The NFL Draft is half immediate impact and half upside and future relevance. A lot of times, general managers will take a chance on a raw player with not a lot of experience. This year, many players in the linebacker group fall into this category. Jamin Davis and Baron Browning are two great examples of this of players that will be selected on day two at the latest. Another linebacker in this fold is Cameron McGrone.
McGrone has only played in 19 games and only started 15 during his two years at Michigan. He is an old-school type of linebacker that isn’t afraid of doing the dirty work and laying the boom on a running back and taking hits from offensive linemen and fending off their blocks. McGrone had a much better 2019 than 2020. His 2020 season was plagued by some injuries, but there is still a lot to McGrone’s game that makes him an intriguing option.
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Name: Cameron McGrone
Class: Redshirt Sophomore
Weight: 232 lbs
McGrone is a very good tackler. He wraps up and drives through the ball carrier’s body to complete the tackle. There were a few occasions where McGrone made a tackle where he left his feet and was able to gain control of the opposing player. There are no concerns here.
Sideline-to-Sideline Ability (8.25/10)
McGrone isn’t going to fly around the field. He will make plays from the other side of the gridiron, but he doesn’t have elite speed. He struggles a bit in the middle of the field, which we’ll continue with later. McGrone likes to read and react to plays while being under control and keeping the backside controlled if a cutback were to occur.
With McGrone only playing 15 games, he hasn’t even gotten a full season of games under his belt. He struggles some with his reading and reacting on some option plays, as well as play action. On play-action plays, McGrone bites on the play fake, opening the door for passes in his vacated space.
McGrone projects as a three-down starter at the MIKE linebacker position in the NFL. He is a great run defender who offers significant value as a pass-rusher on third downs. McGrone offers great abilities to blitz up the middle of the offensive line and disrupts the quarterback. He has said that he can play in the middle of the defense as the MIKE or on the outside as the WILL or SAM, as well.
McGrone played much better in 2019 than he did in 2020. In 2020, he struggled against read-option plays, play-action plays, and picking the right gap to get to the running back. There were also times where McGrone left his space in the middle of the defense wide open, and the defense was gashed as a result of it.
Block Shedding (8.5/10)
McGrone doesn’t have the best length, and as a result, that doesn’t help him much in getting off blocks. Instead, he uses his competitiveness and short-area burst to his advantage and keeps fighting and thumping his way through the linemen to get to the ball carrier.
Short-Area Quickness (9/10)
When McGrone was used as a blitzer, he looked like he was a speeding bullet. If McGrone can see the play being formed in front of him, the play isn’t going very far.
A lot of analysts like to bash McGrone for his coverage ability. His coverage isn’t spectacular, but it isn’t a complete liability either. McGrone does a fine job of covering running backs and tight ends in man coverage towards the sidelines. He struggles against slot receivers and anything that comes over the middle of the field. Teams shouldn’t use Mcgrone lined up one-on-one against slot guys at all, but he is decent in his coverage skills.
Football IQ (8.25/10)
McGrone has a very limited sample size due to only having 12 starts for the Wolverines. It is a bit of a concern that he didn’t continue his growth from the 2019 season to 2020, but the Covid issues impacted that and he suffered many injuries during the season. McGrone is a quick reactor, and if he has a clear diagnosis, the play is over before it has even started.
Competitive Toughness (5/5)
McGrone isn’t afraid to get hit and do dirty work by fighting through the offensive line to make a tackle. He never gives up on any play and will give chase on plays 20 yards down the field.
McGrone had an injury-riddled 2020 campaign that ended with him tearing his ACL against Rutgers. As a result, he has missed most of the pre-draft process, including his pro day.
McGrone is a great player to take a shot on. He will likely be selected on day two of the draft and fight for a starting MIKE linebacker role. He has tons of upside, and a team will be getting a steal when they select him. The main areas of concern for McGrone are his limited sample size and his coverage skills. If he can refine his technique in coverage and continue to grow with his awareness and IQ, McGrone could turn out to be one of the best linebackers from this draft class.
Final Grade (81/100): Early Third Round