When Brandon Spikes was clocked at 5.05 seconds in the all-important 40-yard dash during his Florida Pro Day, some immediately questioned whether he could be effective in the NFL.
After all, few linebackers have ever run that slow and still been high draft picks. The only middle linebacker from the 2010 draft to have anything close to the two-time All-American Spikes' production in college and his slow time in the 40-yard dash was former Kentucky star Micah Johnson, who went undrafted, was signed by the New York Giants as a free agent and is now a member of the Miami Dolphins.
The slow time did force me to re-evaluate whether he could be effective as a true middle linebacker in the 4-3 scheme, but if protected in a 3-4 alignment, I thought he could continue the spectacular play in the NFL that he'd enjoyed throughout his career with the Gators. His sideline to sideline speed had concerned me even prior to Spikes' senior season.
If his first two preseason games in the NFL are any indication, the Patriots may have a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate with Spikes, the 62nd overall pick of the draft.
Spikes "only" contributed three solo tackles in the win over Atlanta last night, but his physicality in the hole and timing as a pass rusher makes him an ideal fit for this scheme, especially when you consider that the Patriots already feature one of the game's better young inside linebacker in Jerod Mayo -- who captured 49 of a possible 50 votes to win the 2008 award.
In the first preseason game, Spikes was much more statistically impressive, leading the team with eight tackles against the Super Bowl champion Saints.
Spikes' impressive performance has drawn relatively "rave" reviews from Bill Belichick, who, of course, is rarely complimentary.
"Now that he’s in our defense, some things he does are a little bit different than the way we would teach it, but he still does them well,’’ Belichick was quoted by Robert Mays of the Boston Globe.
Wow. Acknowledgement from Belichick? For a rookie?
That's about as rare as a linebacker running a 5.05 second 40-yard dash and still making the second round...