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Sports

NFL Draft Post-Combine Big Ten Defensive Rankings: No. 5 Wisconsin Linebacker Chris Borland

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NFL Draft Post-Combine Big Ten Defensive Rankings: No. 5 Wisconsin Linebacker Chris Borland

2014-03-06 15:56:121 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Chris Borland tackles PSU runner Zach Zwinak. (Image Source: Mary Mangenfeld/USA Today Sports)

Here are my Post-NFL Scouting Combine rankings of the defensive prospects coming out of the Big Ten conference:

1) CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State, Senior (Top 20)

2) DT Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota, Senior (Late First Round to Second Round)

3) OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State, Junior (Late First Round to Second Round)

4) CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State, Junior (Late First Round to Second Round)

5) ILB Chris Borland, Wisconsin, Senior (5110, 248 pounds)

If you’re looking for a workout warrior with elite combine numbers, you’re barking up the wrong tree. But do you want an Olympic medal broad jumper or sprinter, or a tough football player who knows how to tackle? Borland has exceeded expectations every step of the way. Just a two-star recruit coming out of Ohio, the Badger ended his Wisconsin career as the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Some scouts will focus on his squatty build, short arms, as well as his lack of ideal speed and athleticism. Folks, these are fair concerns and should be taken into account when evaluating Borland, but the measurables don’t tell the entire story for any prospect, especially someone like this inside linebacker.

He makes up for what he lacks in length and fleetness of foot with smarts, instincts and drive. Yes, cliché, but in this case also true. Borland is among the best defensive prospects at reading offenses and reacting quickly. In addition, efficient movement with few wasted steps helps make up those milliseconds lost in a straight-line race like the 40-yard dash. In other words, Borland plays football faster than he races.

Against the run, Borland finds a way to get through the creases and when offensive linemen do get their hands on him, he does a good job disengaging from blocks in order to get into the play. He has quick feet and avoids costly missteps that often run other linebackers out of plays. Moreover, when he gets there, the ball carrier knows. Borland isn’t just a technically sound tackler, he can deliver devastating blows as well.

While he is short, Borland is a solid 248 pounds. He’s among the heaviest inside linebackers in this class and has 14 pounds on Alabama’s C.J. Mosley who is the consensus No. 1 middle linebacker in the 2014 NFL Draft. So, the fact that he’s undersized may be overstated.

In terms of production, Borland was fantastic throughout his college career. He’s Wisconsin’s sixth all-time leading tackler with 420 stops and his 50 career tackles for loss is fourth all-time. In addition, Borland had a program record 15 forced fumbles, which is the second-most ever in FBS history. At times the Badgers would let Borland loose coming off the edge in passing situations and he responded with four sacks as a senior.

Most have Borland pegged as a MIKE in a 43 defense, but I believe he’s also capable of playing inside in a 34 scheme, which he did in 2013. So Borland has experience playing in both formations. He has bulk and playing in a 34 alignment would diminish his lack of range because there is less ground to cover with two inside ‘backers instead of just one.

He may not be a Pro Bowler, but expect Borland to be a consistently above average inside linebacker for years to come. He can be a core defender on a good defense.

Projection: Second Round to Third Round

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. 

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