In recent years, we have seen more and more teams convert to 3-4 defensive schemes, likely given the success of teams such as the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers. Each year, the college class of defensive ends is a great place to find outside linebackers for this scheme.
In last year's National Football League Draft, college defensive ends DeMarcus Ware and Shawne Merriman were selected in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers, respectively. Both played outside linebacker in 3-4 schemes as rookies, and had tremendous success rushing the passer. The upcoming draft class features quite a few prospects that are probably too small to play as down linemen in the NFL, but have good speed and pass-rushing ability. One such player is 22-year-old Kamerion Wimbley of Florida State.
Kamerion Wimbley graduated a semester early from Northwest High School in Wichita, Kan., where he played quarterback, receiver, defensive end, linebacker and punter. He was widely regarded as one of the top defense end prospects in the country coming out of high school, and enrolled at Florida State in 2002.
That year as a true freshman, Wimbley saw action at defensive end and as a special teams player. In 14 games he recorded 17 tackles, with his best game coming against Georgia Tech, in which he had six solo tackles.
In 2003, Wimbley played primarily behind DE Eric M. Moore (New York Giants). Despite this, Wimbley totaled 38 tackles, a number that would stand as his career high throughout his time at Florida State. He also racked up 6.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, two passes defensed and seven quarterback hurries. In a 47-7 win over Colorado, Wimbley had eight tackles (four for a loss), two sacks, two passes defensed and a forced fumble.
As a junior in 2004, Wimbley totaled 27 tackles as a backup to Moore, who would be drafted in the sixth round by the New York Giants following the season. Wimbley had five quarterback hurries in a 20-17 victory over Wake Forest.
With the departure of Moore, Wimbley assumed a starting defensive end job as a senior in 2005. In 11 games, Wimbley had 26 tackles (11 for a loss), four passes defensed and 17 quarterback hurries. His 7.5 sacks ranked second on the team behind only DT Brodrick Bunkley, a projected first-round selection this April.
At 6-foot-3 7/8 and just 248 pounds, you won't likely see Wimbley playing defensive end in the pros. Nevertheless, he possesses the skills necessary to be a successful pass rusher in the NFL.
Wimbley has the right size and athletic ability to be a successful 3-4 linebacker. His 4.61 40-yard dash time was faster than those of some top linebacker prospects, such as Chad Greenway (Iowa), Bobby Carpenter (Ohio State), DeMeco Ryans (Alabama), D'Qwell Jackson (Maryland) and Abdul Hodge (Iowa). His good speed and acceleration allows him great success at getting pressure on the quarterback.
One thing Wimbley must work on, even if he moves to linebacker, will be his strength. He could stand to add about ten pounds of muscle. As it is, his small size causes him difficulty against the run. This makes him a one-dimensional pass rusher right now.
Wimbley does not really possess great technique and does not mix things up rushing the passer like he will need to at the next level. He will not be able to rely solely on his speed to be successful.
Defensive end and outside linebacker happen to be two of the most talented positions in this year's draft class. This, along with the fact that Wimbley is only a really good fit in a specific defensive scheme, will probably cause him to be second-round pick. There is a slight chance he cracks the first round, but it's not something to count on.
Obviously the first possible destinations that come to mind are the teams that employ the 3-4, or variations of it. Those teams are the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers. Each of those teams has one second-round pick this year, with the exception of Miami.
New England recently released veteran OLB Willie McGinest, who has since signed with the Browns. San Francisco has already lost one of their outside linebackers from last season when Andre Carter signed with Washington. Their other starter, linebacker Julian Peterson, signed for big money with the Seattle Seahawks. Both teams have a serious need at the outside linebacker position, and therefore are the two teams out of the 3-4 bunch that could use a skilled player like Wimbley the most.
Sign up for KFFL's Draft Central Complete and you will gain access to Inside the League for the inside scoop ranging from which agents are representing which player to pro day results as well as much more in-depth analysis. You also receive GM Jr.'s Guide NFL Draft Guide, written by a former NFL scout who knows how to study and review players accurately as well as objectively. To top it all off, you will receive free access to KFFL's Hot Off the Wire Complete - the industry's leading NFL news service that brings you much more than news. KFFL works with individuals in the know and not hacks who pretend to know.