“I like linebackers. I collect ‘em. You can’t have too many good ones.” – Bill Parcells

As the NFL Draft continues to draw closer, mock drafts from experts and bloggers alike are updated daily, sometimes hourly. Today, let’s look at a player that ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. currently has going to the New York Football Giants in his latest Mock Draft, outside linebacker Sergio Kindle of Texas, considered by many the best outside linebacker in the 2010 draft class.

Kiper says Kindle is “a need pick for the Giants,” and I agree.  There are plenty of needs on this defense, starting with middle linebacker (more on that in a bit), followed by safety, and then followed by outside ‘backer.  There are lots of different situations that can play out between now and the Draft, but let’s look at one that would end with an outside linebacker as the Giants first-round pick.

Just as they did with Antonio Pierce in 2005, the Giants sign a veteran middle ‘backer through free agency rather than draft one.  The Giants did not have a first-round pick in 2005, because their selection (12th overall) was traded to San Diego one year before in the Eli Manning trade.  Before this year’s draft, the Giants will elect to sign a veteran presence in the middle of the field to replace the recently released Pierce; either Karlos Dansby (Arizona) or Larry Foote (Detroit)  [NOTE: free agency officially begins on March 5]. With a middle linebacker in place, and with Rolando McClain’s stock rising to a potential top-10 pick, the Giants need to look elsewhere with their first-round selection.  This year’s Draft is deep with talented safeties, so the Giants can wait until the second-round to fill that need in the secondary.  The Giants’ pass rush from their front-seven was all but nonexistent in 2009.  Osi Umenyiora, who lost his starting job with a month remaining, led the team in sacks with just 7.0.  Outside linebacker Danny Clark showed no signs of being able to play with pride as the season came to a close.  Outside ‘backer Michael Boley had a good year, but disappeared at times, and Clark showed no heart on defense.  Boley and the rest of the defense were scrutinized by former-Giant linebacker and Hall-of-Famer Harry Carson, and Boley responded to Carson’s shot at the defense by saying, “it doesn’t mean anything to me.”  When you discard a statement from one of the greatest linebackers in Giants history – one of the greatest linebackers ever – you don’t belong in the Giants organization.

A ferocious linebacker that possesses speed off the edge, with physicality and agility in the open field and sure-tackling ability is exactly what the G-Men need in this situation.  With that, the Giants select an outside ‘backer.  Here’s an extensive look at Sergio Kindle:

Scouting Report

The Giants were terrible last year in putting pressure on the opposing quarterback, a key component of successful NFL defenses and the heart of the Giants Super Bowl defense.  Kindle’s speed, strength, athleticism and size are off-the-charts, with room to develop. Possessing elite-level speed and closing quickness, Kindle is a flash off the line of scrimmage and will beat most tackles off the ball, especially right tackles.  He led Texas in quarterback pressures his senior year with 36, playing most of the year at defensive end. Kindle has plenty of experience playing in both three-point and two-point stances, but weighing in at 255 pounds warrants a spot as a mainly blitzing ‘backer, and not a full-time defensive end at the next level. He is at his best when rushing the quarterback.  Kindle has a very good bull rush and will use it to run over backs in blitz pick-up. Kindle possesses great flexibility in his hips, which allows him to take angles that most pass rushers cannot.  He closes quickly and very aggressively on the quarterback.  Kindle boasts fluid lateral movement, and tremendous flexibility. He turns the corner well, and has good footwork and balance coming off the edge.

One thing he needs to work on at the next level is using his hands to disengage blockers, but he can be taught techniques in the NFL. Kindle is a physical specimen with top-level strength, who only got stronger in his senior season by dropping weight and adding muscle.  Trust me, he will test off the charts at the Scouting Combine.

Kindle has the speed to run with receivers, tight ends and backs.  He’s a little slow reading and reacting to the quarterback, which needs to be addressed at the next level.  He won’t be able to rely on his talent if he misreads a pro QB, but a linebacker with Kindle’s talent can be taught reads in the NFL.  While Kindle is a litle slow at reading and reacting to quarterbacks, he’s quick adjusting to pass plays, getting into the flat with exceptional speed when he is given pass responsibility. He also does a good job knocking down passes and getting his hands up at the line when rushing.

Kindle has the ability to be exceedingly productive when he is able to roam free and make plays in the open field. He has exceptional range as an outside linebacker, with the ability to cover sideline-to-sideline.  At times, he can be tricked by misdirection and too quickly relies on his speed and strength instead of reading the offense, which is something that can be taught.

A violent tackler, Kindle has great strength and speed, and combines them when hitting the ball carrier. His arm length allows him to wrap up after contact, and stop plays at the line of scrimmage.

Kindle has the skills to become a defensive playmaker. He has proven that he can play as a defensive end in the 4-3, or as a SAM (strong-side) linebacker in either the 3-4 or 4-3; that’s impressive flexibility.  At the next level Kindle is primarily an outside linebacker or a third pass rusher off the edge. Kindle has solid football instincts, with room to develop the physical and mental aspects of his game.

During the pre-Draft process, Kindle is very likely to have his stock soar.  He is a top-15 talent in the Draft, but teams will surely be cautious of drafting a blitzing linebacker/defensive end hybrid.  Last year, no rush linebackers were taken in the top-15: Larry English (16th overall to San Diego), Robert Ayers (18th to Denver), and Clay Matthews (26th to Green Bay) all went in the latter-half of the 2009 Draft. Only Matthews has really panned out so far.  The conversion rate of defensive ends/rush linebackers from college to the NFL is very low in recent years; Vernon Gholston has not registered a sack in his NFL career.  Not one sack, for someone considered a sure-thing coming out of Ohio State.  You’d think he would at least get one by accident.  Anyway, the point is it’s a risk to take a rush linebacker/end in the Draft. The risk would be higher for the Giants who run a 4-3, and Kindle seems like the prototype for a blitzing linebacker coming off the edge in the 3-4.  With a new defensive-coordinator in New York, Perry Fewell, the Giants are mulling over changing defensive schemes from a 4-3 to a 3-4.  I feel they don’t have the right personnel right now to make the change to a 3-4.  If they are going to make the change, whether it’s now or in a couple of years, Kindle would be a great fit as an athletic, blitzing ‘backer with a tenacity that New York fans would love.