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Jerome Baker Is A Gifted Athlete But Can He Become A Complete ILB?

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Hogs Haven takes a look at 2018 NFL Draft prospects that could contribute to the Redskins

Penn State v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Jerome Baker, LB
School: Ohio State | Conference: BIG 10
College Experience: Junior | Age: 21
Height / Weight: 6-1 / 229 lbs
Projected Draft Status: 3rd Round or 4th Round
NFL Comparison: Deone Buchannon

College Statistics

Player Overview

Jerome Baker was a 4-star prospect from Cleveland, Ohio who got his first opportunity to start his sophomore year by filling in for an injured teammate. Baker has run with the starting gig ever since and has had a productive college career. Baker is on the lighter side for an inside linebacker but speed is his calling card. As seen on tape and at the combine, Baker is one of the fastest linebackers in the class. Bakers athleticism and speed are by far his best traits as a linebacker and has served him well at times in coverage, playing the run, and on the blitz. He, however, while athletically gifted still has a lot to learn about playing the position. Even when playing behind an insanely talented defensive line Bakers instincts and anticipation seem just average. Compared to the dogs in front of him he also seems cautious and passive sometimes. Bakers build might be of concern to some teams as well looking for an inside linebacker as he needs to develop some play strength as he can get lost in the trash and engulfed by bigger blockers. Perhaps most importantly Baker needs to improve his tackling technique as he has a tendency to aim high and lose grip. Baker ought to see the field in the NFL based on his athleticism alone but to stick around he will have to improve in the aforementioned areas. If he can he could be one of the top linebackers in the league in a few years.

Strengths

  • Excellent speed and athleticism for the position.
  • Can use his speed to exploit gaps in front of him on blitzes and apply pressure in the backfield. Also capable of sticking with tight ends up the seam and across the middle as well as running backs out of the backfield.
  • Range allowed him to clean up a lot of tackles being made.

Weaknesses

  • React and react ability seems hesitant and his instincts struck me as average. It’s my personal opinion that worries me a lot considering the caliber of DL he was playing behind who kept him clean a lot.
  • Stuck me as an 80% effort player. There were plays where it seemed like he was jogging to the play instead of using his athletic ability to its full potential. Similarly, he doesn't seem to have that killer instinct, aggressiveness, and toughness we are accustomed to out of middle linebackers who work downhill.
  • Tackling technique must get better. His target is too high and he failed to wrap up on too many occasions.
  • Despite the ability to stick in coverage, he is not that proficient in it yet. Needs to attack the ball in the air and time his breakup attempts better. Somewhat disappointing pass defended and INT numbers for a guy of his ability. Right now he sort of just waits for the receiver to catch and then tackles.

Let’s see his work:

More Jerome Baker videos

How He Would Fit On The Redskins

Baker’s athleticism and speed will no doubt turn the heads of evaluators and fans longing for that physical ability at the inside linebacker position but he is just too deficient in other areas for me to confidently say he should start on any team much less the Redskins. If the staff want to draft someone for the sake of their ability to stick with receivers athletically but not actually do much in the way of defending then maybe Baker is a fit. I don't think the staff or the fans want that in reality. If the Redskins lose Zack Brown Baker can certainly provide support athletically to the position. I’m not sure how much his instincts aggressiveness and anticipation can be improved but Baker certainly can learn how to be a better defender in coverage, improve his tackling technique and improve his play strength over time. If he does those three things I can see him developing into an average starter for some years. If he can speed up his read and react ability and become more aggressive even without improving his instincts he can become an above average starter. Bakers physical skills are impressive but I think he is a 2 or 3-year project. How good he can become relies heavily on himself and his environment at the next level.