Third Round: 97th Pick
Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden was one of the Scouting Combine's workout warriors thanks to his elite performance which saw him record the best times at his position in every single timed drill.
There is no doubt Gooden is an elite athlete. He has tools that NFL teams will find attractive outside of his athleticism that he flashed during his time at Missouri.
The question is, how does Gooden fit in the NFL schematically? Does he have enough overall to be a solid-pass rusher or every-down contributor?
Read on to find out.
|+ Elite speed to close on the ball-carrier.||- Average size at 6'1" 234 pounds and 32.25" arms.|
|+ Excellent array of pass-rushing moves.||- Poor tackling form.|
|+ Solid awareness to react to play-action.||- Over-aggressiveness takes him out of plays.|
|+ Takes on blockers with ferocity.||
- Not schematically versatile.
Gooden blew away NFL scouts at the combine with a 4.46 40-yard dash, 27 reps of the 225 pound bench press and a 34" vertical.
They are extremely impressive numbers, but on the field they are overshadowed by the fact Gooden is an undersized linebacker strictly prohibited to a 4-3 scheme as a linebacker thanks to his 6'1" and 234-pound frame.
That is not necessarily a bad thing, as Gooden can use his elite numbers on the field to come away as a quality weak-side linebacker at the NFL level.
Gooden is a quality prospect on and off the field. On it, he was given All Big 12 accolades and named a team captain by his teammates.
He also wore No. 25 during his time at Missouri as a way to honor former Missouri Tiger Aaron O'Neal, who passed away after a voluntary workout back in 2005.
In interviews, Gooden seems committed to perfecting his craft and being the best possible player he can be. He's coachable, which is going to be very attractive to NFL teams.
At Missouri, Gooden was used as a weak-side linebacker and he was rarely asked to rush the passer. When given the opportunity to do so, he was effective. The coaching staff asked a lot of him in terms of run and pass coverage, as well as taking snaps on special teams.
Gooden does not offer much in the way of pass-rushing.
During his time at Missouri, Gooden was rarely used in this capacity, and for good reason. When tasked with doing so, he would routinely lose battles with offensive lineman and at some times even running backs.
When given an open lane to the quarterback, Gooden uses his elite straight-line speed to do so before anyone knows what is happening. Those opportunities will be rare at the next level.
Against the Run
This is where Gooden's skill set really shines as a prospect. He excels at taking on blockers and navigating his way through piles to get to the ball-carrier.
Despite his size, Gooden is deceptively strong when tasked with putting his head down and stopping the forward momentum of a pile. Same goes for his ability to take on bigger running backs, wide receivers and tight ends.
Gooden could perform better when it comes to tracking a play. At times, he is easily fooled and can be seen heading in the wrong direction before having to turn around and recover.
It's also worth mentioning that Gooden can be too aggressive and too fast at times, which means he takes himself out of plays he could have easily made.
Luckily for Gooden, proper tackling technique is something that can be corrected through proper coaching rather quickly.
Gooden drops his head when going for a tackle. He also has a habit of bending at his waist rather than at his knees, which puts him at a disadvantage going against players of equal or better size.
Thanks to his stunning athleticism, most players are unable to get around Gooden in the open field. He reads hips well and matches shifty players' moves while teammates swarm to the ball.
Use of Hands
This is an area primarily responsible for Gooden's lack of pass-rushing ability. He has 32.25" arms, which is a less-than-ideal number for a pass-rusher. Combined with a lack of aggressive moves and technique, this is a problem area.
One aspect in which Gooden uses hands properly is in shedding blocks in run support, and every now and then he will violently smack the ball out of the hands of its carrier.
Future Role/Scheme Versatility
Gooden is not a scheme-versatile player thanks to his size, which is unfortunate, because his elite numbers and athleticism would make one heck of a pass-rusher in a 3-4 defense.
Instead, Gooden is limited to playing weak-side linebacker in a 4-3. He's a talented, albeit raw defender when it comes to the passing game, but he makes up for his deficiencies now with his pure athleticism.
He may not win a starting gig after being drafted, but Gooden will be an outstanding special-teams contributor while being groomed to be a full-time starter on the weak side sometime down the line.
Draft Projection: Round 4-5
All pertinent prospect information courtesy of CBS.
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