6’4”, 249 lbs
Strengths: Production, Position Ability, Good Tackler, Size/Speed Combination.
Weaknesses: Bulk, Getting off of blocks, Character
For teams looking for a great inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense or quite possibly a middle linebacker in the 4-3 they need look no farther than Alabama’s Rolando McClain. McClain recently announced that he was going to forgo his senior season with the Crimson Tide and enter the 2010 NFL Draft and this is sure to make many NFL scouts and general managers happy. McClain has a ton of talent to go along with his solid on the field play but there are some character questions that he will have to deal with when he is interviewed by scouts during the offseason. How much will these issues affect his stock in the draft? Just how good is McClain? Let’s find out.
The biggest positive about McClain is his intensity. We saw it time and again this season (especially in the National Title game) that he plays with a lot of intensity and is the heart and soul of the Bama defense. If he can continue that kind of intensity in the NFL then he will have a long and successful career in the league. McClain also has great instincts for the position and he can read plays very well and can anticipate where the play he going. He has had a very productive career at Alabama and has played consistently during his time there. He is also a great leader on and off the field and speaks his mind (the right way) when he is out there and acts like a coach on the field. He is also very smart and can understand an NFL playbook.
McClain is a very instinctive linebacker who works hard at his game both on and off the field. It is said that McClain spends a lot of time in the film room and working with coaches to learn the game and his opponent better. When playing, McClain is as hard a worker on the field as anyone and he doesn’t take plays off. McClain plays sideline to sideline as every good linebacker should and he is very athletic. Physically he is built well for the position possessing long arms, a large frame and a strong build. He is also a young guy, younger
When it comes to the mechanics of the game, McClain does very well in nearly every facet of the linebacker position. He is fine in coverage and this is vital in the NFL. Speaking of the passing game, McClain is an accomplished pass rusher as well and he times his blitzes very well when he’s called upon to rush the quarterback. He also tackles very well and there are times when McClain will “lay someone out” when he tackles making him one of the more aggressive tacklers at the position in the draft. He wraps up on each tackle well and doesn’t miss any tackles.
He is very agile and changes direction very well. McClain is also able to get off blocks very well and doesn’t get tied up in a lot of trash. His angles to the tackle are taken very well and he sees everything. He has good body control and doesn’t take too many unnecessary moves when moving towards the ball. He is also the type of linebacker that could play in the 4-3 or the 3-4.
What McClain lacks is overall speed and isn’t the fastest linebacker in the draft. His speed is adequate but he won’t be able to cover faster tight ends or running backs coming out of the backfield. While he is also an adequate athlete he is not an outstanding athlete and not as good as an athlete as some of the linebackers currently at his position in the NFL. His range going from sideline to sideline is questionable and he will over pursue at times when going against the run.
McClain could play in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 but he would be much better suited to playing in a 3-4 as he may struggle at the middle linebacker in the pros. If he is drafted to be a middle linebacker, he will need to get a little bit bulkier. He also has some problems playing in space and while he is a great linebacker he doesn’t have a lot of upside. He can also get caught up in traffic and will get tied up on blocks on running plays. While he is good in coverage he is not “great” and will have to work on that when he lands in the NFL.
Character is another issue that might concern some scouts and he has had some minor off the field incidents that would raise some eyebrows. He has been pretty good as of late though and if scouts feel that he isn’t going to have any issues while in the NFL his draft status should remain ok.
Here are some of the honors that McClain has received while at Alabama:
2009-Semifinalist for the Lombardi Award, Bednarik and Butkus Awards. Butkus Award Winner, Named Midseason All-American by the Sporting News, named defensive player of the week by Alabama six times, named the Bronko Nagurski Award National Defensive player of the week, SEC Defensive Player of the Week.
2008-Finalist for the 2008 Butkus Award, third team All-American by the Associated Press, first team All-SEC selection by the Associated Press, first team All-SEC selection by the Sporting News, first team All-SEC selection by Phil Steele, member of the Lombardi Award watch list, Alabama Coaches Defensive Player of the Week nine times, named team Outstanding Defensive Performer, first team midseason All-American by Phil Steele, Academic All-SEC Honors.
2007-Named a first team Sporting News Freshman All American, named first team Freshman All-SEC by coaches, named Co-Defensive Player of the Week (Auburn game).
In conclusion, McClain looks very good at the linebacker position but has his minor faults. These faults are not that serious and in the end should affect him too much in terms of where he goes in the 2010 NFL Draft. There is a definite need for good outside linebackers this year and McClain has the chance to be a great one in the league. While 4-3 teams may pass him up a 3-4 team would love him for his talent and his ability to play outside linebacker will get him noticed.
Predicted Draft Position: Early 1st round: (7-15)