Tar Heels LB Jeff Schoettmer is Easy to Root For
By John Sigler
Undrafted free agency gave the New Orleans Saints a bounty of young talent, ranging from offensive linemen Landon Turner and Jack Allen to defensive backs Trae Elston and De’Vante Harris. But another possible contributor signed on after the 2016 NFL Draft: North Carolina linebacker Jeff Schoettmer.
Jeff Schoettmer went from being a walk-on scholarship winner to the North Carolina Tar Heels’ 2015 defensive captain. His hard work and dedication to his craft was respected by both teammates and coaches, and its helped give the middle linebacker the confidence he’ll need to have a shot at making the New Orleans Saints’ roster in 2016.
- Height: 6-foot, 1-inches
- Weight: 233-pounds
- 3-Cone Drill: 6.80-seconds
- 225-pound Bench Press: 20 reps
Schoettmer didn’t set the record books on fire at North Carolina, but he definitely made himself known. He played in over 50 games in his career, starting the last 27 in a row, and finished 2015 tied for second- or third-place in a number of categories ranging from tackles for loss (6.5) to interceptions and forced fumbles (2 of each). He was third on the defense in solo tackles. The production is there with Schoettmer, though it’s understated.
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Schoettmer was used more often in coverage than anything else at North Carolina. He struggles to shed blocks and doesn’t appear to have any developed pass-rush moves. Though he’s got some solid movement skills, Schoettmer’s a mismatch against running backs coming out of the backfield. That was his Achilles’ heel, as Schoettmer was left tripping over himself against the more athletic backs in college. But he performed well lining up against tight ends and even some big receivers working out of the slot.
If he can refine those skills and put his athleticism to use (Schoettmer’s 6.8-second 3-cone drill time would have been second-best at the NFL Scouting Combine) and he shows out on special teams, he could work his way onto the roster.
How he fits the New Orleans Saints:
The Saints invested heavily in linebacker the last two years in an effort to rebuild one of the NFL’s worst units. They’ve mixed and matched pieces from the draft – moving last year’s first round pick, Stephone Anthony, to strongside linebacker – and brought in seasoned veterans like James Laurinaitis to fast-track the linebacking corps to success.
As of now the team is set at outside linebacker with Anthony and special teams aces Nate Stupar (who is surprisingly grateful to no longer play in Atlanta) and New Orleans native Michael Mauti at strongside. Weakside is a toss-up between the more-talented but more-injured Dannell Ellerbe and former Cleveland Browns pass coverage specialist Craig Robertson.
Middle linebacker is very thin with only James Laurinaitis, a decorated ten-year veteran, manning the spot. If Laurinaitis goes down to injury, Anthony will have to rotate back to the middle with Stupar filling in at the strongside. That’s okay for a game or two but could be dire in the long run.
That’s where Schoettmer steps in. He played capably at North Carolina and is the only true middle linebacker the Saints have brought in besides Laurinaitis. If Schoettmer has a solid preseason and shows he belongs at this level, he could very well make the squad and provide a reliable insurance policy for the 29-year old Laurinaitis. But with so many linebackers penciled in to make the roster already, Schoettmer faces a stiff uphill climb. Here’s hoping for the best for him; he’s an easy player to root for.