Photo via media.rivals.com
For the last Who the hell will they draft for 2008, I decided to focus on a LBer that will likely be available in rounds 4-7: Boston College’s Jo-Lonn "Joey" Dunbar.
All throughout this series, I focused on players who I think the Colts will draft this weekend. These players must fit a certain mold Indy looks for when going into the draft (speed over strength, quickness over size, what school you played at makes little difference, and high character). Because of this, I’ve likely missed on some people that the Colts could very well take on draft day. One person I left out is Tennessee TE Brad Cottam, but soon I should have some thoughts from SB Nation’s own Rocky Top Talk (Tennessee Volunteers blog) on Cottam and his NFL potential. I’ve also done some brief write-ups on Manningham, Doucet, and the Marshall prospects: Bernard Morris and Doug Legursky. I’ve spent a lot of time dissecting offensive and defensive lineman, RBs, and TEs. Left out of most of the talk (other than kicker and punter) is a linebacker.
And like most LBers the Colts like, Dunbar is small, fast, and a hard, hard hitter.
Of all the positions on the Colts defense, LBer is the most "throw away." I put that in quotes because there is a misconception that the Colts don’t give a crap about their LBers. Since 2002, the Colts have many good LBers walk away. Mike Peterson (2nd round 1999), Marcus Washington (3rd round 2000), David Thornton (3rd round 2002), and Cato June (5th round 2004) have all left the Colts for other team, usually signing good free agent contracts. Of those four, Bill Polian (I’m told) really wanted to keep Washington and Thornton, but the salary cap prevented him from breaking the bank on either. This has forced the Colts to dedicate a lot of draft picks to LBers. In the last two years, Freddie Keiaho, Tyjuan Hagler, and Clint Session were drafted. Gary Brackett, the starting MLBer, wasn’t drafted out of Rutgers, and he’s been the only LBer the Colts have signed to a multi-year extension. All these recent LBers have something in common: They were second day picks who are small, fast, tough, aggressive tacklers who can cover in space.
Like the current Colts LBers, Jo-Lonn "Joey" Dunbar is under-sized, but as we have shown in this series (and as the Colts have shown when they won Super Bowl 41) size is an over-rated feature. A LBer that is big and fast is great, but rarely do you find such a player the second day. If you have to choose between big or fast, you choose fast. If you don’t, you have the Denver Broncos 2007 defense. With Dunbar, he seems to fit the mold as a Colts LBer:
Has an instinctive feel for the ball in flight, taking short pitter-patter steps in his retreat when dropping back in zone coverage...Shows a good feel for blocking schemes, he attacks the line of scrimmage with shoulders squared and plants his feet to prevent from getting washed out by bigger blockers at the point of attack...Very good at lowering his pads and driving hard with his legs to split double teams and stack and control vs. inside running plays.
Intense and aggressive with a great motor...Able to hold his own in zone coverage..Offers some versatility…Playmaker and always around the action.
The last part of the quoted NFL Draft Countdown evaluation is key. Just like S Corey Lynch, Dunbar always seems to find his way to the football. Whenever there is a turnover or big hit, it usually involves Dunbar. He was the leader of a very good Boston College defense that stuffed the run all throughout 2007. QB Matt Ryan often got all the credit for BC’s solid 2007 season, but it was their defense that kept BC in the games. From Scout.com:
Dunbar could be a special player: a linebacker which displayed a nose for the ball leading to four touchdowns throughout his defensive career, a playmaker who relied on his instincts, attitude, and guts to get the job done.
Dunbar is ideally fitted for a MLBer in Dungy’s Tampa 2 defense he runs in Indy. Like Gary Brackett, he is compact, deceptively quick, and has good coverage skills in a zone. He is also a very reliable tackler, and can create violent collisions at the point of attack:
Has a good flow to the ball inside the box and delivers a strong hand jolt to shock a lethargic blocker...Hits with a thud, doing a good job of colliding with and bringing down ballcarriers with his initial hit...With his low center of gravity, he is capable of slipping through the inside trash to take down the ballcarrier in the backfield.
Dunbar also has the intangibles you look for in a LBer. He’s a football smart kid who used his intelligence and his instincts very well in college. Most LBers in college get away with things by relying on their talent. Dunbar has the brains and the talent:
Smart with a high football IQ...A hard worker...Team leader and captain...Experienced...Very productive.
Has good eyes in pass coverage, showing good ball anticipation mirroring tight ends underneath... Has some Ray Lewis in him, as he enjoys playing the "enforcer" role with his impact tackles... Quiet leader-by-example type, but has good command in the huddle...Hard worker in the training room who has made a good transition from tailback to linebacker, putting in extra hours after practice working on technique and compiling lots of time in the film room studying game tape...
His negatives? Well, they are the usual: He’s small. Again, size in the NFL is not as important as speed. Dunbar clocked a very subpar 40 time at 4.87 at the Combine, but that timed speed might not be accurate. Dunbar plays much faster than his timed speeds indicate. He also has trouble shedding blocks, a fault that got Cato June booted to the curb in 2006 despite a Pro Bowl nod in 2005 and a Super Bowl ring in 2006. However, what Dunbar does have is a non-stop motor and a genuine desire to improve as a player. He has very good closing speed, which can make him a very valuable special teams player (where he will likely play if drafted).
Dunbar compares with Seattle’s Lofa Tatupu, another small LBer who, like Gary Brackett, has made an impact on the NFL. Dunbar’s playmaking ability and high intangibles make him an ideal pick for Dungy’s Cover 2, and if he is there in the late rounds, the Colts will look to take him.
Well, that about does it for the Who the hell will they draft 2008 series. Look for my final mock draft for 2008 later today.