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||6' 1"||239||31¼"||10¼"||4.62||34||40"||123"||4.38||1-19th|
|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:
Let's compare Scherer's stats to some of the linebackers who were just drafted.
|*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|
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.