Barry Jackson

Analysts offer the good news and bad news about new Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker

Penn State defensive tackle Curtis Cothran blocks Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker during the game on Saturday, 28, 2017 at Ohio Stadium.  Penn State lost, 39-38.  The Dolphins drafted Baker 73rd overall on Friday.
Penn State defensive tackle Curtis Cothran blocks Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker during the game on Saturday, 28, 2017 at Ohio Stadium. Penn State lost, 39-38. The Dolphins drafted Baker 73rd overall on Friday.

Here's what analysts are saying about Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker, Miami's pick at No. 73 in Friday's NFL Draft.

ESPN's Mel Kiper: "He's a cover linebacker with a lot of range. Runs well. Very athletic. Point A to point B, gets there with his diagnostic ability. Made his presence felt against the run and the pass. Had 17.5 tackles for loss in two years as a starter. Outstanding Big 10 championship against Wisconsin 16 tackles, a career high. Only had 3.5 sacks. More of a coverage linebacker, special teamer. Can grow into maybe more of a pass rusher when he's in the league."

NFL Network's Mike Mayock: "You can kind of package him with all of those other off the ball fast linebackers. Sideline to sideline. Also can blitz, can come off the edge. The one game you didn't want to watch any of the Ohio State defenders was Iowa. ...None of them looked fast. On the rest of the tape like a Darrius Leonard, Fred Warner, very similar guy, slim, lean, almost built like a safety, but goes sideline to sideline. Gives them a cover guy and they need one."'s Lance Zierlein: "Baker is a likely 4-3 weakside linebacker candidate with the range and speed to chase and tackle around the field and the coverage talent to squeeze routes from man or zone. What Baker has in athletic ability and speed, he lacks in strength and toughness against the run. Baker's junior season failed to impress and teams will have to decide if he's a sub-package linebacker or a three-down talent. Baker lacks instincts teams look for from the position, but it's hard to ignore his rare speed. He could find early snaps in sub-packages, but may never be more than an average backup to below average starter."

Strengths, according to Zierlein:

· Moves fluidly and fast

· Has hip looseness and footwork to flow around the field

· Has trigger burst to flash from backside and close down running lanes

· Tremendously rangy as tackler

· Change of direction comes easily

· Capable of eluding blockers with quick lateral movement

· Takes efficient paths to the ball

· Sifts and works through traffic bouncing in and out of gaps

· Has athletic ability to handle premium athletes in space

· Shadowed Saquon Barkley for most of the game and helped keep him in check

· Talented in space with footwork to match receivers in space and hands to take the ball

· Can carry vertical receivers down the field

· Able to outrun mistakes and slow diagnosis

Weaknesses, according to Zierlein

· Skinny frame and gets engulfed by size

· Looks small, plays small

· Lacks functional play strength and sturdy base to withstand power

· Must improve hand work to keep himself clean

· Gets glued to blocks

  • Slow to diagnose and instincts are below par
  • Lingers on second level rather than bringing it to running backs
  • Lack of size and nastiness could be a concern on run downs against bully-ball rush attacks
  • Loses gap leverage and gets knocked around the field
  • Ducks head into contact
  • Has too many hit and slide tackle attempts
  • Gets caught flowing past his run fits
  • Motor can be inconsistent and will loaf at times in space. quoted an AFC defensive coach saying this: "He's fast and athletic and all that, but he just doesn't have much grit to his game. He's just not tough. No dog. I like them to be fast but I will take tough over fast any day."

Pro Football Focus rated him the eighth-best linebacker in the draft.... This is disconcerting: He allowed three touchdowns in coverage each of the past two seasons, while producing just two interceptions and two pass breakups total over those two years.... PFF says he's "significantly more lost in zone coverage, and will need to improve that at the next level to be a three-down player.".. .What's more, PFF said he "took a step back in 2017, which is always a concern, but has the skills to attack at speed against the run and cover backs and tight ends in man coverage." His run stop percentage was only 91st among linebackers.

Here's what analysts had to say about the Dolphins' second-round pick, tight end Mike Gesicki.

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