Lavonte David tape review vs Ohio State

Tape courtesy of Aaron Aloysius

As Seahawks fans embrace the likely attention the front seven will receive in this upcoming draft, Lavonte David (LB, Nebraska) is a name that keeps being mentioned. He was a Butkus Award runner-up in 2011, he had a solid Senior Bowl and expectations are that he could impress at the combine. You want to see pure speed from a linebacker who’s playing at 6-0 and 220lbs and it’ll be interesting so see how he performs. Players without prototypical size are always going to have to compensate, so an impressive athletic showing will allay fears that size will matter at the next level. That could be the issue, however.

I’ve seen some projectionists suggest he could get into round one contention, but I think that’s very optimistic. He may test well at the combine, but the tape above shows an athlete with above average mobility, but not the kind of consistent explosion that could promote him beyond a R2-4 grade. See the play at 4:54 where he has an angle on the runner, but is beaten on the outside for speed. He needs to make that play if he’s going to be considered a smaller, quicker linebacker at the next level. His best asset is working through traffic against the run when the play is in front of him. Check the tape at 0:16, 0:36, 4:06 and 4:14 to see an example of read, react and finish. Footwork is key here and he moves well to avoid blocks when trying to work in traffic. He also does well to diagnose plays quickly and get to the ball carrier. Reports say he’s a hard worker who’s spent a lot of time in the film room during his two years in Nebraska.

At times he gets overwhelmed, but that’s not a total surprise at 220lbs. You see at 1:29 when he plays at the LOS that he struggles when starting in a more attack-minded position. He cuts into the middle to try the inside rush, but gets stoned by the lineman allowing a big run on the outside. He doesn’t look a mature or effective pass rusher at this stage (although he’s not really used as a rusher) and at his size he really needs to learn to avoid contact and use his mobility to greater effect to work as a threatening pass rusher. Teams will need to feel confident he can develop this side of his game. At the moment he looks like a player who will predominantly play a lot of his snaps behind the LOS, but you have to believe teams are going to want to be more aggressive with a 220lbs linebacker knowing he could be a liability in the second level at that size.

When he gets low on tackles he’s effective. He understands he won’t be able to overpower bigger runners and receivers and I like his overall tackling technique which seems to be consistent. However, there are still times when he seems to deflect off runners. That’s a risky play, especially against the caliber of back he’ll face in the NFL. Go low, but make sure you wrap up and take the ankles – don’t rely on your shoulder knocking Ray Rice or Marshawn Lynch off balance. I like the play at 2:59 purely because it’s opportunistic. He senses a chance to strip the ball loose and force the turnover and he executes.

I wonder if teams will consider a move to safety, especially given he actually added weight before his Senior year (he previously played at around 210lbs). Switching to strong safety could be an option, because his frame is pretty maxed out as it is. I think he’s more suited to the WILL where his size will be less of a concern – but he’ll need to reassure teams he’s quick enough and capable enough of adding some pass-rush threat. In college he was a tackling machine – one almost as impressive as Luke Kuechly at times (albeit with greater lateral mobility, if not overall technique). Yet at the next level he’s going to have to adapt. That’s what makes David such a difficult projection right now. He could be that guy who everyone expects to go early but falls a bit.


  1. YDB

    I’d like to see him drafted by the Seahawks if he falls to R3–although, I don’t think he will be there. Or, I’d like to see Spence taken in R2–again, I don’t think he will be there either. Otherwise, I think this front office and staff will be able to uncover linebacker gems on day 3 of the draft.

    I think that the Seahawks will look to build the D-line in much the same way they looked to build the O-line last year: with two early picks. Well, maybe I’m just projecting my arm chair GM hopes on Seattle.

  2. cliff

    I’ve watched some tape on Zach Brown and i just don’t see it. He seems to be around the ball but rarely wraps up and makes the tackle. The only thing going for him is his speed i don’t see anything else where he deserves the hype hes getting potentially being taken by the hawks at 11/12. What makes him so good to you? To me he seems like Curry 2.0

  3. jim J

    Mid rounds, you’ve talked about both Sean Spence and Shea McClellin. Closer to home there is Josh Kaddu with Oregon. Lots of good choices for small speedy linebackers. I don’t think there is any reason to reach once you get through the first round.

    The lighter LBs seem kind of interchangeable to me, with injuries playing a big factor in their usefullness. Maybe we should choose based on how well they can catch an interception and how well they can tackle. Line them up and throw balls at them with as much speed as you can, see who can hang on to it.

  4. Rob

    Hey Cliff,

    I think he’s got a lot of range. The Senior Bowl flashed how quickly he reacted and then caught up with a play to make an impact. Curry was really such a basic player in terms of straight ahead, move to the ball, give away too many stupid penalties. Sure, he was almost perfect in terms of size/athleticism for the position, but his field IQ was awful, he struggled to read the game and he made too many mistakes. Brown isn’t nearly the same kind of ideal physical specimen. He’s lighter, quicker – but doesn’t have the size or the athletic ceiling. Yet he’ll play sideline-to-sideline, he’ll react in coverage and I think the potential is there to improve beyond what he’s achieved so far. He’ll become a fairly solid linebacker IMO – not an elite playmaker – but a solid pro. I’m led to believe his stock will rise after the combine. We’ll see.

  5. Colin

    Meh. Gets caught in the wash, doesn’t finish tackles sometimes, could be a little faster. A round 4 option.

  6. Kip Earlywine

    I’d be a little confused by a LaVonte David selection early. He’s even smaller than Malcolm Smith who we already have, and Smith was a super late pick and hasn’t played much due to size concerns.

  7. Derek

    I agree with Kip, I don’t see him offering much more than Malcolm Smith and would be a bad value in rounds 2-3.

