Luke never stops playing and shows leadership skills in his play on the field. He has played both inside and outside linebacker and does a good job in zone coverage, but the truth is his effort on every down is outstanding. He has very good speed and shows the football intelligence and instincts to be a coach on the field for the team that drafts him. Because of Luke's versatility, he has been an every down linebacker whose strength is running from sideline to sideline and tackling players. He does an excellent job in limiting third down yardage of screen plays and sweeps because of the angles he takes and his speed. If you need to add speed to your defense, you need to draft Luke.
To me, Luke plays more like a safety in the box than a linebacker. He is undersized and is not strong at the point of attack. He is a drag down type of tackler. Luke covers a lot of ground, but makes most of his tackles after a player crosses the line of scrimmage. He is small in the hips and doesn't look like he can gain more bulk. He has to get a lot stronger and become a much better tackler to play linebacker in the NFL. He has good speed but lacks the quickness and change of direction skills you would think a player with his speed would have. As a strong safety in a two deep zone system, I think this kid has a lot of talent; as a linebacker, I think he is a running back coach's dream come true. I would keep him close to the line and beat on him all day long. I think if you're looking at Luke as your middle linebacker, you better play a lot of the Tampa Two defense and pray your opponent does not need a lot of short yardage third downs. This kid will flash and make some good plays because of his intelligence and speed, but not enough to overcome his overall play if used as an every down LB.
This kid reminds me a lot of Barrett Rudd drafted in the 2nd round of the 2005 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He made a lot of tackles in college and for the Buccaneers, but was let go in free agency and is now with the Tennessee Titans. Luke is faster and a bit more athletic, but having a lot of tackles is not all there is to being a good linebacker. I know I'm a little old-fashioned when it comes to evaluating linebackers, the problem is, I may be old-fashioned, but I'm not wrong. MLB's need to take on guards, shed them and make tackles IN THE HOLE. Outside linebackers need to string running plays out DOWN THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE so others can make tackles. Linebackers are not supposed to be more adept at catching players after they have made yardage than they are in tackling players BEFORE they have made yardage. I know, I'm old school. I guess that I should be looking for linebackers who play sideline to sideline come from 20 yards off the line of scrimmage and tackle players right after they make a first down. That's the fantasy league football way, right?! I'm not a big stat guy, but you have to wonder sometimes. The official stats this year from ESPN have Luke making 191 tackles, of which 89 were assisted tackles. That's almost half of his tackles, which is a lot, in my opinion. I don't see any tackles for loss, but I do see 3 interceptions. Here is the catch: 191 tackles with 89 assisted and this kid has no forced fumbles and no sacks. Think about that -- no forced fumbles out of 191 tackles! That sounds like to me to be a lot of fluff and that is not a linebacker. I'm not sure what position Luke would impact or play at the next level, but I love this kid's effort on every play. I love his leadership skills as well. The concern for me regarding Luke at the next level is his ability to impact unless he learns the true skills needed to play NFL linebacker. To me, Luke's future is as a situational player in third down situations running to the ball and making plays on special teams or possibly as a strong safety in a zone defense. I can see the fans falling in love with him if used that way. As an every down linebacker, his limitations in the running game will be magnified significantly. Draft him too high, expect too much and it will not be a pretty picture. Draft him after the third round and use him as a specialty defensive player with excellent special teams potential and you have a core player and a fan favorite.
The BS Detector
Drew Boylhart Jan/12