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Can Michael Scherer become the next draft-worthy Missouri linebacker?

The NFL Draft is over, but NFL Draft season never truly ends. Several Tigers on the 2016 team could work their way into the 2017 draft. This is our series on how that happens.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Scherer, Linebacker RS Senior, (6-3/230)

The last Mizzou linebacker to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft was Sean Weatherspoon. He did that on the back of an amazing career at Missouri. Zaviar Gooden, meanwhile, was picked in the third round in 2013. Here are their combined stats/measurables.

Sean Weatherspoon School Conf G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int PD FR FF
*2006 Missouri Big 12 11 7 6 13 1.0 0.0
*2007 Missouri Big 12 14 75 52 127 9.5 3.0 2
*2008 Missouri Big 12 14 76 79 155 18.5 5.0 3
*2009 Missouri Big 12 13 75 36 111 15.0 4.0 1
Career Missouri 233 173 406 44.0 12.0 4 106 2
Height Weight Arms Hands 40 Bench Vertical Broad Shuttle 3 cone Drafted
Sean Weatherspoon 6' 1" 239 31¼" 10¼" 4.62 34 40" 123" 4.38 1-19th
Zaviar Gooden School Conf G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int PD FR FF
*2009 Missouri Big 12 13 21 9 30 3.0 0.0 1 1 1
*2010 Missouri Big 12 13 50 35 85 7.5 3.0 2 5 2
*2011 Missouri Big 12 13 54 26 80 6.0 1.0 2 4
2012 Missouri SEC 10 36 25 61 4.0 0.0 1
Career Missouri 161 95 256 20.5 4.0 5 30 3 1 1
Height Weight Arms Hands 40 Bench Vertical Broad Shuttle 3 cone Drafted
Zaviar Gooden 6' 1" 234 32¼" 10" 4.47 27 34" 131" 4.18 6.71 3-97th

Weatherspoon and Gooden were two of the most athletic linebackers in recent Mizzou history, and they went in the first and third round respectively.

It's my opinion that the NFL has devalued the traditional middle linebacker position, much like it has running backs, and for similar reasons. The demand has shifted to athletes who can succeed in space and aren't liabilities up the middle. It is the reason why many former great Mizzou linebackers like Will Ebner or Andrew Wilson struggled to make it into the league. I actually compared Michael Scherer to Andrew Wilson last year.

EDIT: Someone reminded me of Andrew Gachkar and initially I was unable to find any combine numbers. I just found some reported Mizzou Pro Day numbers so here they are with his college stats:

Andrew Gachkar School Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg PD FF
*2007 Missouri Big 12 FR LB 14 9 7 16 0.0 0.0 1
*2008 Missouri Big 12 SO LB 14 13 15 28 1.0 0.0 1
*2009 Missouri Big 12 JR LB 13 48 32 80 3.5 3.0 1
*2010 Missouri Big 12 SR LB 13 51 33 84 8.5 1.0 2 8 4.0
Career Missouri 121 87 208 13.0 4.0 2 8 4.0 1 2
Name Height Weight Arms Hands 40 Bench Vertical Broad Shuttle 3 cone Drafted
Andrew Gachkar 6'2* 233* 4.56* 34"* 100"* 4.29* 6.95* 7-234

Let's compare Scherer's stats to some of the linebackers who were just drafted.

Linebackers
Year Missouri Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int PD FR FF
*2013 Michael Scherer SEC FR LB 5 4 2 6 1.0 0.0
*2014 Michael Scherer SEC SO LB 14 53 61 114 3.5 0.5 1 2 1
2015 Michael Scherer SEC JR LB 12 47 46 93 9.0 0.0 3
Career Michael Scherer 104 109 213 13.5 0.5 4 2 1

Year Utah State Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int PD FR FF
*2013 Nick Vigil MWC FR LB 13 22 35 57 8.5 5.5 1 1
*2014 Nick Vigil MWC SO LB 14 70 68 138 18.0 9.0 1 2 5
2015 Nick Vigil MWC JR LB 13 68 76 144 13.5 3.0 2 2 1
Career Nick Vigil 160 179 339 40.0 17.5 2 5 2 6

