Easily the most high-profile prospect to be passed over in the 2011 NFL Draft, Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich must wait for the dust to settle on the current NFL lockout before he can sign as an undrafted free agent. And while his dreams of being drafted somehow did not come true, that hasn’t deterred Herzlich from keeping his dream intact.
In fact, Herzlich is so committed to playing in the NFL that he’s skipping another team that actually drafted him. The Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League (UFL) selected Herzlich in the league’s recent draft, but Herzlich is skipping out and hoping to find a home in the NFL. In a recent ESPN article, Herzlich says he thinks he can fit at linebacker within both a 4-3 and 3-4 defense.
Boston sportswriter Mike Reiss notes that Herzlich is healthy again and ready to prove that to the team that signs him:
“I think teams look at my situation and want to see tangible results in the combine and in different things saying, ’He’s back and he’s 100 percent.’ I don’t think that my combine times showed them that necessarily. I think that was an issue,” he said, adding that some teams might have been affected by a “scare factor.” “I’m back, I’m healthy, I’m strong, I’m ready to go, so whenever I get a chance to get on a team, I’ll be able to prove [that] to them.”
While the Chiefs addressed several holes this off-season already via the draft alone, a void still lingers at the linebacker spot. New additions via the draft of Justin Houston and Gabe Miller help, especially as a pass rushing option opposite Tamba Hali. However, both picks also come with some question marks. The incumbent starter, Mike Vrabel, was recently arrested and age concerns and a drop in production had many wondering if he would even be back in the first place.
In the middle, Jovan Belcher held down the inside spot opposite Derrick Johnson, yet an upgrade is certainly possible there. Herzlich wouldn’t provide that himself, at least in the beginning, but adding to the depth and competition at all linebacker spots only helps in camp, and adding someone with Herzlich’s talent and leadership could only help the team chemistry.
In the end, someone with Herzlich’s willpower and work ethic is going to make it over other rookies in an off-season where there’s little turnaround in learning a playbook and making an impact. The Chiefs would do well to grab some help at the linebacker position, get some special teams depth and add a player who would make an instant impact in both the locker room and the field.