While the Jacksonville Jaguars will enter the 2013 NFL Draft likely looking for pass rushers and defensive backs, another position they will need to consider is at the linebacker spot. The team might lose Daryl Smith in free agency and the overall depth at the position leaves a lot to be desired. Someone like Missouri's Zaviar Gooden could be a target in the mid-rounds to help bolster the position group.
|NFL Comparison||Sean Weatherspoon||Projection||Mid-rounds|
The first thing that jumps out at you with Zaviar Gooden is his athleticism and speed for his size. At 230 plus pounds, Gooden is quick and accelerates to the football quicker than you would expect someone of his size to be able to. Originally recruited as a safety by Missouri, Gooden made the position switch in 2009 and became a fulltime starter at the position in 2010. Projecting Gooden's NFL position is a bit tricky, as he seemed to play all three linebacker positions in the Missouri defense, but more often than not playing either the WILL or SAM linebacker spot.
Gooden does a nice job playing downhill as a linebacker, often filling the gap he needs to fill and does a nice job playing contain when he's on the backside of a play. The biggest concern with Gooden is playing "in control". He doesn't really have a knack for being a playmaker, but he shows flashes of the ability to do so and can get caught trying to force plays that aren't there by going for a tough interception or trying to lay a big hit. When Gooden plays within his ability and with discipline, the plays come naturally to him. It's when he tries to force them he finds himself in trouble.
Missouri seemed to blitz Gooden quite a bit from the SAM linebacker position, but he didn't often get home on his blitzes. He does a nice job of getting pressure but can get run wide by offensive lineman and sometimes blocked out of the play entirely if the lineman is able to engage. Where Gooden really seems to shine is against the run where he does a nice job of shedding blockers and cutting into the play. He does especially well on backside pursuit because of his speed at the position.
Gooden is also adequate in zone coverage, being a former safety knowing when to engage and release a zone. He does a solid job of turning and running with tight ends, but seems to be best in zone coverage with the play in front of him. He has the athleticism and speed to be the type of defender who can cut routes off and intercept passes once he feels more comfortable in his position. He's still learning the nuances of the position, but seems to be a potential starter even as a rookie, especially on the Jaguars if someone like Daryl Smith leaves in free agency. The WILL linebacker in the defense Seattle runs is very important because of how much is funneled in that direction. The player needs to be smart and tackle well, which Gooden seems to be. He reads the play well and generally takes the correct angle.