After watching the combine, we now know for sure that Luke Kuechly has the raw athleticism to go with his steady tackling skills.
There was very little doubt that he would be a solid man in the middle who can rack up a bunch of tackles. His numbers at Boston College tell you all you need to know there.
But looking at his Scouting Combine Profile, some other things jump out at you.
A 4.58 40-yard-dash
Speed will not be a problem. Kuechly will be able to go sideline to sideline as well as just about any linebacker in the game. Teams can't just plan on running away from him, hoping to win a race to the corner; that isn't going to work.
But more than that, he can also cover. Don't get me wrong, you wouldn't want him out wide against a receiver, but if the matchup put Kuechly on a top receiver from an opponent, his team wouldn't exactly need to take a timeout.
A 38-inch vertical leap
This is going to make throwing over the middle against Kuechly a nightmare. Quarterbacks won't be able to put the same kind of zip on the ball that they would like, as he can get more than nine feet in the air.
Wes Bunting of National Football Post agrees.
Luke Kuechly has been a stud, 4.5 speed, explosive 38 in vertical, as safe as any Defender in class IMHO— Wes Bunting (@WesBunting) February 27, 2012
Truthfully, that is a raw athletic combination more commonly seen in outside backers. If you can get that from an up the middle man, good things are going to happen.
What these numbers tend to indicate is that his work ethic is strong, which is more important than anything else you'll see happen at the combine. If you put his numbers next to fellow inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict, Kuechly wins in a landslide.
|Vertical Jump||38 inches||30 inches|
|Broad Jump||123 inches||104 inches|
Kuechly is the clear choice of those two. Still, a question remains: where will he go? My most recent mock had him going to the Eagles at No. 15, and I don't see him doing anything other than possibly going up.
Judging by some Eagles fans reactions to his combine on Twitter, this would be a well-received move.
This fan wants the Eagles to go after a veteran but use Kuechly as a fall back plan.
If the Eagles don't sign a LB, I hope we draft Luke Kuechly. He's a baller!! #NFL32— Mr. Langah (@PakMan_Hassam) February 28, 2012
On the other hand, this member of the Philadelphia faithful doesn't event want to worry about any vets.
I reiterate: Luke Kuechly needs to be the #Eagles pick this year. Trade up if need be. Enough late round experiments.— Jake Stopper (@mindofjake) February 28, 2012
Truthfully, the only excuse for Philadelphia to not take Kuechly is if he's taken before No. 15. While we're on the subject, the Lions need to strongly consider trading up, as they had the same issues against the run in 2011 as the Eagles.
Kuechly emerged as the top linebacker of the class at the scouting combine. His time at Boston College proved that he had a strong football sense. Now, it's clear that his athleticism will certainly not be a liability and will likely be a strength.
When following the draft, don't expect to see his name on the boards for long. Kuechly will go in the first half of the first round, no questions asked.