[Editor Note: Zoltan and I continue our look at the top candidates available to the Jaguars with the 10th or 11th draft selection. So far, we like and hope for Joe Haden. Today we look at Rolando McClain who we also like very much. Here is Zoltans write-up with some of my notes included.]
Well we can dream about Eric Berry or Joe Haden (or some about Tim Tebow…) but let’s face it, we would need luck for either of those two to be available. But that doesn’t mean the 10th or 11th spot won’t produce an impact player. If we had to project right now, the title of “Front runner of the 2010 Jaguar 1st round draft choice” belongs to Alabama LB Rolando McClain! He is most likely to be available when the Jaguars are on the board no matter how the coin flip ends up. Rolando McClain would fill a role missing since Mike Peterson left the team, a true leader of the defense!
I can hear some of you now, “But Zoltan, we don’t NEED a linebacker, they are the strongest unit inside the defense!” Well; in 2009 we saw some little bit disturbing signs. First of all the major disappointing season Clint Ingram produced. He was in his contract year (he is an RFA because of the uncapped year; so his fate is still in the hands of the Jaguars) and he was clearly the worst of the starting linebackers. Even the best player of the 3; Justin Durant struggled sometimes-mostly because he suffered a concussion and battled with that the whole season. The only 100% performance belonged to Mr. “do-it-all” a. k. a. Daryl Smith. He did everything; even tried to rush the passer later in the season. He finished over 100 tackles. He is the only one we consider to be a locked starter among the linebacking corps. The Jaguars have UDFA rookie Russell Allen; a big gem found by Gene Smith; who showed he can be a reliable player, who may be able to start for this team, but he also might not belong as a regular starter yet. And there is another UDFA; Brian Iwuh; who can ht people; but he might be more of a ST/LB player and a true backup; then a starter.
Listen to GM Gene Smith a she explained (to the Florida Times Union) how he saw right now the LB position:
That’s just one of five positions on defense where Smith expects very competitive battles for starting spots. He lists the two safety spots and two of the three linebacker roles in the same category. Daryl Smith is set as a starter at linebacker.
So looks like to me there is room for a new starting LB player…
So here is the case for Rolando McClain. But let’s face it, this kid is so talented the Jaguars would have room for him in the starting lineup when a team had an almost-lock 3 (or 4) linebackers. He is that good. He is 6-4; 258, Daryl Smith is 6-2 249. When Rolando McClain first arrived at Alabama it didn’t take him long to see significant playing time. As a freshman he started eight games for the Crimson Tide before being named to the first team SEC All Freshmen Team. During his 3 year in Alabama he had 274 tackles (!!!) 29.5 TFLs (!!!) 8 sacks and 5 interceptions. He can play every LB position in the NFL! Field general is a good title for McClain as McClain is truly the quarterback of the Alabama defense. McClain has a high football I.Q. and uses it to make adjustments and help get his teammates in position to make plays. His Personal Titles are outstanding! He won the the Butkus award in 2009 (best LB in college) The Jack Lambert Trophy (2009); 2time First-Team All-SEC (2008, 2009) selection; 1st team All-American (Walter Camp, AP, AFCA) ; finalist for the Lombardi Award; and the his award list goes on and on. He won the BCS Championship title with Alabama in 2009; the Crimson Tides were undefeated this year; mostly because their great defense. And the leader of the defense was Rolando McClain!
[Terry note: Go back and watch the National Championship game again if you have any doubts Rolando McClain is a high impact player. He personally took Texas off the field on series after series].
Let’s see why he is so good: McClain is a highly instinctual player with an excellent motor. He plays sideline to sideline. As mentioned he is the field general and does a nice job recognizing formations and anticipating plays. He’s a worker on and off the field who spends countless hours on film study. McClain has all the physical traits you look for as well. He’s big, and highly athletic with a rare size/speed combination. McClain is a sound tackler, but also does a good job wrapping up. McClain has a knack for rushing the passer. He is also a very versatile player who can probably play any linebacker position in any scheme.
Of course he has weaknesses too: McClain sometime gets caught in traffic and could do a better job getting off blocks. He will need work at the next level with his pass coverage ability. Right now he seems to be a lean 250 pounds and could stand to bulk up a little if he continues to play in the middle. Has had some minor off the field incidents.
The draft experts say; he is the best middle linebacker talent since Patrick Willis. He’s a prototypical combination of size, athleticism and intelligence. As good as he already is right now, his best football could still be ahead of him. I say this because of his already good film study habits which he now has to split time between that and being an honor student. When he is in the NFL and it’s his job, he should be able to get even more benefit out of it. McClain is one of those special type players who could wind up being a multiple pro bowler in just a few short years. He is a prototypical Gene Smith kind of guy. And if the Jaguars draft him; he would be learning from a head coach; Jack Del Rio who was also a LB; for more than 10 years. He could learn from a coach who trained Ray Lewis in Baltimore! Not to mention Rolando would be a great student for one of our best assistant coaches: LB coach Mark Duffner. With coaches like that he would be a day 1 impact player/starter!
And let’s look around what kind of impact the good young LB’s are doing right now. I mentioned Patrick Willis he is in his 3rd year; yet many consider in the league that he is the best LB in the entire NFL (picked at the 1st round; 11th the same spot where the Jaguars might select McClain) And let’s see last year’s wonderful linebackers: Brian Cushing is the defensive rookie of the year. James Laurinaitis is might be the only bright spot in St Louis other then Steven Jackson; Clay Mathews was a factor; that Green Bay’s defense becoming one of the best. But players like Aaron Curry; Ray Maualuga or Robert Ayers (Because of that; and the fact that the Broncos might need a QB/WR more than a LB; I guess if he is still on the board; the Broncos might pass on him) are all looking promising. I think in McClain that X-factor difference maker/ sure home run hit/star potential are all in place. So because of that his selection would be a wise choice. So if he does become the Jaguars pick- I think all the Jaguars fans can be pleased.
This is the most likely scenario as the draft unfolds on April 22nd; 2010. We are in GREAT shape!
Zoltan Paksa / Terry O’Brien