6’ 2”, 245 lbs
Strengths: Instinct, Tackling Ability, Athleticism, Coverage Ability
Weaknesses: Size, Consistency, Not a Game Changer
Hiding down in the Big 12 way down in Missouri is a player that will have many NFL scouts salivating over his potential. That player is Sean Weatherspoon and he will end up being one of the top linebackers chosen in the 2010 NFL Draft. So what makes Weatherspoon so great? Read on to find out.
The first thing that many scouts will notice about Weatherspoon is that he plays with a lot of intensity and is very vocal when he is on the field. Not only is he vocal on the field during the game but he is also has a great presence on the sideline and is often seen encouraging other teammates acting as a cheerleader when the offense is out on the field. NFL teams like vocal leaders and in time Weatherspoon could be that way on the NFL team that is lucky enough to have him.
Another thing that Weatherspoon does well is that he has great instinct and seems to know where the play is going before it gets there. This is a result of his being able to read plays and react very well to plays and be there to meet the ball carrier at the earliest possible moment. He is also very smart and has great football intelligence. Weatherspoon’s tackling technique is very sound as well and he tackles the ball carrier low and rarely misses a tackle. He also hits the ball carrier hard and can separate the ball from the ball carrier often. He is also fast and plays faster than he may time out at in upcoming time trials. Weatherspoon also possesses a good change of direction and can get to the play quickly (when he has to make a change).
Weatherspoon has great range and moves from sideline to sideline very well. His quickness allows him to get to the play fast and make the play. He has been very productive over his career at Missouri as a result and is one of the most productive linebackers to come out in this year’s draft. While some other players in this draft don’t have much of a ceiling Weatherspoon has plenty of upside and there is some room to grow. Weatherspoon is well disciplined and stays put until he is sure where the play is going and is involved in each play often. Weatherspoon is very hard to trick and makes great decisions. His mental game is solid.
As linebackers have to cover running backs and tight ends at times Weatherspoon has proven that he is fully capable of doing this. He has the instincts to know where to go in coverage and he has the speed to cover. Weatherspoon’s ability to read the quarterback also helps him get into position in coverage where he can make plays on the ball. He can also rush the passer which is a huge plus for his position.
Finally, some of the other things that Weatherspoon does well include having good ball skills and great durability. He has not been injured that much during his career at Missouri and stays in games if he is hurt. He has the kind of starting experience that any NFL team would want in a starting linebacker.
There is always a downside to every player and Weatherspoon does have his downside. When playing in coverage, Weatherspoon will bit on play action fakes and will need to work on not being susceptible to that. When rushing the passer, there are times that Weatherspoon has trouble getting rid of blockers and breaking free to make the play. Working on getting his arms extended to shed blocks would help. In that, there are times when blockers will overpower Weatherspoon and take him out of the play. He needs to work on getting free of blockers more.
When it comes to instincts, Weatherspoon has trouble when playing against the run and trying to diagnose misdirection plays. He will also over pursue on misdirection plays and he will have to get better at not doing that in the NFL.
While Weatherspoon has good size he doesn’t have the ideal size that you would like in a starting NFL linebacker but makes up for it with his intensity and desire to play. His size has also made him a bit of a liability against the run and bigger tougher backs may be able to blow him out of the way and go on by. His quickness is also not one of his strong suits but is decent enough to keep up in the NFL.
Strength may also be a bit of an issue with him and he will have to work on getting stronger when he gets into the NFL. Weatherspoon also plays it safe quite a bit and won’t take a chance to make a play (or take a risk) opting to play things safe. There are also times when he can’t be blocked and other times he is taken completely out of the play so he is inconsistent in that aspect.
Finally, Weatherspoon, while being a pretty good linebacker isn’t a “great” linebacker and will need to step things up just a bit in the NFL. It doesn’t appear that it will be too much of a problem for him at the next level.
While at the University of Missouri, Weatherspoon earned the following honors:
2009-Pre-Season All American Candidate
2008-Butkus Award Finalist, second team All American by Phil Steele, third team All American by the Associated Press, third team All American by Rivals.com, honorable Mention All American by Sports Illustrated, 2008 Alamo Bowl Defensive MVP, 2008 1st Team All Big 12, 2008 Bednarik Award Semifinalist, 2008 Lott Trophy Quarterfinalist, 2008 Lott Trophy National Defensive Player of the Week (for November 11th), 2008 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week (September 22nd), 2008 Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week (September 1st), 2008 Team Hammer Award Winner, 2008 Team Linebacker of the Year.
2007: 2007 1st Team All Big 12 by the Associated Press, Rivals.com and the San Antonio Express News, 2nd Team All Big 12 by Dallas Morning News, Coaches, Waco Tribune Herald and the Ft. Worth Star Telegram, Team Linebacker of the Year, Team Hammer Award Winner.
2006: Team Special Teams Player of the Year.
High School: Named Texas 22-3A player of the year (senior year), 2nd team All State pick, 1st Team All District Pick, 22-3A defensive newcomer of the year as a sophomore.
The Final Word: Going into the combine, Weatherspoon is ranked by many experts as being the second or third best outside linebacker in the draft and with some improvement (when arrives in the NFL) he will not disappoint. He plays with the fire and passion that any NFL team would like for a starting linebacker and he has almost all of the tools that you would want in a starting linebacker. Unless something negative happens between now and the draft, Weatherspoon should be a lower first round selection going quite possibly to the New Orleans Saints with the last pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Prediction: Between 23 and 32 in the first round.