NFL Draft Profile: Utah State ILB David Woodward

Wade Denniston, USU Athletic Media Relations

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The Los Angeles Rams are undergoing a defensive scheme and regime change. With that being said, former Pro Bowl starting inside linebacker Cory Littleton has departed via free agency. That leaves the Rams set to start Micah Kiser, a former fifth-round pick and one of their young crop of inexperienced talent. While the Rams have talent and potential at the position, one could make the argument that they will need to look in the NFL Draft early on for a replacement to Littleton.

That replacement could very well be Utah State’s David Woodward.

College Bio

As a two-star recruit, Woodward fund himself redshirting his first season at Utah State. His redshirt-freshman season he played in 10 games making his starting debut that same year. The following redshirt-sophomore season, Woodward started in every game finishing with 134 tackles and a first-team All-American honor from Pro Football Focus. Woodward’s final season was his redshirt-junior year and while he was off to a great start, the season was cut short due to an injury. Even still, Woodward decided to forgo his last year of eligibility and declare for the 2020 NFL Draft.

Measurables

Height: 6’2
Weight: 230

Strengths

Woodward is a high-motor linebacker that has a knack for always being near or around the football and it’s amounted to six forced fumbles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He’s constantly pushing himself to try and be a part of every single play. He possesses high football IQ and is able to process things quickly on the field. He’s a stout run defender, showing off his ability to penetrate gaps and is a true finisher when making a tackle. His above-average range makes him a likely starting linebacker in the NFL and he’s very underrated in coverage. His physicality allows him to fight through holds, blocks and any sort of traffic to get towards the football. He’s an improved blitzer who appears to be able to get home on the quarterback more often than not judging by his eight career sacks. He’s got a relatively high floor as an NFL rookie.

Weaknesses

Woodward’s biggest weakness is that he’s not a quick-twitch athlete. He’s going to work harder than anyone on the field but he doesn’t possess the adequate speed necessary to be one of the best linebackers. He also has a big injury history including multiple concussions and two broken vertebrae from high school. He has limitations to his game that are due to his athleticism and will tend to take poor angles to the football even though it didn’t matter as much in college. He’s not a shutdown cover linebacker, he operated most in shallow coverage so while he is underrated in that department there is a lot of work left to do to get Woodward to become a true cover linebacker.

Three Plays on Tape

Development

David Woodward is a talented player that left college with another year of eligibility remaining. Could he have used that? I do think it’s a fair question and can be answered with two different answers. However, the average career of an NFL player is just three years and with Woodward’s injury history, there is a chance he wanted to just make it into the NFL and carve out some sort of career before the injuries robbed him of that chance. Make no mistake, this guy isn’t a pushover. He is a starting linebacker at the next level that has many qualities but he will need to expand his ability in coverage and most importantly he will have to stay healthy in order to improve his overall game and his overall value to a team. This is a next-man-up style of business and if Woodward can’t stay on the field, someone else will take his spot. However, if Woodward stays healthy, he’s not going to be coming off the field and should carve out a promising career in the middle of a defense.

Draft Grade: 4th round

Bottom Line

Woodward is ready to play immediately entering the NFL. He does need to work on some things for sure, but the biggest worry is his injury history. It’s quite simple, Woodward will likely fall to day three of the draft due to his injury history. With that being said, he could be a low risk, high reward type of player. If he can stay healthy Woodward will make a fine starting linebacker for any team. With the Rams uncertain in the middle, Woodward would make a solid acquisition if the team indeed chose to pass up on the second-tier of linebackers in this draft, they could draft Woodward later on and get close to or maybe even more value out of that selection. We’ve seen these players before who play their hearts out and end up being true captains for their defense. It’s not hard to see that Woodward would be like that but it’s not easy to forget about his scary medical history either. As long as this man stays healthy there isn’t much that will stop him from being a quality pro.

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