It seems as if the NFL draft is almost here already with all of the coverage we've seen over the past few weeks, but the cold, hard truth is that we're still almost two months away from the football-junkies version of Christmas. Most of the information that's being pumped out right now is dealing with players' stocks after the combine and figuring out where Robert Griffin III will end up when it's all said and done. While those stories may be dominating the headlines right now, there are players all over the country working and preparing to join their respective teams next fall who'll be taken in the later rounds come April.
One of those players the Kansas City Chiefs should look at is University of Miami Outside Linebacker Sean Spence. Spence is projected as a 3rd round pick by a lot of the draft experts right now. He was a four-year starter at Miami where he was a Freshman All-American in 2008 and finished his career 5th on the NCAA list in tackles for loss with 47. The senior captain was a Butkus award semi-finalist in 2011, which goes to the top linebacker in the country. The knock on Spence is always due to his lack of size. He's often looked at as a player without a position in the NFL because at just 6'0 225 lbs, he likes the ideal size for an outside linebacker in the NFL. But at some point in the draft you need to look at a players' production in college as opposed to strictly basing it off potential and ceilings. Spence made plays for his defenses at Miami and there is a role for him on the Chiefs defense in 2012.
In case you aren't familiar with Spence, here is a video that will show you the skills that Spence could bring to Romeo Crennel's defense next season.
The Kansas City Chiefs spent much of the 2011 season running different versions of their nickel defense. They'd bring an entirely different personnel in for these specific formations. One of the positions that was occupied in these formations was by veteran safety Jon McGraw, and this is the role that I think Spence could take over for the Chiefs next season. McGraw saw time in these formations almost lined up as a linebacker in the box. With the extra defensive backs on the field and the offenses personnel being as it was he was often covering the backs or tight-ends, while assisting in the box against the occasional run. He just simply didn't have the size or strength to hold up against the run (even though they were passing situations) when this happened.
The Chiefs defense spent had so many snaps in these different nickel/dime formations that while Spence may not fit the prototypical body-type for an outside linebacker in a base 3/4 defense, in these specific situations his skills are a perfect match. What's often needed in these defensive packages is a tweener linebacker/safety that can help in run support, but still has the athletic ability to play in space in pass coverage. The whole point of the nickel defense is to get an extra defensive back out on the field, but if you're able to bring out a hybrid player that gives you the ability to cover space in pass coverage without sacrificing too much in the run game then you've given yourself a tremendous advantage in what you're able to do with these packages.
While he's played middle and strong-side linebacker, he's really undersized for the position. It will be interesting to see if NFL teams view Spence as a safety. One of his strengths is coverage. He's also a fluid athlete who makes plays around the field. Although he's shown to be adept at getting into the backfield, some teams may be scared off by his lack of size.
Kadar went on to say a few more things about Spence's all-around game.
Is a loose-hipped athlete that can make plays all over the field. Does a nice job covering the short passing game. Will be an asset for defenses in pass coverage.
Spence is instinctually superior to most college linebackers. Has a coach for a father, and it shows in how well Spence knows the game.
No known off-field or character issues. Was raised to be humble and work hard. Known as someone who puts in a lot of film study.
He's an athletic linebacker that has superior instincts, no character issues and likes to watch a lot of film? He's a perfect 3rd round pick for a team that needs to search for a replacement for veteran safety Jon McGraw in this role. He may be more of an outside-the-box type pick for the Chiefs at this point, but I think when it's all said and done you want to find good football players that can get production out on the field. Spence has gotten that production throughout his college career and there's a spot for him in a package that we often run. Not to mention special teams, and versatility does play a role in how much value a player has to his team.