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The Dolphins went after Jerome Baker as he is a good cover linebacker. While he is one of the fastest linebackers in this draft, the knock on him is toughness which caused him to fall from the 2nd to the 3rd round. I really like this pick as the Dolphins are making sure that our linebackers are not going to get burned by tight ends, slot receivers, and running backs coming out of the backfield.

 

 

 

 

 

Jerome Baker, OLB, Ohio St
Junior
6-1⅛, 229 lbs
Scouts Grade    78
Position Rank    7
Overall Rank    68
Arm Length    31-1/2"
Hand Size    10-3/8"
40-YD Dash    4.53

Overall Football Traits
Production    2
Height-Weight-Speed    3
Durability    3
Intangibles    3

Outside Linebacker Specific Traits
Instincts/Recognition    2   
Take-on Skills    3   
Range vs. Run    1  
Tackling    2   
3rd Down Capabilities    1   

1 = Exceptional2 = Above average3 = Average4 = Below average5 = Marginal

Status Report
Baker is an undersized weakside LB prospect with very good athleticism and speed (ran 4.53 at combine). He's able to locate the ball quickly, closes in a flash and is a solid wrap-up tackler. A rangy run defender, he excels in man-to-man coverage. Baker projects as a three-down linebacker and could be a second-round pick.

 

 



PLAYER BIO
Baker's final high school game was in the same Ohio Stadium in which he started his Buckeyes career the following fall. The four-star recruit ranked in the top 10 nationally at outside linebacker after being named All-Ohio and the state's Division IV Co-Defensive Player of the Year. But even talented player like Baker have to wait their turn with a bevy of veterans ahead of him on the depth chart. Rather than redshirting in 2015, however, he played in the final seven games of the year as a reserve (three tackles). He thought he might have to wait another year to before getting his shot as a starter, but an injury to Dante Booker put Baker in the starting Will spot in 2016. He garnered honorable mention All-Big Ten honors, making 83 tackles, 9.5 for loss, and 3.5 sacks while starting 12 of 13 games. He also intercepted two passes, including one against Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield that he returned 68 yards for a score; Baker also had seven tackles, 1.5 for loss, in that contest. Baker was an honorable mention all-conference pick in 2017, as well, leading the Buckeyes with 72 tackles, eight for loss, 3.5 sacks, and three pass breakups in 13 starts.

OVERVIEW
Baker is a likely 4-3 weakside linebacker candidate with the range and speed to chase and tackle around the field and the coverage talent to squeeze routes from man or zone. What Baker has in athletic ability and speed, he lacks in strength and toughness against the run. Baker's junior season failed to impress and teams will have to decide if he's a sub-package linebacker or a three-down talent. Baker lacks instincts teams look for from the position, but it's hard to ignore his rare speed. He could find early snaps in sub-packages, but may never be more than an average backup to below average starter.

STRENGTHS
 * Moves fluidly and fast
 * Has hip looseness and footwork to flow around the field
 * Has trigger burst to flash from backside and close down running lanes
 * Tremendously rangy as tackler
 * Change of direction comes easily
 * Capable of eluding blockers with quick lateral movement
 * Takes efficient paths to the ball
 * Sifts and works through traffic bouncing in and out of gaps
 * Has athletic ability to handle premium athletes in space
 * Shadowed Saquon Barkley for most of the game and helped keep him in check
 * Talented in space with footwork to match receivers in space and hands to take the ball
 * Can carry vertical receivers down the field
 * Able to outrun mistakes and slow diagnosis

WEAKNESSES
 * Skinny frame and gets engulfed by size
 * Looks small, plays small
 * Lacks functional play strength and sturdy base to withstand power
 * Must improve hand work to keep himself clean
 * Gets glued to blocks
 * Slow to diagnose and instincts are below par
 * Lingers on second level rather than bringing it to running backs
 * Lack of size and nastiness could be a concern on run downs against bully-ball rush attacks
 * Loses gap leverage and gets knocked around the field
 * Ducks head into contact
 * Has too many hit and slide tackle attempts
 * Gets caught flowing past his run fits
 * Motor can be inconsistent and will loaf at times in space.

SOURCES TELL US
"He's fast and athletic and all that, but he just doesn't have much grit to his game. He's just not tough. No dog. I like them to be fast but I will take tough over fast any day." -- AFC defensive coach

 

 



JEROME BAKER | Ohio State 6011 | 229 lbs. | JR. Cleveland, Ohio (Benedictine) 12/25/1996 (age 21.3) #17

BACKGROUND:
A four-star linebacker recruit out of high school, Jerome Baker was a quarterback/running back on offense and linebacker on defense at Cleveland’s Benedictine. He led the team to a 14-1 season and Division IV state championship in 2014, earning game MVP honors with 11 tackles and two touchdowns. Baker earned all-state and co-defensive player of the year honors as a senior and the scholarship offers poured in. Considered the No. 1 recruit in the state of Ohio, he initially verballed to Florida before flipping to Ohio State. Baker spent the 2015 season on the bench and finished with three tackles in seven games. He became a sophomore starter in 2016 and finished second on the team with 83 tackles, adding 9.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions to earn All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors. Baker led the Buckeyes in tackles (72) as a junior in 2017 and posted 8.0 tackles for loss, three passes defended and one forced fumble to earn All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors. He chose to skip his senior season and enter the 2018 NFL Draft.

