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Jerome Baker, Linebacker | 2018 NFL Draft Profile
Position Rank: No. 8 Linebacker
Baker is a plus athlete with the ability to diagnose and chase quickly, but he lacks the strength and hand placement vs inside runs to be a starter day one. Better in a Zone scheme due to poor Man coverage technique.
• Athletic Ability
• Play Speed
• Play Strength
• Man Coverage vs TEs
One-Year Projection: A 4-3 strong/weakside linebacker who has the flexibility and athleticism to provide depth at both OLB positions. Will compete for a sub-package role because of his ability to defend the pass. Will provide depth as a core special teamer. Needs to develop more upper body strength at the point of attack vs offensive linemen.
Three-Year Projection: Will be in contention to be a starting three-down WLB/SLB. Should still provide depth in the special teams phase covering kicks and blocking for returns.
Baker is a three year letterman and Butkus Award Semifinalist who started 25 of 33 career games. In 2017, he started 13 games, led the team in tackles and aligned as the WLB in a base 4-3 front under defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. Has good height, solid weight, a lean frame with long arms and very good athleticism. Quickly diagnoses Gap runs, tracks pulling/trapping OL across the formation; coupled with the ability to slip under angle blocking and produce stops. Gap Fits are good, shows good physical toughness to attack pulling OL at the line of scrimmage with low pad level; forcing the ball to turn back inside toward the pursuit.
Can leverage run fit aligned outside the box, evading TE/WR blocks in space. Displays excellent backside/frontside range to chase down Jet Sweeps/Outside runs working sideline to sideline with inside/out leverage. Exhibits good power to shock and shed FBs at the point of attack, stopping Lead runs. Tackling is good, as can close his gap as the unblocked defender and generate stops within three yards. Demonstrates excellent play speed to process Run Pass Options quickly, reading the ball through the mesh point and tackle quarterbacks at/near the line of scrimmage.
Lacks the upper body strength to disengage from OL vs Inside Zones, due to poor punch placement. Does not shoot his hands and catches blocks at the point of attack, instead of punching into the breast plate. Man coverage is marginal vs TEs, accrues holding penalties defending Rail/Wheel routes due to poor technique. Overall, an OLB that can win with leverage in a one-gap scheme and flows sideline to sideline vs the run. Shows the ability to cover in Zone/Man coverage and blitz from multiple angles. Lacks the play strength to disengage from OL at the point of attack.
4-3 front that leverages One-Gap and Sub packages that utilizes his play speed, athletic ability, and range to cover and blitz.
Overall 2018 NFL Grade: 6.75
9.00 Dominant Player. All-Pro Traits. Should develop into the best at his position
8.99-8.50 Consistent Pro Bowl Player. Gameplan changer. Very few flaws if any.
8.49-8.00 Will be very good player. Rookie Starter. Should have Pro Bowl physical traits.
7.99 Will be very good player. Probable Rookie Starter. May or may not have Pro Bowl physical traits.
7.75 Unique potential. Pro Bowl traits who needs critical technical development and consistency.
7.50-7.00 Can be a good starter you can win with. Should compete for a role/starting position. May be immediate contributor.
6.99-6.50 Functional starter in first 3 years who you should win with. No fatal flaws. Development needed.
6.49-6.00 Flash Starter Tools. Quality role player and/or Good ST. Emergency Starter
5.99-5.50 Quality role player and contributor for scheme specific teams.
5.49-5.00 Draftable player with intriguing physical tools or a functional role player to strengthen the 53.
4.99-4.50 Priority free agent. Has a couple tools that you want to work with.
4.49-4.00 Undrafted Free agent. Will go on the 90 man roster somewhere.
3.99-3.50 Invite to rookie mini camp. At least one intriguing quality to see live.
3.49-3.00 Off radar due to injury, size, position projection, etc. May be successful in CFL/AFL/etc.
Some teams are going to get a steal in Baker & Jones!!!
Hard to judge Baker…the LB play fell off so poorly in Fickell’s absence you don’t know if Baker’s decline was more about him or coaching/scheme. But I do know Baker went from looking like a top 15 pick to a 5th or 6th rounder in 9 months time. My hunch is it was a big coaching void in yr 1 after Fickell…we better hope that has been worked out.
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