One of the New Orleans Saints’ bigger needs this offseason remains a weakside linebacker, so we profile Ohio State’s Darron Lee and suggest how he may fit into the Crescent City football scheme.
We continue our New Orleans Saints draft profile series with Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee, an unheralded first-round prospect who continues to climb up the boards following an exceptional performance at the scouting combine, where he was a top performer in several categories for the linebacker position.
Weight: 232 LBS
Arm length: 33 1/4 inches
Hands: 9 3/4 inches
40-yard dash: 4.47 seconds (Top performer)
Bench press (225 LBS): 17 reps
Vertical: 35.5 inches (Top performer)
Broad jump: 133 inches (Top performer)
3-cone drill: 7.12 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.20 seconds (Top performer)
Darron Lee is a bit undersized, but he is multi-talented as a pass rusher, as well as a coverage linebacker who can blanket big receivers and tight ends. His smaller stature and athleticism make him a good fit for a weakside likebacker role.
He’s an “all-over-the-field” type of player, but he’ll have to tone down the aggressiveness, which has resulted in some bad angles and missed tackles over his collegiate career. While his speed and athleticism are certainly ideal traits, he MUST improve his play strength to become a better tackler. Missed tackles will haunt players and teams at the next level.
Lee was a star as soon as he stepped onto the field as a starter in 2014, starting all 15 games (including postseason) and helping lead the Buckeyes to a national championship, earning a Sugar Bowl Defensive MVP versus Alabama along the way. 2015 wasn’t too shabby either (AP Second-team All-American), but it didn’t match the production from the season prior. From 2014-15, Lee totaled 146 combined tackles, 11 sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a defensive touchdown.
Darron Lee shows flashes against Hawaii while stacking up on stats, but this contest proves his game still needs work in certain areas:
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How he fits with the New Orleans Saints:
If the New Orleans Saints are indeed looking to address the weakside (perhaps the team’s biggest need with the health of Dannell Ellerbe no guarantee) in the first round, then Darron Lee could pay off. He has championship experience under a coach who has produced great NFL talent.
The Saints’ defense was a historical disaster in almost every aspect of the game in 2015. Lee’s tape flashes at times, and he has proven to be a versatile and athletic playmaker in college. However, his film also proves he has a lot to improve before becoming a star. The Saints have been plagued with missed tackles over the past several years. They don’t want to draft a player who could add to that misery. Lee does offer high upside, though, if he can work out those kinks.
There’s no such thing as a surplus of linebackers in the NFL, especially when it comes to a struggling defense like the one in the Big Easy. Drafting Lee would add depth and potentially add a difference maker in the mix with Stephone Anthony, Hau’oli Kikaha, James Laurinaitis, and company. However, there will be better options at pick No. 12, especially if the New Orleans Saints are looking to bolster up the pass rush. Lee visited with the Saints at Ohio State’s pro day.