For this issue of our series on players in whom the Cowboys have expressed interest, we turn to UConn inside linebacker Greg Lloyd, Jr., the son of the former Steeler Pro-Bowler (and one of the Pittsburgh defenders who played out of his mind, almost bringing off an upset victory in Super Bowl XXX).That said, Lloyd and his father are estranged as a result of a history of abuse from his famous father. The National Football Post has a nice piece on what it has taken for him to recover from a traumatic upbringing.
Lloyd was a Second Team All-Big East pick in 2009, but suffered a knee injury late enough in that campaign (against Syracuse) that most observers assumed he'd have to redshirt in 2010 and move to defensive end the following campaign. However, just before the beginning of the season, UConn head coach Randy Edsall announced, in a surprise move, that Lloyd not only would not redshirt, but would be starting at middle linebacker. Lloyd, however, never really played up to expected form; Edsall removed him from the starting lineup in early October.
Lloyd started his career as a freshman reserve linebacker, then started nine games as a sophomore, finishing the year with 51 tackles, seven TFLs and two sacks. In his breakout junior year he totaled a career-high 78 tackles, with three tackles for a loss and sack. He finished his shortened senior season with 25 tackles and one interception.
The 6-1, 246 lb. Lloyd is not an elite athletic specimen; at the Combine, he ran a 4.8 forty, topping it off with a decent 7.17-second 3-cone drill and Combine-worst 20-yard shuttle and broad jump marks (his combine workout can be found here). These scores substantiate scouting evaluations that claim he's a exclusively two-down, run-plugging type. On the other hand, has great instincts and is a sure tackler who delivers big hits, usually wraps up and and rarely lets ball carriers slip out of his grasp.
Perhaps because of his limited athletic ability--and in spite of his superb lineage--Lloyd has had little interest from NFL teams this offseason. This initially made me wonder why the Cowboys would spend one of their precious Valley Ranch visits on him. But such visits are an ideal opportunity to check on the progress of injuries; I wonder whether the Dallas brass wanted another looksee at his injured knee. As we ponder this question, let's check in with some of the leading scouting types, to see what they think of Lloyd and his game...after the jump.
National Football Post (Wes Bunting) 22nd-rated ILB; 479th overall
Possesses good thickness and power through his lower half and does a nice job sitting into his stance, extending his arms and anchoring vs. blocks inside. Displays good overall strength on contact and has the ability to not only stack inside, but at times can even overwhelm blockers on contact. Is a pretty instinctive guy who is very patient inside reading and diagnosing blocks, quickly shooting gaps and making his way toward the ball carrier. Possesses good striking power with the length to consistently bring his man down on contact. However, he is tight in the hips and will struggle to take proper angles toward the football at times in pursuit.
Doesn't stay on the field consistently in nickel situations because he is stiff in his lower half and lacks range in zone coverage. Takes him too long to redirect and get his feet back under him when changing directions. Also, is coming off an ACL tear he suffered in November and although he is expected to be back in time for practice in August, it will be interesting to see how the knee affects his game in 2010.
Impression: Can take on blocks and win in a phone booth, but wasn't a three-down guy even before the knee injury. Best bet could be inside in a 3-4.
The Sporting News (Russ Lande) 47th-rated OLB; overall unknown (not in top 99)
Strengths: With above-average instincts and the intelligence to diagnose plays quickly, Lloyd is in the right position to make plays from sideline to sideline. Also uses those instincts to take good angles to the ballcarrier. Has a good motor and rarely quits on a play. Has an aggressive style that helps him most when attacking downhill and allows him to be disruptive behind the line against the run. Shows enough versatility to also play end.
Weaknesses: Even with natural instincts, his lack of speed makes it hard for him to be as productive against the pass as he is against the run. Because of his struggles in coverage, he often disappears against spread offenses. Lacks the agility and flexibility to be a productive pass rusher off the edge. Is returning from a torn ACL, raising concerns about his ability to run down ballcarriers from behind. Even before the injury, stiff hips limited his ability to turn quickly and run after the ball.
Bottom line: After playing outside linebacker as a junior, Lloyd has been moved to end because of need and his lack of skills in coverage. Lloyd's production and instincts should be enough to get him a camp invitation and his motor could make him a nice special teams performer. But his lack of overall skills and limited speed will make it hard for him to make an impact on defense and have a long NFL career.
Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki) 12th-rated ILB; overall unknown (not in top 150)
Positives: Thickly built with broad shoulders, long arms, large hands and a lower body like a lineman. Fairly light on his feet. Physical and aggressive. Stout against the run. Shows pop on contact. Occasionally lined up at defensive tackle on passing downs. Has NFL pedigree.
Negatives: Disappears for stretches, and playing time was limited as a senior. Tight hips. Below-average speed and range—makes all his plays between the tackles. Is not flexible, sudden or explosive. Too easily engaged. Marginal in coverage. Durability needs to be looked into. Weight has fluctuated.
Summary: Squatty, inconsistent, two-down, between-the-tackles run stuffer whose best chance will come inside in an odd front.
ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton) 15th-rated ILB; overall unknown (not in top 150)
Instincts/Recognition: Reads keys and locates the ball quickly. Excels at scraping down the line of scrimmage, stepping up when he sees daylight and meeting the ball carrier in the hole when offense doesn't get a body on him. Takes the occasional false step but does an adequate job of reacting to play action.
Strength/Toughness: Gets downhill and hits the line of scrimmage at full speed. Can get covered up by offensive linemen but can also get under offensive linemen/lead blockers and clog up the hole. Plays with a wide base and doesn't get collapsed inside by down blocks. Strong upper body and flashes the ability to get off blocks. Saw time at defensive tackle during 2009 Cincinnati game. While got overwhelmed at times showed good fight at the point of attack.
Range vs. Run: Is not a sideline-to-sideline run defender. Above-average motor and takes sound pursuit angles for the most part but doesn't show great top-end speed or closing burst. Has also taken a step back in terms of lateral movement after knee injury suffered during junior season.
Tackling: Big hitter that can forget to wrap up on occasion but rarely lets ball carrier slip out of grasp once he locks on. Plays high at times in the open field and can be vulnerable in one-on-one situations in space.
3rd Down Capabilities: Physical and can reroute receivers but lacks the hip fluidity and burst to hold up in man coverage. Relentless pass rusher that flashes an effective rip move but lacks ideal closing speed and a step late getting to the quarterback when asked to blitz. Below average range in zone coverage.
Intangibles: Missed the final two games of the 2008 regular season for personal reasons. Father is former Pittsburgh Steelers OLB Greg Lloyd. Wears father's number but they are estranged and have a tumultuous past.
These and other evaluations of Lloyd that I have seen characterize him as a classic two-down, run-plugging ILB who will struggle against (and be exploited by) NFL passing games. Unless the Cowboys are betting he's return to some pre-injury form in which he's a three-down linebacker, it looks like Lloyd is destined to be a backup, at least early in his career. He does have a solid special-teams resume, largely from his freshman year. This begs the question: can he play "teams" well enough to secure a roster spot as a backup ILB?
The Cowboys are bringing in a cadre of second-day linebackers in an effort to find another athletic, dynamic playmaker alongside Sean Lee. No matter how I look at it, Lloyd doesn't seem to belong to this group--even if we were to look solely at his upside. As a result, I'm going to consider him a backup ILB/ special teams candidate--the kind of guy who is drafted in the latter rounds. Because I respect his father's game, I'm going to slot him in the sixth round, where the Cowboys currently pick at # 173.
Next up: NC State ILB Nate Irving