In a draft with an exorbitant amount of talent at the linebacker position, Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans is a player that could fall out of the first round. With superior talent at the top of the draft in A.J. Hawk (Ohio State), Chad Greenway (Iowa) and Ernie Sims (Florida State), Ryans will fall to the end of Round 1, where players such as Bobby Carpenter (Ohio State), Thomas Howard (Texas-El Paso) and Rocky McIntosh (Miami) will compete with him.
Ryans played in every game (starting two) in his freshman year of 2002, and racked up 27 tackles, most of which came from special teams play. He was promoted to the starting lineup as a sophomore and flourished on a solid Crimson Tide defense. Ryans was in on 126 stops that year (a career high), while also recording 1.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
In 2004, Ryans kept his starting job and continued to improve his all-around game. On the year, he posted 78 tackles (seven for loss) and two pass deflections. He was even more productive as a senior for a surging Alabama squad as a cornerstone of the defense. Last season, he put up 76 tackles, five sacks, two pass deflections, an interception and 12 tackles for loss. He was rewarded for his play with the Lott Trophy (the nation's best defensive impact player) as well as finishing as a finalist for the Butkus Award (the nation's best linebacker). A better than expected 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine helped to solidify Ryans' status in this draft class.
Ryans' intangibles are off the charts, as he is a smart player who acts as an extra coach in between the lines. He is a leader both on and off the field, which also goes a long way in the minds of scouts. He played on both the weakside and the strongside at Alabama; he could potentially play on the inside in a 3-4 defense.
A gamer, Ryans will look much better on film than he will in workouts, and he plays much faster than he times. He is always around the ball and shows good technique in his tackles. Ryans has a non-stop motor and always gives maximum effort on every play. He shows solid speed and makes his home in the opposing backfield. Ryans is also a fantastic special teams player, something that will keep him in high regard with National Football League coaching staffs.
The biggest knock on Ryans is his lack of athleticism. In drills, he shows no fluidity and often shows very robotic movements. Though he played the strongside occasionally in college, he likely does not have the bulk (236 pounds) or strength to play there at the next level. He also needs protection from his defensive line, because he tends to get engulfed by the larger offensive linemen coming straight at him.
Though he is a very likeable, high character prospect, Ryans' athletic ability could really come back to bite him on draft day. With other solid prospects on his level that show more pure athleticism (including Howard, Carpenter and McIntosh), it could be hard for teams to justify taking the 6-foot-2, 236-pound linebacker. It is easy to see how a team could fall in love with him, and it is quite possible that he still goes off the board in Round 1.
The New York Giants seemed like a likely destination for the former Alabama star, but the recent signing of linebacker LaVar Arrington allows the Giants to look elsewhere in Round 1 (defensive tackle and the secondary are most likely). The highest we can see Ryans being taken is by the New England Patriots with the 21st pick overall, where Bill Belichick is not afraid to reach for players he likes or that can be molded to fit his famed system. Ryans would play on the inside for the Patriots, where questions surrounding Tedy Bruschi and last year's departure of Ted Johnson create a major need for youth.
About Francis Duffy
"Fran Duffy has been involved in sports since he was a child. A Philadelphia native, Fran is obviously a die-hard fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and Sixers. Fran is desperately waiting to see his first major championship from one of his hometown teams. He is a Broadcasting major at Temple University and has experience on the radio as well as in television production. Fran also currently works with Temple football's video-operation's team and is an avid fantasy sports player. Looking for more experience in writing, Fran joined KFFL in the spring of 2005."
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