The Eagles may look to add a weakside linebacker in the upcoming draft. One player I hope they take a strong look at is Penn State star Sean Lee. He played inside and outside linebacker during his time in Happy Valley. I think he would be a good fit on the weak side for us. Lee has the kind of size we like at 6-2 and 236 pounds. He is the best linebacker in the draft when it comes to shedding blocks. You consistently see offensive linemen, fullbacks and tight ends come after him only to get knocked back by Lee. He means business out there.
Lee is a tough, physical player. He is a very good tackler. Lee attacks his targets and uses proper technique. He has an excellent motor. He is around the ball a lot, partly due to good instincts and partly due to hustle. He can blitz and make plays in the backfield. Lee finished his career with 29.5 tackles-for-loss. He has good closing speed and is relentless in pursuit.
Lee is not a finesse, athletic linebacker, but that doesn't mean that he's limited to being just a run stuffer. In the Big Ten conference he faced a lot of spread offenses. That meant he had to play out in space and even cover wide receivers at times. Lee was on the field in passing situations and developed into a solid coverage linebacker. He picked off three passes in his career and deflected or broke up 17 others. He is equally at home playing between the tackles or chasing receivers out in space. Lee has good quickness and agility. He also anticipates plays well. He knows where to be so that he's not always reacting, which can make a big difference to a linebacker who lacks top speed.
Lee is a high-character player, good student and natural leader. He could play in the middle as well as on the weak side. That kind of versatility would be nice to have since Stewart Bradley is coming off a torn ACL and Akeem Jordan missed time in 2009 with an injury of his own. Lee did tear an ACL and missed the 2008 season. He missed three games in 2009 due to injury, but played at a high level upon his return. If his knee checks out, I could see Lee going as early as the middle of the second round. The Eagles might be able to get him at the bottom of the second or even with the early third-round pick we have from the Seahawks. I think Lee is the best linebacker to come out of Penn State since LaVar Arrington back in 2000.
• I'm curious to know what the Eagles think of Morgan Burnett, the free safety from Georgia Tech. He came out after his junior season. Burnett had a very productive career. In three years he racked up 14 interceptions, 147 solo tackles, 13.5 tackles-for-loss and 19 passes defensed. Those are some very impressive numbers. Burnett shows up on tape. He is good in man coverage and also playing back like a centerfielder. I don't think Burnett is a particularly good run defender. His tackling is OK, but inconsistent.
My biggest problem is that I don't think he diagnoses plays well. He has trouble locating the ball at times. Georgia used a variety of bootlegs, misdirection stuff and ghost reverse-type plays in the late-season game against Georgia Tech. Burnett never followed the running back. He always went for the exotic fake. Georgia ran for more than 350 yards that day. You would think that Burnett would have focused a bit more on the running backs at some point, but that never happened. Burnett also struggled against the run in the Orange Bowl loss to Iowa. On one hand, you have a gifted, productive player that has to be of interest. On the other hand, you have a defender that struggles against the run and doesn't show the instincts that you prefer in a safety. Burnett could go starting in the mid-second round.
• The addition of Mike Bell means the Eagles will likely look for a running back late in the draft. One player who could be of interest is Charles Scott of LSU. He had a great junior season in 2008, rushing for 1,174 yards and 18 touchdowns. Scott battled injuries in 2009. He still led LSU in rushing, but only had 542 yards. He missed the final four games. Scott is a big back at 5-11 and 238 pounds. He runs behind his pads and likes to give out more punishment than he takes. Scott has OK feet, but he's not going go make fancy moves or dynamic cuts. He's going to attack the line of scrimmage and run over whatever is in his way.
He caught 31 passes at LSU and has adequate hands for catching screens and short dump-off throws. Scott would be an interesting player to add to the mix. The Eagles could use him some at fullback if needed. He could be a good short-yardage and goal line runner to develop for the future. Bell signed a one-year contract so we might need a power runner in 2011.
• If the Eagles pass on Sean Lee, they could always go for his teammate, Navorro Bowman. He is a junior that left school after having back-to-back outstanding seasons. Bowman is a rangy, instinctive linebacker. He played on the outside at Penn State, but could play in the middle for some teams. He's 6-0 and 242 pounds. He is a physical tackler that covers a lot of ground and just seems to make things happen. He ran a fumble back 91 yards for a touchdown. He ran an interception back 73 yards for a touchdown. He added 17 tackles-for-loss. One of the things I like best about Bowman is the fact he comes up huge in big games. Bowman was the best Nittany Lion on the field this year in the Iowa game. He had 13 tackles, three for a loss. He was all over the place.
He played great against USC in the Rose Bowl following the 2008 season. Bowman had eight tackles in that game, five for a loss. He looked every bit the part of Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga and Clay Matthews. I don't know that he'll be drafted as early as them or pan out that well, but Bowman is a very good player. He might have some character concerns. He spent time in Joe Paterno's doghouse. That could be something simple like sloppy practice habits or it could be something more serious. Whatever it was, it didn't keep him off the field. If everything checks out, Bowman should be a third-round pick.
• We have a mock draft posted at ScoutsNotebook.com. You might be surprised to see who we have the Eagles selecting in the first round.
-- Posted by Tommy Lawlor, 9:45 a.m., April 1