    Who do you think are realistic options at the linebacker positions? If we don’t resign Hill and Hawthorne, we could move KJ to MLB and then we have an opening and Sam and Will. Do you think Burfict would be effective at Sam or is he strictly a MLB prospect. We know a couple things PC and JS like about linebackers from last years draft presser: They mention long arms, height, and ability to play multiple linebacker positions, and we know they want more speed.

    I saw Keenan Robinson from Texas at the senior bowl and he has more prototypical size, 6’3 240 and scouts mentioned his ability to play all 3 positions in a 4-3. Just not sure about the speed though. I believe he did play Will though throughout the season.

  8. Doug

    Not big enough for early rounds. There is no substitute for horsepower.

    Nobody seems to like my Coples pick, yet I keep seeing people express interest in Burfict, who is twice the headcase… hmmm just sayin….

  9. Derek

    I understand the worries about Burfict, and I am only suggesting him as a possibility in round 2. I don’t know much about him or his issues, same with Coples, but I think that the issues with Burfict were never about a lack of effort or inconsistent motor. I think with Burfict you will get a fierce competitor who brings it all on every play, maybe even too much. What he brings off the field however, I am not sure. I think with Coples, his issues are seen on the field, so do you spend a first round pick on someone like that? I think both players will depend heavily on their interviews but I think Coples will be a top ten pick on his upside, general importance of his position, and lack of pass rushers in the draft.

  10. Jarhead

    Haha Derek totally stole my Keenan Robinson thunder! He will be available in the 4th round and I believe he holds much more value for size, athleticism, and draft availability. He is a high motor player and I believe the exact type Carroll will want. I see him as a likely possibility for the Seahawks first drafted LB. As for Doug, the problem with Coples is he is a slug. His ‘head case’ scenario is that he is lazy and doesn’t give his all. The reason people are interested in Burfict for the Hawks is because his ‘head case’ is that he is TOO intense. I would much rather have somebody playing balls-out and needing to be told to reign it in, than have somebody just going through the motions and never truly playing hard. Coples could become an irreparable mistake for the Seahawks if we waste a first rounder on him and he shows what I believe his true colors are. If we don’t strike dead on with BOTH our round 1 AND round 2 picks this year, I feel that’s it for Carroll and Schneider. Regardless of what they are able to do at QB next year, I think it will be all over. There is almost NO value at D Line in Round One this year. The only realistic and acceptable picks for me in Round One are Richardson or Upshaw. No other player holds value at our draft slot. In the second round I truly hope we nab one of the QB’s, but also a player like Andre Branch, Brandon Thompson, Fletcher Cox or Dontari Poe if they are there, would be meh but acceptable. Unfortunately the best we could likely get at that spot is a situational pass rusher or another run stuffing DT.

  11. Jarhead

    And by realistic and value I mean a player likely to still be on the board when we select and holding value as being a complete talent that fits a great need. So no one says ‘What about Griffin?’ or ‘What about Blackmon?’ both of who I believe will be long gone. As might Brockers be, hence his exclusion

  12. John_s

    I could see Lavonte David play the Jordan Babineax / Lawyer Milloy position from a couple of years ago where they have a specific grouping for David where he can play close to the LOS and in space.

    Would not be a bad mid round pick.

  13. Dave M

    First off, I like Lavonte David. No replacement for instincts IMO and he has them. May lack prototypical speed, but he makes up for it with his football IQ.

    Another thing. Would you mind doing a review of both Mychal Kendircks and Demario Davis. Kendricks is a MLB that looks so explosive to me on film and closes to the ball quickly. His instincts and ability to read a play are great too. Not to mention he can be used rushing the passer from either inside or out. Demario Davis is a guy that flies around the field and has great closing speed. He is able to get after the QB as well from what I have seen on film. Both are guys that I think fit the description of adding speed to the LB core and are overall explosive players. I would really like to see a piece from you on both of them.

  14. Dave M

    I should add about Davis that he has the length that PC and JS have shown to value in players as well. He is a versatile player that can play inside or out. Kendricks is on the shorter more compact side, but he is a guy that to me can either play inside or out as well and adds versatility.

  15. Darnell

    I like Lavonte David. He reminds me a lot of that undersized OLB the Colts had for years that flew around making plays, I think June Kato or something like that.

    Another dude I like come rounds 3-4 is Nigel Bradham out of FSU.

  16. cliff

    Also Rob,
    I’ve seen some of Audio Cole as a pass rusher and he seems to have potential. If he was a 6th or 7th round pick i’d pick him up but he is considered a much higher prospect as a MLB/SAM. Have you seen him as a pass rusher before? Again its hard to judge based on such little tape but he seems to have it.

  17. Kip Earlywine

    I’m looking forward to the combine. When we see the LB groups 40 times we should have a slightly better idea of some of the mid round LB options Seattle could be looking at.

  18. Rugby Lock

    Excellent work on the site Rob! It’s the business!! Good commentary and opinions in the articles and the comments left by the readers here are top notch!

  19. Doug

    Burficts issues are far deeper then you guys are saying. He is an absolute idiot. He throws punches, head butts, chokes, argues with everyone, and basically quit on his team. He showed very little growth and is living on reputation. Pete Caroll pulled his invatation to USC because he is a moron.
    To get a better idea about this guy, read this:

  20. Tezlin

    I am new to this, but didn’t it seem like he wasn’t a sure tackler? Or was it just his expanded range that allowed him to look like he was missing plays? Also it didn’t seem like he got off of blocks very well. Maybe a special teamer and a rotational LB? I wouldn’t be super excited about him unless it was a late rounder, but I am just learning all this nonsense. I love reading the comments section on this site. It’s awesome that everyone has an opinion and has done research. Not many sites make you smarter by reading the comments section. Good stuff.

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