From now until the 2019 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#5 Ulysees Gilbert III/LB Akron – 6’0/2 228
– Has impressive length despite lack of height (32 1/8 inch arms)
– Plus, fluid athlete who shows sideline to sideline range and ability to get depth in coverage
– Closes quickly, good stop/start ability
– Good effort and chases the ball hard, doesn’t quit on plays
– Explosiveness creates power on his tackles when he shows right technique
– Made positive plays in coverage, able to stick with running backs underneath, and makes plays on the ball in the air
– Competent in zone coverage, experience playing in space, rerouting receivers, and playing hook/curl zone in pass defense
– Takes good angles to the ball, maximizes his athleticism
– Very productive college career with a healthy amount of splash plays
– Superb starting experience and very durable, never missed a game in his college career
– Undersized, small frame, and questions how he’ll hold up near the LOS at the NFL level
– Struggles to stay square in the run game, too often washed out and will try to spin around blocks, taking his vision off the ball
– Loses his run fit too often due to frame and aggressiveness, tries to do a little too much
– Struggles taking on blocks in the hole, can’t disengage and too easily stunned and overpowered
– Has difficulty bringing backs down, misses too many tackles
– Seems to get worn down as the game goes on, possibly tire out, and hurts his performance
– Loses vision on the ball between the tackles, has trouble seeing over the line, and causes him to miss out on some plays
– Production dipped his senior season
– Will need to play clean at the next level to have success
– 38 career starts for the Zips, appeared in all 51 games of his career
– Career: 357 tackles (28.5 TFL), 8.5 sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles, five defensive touchdowns
– 2018: 85 tackles (7.5 TFL)
– Two-time team defensive MVP (sophomore and junior seasons)
– Played WILL linebacker first two years, then moved to SAM as a senior
– 128 tackles (17 TFL) as a senior in high school, also played basketball for two seasons
The very easy comp to make here, which I’m sure I’m not alone in doing, is former Akron Zip, Jatavis Brown. He was undersized but a stellar athlete whose enjoyed a modest degree of success with the Los Angeles Chargers. I will say that while there are things I like about Gilbert’s game, and similarities I see between the two, I’m far from convinced Gilbert will have the same kind of career arc.
Gilbert is a definite athlete and good coverage linebacker. Some of the plays I saw him make in coverage weren’t incredibly difficult but still, they were big-time plays in coverage. He’s a fluid athlete who should test very well (at his Pro Day, didn’t get a Combine invite) and overall, a very easy mover in space.
Though size is a concern and it’s a legitimate one, he showed incredible durability in his college career. 228 pounds – listed – and never missed a game? That’s impressive. Physically, it seems he’ll be able to endure a long NFL season and you guys know the saying; best ability is availability.
The problems though are obvious and largely revolve around his frame. Has to take on blocks better in the run game. Tries to go around, not through, and too often isn’t taking them square or attempts to spin around, losing vision on the ball and getting out of his run fit. Has the edge responsibility here, spins inside, and gives it up, letting the back bounce.
Even when he is square, he lacks the power to anchor and then shed. Too easily controlled.
Has trouble finishing the play as a tackler, too. Size limitations hurt him there.
Obviously, there’s extra value in having athletic, coverage-friendly off ball linebackers. And Gilbert can do that. But in Pittsburgh at least, they’re looking for someone who can function on all three downs. That’s why L.J. Fort sat on the sidelines for so long. So I’m not sure Gilbert is in the card for the Steelers (now that I say it, it’s guaranteed they’ll draft him), and he does look like a sub-only type of prospect.
Projection: Early-Mid Day Three
Games Watched: vs Toledo (2017), vs FAU (2017), at Buffalo, Shrine Game