Bill Belichick made the point in his Sirius Radio interview this week that evaluating outside linebackers for the 3-4 defense is one of the big challenges in the scouting process. The reason is that the players who fit that spot are usually 4-3 defensive ends in college.
"You just have to project how well those guys are going to be able to play on their feet, or how much you want to play them down, and treat them pretty much as defensive ends even though you have a 3-4 base defense," Belichick said. "Those are tough decisions, tough evaluations, but they are every year."
This has been a hot-button topic of discussion around this time of year because the Patriots run a 3-4 defense. Patriots director of college scouting Jon Robinson, speaking to the team's official website, added insight as to how the Patriots approach scouting the position.
One aspect that helps is that more colleges are running zone blitzes.
“With the amount of zone blitzes colleges do you’ll see enough examples of those defensive ends dropping into coverage and you try to earmark those plays and pay particular attention to that because that’s something he’s going to be asked to do [in our scheme]," Robinson said. "Then when you ask the guy to rush the passer, well, rushing the passer is rushing the passer so if he can do it pretty good in college then you’d think it would translate to the NFL."