Year West Virginia Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int PD FR FF
*2012 Nick Kwiatkoski Big 12 SO DB 17 11 28 0.0 0.0 3
2013 Nick Kwiatkoski Big 12 SO LB 10 54 32 86 6.5 2.0 3 1 2
*2014 Nick Kwiatkoski Big 12 JR LB 12 67 29 96 10.5 0.0 2
2015 Nick Kwiatkoski Big 12 SR LB 13 62 23 85 11.5 4.0 3 5 1 1
Career Nick Kwiatkoski 200 95 295 28.5 6.0 6 10 2 3

Year Stanford Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int PD FR FF
*2012 Blake Martinez Pac-12 FR LB 2 1 3 0.0 0.0
*2013 Blake Martinez Pac-12 SO LB 3 8 4 12 0.0 0.0 1 1
*2014 Blake Martinez Pac-12 JR LB 13 54 48 102 7.0 4.5 3 3
2015 Blake Martinez Pac-12 SR LB 14 75 63 138 6.5 2.0 1 6 1
Career Blake Martinez 139 116 255 13.5 6.5 5 6 5

All three of the other linebackers were drafted in the third round or later even after putting up back-to-back near triple-digit tackle seasons. Having double-digit TFL numbers, combined with getting about three sacks and a few interceptions, seems to solidify a middle linebacker's spot in the second day of the draft.

I hope we learn the lesson from Kentrell Brothers: tackles don't mean much. Brothers had 121 tackles as a junior, then led the country with 152 as a senior. Brothers had 12 TFLs, two interceptions, 2.5 sacks, 3 PBUs, one forced fumble and three blocked kicks and because of athletic limitations - specifically in coverage - fell to the fifth round and will need to prove himself on special teams with the Vikings.

All of this is a long way of saying the same thing I said last year: Modern-era linebackers need to prove they can do more than just make tackles. Let's take a look at the athletic profiles of the true inside linebackers who were drafted in the past three years. Again, keep in mind, I'm trying to find players I think compare to Scherer in terms of size and position. I included the highest-drafted linebacker from the past three years.

2016 - Name Height Weight Arms Hands 40 Bench Vertical Broad Shuttle 3 cone Drafted
Reggie Ragland 6' 1" 247 32" 9⅞" 4.72 31½" 116" 4.28
2-41st
Nick Vigil 6' 2" 239 32⅜" 10¼" 4.72 31½" 115" 4.00 6.73 3-87th
Nick Kwiatkoski 6' 2" 243 31¾" 9½" 4.73 19 32" 120" 4.22 7.16 4-113
Blake Martinez 6' 2" 237 31⅝" 10⅞" 4.71 22 28½" 113" 4.20 6.98 4-131
2015 - Name Height Weight Arms Hands 40 Bench Vertical Broad Shuttle 3 cone Drafted
Benardrick McKinney 6' 4" 246 33" 9" 4.66 16 40½" 121" 4.27 7.21 2-43rd
Ramik Wilson 6' 2" 237 33" 10⅝" 4.77 23 35" 111" 4.51 4-118
2014 - Name Height Weight Arms Hands 40 Bench Vertical Broad Shuttle 3 cone Drafted
CJ Mosley 6' 2" 234 33⅜" 10¾" 35" 118" 4.40 7.30 1-17st

What we see is a similar profile for these draft picks. I think it's easy to see how those shuttle and 3 cone drills translate directly to the linebacker skill set. The ability to move laterally along the line of scrimmage and change direction to chase down plays from behind, with a player whose football IQ and instincts have taught him how to rapidly diagnose a play.

Every year the NFL is flooded with talented and productive inside linebackers looking to be the next Brian Urlacher, Paul Posluszny, or Luke Kuechly. The 2017 class is Alabama's Reuben Foster, LSU's Kendall Beckwith, Clemson's Ben Boulware, Ohio State's Raekwon McMillan, and many others rated above Michael Scherer.

Scherer is better at racking up tackles than I am at putting words on the internet, but that won't be enough to secure him a high draft pick. This will be a tough projection to hit, but if he can simulate CJ Mosley's senior year -- 76 tackles, 9 TFLs, 2 INT (both taken back for touchdowns btw), 5 pass breakups and a forced fumble -- with comparable athleticism, I think he can be in the conversation for a first or second day pick.