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Georgia Tech Football: NFL Draft Scouting Report - LB Quayshawn Nealy

We wrap up our series by looking at a versatile and consistent playmaker in linebacker Quayshawn Nealy.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

College Career

Season Games Tackles TFL Sacks Passes Defended INT INT Yards FF FR TD
2011 13 52 3.0 0.0 3 2 84 0 1 1
2012 13 79 3.5 2.0 1 2 9 0 0 0
2013 13 66 3.5 0.0 2 2 43 0 2 1
2014 14 92 6.0 1.5 5 2 81 1 3 2
Career 53 289 16.0 3.5 11 8 217 1 6 4

Throughout his career, Nealy was the definition of consistency for Georgia Tech. Over his four-year playing career, he played in 53 of a possible 54 games, missing only the 2012 Clemson game and starting in 45 of those games along the way. From day one, Nealy made plays for the defense -- he started in Week 2 of 2011 against Middle Tennessee State and made tackles in every single game that year, not to mention an interception returned 74 yards for a touchdown against Utah in the Sun Bowl, all as a redshirt freshman.

Nealy would provide two interceptions every season for the duration of his career, regularly returning them for considerable gains with a combination of athleticism and vision. As a junior and senior, even after transitioning from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 scheme, Nealy remained a major force on Georgia Tech's defense, finishing second on the team in tackles both years and adding nearly 10 tackles for loss across those two years. That Nealy maintained his production amidst a scheme change and a full-on role change is outstanding and cannot be understated.

Pro Day Results

Height Weight 40-Yard Dash Bench Press (225 lbs) Vertical Leap Broad Jump 20-Yard Shuttle 3-Cone Drill
6'0" 236 lbs 4.69 sec 20 reps 35 1/2" 9'8" 4.34 sec 7.17 sec

When compared to players at the 2015 NFL Combine, Nealy's numbers don't disappoint, but don't exactly jump off the page either. Each of the measurable categories saw Nealy finish very much in the middle of the pack. He clearly outperformed some linebackers there, where others are clearly more physically gifted. I'm a little surprised that Nealy's 40-yard dash time wasn't any better given the athleticism he displayed early and often in college, although it still would have landed him above 17 of 29 competitors that worked out at the Combine. The other category where Nealy performed well was in the vertical leap, where only 11 of 28 Combine participants out-jumped him. (Included in that list is Kentucky's Alvin "Bud" Dupree, who's considered a pass-rushing defensive end for all intents and purposes in the upcoming NFL Draft.)

The biggest area of concern for Nealy in all of these numbers is likely his size. Georgia Tech had him listed at 6'1", but Nealy came back from the East-West Shrine Game and his Pro Day at closer to 6'0". Only one linebacker at the NFL Combine was listed as being shorter than that (Miami's Denzel Perryman at 5'11", oddly enough), and 24 of 34 players were listed as being taller. As a linebacker, Nealy's short stature could be a detriment to him both in engaging blockers one-on-one and sniffing out plays from behind a big NFL offensive line.

Film Study

Strengths

Athleticism & Versatility

Nealy's athleticism has always been a major plus for him. Throughout his college career, he ran down plays from sideline to sideline and often was able to make plays coming from the back side. There were also a number of occasions where Nealy was able to take a turnover (whether an interception or a fumble recovery) and create large yardage gains afterwards. He moves extremely well for a linebacker and uses his athleticism as a major part of his game.

Another thing that needs to be mentioned is that Nealy played a number of roles in college across multiple schemes, and handled the transitions between each role fluidly. He initially played inside linebacker in Al Groh's 3-4 scheme, before playing both middle and weakside linebacker in Ted Roof's 4-3, not to mention serving significant time as a linebacker in the 4-2-5 nickel set. As an NFL linebacker, he would be able to offer legitimate production at multiple spots in multiple different schemes, with plenty of experience to rely upon in adjusting.

Instincts

Though it's tough to quantify, Nealy is a very instinctive linebacker. He's not often fooled by misdirection running plays, he takes good angles to ballcarriers, and he sniffs out where passing plays are headed, allowing him to either break up the pass or tackle the receiver. Maybe the best way to see this ability is in his statistics. Over the last three seasons, Nealy finished second on the team in solo tackles in 2013 and 2014 and third in 2012. Linebackers make a lot of tackles, but that he's routinely getting to ballcarriers sooner than his teammates speaks to his instinctive nature.

Pass Defense

Possibly the biggest leg up that Nealy has on most linebackers is his ability in pass coverage. Throughout his college career, Nealy excelled in the passing game, recording two interceptions every year and breaking up 11 passes. Nealy's athleticism and instincts enable a defensive coordinator to use him in passing situations to patrol the middle of the field, especially in zone coverage. Another viable option in that game would be to put Nealy in man coverage against a running back, where his lateral quickness would be a major asset. As a cherry on top, Nealy displays reliable hands, often Though many of Nealy's tackles in college came off of the running game, some of his biggest upside (as compared to his peers at the position) comes in the form of his abilities in pass coverage.

Weaknesses

Undersized

At just short of 6'1", Nealy is undersized when compared to most NFL linebackers. Ideally, Nealy would be more in the range of 6'3" to 6'4", as anything below that comes with potential struggles with respect to leverage. Nealy would also benefit noticeably in pass coverage given another couple of inches in height, but unfortunately will have an obstacle to overcome that most professional linebackers are not faced with.

Getting Off Blocks

As a side effect of being undersized, Nealy often struggles in physically facing off with bigger blockers, getting "swallowed up" and taken out of the play easier than you would hope for from an NFL linebacker. This year's Georgia Southern game offered plenty of examples of this, as the Eagles ran the ball up the middle early and often and Nealy was a main blocking target in the running game. He still makes tackles, but notice the lack of aggression in how he deals with blockers.

NFL Fits

Like with Isaiah Johnson, Nealy is a guy that could be a fit on any team in need of depth. His versatility to play in both a 4-3 and 3-4 defense only help his chances of making a roster too.

Tennessee Titans

  • The Titans are running a 3-4 defense right now and with the exception of Avery Williamson, doesn't really have any good inside linebackers (starters or otherwise). Plus with Ken Whisenhunt as the head coach and Derrick Morgan on the team, it'd be good to get another Tech guy there.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Geno Hayes is gone and Paul Posluszny can never seem to stay healthy for a full season, so Nealy could serve as a good back-up there and provide solid depth.
  • Chicago Bears

  • Chicago is switching to a 3-4 and it would be good to bring in a guy who has experience doing that. Right now, the Bears have Jon Bostic and Mason Foster lined up to play inside. They're gonna need a little more help there.
  • Philadelphia Eagles

  • The Eagles worked Nealy out at Tech's Pro Day to test his coverage skills, so the interest is definitely there. They've got Kiko Alonso at linebacker now, but they could still use some more depth there.

Verdict

Quayshawn Nealy is consistent. That consistency combined with his versatility to play in multiple schemes will give him a shot in the NFL. If he puts forth the effort and can make enough plays when given opportunities -- whether it be in the case of special teams, mop-up duty or injury -- Nealy will continue to be given those chances. The only thing that could really benefit him even more currently is if he were to get a little bit bigger without losing and speed or quickness. Getting into an NFL strength and conditioning program will definitely aide Nealy in that, but he will still have to prove he belongs on the field.

Projection: 7th-UDFA