Brandon Magee is a two-sport athlete in the ultra-competitive Pac-12 (he's also an outfielder on the Sun Devil baseball team), so its safe to assume that he's a good athlete. Magee is an athletic linebacker, with very good speed, strength and athleticism. Like the other LB invitees to the Ranch last week, he’s a plus defender in pass coverage, and has even flashed some pass rushing skill. And he's an RKG, a "model citizen" who was a team captain, and the Sun Devil defense's leader in the locker room and its heart and soul on the field. He's a very intelligent player and, although undersized, plays with a hard-nosed, blue-collar mentality.
In 2010, Magee finished second to current Bengal Vontaze Burfict with 73 (including five TFLS and 1.5 sacks), earning honorable mention all-conference honors.After being sidelined in 2011 due to an Achilles injury, to lead the team with 113 tackles and career numbers in tackles for loss, sacks, and interceptions. Although his stats were impressive, observers noted that he spent the season playing a step slower than he had before the injury, a suspicion that was reinforced as Magee posted a 4.74 40-yard dash at the Combine in Indianapolis
This less-than-one-hundred-percent Magee is evident on tape, in Pac-12 action against what was perhaps the nations best offense in Oregon. At ASU's pro day, however, Magee performed more like his 2010 self, posting a 4.53 forty, and adding 29-inch vertical and 9'6" broad jumps. Want to see the pre-injury Magee in action? Check out this highlight reel compiled by an ASU fan and this short draft prospect clip.
ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton): 21st-rated OLB; not in top 150
Instincts/ Recognition: Above-average diagnostic skills. Flashes playmaking instincts against the run. Finds the ball and reacts quickly. Can make plays near and behind the line of scrimmage. Generally takes strong run fits to hold gap responsibility. Will occasionally be too quick to press gap and take himself out of the play. Shows good patience as a backside run defender. Strong awareness in coverage.
Take-on Skills: Lacks a prototypical anchor and will never be a consistent take on linebacker. However, he possesses a compact build and plays with quality leverage. Also shows a natural ability to absorb and give ground to slide off blocks. Will occasionally get engulfed by bigger and more massive blockers. Shows quick and active hands to keep blockers off of frame when sliding laterally.
Range vs. Run: Above-average range. Light on feet. Plays with good balance and can quickly change directions. Shows an above-average closing burst. Agile and shows ability to wade through traffic in pursuit. Only real concern in this area is that he will take a poor angle on occasion.
Tackling: Fundamentally sound in this area. Does a nice job of entering contact with proper pad level and leverage. Wraps up upon contact. Good body control and does an nice job of squaring up ball carriers in a confined area. Flashes ability to strike. Very effective at hog-tying runners lower half. Possesses very short-arms (28.6) which can be an issue with range in the open field.
3rd Down Capabilities: Easy mover in space and possesses above-average range in underneath zone coverage. Gets quality depth with drops and maintains proper leverage with underneath targets. Can become overzealous on occasion and be too quick to vacate zone. Has adequate man coverage capabilities but will have limitations against more athletic TEs. Flashes as a blitzer. Times pressures well and consistently takes the shortest path to the quarterback. Shows above-average body control and agility to avoid contact.
Intangibles: Intelligent individual. Selected as a team captain senior year. Well like and respected by everyone associated in the athletic department. Two-sport athlete that is also an outfielder on the Arizona State baseball team. Drafted three separate times in the MLB draft and signed a multiyear contract to play for the Red Sox prior to the 2012 season which needs to be taken into account. Reports are he intends to pursue a career in football initially.
NFL.com: 22nd-rated OLB; 210th overall
Strengths: A plus athlete, possessing excellent speed and agility for his thick, compact build. Reliable open field tackler when keeping his feet, using his foot quickness, tenacity and strength to stop receivers and backs quickly after contact. Excellent movement skills greatly aid his coverage ability, can cover slot receivers and running backs alike. Strong zone presence, taking away an out route then crashing down on the underneath receiver in a hurry. Thick lower body allows him to plug holes and hold his ground when necessary, also brings power in his punch to shock linemen attempting to reach him at the second level. His speed and agility also makes him a dangerous blitzer off the edge.
Weaknesses: Achilles injury appeared to take some of his speed and man coverage skills. Lack of height will hurt his draft stock with some teams, gives up several inches to tight ends and larger receivers who he'll be covering. Average length hurts him against linemen blocks. Often leaves his feet to make tackles and gets overaggressive attacking ballcarriers, allowing back to elude him with a quick cut. Needs to focus on football, setting aside baseball, in order to succeed at the next level.
NFL Comparison: Brian Rolle
Bottom Line: This two-sport athlete has already been drafted three times by Major League Baseball teams. He's came back from a torn left Achilles which took away some of his speed, but he still has good agility, physicality, and instincts, which means he'll likely hear his name called on draft day.
Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki): 25th-rated OLB; not in top 150
Positives: Good eyes and instincts. Intense and highly competitive. Takes on blocks aggressively and flashes strong hands. Good balance (low center of gravity). Nice lateral agility. Scrapes and flows. Pursues urgently. Generates pop on contact and flashes striking ability. Keeps pace with tight ends. Drops easily into coverage and shows awareness and ball reactions. Heart-and-soul type with passion for the game and leadership traits.
Negatives: Undersized - short, lacks bulk and has extremely short arms. Can be engulfed by larger blockers. Durability is a concern. Injury-prone - missed game action in multiple seasons because of a variety of injuries. Football was not his first love [he also played baseball at ASU] and long-term dedication must be looked into.
Summary: Fluid-moving, athletic, undersized, high-motor, search-and-flow ‘backer who has been snake-bitten by injury but made senior season his best. At worst should be a core special-teams player, but has potential to outplay his draft status if he can stay healthy.
As you can see, our scouts haven't rated Magee particularly highly; most have him as a sixth or even early-seventh-rounder. This is attributable in part to Magee's two-sport career, his injury history and the fact that he's undersized, more closely resembling an NFL safety than a linebacker - all of which serve to lower his grade. That said, he is fluid, agile, relentless, plays with tremendous passion, and is superb in coverage. Thanks to his fervent playing style and ability in the passing game, I'll boost him up a round or so on my "little board," to the fifth round, where the Cowboys hold the 151st pick.
I think there's a spot for Magee on the Cowboys' roster. Even if he will require significant development before he can be considered starting material, Magee projects as an immediate special teams contributor (in our profile of Gerald Hodges, it was noted that, in the move to their new scheme, the Cowboys will benefit form having a smaller, quicker breed of linebacker on special teams). If Magee is the only linebacker they draft, I'll be okay with the selection. If he's the second LB they draft (and if they can get him in the sixth or seventh rounds), I'll like the choice a lot more, as it will be a better match between ability and the likely requirements of the roster spot he'd inhabit.
Next up: Texas safety Kenny Vacarro