How much do you value a linebacker with premium coverage skills? If you’re me, the answer is a lot. Two down thumpers get exposed in the passing league that is the NFL, watching any Patriots game will tell you that. Tight ends and hybrid WR/RBs are often called matchup nightmares because some teams are just not equipped at the linebacker position to consistently cover enough ground in the passing game.

Is your team getting torched by athletic tight ends several times a year? Boise State LB Tanner Vallejo may be the answer. There aren’t many as natural and heady in coverage as Vallejo and he gives whichever team drafts him a valuable chess piece in passing situations.

Name: Tanner Vallejo
Position: LB
Size: 6’1″ / 228
School: Boise State
Class: Senior
Comparison: Kiko Alonso (Miami Dolphins)
Draft Grade: Mid 3rd Round
Combine Results: 40 Time – 4.67, Vertical – 33.5″, Broad – 121″, 20 Yard Shuttle – 4.39

Positives: Excellent at recognizing formations pre-snap; sniffs out bubbles and route combinations before they develop. Very good peripheral vision in coverage. Will make crossers pay. Assignment sound and rarely caught out of position. Very smooth in and out of his peddle. Quick to aggressively click and close with very good angles. Sideline-t0-sideline range; is often first to the ball on outside runs and is excellent in contain. Constantly in the play to make plays. Improved tackling technique on the move from 2015 to 2016. No fear of taking on offensive linemen and disengages with good timing. Tough as nails; played with a broken wrist most of the season last year.

Negatives: Will struggle in a phone booth with no clear path to the ball. Can get washed out of plays due to lack of ideal functional strength and short arms (30 1/2″). Will fail to come to balance at times and will whiff on some tackles due to his aggressive nature. Won’t be able to outrun as many blocks in the more condensed NFL play style. Lacks ball production in coverage beyond Sophomore season. Should add 10 pounds to his frame if he wants to hold up at the next level. Durability concerns.

Outlook: Vallejo is a fit at inside linebacker in a 3-4 or as a 4-3 weakside linebacker that should start his career as a backup, nickel coverage specialist, and ace special teamer. He has the football intelligence and instincts to develop into a solid starter but will need to prove he can handle life in an NFL phone booth before he’s given a full-time job.

About The Author Michael Kist

Michael is an NFL Draft enthusiast, aspiring scout, and grandson of longtime East Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS football coach John P. Kist. He also contributes to the popular @DraftRT Twitter account. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelJKist.