Every season, great linebackers inexplicably fall off of the draft board. London Fletcher went undrafted and went on to start 215 consecutive games at the position en route to four Pro Bowls over sixteen seasons. Zach Thomas was a 5th round pick and one of the greatest linebackers of his era. 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison? Undrafted. Baltimore Ravens defensive standout Zachary Orr was also undrafted. History suggests that there are some great linebackers who are flying under the radar as we head towards the 2017 NFL Draft. Players like Reuben Foster and T.J. Watt get all the attention from most sports sites and analysts. However, scouting careers are made by finding great players who have slipped through the cracks. One of these players is Georgia State linebacker Alonzo McGee.
Alonzo McGee is an explosive player who has performed well against all levels of competition, including against programs like Wisconsin. His highlights show an extremely intelligent player who can read offenses, who understands offensive blocking schemes, and who can be a disruptive force in the middle of a defense. He looks the part of a potential future Pro Bowler on film (highlights here), and off the field he is an extremely high character, hard working individual. McGee is both intelligent and versatile; he has thrived in three collegiate programs and has started at a high level at both inside and outside linebacker. This is a kid who deserves to be in the conversation on day 1 or 2 of the draft, but does not get near the amount of recognition he deserves from analysts.
McGee's journey is an intriguing one. He started out at Georgia Military College and played in 11 games over one season, finishing his time there with 48 tackles and 2 sacks. He then transferred to UAB, where he continued to develop as a player. He played in twelve games, starting two. There, he recorded 42 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, a sack, a pass breakup, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. At that point in his career, one of the trademarks of his playing style began to stand out, the tackle for loss. McGee has developed into a TFL machine as a college player, and his aggressive, instinctive style of play will be a major asset to any NFL defense.
Alonzo McGee is a player who is capable of picking up new defensive systems and immediately playing at a high level. Once UAB's program folded, McGee transferred to Georgia State. In his first game at Georgia State, he tied the school record for tackles for loss with 4. This was en route to a 12.5 TFL season that set a Georgia State season record. McGee did this as an inside linebacker, and was named an honorable mention for All-Sun Belt Conference. The following season, he switched to outside linebacker and continued to play at an extremely high level, again receiving an honorable mention for All-Sun Belt Conference. His two season career at Georgia State ended with 167 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, and 4.5 sacks. The numbers alone show that McGee is a worthy NFL prospect, but numbers aren't everything. McGee has the intangibles that make a great NFL prospect.
This is a player who has thrived at multiple positions in multiple programs. Alonzo McGee's character is a huge part of what makes him a great NFL prospect. Here at Matt and Mike Sports, we had a chance to interview Alonzo McGee (interview here), and he is clearly a student of the game. In his own words, McGee's approach as a player is to "train hard and give 110 % effort with everything that I do." Some players study film during team film sessions. McGee goes above and beyond that, spending his free time studying plays and watching additional film on his own. In his own words, being successful while playing for multiple programs "just takes discipline and extra effort."
Alonzo McGee is a team-first player; to him, his teammates are family, and he will do everything he can for them on the field. He practices hard and plays hard. He watches film twice a day to prepare for games, and he makes the most out of time spent in practice. Most importantly, He is an extremely respectful and driven individual who is willing to play wherever his team needs him to. On the field, he is a relentless tackler who puts his hard work studying film and playbook to use on every play. His preparation in the week leading up to game day is a big part of the reason why he has been so successful as a collegiate player. He understands what the offense is doing on each play, and puts that knowledge to work, allowing him to make big plays and generate tackles for loss. This is a player that is extremely coachable, competitive, and with huge amounts of upside.
Great players are not built on talent alone. While some players skate by on athletic talent alone, great players are built by hard work and a relentless passion for the game. Ray Lewis was athletic, but he also had a firm understanding of both his defense and of opposing offenses. Brian Urlacher understood his own defensive scheme well enough to make every player around him better. Vontaze Burfict studies film to a point where he remembers his mistakes on specific plays from his past. Great players not only look great on film, but also understand the game itself. McGee's passion for film, his work ethic, and his love for his teammates will make him a critical asset to any NFL team lucky enough to draft him.
I'm a defensive-minded guy, and to me, McGee displays all the traits of a future starting NFL linebacker. He is an outstanding tackler, he knows how to read run plays and shed blocks, and can generate strong pressure in the backfield. He prepares hard for every single game, both in practice and in his own free time, which gives him an edge against opponents. For Alonzo McGee, football is not just a hobby or a job, it is a passion. His drive and passion for the sport will allow him to develop into an elite defender in the NFL. While he may not be a finished product as a prospect, no prospect is. He has room to improve in pass coverage, but so did Denzel Perryman. Perryman has quickly emerged as one of the key cogs in the San Diego Chargers defense. With McGee's strong passion for hard work and film study, he will constantly work to get better as a player. Alonzo McGee has all the tools necessary to step into an NFL defensive system and play at a high level. He has the team mentality to do anything to help his team, and will thrive wherever the team needs him, whether on special teams or in the middle of a defensive unit. Given a year or a couple of years of development as a pro, McGee could emerge as a key cog in an NFL defense. He likely will emerge in a similar way to Zachary Orr of the Ravens, taking the league by storm to emerge as a key young player in an NFL defensive scheme.
While Alonzo McGee may not be the biggest defensive name in this year's draft, he might have the most upside of any defensive player, especially for a guy who's floating around in the conversation as a later-round pick or potential UDFA. Glimpses of greatness already show up regularly in his college film, and with a year or two working with an NFL coaching staff, this kid could become a perennial Pro Bowler. He is hard working, versatile, athletic, and willing to do whatever it takes to help his team compete. While right now he's relatively off the radar, if given a chance, he will take the NFL by storm. If he can harness the flashes of greatness that he has shown on film, he will be special. He will be a steal for any team lucky enough to take him in 2017.--Mike B.
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