is lucky in that he will get a couple fumbles popped out here and there.
Use of hands ( - )
With fullbacks and tight ends, he tends to show better hand usage. He gets them inside the pads and can rip and throw them away. However, with bigger players, he needs to work on getting stronger here. The NFL will be able to help him develop here as coaching at Howard probably didn't work with him a whole lot in this area.
Future Role and Scheme Versatility
In the NFL, he should be used as a very versatile option in the linebacker corps. He can play any of the four linebacker spots in a 3-4 and any of the three in a 4-3. He has the athleticism, strength and talent to learn how to be a great all-around linebacker. He just needs someone to teach him the nuances.