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NFL Draft Scouting Report: Jerome Baker, ILB, Ohio State

NFL Draft Scouting Report: Jerome Baker, ILB, Ohio State

Jerome Baker - Ohio State Buckeyes

 

Position: Linebacker

Height: 6'1"

Weight: 229

Year: Junior

Hometown: Cleveland, OH

Experience: Jr. - 2 year starter

 

Measurables:

40yd dash: 4.53

Broad jump: 126”

Vertical: 36.5”

3-cone: DNP

20yd. Shuttle: DNP

Bench Press: 22 reps

 

Career Notes:

Baker was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and a national top-10 linebacker prospect before landing at Ohio State. After being inactive the first six games of his freshman season, Baker saw his first action in Week Seven against Penn State.

However, the Ohio native didn’t crack the starting lineup until his sophomore season in 2016. He was finally able to display his impressive athleticism and speed, and finished the year second on the team in tackles with 83 stops. He also recorded 9.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and two interceptions that season. Against Oklahoma, he returned an interception 68 yards for a touchdown.

In 2017, Baker was not only an Honorable All-Big Ten linebacker for the second year in a row, but he also finished as one of the team’s top tacklers with 72 stops. He also followed up his sophomore season with 3.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss, three pass breakups, and two fumble returns, including one for a touchdown, as a junior.

Baker decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft a year early.

 

Injury Report:

Baker only missed one start due to injury. He suffered a concussion in Week 9 of the 2017 season against Iowa. He sat out the following week against Michigan State.

 

Career Stats:

 

Analysis:

Athleticism: 5.0/5.0 

Baker is  a superb athlete who excels playing out in space. He’s at his best when he can scrape free to the action. He shows very smooth lateral movement and ability to change direction. His hips are fluid as he flips them to turn and drop back in coverage. He can also stay step-for-step with tight ends down the seam or line up over a slot receiver and cover him across the field. Overall, Baker is a speedy linebacker with impressive range and movement skills.

Run Stop: 3.5/5.0   

Baker is a very solid open-field tackler, and he puts that speed to good use by making a lot of stops in pursuit. However, he struggles to get off blocks, and he gets swallowed up in the trash too frequently. His lack of size and functional strength hinder him at times in this department. He needs to be kept clean in order to make an impact against the run, and that could be a concern at the next level if he’s asked to play on the inside and mix it up between the tackles. However, despite this downside, he does show good awareness against the run and an ability to quickly key and diagnose plays. He’s also very effective outside the tackle box in tracking down ball carriers.

Pass Rush: 2.5/5.0  

Baker shows some ability to get home and create pressure when sent on a blitz. He uses his quickness well to slip blocks and get around the edge. However, he’s far better as a coverage defender and is only an adequate pass rusher. His lack of length and strength hinder his ability to win at the line of scrimmage if he doesn’t beat his man with speed.

Coverage: 4.5/5.0

The real strength of Baker’s game is his ability to play in coverage. This makes him a very linebacker prospect in the modern NFL. With more and more teams playing nickel as their primary defensive scheme, Baker should making a living as a nickel linebacker who can drop into coverage and defend the middle of the field. Baker moves like a defensive back on tape, and this also allows him to hold his own against slot receivers or quicker backs in the passing game. The Ohio native also shows good ball skills. He can make a quarterback pay for throwing in his direction.

Impact: 3.5/5.0

Baker has come up with some bigs plays in his time at Ohio State. He had a key interception return for a touchdown against Oklahoma in 2016 to put his team up two scores. He was also involved in two other turnover plays that season. Baker added another defensive touchdown his junior season this past fall when he returned a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown against Maryland.He also recorded seven sacks in his two seasons as a starter for the Buckeyes. However, despite flashing some playmaking ability, Baker’s presence on the field was very inconsistent. He disappears for long stretches in games, and for a player with his elite athleticism, he should make more impact plays.

Summary: Baker is an athletic linebacker with a ton of upside. However, size concerns and the lack of consistency on the field are some major red flags. Granted, Baker is still an early-round linebacker prospect with rare speed, athleticism, and ability to play in coverage. He has the potential to be a playmaker at the next level, but his game needs more development. His best fit in the NFL is as a 4-3 weakside linebacker or nickel linebacker in a hybrid 3-4 scheme.

Overall Grade: 3.80/5.0  

 

If drafted by the Packers:

Baker would be a nice player for the Packers to target on the second day of the draft. He would give them a player they can feature in their nickel defense at inside linebacker alongside Blake Martinez. While Martinez has proven to be an excellent run defender, Baker would give them a linebacker who can cover and run down ball carriers outside the hash marks. Green Bay could always use more athleticism and speed on defense, and Baker would give them a player who can roam the middle of the field and make plays out in space.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (8) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Allan Murphy's picture

No theirs better players ahead of him.

The TKstinator's picture

GB doesn’t have a player in this mold. Just not sure how early a guy like this should get picked.

HankScorpio's picture

Completely agree, TK.

The Packers need sideline to sideline speed at ILB. They have forever. They have had good ILB/MLBs in the past 2 decades but they were all slower guys with great instincts. There is a low ceiling with that profile in the NFL in 2018. A guy like that can be good. But never great.

I don't know if this kid is any good. But he checks the box on speed that they badly need if they want to really improve on defense. Whether they draft this kid, someone else or move someone on the roster now (I'm looking at Matthews), they must improve their speed at ILB.

Or maybe they can have their ILBs chase after chickens. It worked for Rocky Balboa, after all.

The TKstinator's picture

Too bad Winston Moss isn’t Apollo Creed!

EdsLaces's picture

Pass..

stockholder's picture

Nice Report. Nice player. But I don't think he's what the packers need. We expect superman at OLB. Mathews was that man of steel for a while. But the Linebackers just never played together. They still don't. The packers like their LBs big and fast. 235 and up. This has been a revolving door. Elephants don't run fast. And players that don't have the beef won't last. We have no cover LB. Speed is one thing. Leadership another. But it's time to get what works. THREE down LBs. I don't think Baker can hold up for 3 downs. ILB? Desmond Bishop could.

The TKstinator's picture

Yes, Bishop was good BUT Draftscout listed his 40 between 4.62 and 4.83.
So he wasn’t exactly lightning, either.

Ryan Graham's picture

I've seen better tape on this guy than what's here, but I still don't think he'd be worth anything more than 4-5th rd pick for the Packers. Don't see the need to prioritize for a a Baker type when Josh Jones can spend a healthy amount of time next to Martinez as a faster chase/pursuit linebacker. Will have to see who is available around him, Joseph Noteboom and Isaac Yiadom are more desirable players in that part of the draft IMO

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