Taking a look at selected players leading up to the NFL draft, which begins May 8. The reports are based on watching multiple games on draftbreakdown.com, and reading various reports from ESPN.com, CBSSports.com and NFL.com. But I'll let you know when there's an opinion other than my own. I'm not a fan of having to only watch them off a TV feed -- you don't always get the best angle, or see all the players -- but it's the best I can do now and it helps provide a snapshot. The draft analysts help fill in the gap, especially in terms of where they're projected.
Player: Chris Borland
What he plays: Inside linebacker
College production: Set a Big Ten record for forced fumbles (13). Also had 50 tackles for a loss in his career. Recorded 102 tackles and four sacks this past season in being named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the year. First Badger linebacker to earn first-team All-America honors since 1951.
How he'd fit: He'd eventually start alongside Perry Riley inside, though the Redskins would not need him to do so immediately with Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan on the roster. Could help on special teams.
What I liked: His competitiveness. Borland was always around the ball, no matter where the play ended up being made. When the play was in front of him, Borland was an excellent tackler. So in a more physical game, like against Ohio State, his impact was greater. On three occasions he met Carlos Hyde in the hole and won, including two short-yardage situations. Just excellent tackles: Knees bent, head up and driving through the man. Borland knows how to play and anticipates the snap count well, allowing him to play fast. (The true measure of speed is not with a stopwatch, but in how fast they play. He plays to his speed; many do not. They might run well, but they don't play fast.) It allowed him to beat blockers to the spot. Against Ohio State, he blew up a play because he beat the pulling guard, leaving Hyde to block him several yards deep on a quarterback run around the end. Another defender made the tackle; Borland made the play. He was good at avoiding blockers and was a solid pass-rusher with a spin move on the outside and showing good hands against slower linemen inside. Borland showed good balance when teams tried to cut-block him. He was fine in zone coverage. He'd be an excellent leader (eventually) and a guy who would provide a physical mindset inside.
What I didn't like: Though he's more athletic than given credit for, he was not as good when the game was played more in space. I did not see him covering tight ends one-on-one, but would anticipate that being an issue in the NFL. He's not fast (4.83 in the 40-yard dash) and lacks ideal size (5-foot-11 ½, 248 pounds), though so did the guy he'd replace in London Fletcher. Borland struggled to disengage blockers – his arms are considered short -- opting more to avoid them. He didn't finish as well against more athletic players, missing tackles at feet or failing to react well when the player would make a move. I'd worry about him against a team like, say, Philadelphia in particular.
Where he's projected: Second round. The question is, would Borland be better as a 4-3 middle linebacker? ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay thinks so because he'd be more protected. I agree; he did not show great ability to take on blocks and that will be an issue in the NFL. But his productivity was so high -- as are his intangibles -- that teams will take a long look at him; there's also a drop-off after Borland. In the right system, Borland could do rather well.
Other players examined: