Draft Focus: Linebacker Zaviar Gooden

Zaviar Gooden is a linebacker from Missouri who stands 6’1 and 234 pounds. He isn’t a big linebacker at all, but for New England that is a good thing. New England’s current linebackers are all huge, and they excell at pass rushing and stopping the run, but they can not cover. The current linebackers are weak in coverage, over and over all season, teams succeeded at passing against the linebackers. New England’s linebackers would leave targets wide open over the middle, failing to keep up and failing to make any plays. The Patriots need a linebacker who can cover. They don’t need a linebacker that can stop the run or anything like that, they need a third down linebacker, a linebacker that can come into the game, relieve Brandon Spikes, and cover. If New England gets a cover linebacker, they can rush Hightower, and Mayo, and leave the third LB in coverage. That would help New England from giving up pass plays to the opposing teams tight ends or running backs. In the draft, if New England is to draft any linebackers it needs to be a third down LB and Gooden might be that guy for the job.

Gooden impressed at the NFL Combine, running the 40 yard dash in a time of 4.47 seconds, which is amazing for a linebacker. He continued to impress with his 27 reps on the bench press, tying him for 4th best in the LB category, and his reach was measured at 32 1/4 inches which is impressive for his size. Gooden is quick at LB, he can cover tight ends, slots, and running backs, he has the speed to stay with them up the field. He can close the gaps on running plays, and of course get to the out side fast. Gooden, though, for the Patriots would be a coverage LB, and he can do that much better then the current linebackers can. The problem with him is he is still raw, and doesn’t read the plays very well. All that is wrong with Gooden can be fixed by a head coach like Belichick, and with his covering abilities, he is worth taking for New England.

Analysis on Gooden from CBS Sports: “WEAKNESSES: In coverage, he’s still a bit raw, at times flipping his hips in the wrong direction while anticipating routes. First step isn’t as explosive coming out of a hip flip/transition. Late to diagnose the run at times.”

STRENGTHS: “At 6-2 and 233 pounds, Gooden possesses a lean, athletic-looking frame and ideal build to play the weak side at the next level. Extremely explosive in a straight line, exhibiting a strong initial burst and elite vertical speed for the position. Has displayed an improved willingness recently to get physical at the line and persist through contact.”

COMPARES TO: “Zach Brown, OLB, Tennessee Titans – Like Brown, Gooden possesses rare speed and explosiveness for his size, but is still learning to utilize it properly on the football field. He does appear further along in the instincts department, however, and is a more consistent tackler than Brown was at North Carolina. Thus, I could see Gooden having similar, if not better first-year success than Brown, after being picked up somewhere between rounds two and four.

Patriots Gab Analysis: “Zaviar Gooden is a good LB, he is very solid in the passing game, and would make an ideal fit for the New England Patriots who lack a LB that cover. Gooden would excell with a team like the Patriots because of how they play defense, and Gooden wouldn’t be ask to do much with the presence with the other linebackers. Gooden is worth a third round pick for a team like New England. If it was any other team, he wouldn’t be.”

Gooden could be a guy New England picks up to be there third down LB, cover guy, and they can certainly help move him along in preparing for NFL Games. Gooden is raw, and Gooden sometimes misdiagnose plays, and guesses wrong in coverage, but he can stay up with any tight end and slot WR, which can’t be taught. His ability to read plays and correct his wrong guessing from time to time can be fixed by Belichick’s style of coaching and play. Gooden is projected to be 3-4th round pick, the only real question is will he be worth a 3 or 4th round pick to New England.

 


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