Position: Inside Linebacker
Weight: 243 lbs
Height: 6′ 3″
Combine 40: 4.56
Drafted: 31st overall
As the 2015 NFL draft approached the talk among Saints fans ramped up on the needs at various positions but one thing stayed constant throughout – the Saints needed linebacker help badly. The Brass did not disappoint drafting three linebackers and bringing in another two with the UDFA class.
With the 31st pick the Saints wasted no time getting down to business drafting Stephone Anthony out of Clemson, this may be may favorite pick in the Saints entire draft class. I truly think the Saints got the best inside linebacker in the draft, he’s that good.
Before this years draft the Saints were sitting with five inside linebackers on the roster (Kyle Knox got cut today) after the abrupt cutting of Curtis Lofton – David Hawthorne, Ramon Humber, Dannell Ellerbe, and Jerry Franklin. Stephone Anthony has the tools to be better than all of them if his college game translates well on the next level and like with all rookies that’s a big if but if what I’m seeing is any indication, the transition should go without a hitch.
One of the first things I noticed when watching Anthony, and I know this is a cliche’ term but it rings true in his case – He has a non stop motor. Even when they play is away from him he plays until the whistle blows, you would think that someone so active as Anthony that he would get winded late in thee game, I didn’t see it with him.
Anthony has a great burst of speed when hammering down his gaps at the line of scrimmage and is very aggressive in doing so. Sometimes that aggressiveness can backfire on him with the wrong gap assignment and/or the running back cutting it back against the grain. But most of the time he is right and reads the correct hole, he may have to temper that aggressiveness a bit in the NFL until he is used of the speed of the league because savvy coordinators will exploit it.
Anthony is also a sure tackler that will bring the wood if he has a shot but more importantly he wraps up his tackles and is fundamentally sound in that area.
Another thing that caught my eye was how smart he is and how quick he is with recognition especially with the screen play and dump passes. A lot of times Anthony blew up the screen behind the line of scrimmage or the quarterback was forced to throw it away.
As far as pass coverage Clemson didn’t asked him to do a whole lot other that dropping back into zone and cover an area and he was decent at it, I’m not sure how the Saints would use him in that aspect of his game.
Anthony is also a very effective blitzer and that aggressive burst to the line really pays off here, a lot of times all the quarterback could do was tuck the ball and try to run away from him if he could even do that. He also faked a lot of blitzes at the line and would drop back into coverage.
It’s going to be an interesting battle this training camp between Hawthorne, Ellerbe (If healthy) Humber and Anthony – I just don’t see how you keep a talent like Anthony off the field.
It’s been twenty years since the Saints drafted a linebacker in the first round (Mark Fields) and it seems like a distant memory since a healthy young Jon Vilma was the leader of the defense. I have a feeling in a couple of years from now when we look back at this draft class, Stephone Anthony will be one of the players we’ll be saying “we hit on that draft pick”