Connecticut's Yawin Smallwood would be a great fit for the Atlanta Falcons need for depth at linebacker. He's someone who can play inside in either scheme and would be the ideal fit for the Falcons at strong-inside linebacker and middle linebacker.
The Falcons have met with the Huskies' linebacker, according to Fox's Ross Jones. Atlanta doesn't tend to meet with players unless there are questions about scheme fit or off-the-field concerns or if the front office is legitimately interested in the player's talents.
University of Connecticut
Combine/Pro Day Measurements
Height: 6'2-1/4" Weight: 246 pounds
Arm Length: 31-3/4" Hand Measurement: 9-1/2"
40-yard dash: 5.01 sec. 10-yard split: 1.60 sec.
Bench Reps: 18 reps Vertical Jump: 36.5" Broad Jump: 9'0"
2013: 12 Games Played, 118 Tackles, 9.5 Tackles for Loss, 4.0 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry, 1 Interception, 2 Fumbles Forced, 9 Passes Defensed, 1 Defensive Touchdown
2012: 12 Games Played, 120 Tackles, 15.0 Tackles for Loss, 3.5 Sacks, 2 Fumbles Forced, 4 Pass Defensed
2011: 12 Games Played, 94 Tackles, 2.5 Tackles for Loss, 0.5 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry, 1 Interception, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Fumble Recovered, 3 Passes Defensed, 1 Defensive Touchdown
There are some players out there who understand the game better than others, and Smallwood is definitely one of those. His terrific instincts allow him to appear much faster on the field than what he timed in Indianapolis. His reaction speed is that quick.
He’s a very effective player against the run because he already understands how to use his hands, how to stack and shed blockers. He’s also an intelligent blitzer and plays with a nasty attitude. All these attributes make him a much more effective linebacker than most of his peers.
Smallwood’s biggest issue is his clunky movement, as he’s just very awkward in how he runs and lacks a closing burst. He isn’t able to track sideline to sideline like a lot of top-level interior linebackers—he’s more of a hash-to-hash kind of guy.
He also has moments when he lets plays come to him instead of going and attacking the ball. He’s also pretty close to inept as a coverage linebacker. Unless he’s running a short underneath zone, he’s useless in coverage.
How does he fit the Comrade Filter?
Smallwood is a three-year starter for the Huskies who has been clean off the field. He was a captain in high school and captain for the Huskies in his junior year. The Falcons would love his tough, nasty attitude on the field and will be thankful for his personable demeanor off of it.
Atlanta’s character filters were put in place to find the unique personalities like Smallwood’s. He should fit in just fine on D-Block with the rest of Atlanta’s linebackers. If the Falcons don’t want Smallwood, it won’t be because of off-field issues.
When summarizing him, Smallwood is a clunky, run-stuffing interior linebacker who also can play interior gunner on special teams. He understands the game well as both a strong-inside linebacker in the 3-4 or a middle linebacker in the 4-3.
However, his overall skill set isn’t one that says to put him out on the field every play. He’s almost the exact same guy as Akeem Dent on film, but he’s more instinctual and slightly better in coverage. He’s an ideal interior guy in the 3-4, and Atlanta shouldn’t take him unless they consider a full switch.
How he would fit into the Falcons' plans
While Smallwood could go as high as the middle of the second round, the Falcons shouldn’t even consider him until their second fourth-round pick (No. 139 overall). Smallwood wouldn’t start for them in 2014 and likely wouldn’t be anything more than special teams help unless Sean Weatherspoon got hurt.
Atlanta could use him as a reserve for a couple of years, and depth is where his true value is. However, there isn’t any reason to expect this pick to happen as another team, one whose scheme would be a better fit for Smallwood, should have him rated much higher than Atlanta will among this year’s crop of linebackers.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All combine and pro day info is courtesy NFL Draft Scout. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.