Linebacker prospects often have gaudy numbers in college. The premier talents are usually more physically gifted than most of the players around them, and if they're blessed with great instincts as well it allows them to produce at a very high level. Such was the case with Boston College LB Luke Kuechly, but he took tackle production to a ridiculous extreme.
In just three seasons Kuechly racked up an astounding 532 tackles, including better than 100 solo tackles each of the past two seasons.
"Kuechly to me is one of the 10 best players in this draft," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "The intriguing thing about Luke Kuechly is historically inside linebackers are not valued, mostly because they get replaced in sub packages and nickel packages. Kuechly is the opposite. Kuechly's strength lies in the pass game. He's the best pass-dropping linebacker from the inside I've ever seen coming out of college football."
The quarterback of the BC defense, Kuechly has 10 passes defensed in his college career, seven of which went for interceptions in his three collegiate seasons.
"He's got instincts, he's got speed," said Mayock. "So on third down, when the sub package comes in the game, he's going to stay in the game. I think there's real value there because he's a three-down inside linebacker. He'll occasionally get enveloped by a big body but the NFL is a pass-first league, and there's value in Luke Kuechly."
Kuechly proved his athleticism all the more at the NFL Combine in late February running in the 4.5s for a 40-time while also posting a 38-inch vertical leap with 27 reps on the bench press. It's got Bills GM Buddy Nix convinced that he can be more than just a middle linebacker.
"He could play all three (linebacker spots) for us," Nix said.
Often compared to former Dolphins tackle leader Zach Thomas, Kuechly gladly accepts being mentioned in the same breath as the five-time first team All-Pro.
"We worked with some guys at IMG that are close with Zach Thomas," said Kuechly in reference to his management firm. "They did draw those comparisons. To be mentioned with somebody like him that had a great career like him that played in the NFL that long, it's a great honor. It's good to emulate people like that because they had great success.''
Knowing Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt had Thomas on his Dolphins squads in his prime one wonders what the veteran coach would think if he was able to incorporate Kuechly into his 4-3 defense in Buffalo.
"The Bills with the defensive line they have, that's going to give every linebacker in that defense a better chance to be successful because they're not going to get as many first tier blocks," said NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly. "Kuechly would have the ability to get to the football untouched. Kuechly has a real knack in that front seven box to find the ball, slip a tackle and make a play, but he has enough speed and range to get to the outside."
Casserly believes Kuechly would be a great pick for Buffalo at 10 provided they have a way to answer their needs at offensive tackle and wide receiver.
"If you can live at tackle and live at wide receiver and find a plan there you love this guy. This guy to me is a top 10 pick in this draft. He's going to play a long time. I love this guy."