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Jerome Baker, OLB, Ohio State

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson
Jerome Baker
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Overview...The size factor again comes into play here, as most teams worked Baker out as an inside linebacker at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine. Built more like Lavonte David and Derrick Brooks, other organizations see his speed as a great asset for a weak-side outside linebacker in a classic 4-3 alignment.

Body Structure...Baker lacks great height, but has a compact build with good overall muscle development, thick chest, broad shoulders, tight abdomen, good bubble, tight waist and hips and a developed lower frame with good thigh and calf thickness. He also has room on his frame for additional growth.

Athletic Ability...Baker lacks the height scouts look for in a strong-side linebacker, but his quickness and lateral range makes him a nice fit for the weak-side position - whether inside or outside. He has a good flow to the ball and is alert to blocking schemes, doing a nice job of avoiding offensive linemen to make plays in the backfield. He has good speed for the weak-side position, but despite good weight room numbers, his strength does not always translate to the field. He shows quickness coming off the snap and flexibility, balance and body control as he smoothly runs the field.

Football Sense... Baker has a good feel for pocket movement, but is not always alert to blocking schemes. His ability to play in run containment allowed the other OSU linebackers to freelance more. He is a quick reader, but sometimes fails to recognize formations and blocking schemes. He stays in control on the move, but must learn how to use his hands effectively to keep blockers off his body. He does well in the classroom, and if needed, he is intelligent enough to make the calls and is aware of his teammates’ assignments.

Athletic Report

Key and Diagnostic Skills...Baker needs to be quicker recognizing blocking schemes, but he does have functional ability of avoiding them while taking the shortest path he can find into the backfield. He has a good feel for pocket movement and when dropping off in coverage, he reads the quarter-back well, showing solid ball anticipation skills to compete for the pass at its high point. He might be a bit hesitant at times stepping up when working in-line and this gives the blocker an opportunity of attacking and washing him out of the play, though. He is the type that can handle his responsibilities and he does a nice job of covering up when a teammate blows an assignment. He is more instinctive as a player when he is allowed to roam, rather then get caught up in first level trash. He does have a nose for the ball and shows good quickness and the ability to react and pursue as soon as he locates the play. He has the vision and ability to get through traffic, just not the playing field power to disengage when a blocker gets a piece of his jersey.

Playing Strength and Explosion...Despite impressive weight room figures, Baker does not always play up to his strength levels. He has enough of a punch to shock an opponent, but rather than facing up, he relies more on his foot quickness to avoid. He lacks the “sand in his pants” to hold ground on running plays directed right at him and is better served playing on the move rather than waiting for the play to come to him. He is more of a finesse-type of tackler than a physical one and when he encounters a bigger blocker, he does not have the raw power to quickly shed when a lineman gets after him.

Lateral Pursuit/Range...Baker has the range and good foot speed to maintain relationship vs. plays in front of him, but is not really a great blitzer, as he lacks the power to break through bigger blockers and prefers to take a wide loop or run long distances to get to the quarterback. His lateral mobility and balance allow him to scrape down the line and he shows good urgency closing on the ball, as his strong angle concept allows him to neutralize the cutback lanes. He has the speed and burst explosion to get to the outside plays and is a solid wrap-up tackler working in space. He has adequate change of direction skills, but when he gets high in his stance, his base gets too narrow, resulting in his crossing his feet a bit and struggling to make the open field tackle. When he takes proper angles, he has the short area speed to stretch the play. He does show good determination moving down the line to close on the ball. He will give total effort to generate the speed needed to run down plays from behind.

Use of Hands...Even with his two pass thefts in 2016, Baker lacks natural hands to be considered even an adequate pass thief, but seems content using his timing and leaping ability to deflect a good amount of passes targeted into his area. When he gets good position, he is capable of using his hands to control and reroute the tight ends. He uses his hands well to ward off the tight end’s block, but when working in-line, he tends to give a shoulder rather than push off the offensive linemen.

Tackling Ability... Baker is not always a consistent open field tackler, but does show the ability, along with the range and angle concept to close down the outside rushing game. He plays at a low pad level and uses his arms well to wrap and secure. He will get reckless and “ankle bite” when he tries to recover after being beaten, though. He can be an effective wrap-up tackler when he gets position, but for a player of his power base, you’d hope he would dominate more.

Run Defense...What you quickly notice watching film on Baker is his ability to get in front of the ball carrier, break down and drive through with his tackles. He likes to face up with good force, but there are times when he turns into an “ankle biter.” His range was a bit limited last year due to injury problems, but he has the speed and closing burst to generate a long chase to make the play. When playing along the line of scrimmage, he shows a good flow to the ball running sideline-to-sideline. When he gets himself into position to make plays, he is able to hold ground at the point of attack. When he gets too high in his stance, he lacks the leg drive and proper hand usage to disengage. He is much better when he uses his forward speed to pursue on the edge. He closes with urgency vs. the outside run and has the lateral agility to string out the sweep, turn the play in and run hard to the ball.

Pass Defense...Baker does a nice job of mirroring short area receivers and shows the reach-around skills to compete for the ball in a crowd. He just seems a bit tentative to attack the receiver and while he can run stride for stride with his man, he must do a better job of trying to reroute his opponent rather than letting them eat up his cushion in attempts to get behind him. He is quick to sniff out the pass and has good recovery and closing speed. He uses his hands decently to hang with the tight ends and backs in the short area, doing a nice job of turning and mirroring. He also has the agility to turn and drop into coverage, but needs to take the proper angle in order to gain depth.

Zone Defense...Baker shows functional hip motion getting back in zone coverage. He works well handling the switch-off and shows a good closing burst on plays in front of him. He is smart enough not to bite on play action and reads the quarterback well to time the flight of the ball. He lacks natural hands for the interception, though, and a lot of those opportunities resulted in just pass break-ups rather than a big turnover. He covers the tight ends easily and is athletic enough to drop back in the zone.

Pass Rush and Blitz...Baker is an occasional blitzer, but lacks any sort of pass rush moves, outside of his spin. He has a good closing burst, but needs to have a free lane in order to get to the quarterback, as he is not as effective sifting through traffic on the pass rush as he is when being utilized for run containment.

Compares To...Darron Lee-New York Jets...Like his former teammate, Baker is a complimentary player, just not a great play-maker.

Expected Draft Slot: Day 2