Thomas Howard OLB 6'3 239 UTEP
By: Robert Davis
Howard went to El Paso as a walk on safety, and left as one of the best linebackers in the country. He really emerged as a sophomore, finishing the season with 118 tackles, 11 for loss, two sacks, and one interception. In 2004, he tallied 62 tackles, 14 for loss, eight sacks, and two interceptions. Howard capped off his standout career with 85 tackles, seven for loss, three sacks, and an interception as a senior.
There is not a more athletically gifted athlete at linebacker in this draft. Howard is a phenomenal athlete, and plays with excellent agility, quickness, and closing speed. He has shown the ability to come off the edge and get to the passer, sift through traffic and plug the run, and cover down the field. Howard also has an excellent frame. At 239lbs, he still has a lean frame, and looks like he may be able to add another 10-15 and not lose any quickness.
Howard is going to have to pack more weight on to his frame, because despite his weight, he just is not that stout at the point of attack. He will also need work in coverage. He definitely has the physical ability to cover, but he tends to lose sight of the ball while it's in the air. He has played a lot, but he still relies on his athleticism too much on the field.
Thomas Howard is very intriguing. He has been an impact defender on the field, and has a ton of upside to his game. He is a work in progress though. He has the talent to play strong or weakside in a 4-3, or be a pass rusher in the 3-4. His best role may be to attack the passer off the edge in a 3-4, because it limits his responsibility to read and react. Howard should hear his name called at some point in the second round.
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