Sixth Round: 185th Pick
The term "'tweener" is thrown around a lot during the draft. It usually means that a player is not an ideal fit at either of two positions that he is "between". When it is used on a player like DeVonte Holloman, the term is a positive, not a negative. Holloman has displayed the ability to play like a safety and a linebacker in the South Carolina defense's "spur" position, and that creates a scouting report that the NFL should find valuable despite his lack of top-end measureables.
Holloman might be the most instinctive linebacker in the draft. He immediately reads and acts with confidence on most plays, and is rarely wrong or baited into being out of position. He can cover tight ends and running backs one-on-one, and Holloman has the range, reactions and ball skills to be an effective zone-coverage pass defender.
He can also blitz and rush the passer from the edge, and Holloman has the hands, concentration, and ball skills to get the interception when he has the opportunity. Holloman plays with high effort, intensity, awareness and urgency, and he'll be able to stay on the field for all three downs.
That decisiveness can turn in overaggressive play, especially when Holloman gets caught peeking in the backfield. He is not stout enough to take on offensive lineman and shed their blocks. Holloman is not a quick-twitch, speedy or explosive player.
At 6'1" and 243 pounds, Holloman's size defies his background as a safety. His 4.76 40, 33" vertical and 15 bench reps all match tape that is adequate, but not above average in terms of speed, explosion and strength. Holloman's 4.26 short shuttle was one of the best at the combine among linebackers, but he isn't quick enough to mirror NFL slot receivers. His 32 1/2" arms and 10" hands help make him a sure tackler.
Holloman has outstanding knowledge of roles and defensive alignment and will re-position his teammates before the snap. He is durable and considered one of the leaders of the defender. Holloman also has a great motor and presence on the field. He did have a DUI in 2011 that sidelined him for the season opener.
Holloman played the "spur" safety/linebacker hybrid position that New York Jets seventh-round pick Antonio Allen played in 2011. At linebacker, he was usually lined up on the strong side in the Gamecocks' 4-3 defense, handling coverage responsibilities on tight ends and occasionally rushing the passer.
As a former safety, you would expect Holloman to be a natural here, and he is. He can line up in space or over the slot, and he can play man or zone coverage. In man coverage, Holloman is excellent at sticking to tight ends, but quicker slot receivers can shake him somewhat easily. In zone, Holloman drops at the correct depth and can react well to receivers passing through his area, as long as he isn't caught trying to read the quarterback's eyes. Holloman has the sure hands and ball skills to make the interception, and he displays outstanding reactions and concentration to make a bid to pick tipped balls.
Holloman can create pressure from the edge, and flashes the hand-fighting and moves to not get overwhelmed by a larger pass blocker. He times his blitzes well and Holloman bears down on the passer very quickly once he has him in his sights.
Against the Run
Stacking and shedding against the run is not something you want to ask Holloman to do often. He is overmatched against offensive linemen, although he can shed the blocks of smaller blockers, and Holloman is still willing to give up his body when he does square off with a big ugly. Holloman sets the edge well and can disengage to make the play when the back enters his area. He pursues down the line with good instincts and energy. He is not a liability against the run despite his defensive back background.
Read and React
This is a major strength, as Holloman processes the action instantly and makes quality decisions with no hesitation. He sniffs out wide receiver screens and other quick passes, creating losses and incompletions for the offense. Holloman rarely appears lost or in no man's land. He is almost always acting on valid instincts and making a contribution to the play.
Holloman is not a stout linebacker that hits with a thud or jolts his opponent backwards. He does have a good reach and strong hands to wrap up, and once he does, the ball-carrier rarely gets away. Holloman is a drag-down tackler, but he does attack the ball when he can.
Scheme Versatility/Future Role
With the exception of size, Holloman is an ideal strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 defense. He can also play nickel and dime linebacker, although NFL teams won't put him in the slot nearly as often as South Carolina did.