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8 Days to the Draft: South Carolina OLB, Eric Norwood

With the Draft fast approaching, it's time to start looking at some potential players for the Patriots. I'm going to put profiles of 2 players a day- one offense, one defensive- and gain a better understanding of the players in the draft.

South Carolina's Eric Norwood is one of the most NFL ready OLBs in the draft. He should be considered as one of the best OLBs to take over the Mike Vrabel position that has been left vacant- a player who can absolutely pass rush, but can also drop back into some coverage when required. While a lot of our focus this off-season has been looking towards our pass-rush (or lack thereof), we still have a need of a player who can replace the hole that Vrabel left. If we can grab an OLB with some coverage skills, we would be allowed to grab a Willie McGinest type OLB who can focus on purely pass rushing. Norwood is a three time all-SEC player who has performed his entire college career; his experience is something the Patriots would love. Would the Patriots draft him?

His measurements and some quotes after the jump. Scouting

Height: 6-1. Weight: 241.
Projected 40 Time: 4.71.
Combine 40 Time: 4.67.
Pro Day 40 Time: DNP.
Benchx225: 21. Vertical: 36.5. Scouting

04/01/2010 - South Carolina All-American Eric Norwood loves thinking about the pro career ahead of him. And he's ready for the waiting to end. "I'm a little anxious," said Norwood, the Gamecocks' career sacks leader. "I'm ready for it to be over with, to find out where I'm going and start playing football again." Norwood took a big step toward that goal as he lifted and went through position drills in front of NFL scouts and staffers at Williams-Brice Stadium at South Carolina's pro day on Wednesday. Norwood did not run the 40-yard dash with several former teammates, standing on the official 4.71-second time he put up at the NFL's scouting combine in Indianapolis in February. The 6-foot-1, 241 pound linebacker bench pressed the 225-pound weight 21 times and showed off his quick feet and reflexes for representatives from 28 pro teams. "I think I did well," Norwood said. "I dropped a couple of balls, but other than that, the drills still looked fine. That's what I heard from everybody else so I'll take their word for it." Norwood is projected by several services as a second-round NFL pick, although he's hoping his workouts and background push him higher. Norwood, from Acworth, Ga., struggled academically in high school and was rejected twice by South Carolina. He finally enrolled as a special admit and graduated in December. Along the way, Norwood also earned the school's sacks record with 29. He also holds the career mark with 43 tackles for loss. Still, he's got more than three weeks until he knows his next move for sure. Sounds like he's got the interest, though. Norwood was heading to Pittsburgh to meet with Steelers on Thursday. He also had a session scheduled with the Atlanta Falcons. - AP Sports

3/13/2010 - TOP RATED NFL DRAFT SCOUT OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: Eric Norwood, South Carolina, 6-1, 245, 2-3: The only player in Gamecocks history to earn first-team all-Southeastern Conference honors for three consecutive years, Norwood was a productive college player at defensive end, inside and outside linebacker. He is far better going forward, especially as a pass rusher, than he is going laterally or backward, so he is expected to be moved to defensive end or pass-rush outside linebacker in the NFL. His athletic ability is not obvious, but his production shows his well-honed instincts and a high-rev motor. He was a captain in 2009, and his work ethic is reflected in a criminal justice degree he earned in three-and-a-half years. - Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange, Sports/USA TODAY Scouting

Norwood is a short, well-built player that has been the Gamecocks' most productive defender over the past three seasons. He plays out of control at times, not leveraging the ball or maintaining his gap responsibility. He is a solid tackler, keeping good balance and wrapping effectively in the open field. Norwood isn’t a powerful hitter but does keep his pads over his feet which make him an efficient tackler. He is an instinctive player that reads quickly as both a run and pass defender. Norwood shows decent range in coverage but may be a liability in pure man schemes. He possesses strong hands to control blockers on contact and his low-center of gravity makes him tough to get off his feet. Norwood is a good football player that does have some limitations and discipline concerns (angles, leverage, etc.) but has enough tools to be a solid contributor at the next level.

Click the link for a more in-depth review!

Verdict: Oh, please, please, please! Norwood is one of the players on my draft list. He would be a perfect player for our weak linebacking core as he is the most experienced and decorated OLB in the draft. He could be had for great value in the second round and his selection would allow us to continue to utilize Tully Banta-Cain and, hopefully, Shawn Crable. I hope we absolutely pick this phenomenal player.