Written by Kip Earlywine
Rundown: Sean Spence is a senior linebacker from the Miami Hurricanes. He played most of his snaps at middle linebacker. He was the ACC defensive rookie of the year in 2008. He has 47.0 career tackles for loss, the second highest career total among 2011 players.
Age: 23 (January 17, 1989)
40 time: 4.71
10 yard split: 1.59
3 cone: 7.08
Vertical Jump: 33.50″
- Aggressive minded, attacks gaps and makes plays behind the line of scrimmage
- Has the burst and closing speed to become a potentially useful blitzer
- Built to excel in coverage
- Capable of delivering hard hits and impressive tackles
- Textbook hand use / fights off blocks well
- Mistake prone
- Occasionally gets sloppy with tackling technique
Sean Spence ran a disappointing 4.71 forty time at the combine, which is straddling the line between average and below average. Its actually a slower time than those clocked by Leroy Hill (4.65) or even David Hawthorne (4.69 at his pro-day). As said before, track speed is not the same thing as field speed, and to my eye Spence plays with above average field speed, perhaps a touch less than Bobby Wagner, who clocked a 4.45 time. I don’t think general managers are going to put much stock into Spence’s 40 time. They know how fast he is from tape study.
Spence wasn’t quite the linebacker I expected when I watched his compilation videos. I was expecting a player like Bobby Wagner: consistent, mistake free, and boring. Spence is different. He made some splash plays. He had a sack. He attacked the first level with good timing which led to many tackles for loss. I’ve seen a lot of scouting reports that sing praises for Spence’s instincts, and I’d like to as well, but I just can’t. Not from this sample. He missed tackles that led to extra yards gained. He took poor angles in pursuit that turned what could have been a moderate gain and turned it into a big one. On the second play of the Clemson compilation, he misread and over pursued his run responsibility which directly led to a 71 yard touchdown run. Spence is erratic. In this sample it felt like he had more negative plays than splashy ones.
For all of his ugly plays, Spence does occasional show some pretty tackles. It seems like when Spence has a chance to square up, he can hit and wrap as well as Seattle’s #31: Kam Chancellor.
Spence is undersized, but I’m not sure how much that matters when projecting to the NFL. His size was not an issue at Miami. He uses excellent hand technique to almost instantly shed blockers. Its not every day that one of the smallest linebackers is also one of the best at shedding blocks. If I had to pick one thing I like about Spence the most- it’s his hand use against blockers.
Spence has fluid hips and has the athleticism to be an excellent coverage linebacker. As far as how good he actually played in coverage, I really can’t say from the footage I’ve found, although the consensus among scouting reports is very positive.
Sean Spence is often mocked in the 3rd or 4th round, and after finally scouting him, I feel that’s a pretty fair appraisal. He has a knack for making plays. He had 14 TFLs last year and 17 TFLs the year before. Very few linebackers can boast those kind of numbers. Bobby Wagner had less than half that many TFLs when playing the 4-3 Mike role from 2009-2010. But Spence also makes a lot of mistakes. He’s the kind of guy that can win the game for you on 4th down, but lose the game for you the next week on a crucial late game play. Both Spence and Wagner can cover and have speed. Does Seattle prefer the safer version or the gambler? My gut tells me that Seattle would rather have the safer player, especially if they rely on just two linebackers in a 5-2 front with any consistency.
Regardless of Seattle’s preferences, I’d be a little surprised if they didn’t have both Wagner and Spence on their radar somewhere. Perhaps Spence could be an insurance policy in rounds 3 or 4 depending on what happens at #43.