STRENGTHS:
NFL frame with adequate length…above average athleticism with plus range…excellent pursuit speed with a second gear to finish the chase…beats blockers to the point on stretch runs…moves well laterally to mirror in space…makes himself skinny through gaps to infiltrate the backfield (17.5 tackles for loss the last two seasons)…smooth turn-and-run motion to match backs and tight ends out of the backfield…clean pedal-and-drive mechanics…natural ball skills…accounted for 90 yards on his two interception returns (68-yarder, 22 yarder), including a touchdown…totaled 155 tackles the past two seasons, finishing first or second on the team in this category both seasons he was a starter.

WEAKNESSES:
Doesn’t anticipate and late to react…sticks to blockers due to poor take-on skills…plays passive near the line of scrimmage and too easily taken away by climbing linemen…abandons gaps and offenses know they can fool him…high volume of missed tackles on his tape due to inconsistent technique and unimpressive play strength at the contact point…lean-framed and needs to continue and fill out…doesn’t see through blockers…handsy in coverage and will attract penalties…inconsistent depth and feel in his drops with poor field sense…allows free release and won’t challenge routes…effort is erratic with a passive demeanor on the football field.

SUMMARY:
A two-year starter at Ohio State, Baker played a high volume of snaps as the weakside linebacker in the Buckeyes 4-3 base scheme. His premium athleticism immediately jumps off the film, showing the range and ease of movement desired for the position. However, Baker has a slow processor and poor anticipation, causing him to be late recognizing play design. He also plays too finesse at the catch point, lacking the play strength or grit to use his hands and work off contact. Overall, Baker has encouraging athleticism to be a subpackage linebacker in coverage, but he is a project at this point in his development, lacking the take-on skills, instincts or conviction required for the NFL game – his athletic profile will have him overdrafted.

GRADE: 5th Round

 

 



OVERVIEW:
• Graded solidly in 2017, but was dramatically better the season before for the Buckeyes, earning an overall grade of 87.7 as a sophomore.
• Was at his best in 2017 during the Big-10 Championship game and the team’s bowl game against USC.
• Allowed three touchdowns in coverage in each of his past two seasons of play, notched just two interceptions and two pass breakups over that span.
• Has speed to burn and can be extremely effective coming forward towards the line of scrimmage
• Has the skills to mirror receivers and stick with them in coverage, but needs to improve challenging at the catch point.
• Is significantly more lost in zone coverage, and will need to improve that at the next level to be a three-down player.

BOTTOM LINE:
Jerome Baker has the athletic profile of a top pick in this draft, and at least one season of play that suggested he can live up to that potential. Took a step back in 2017, which is always a concern, but has the skills to attack at speed against the run and cover backs and tight ends in man coverage. Will need to develop his game as a zone defender to avoid being a scheme-specific player in the NFL.

 

 



STRONG POINTS
• Very good athlete, which is what makes him a playmaker. Excellent speed and quickness to slip blocks. In coverage, he gets depth with his drops and shows he can match up in man-to-man coverage. Good tackler.

WEAK POINTS
• Small by today’s linebacker standards. Not overly instinctive. If a lineman gets on him, Baker is very slow to shed and often gets neutralized. Inconsistent as a pass rusher; his production comes when he is unblocked.

WAY WE SEE IT
• At his present size, it will be difficult for Baker to be an every-down linebacker. He is small, and plays small. Gets by because of his speed and athleticism. Has a unique knack for slipping blocks. There are guys with his size and speed playing as regulars in the NFL, but they have far superior instincts. Baker will need time to develop his reactions and get stronger. In the meantime, he can contribute on special teams and as a nickel linebacker. He could also have a spot as a hybrid linebacker in some schemes. Others may like him more than I do.

 

 



This is the second defender Miami has taken who is known for his blitzing. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke, a Jim Schwartz protégé, has long been a big believer in employing a straight four-man rush. Is a philosophical shift on the horizon?

Scouting Report:
He runs like a receiver, and he’s built like one too. Baker might be a little light in the physicality department, but he’s a rangy 4-3 WILL prospect who could produce if kept clean.

Grade: B

 

 



Jerome Baker
Outside Linebacker
Ohio State Buckeyes
6-1 225 4.62 #17
Cleveland, Ohio
Benedictine High School
Born April 3, 1996

 

UPDATE
12/17/17 - 2017 ALL-BIG TEN HONORABLE MENTION (COACHES): A true junior, Baker finished third on the Buckeyes with 51 stops over the regular season, including 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Baker also broke up three passes and both forced and recovered a fumble. Building upon his reputation as a primetime player, Baker enjoyed his finest game of the season in the Big Ten championship win over Wisconsin, recording a career and game-high 16 tackles, including two for loss and a sack.

 

OVERVIEW
As the saying goes, the Buckeyes don't rebuild, they reload and in Baker, Urban Meyer found an uber-athletic linebacker with the slithery speed that earned plenty of comparisons to former Ohio State stars Ryan Shazier and Darron Lee.

 

Baker signed with Ohio State as one of the more hyped prep prospects in the country and his remarkable athleticism will certainly make him highly regarded by NFL scouts, as well. Even blue chip recruits typically have to wait in line at Ohio State, however, and Baker saw limited playing time as a true freshman, recording just four tackles while appearing in the team's final seven games.

 

Baker did not have the immediate impact some predicted but he exploded onto the scene a year later, recording career-highs in tackles (83), tackles for loss (9.5), sacks (3.5) and interceptions (two) while starting all but the first game of the 2016 season. He earned Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honors from league coaches and media for his breakout campaign and showed an intriguing ability to amp up his performance in big games - recording seven tackles (including 1.5 sacks) and an interception that he returned 68 yards for a touchdown against Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma in a key inter-conference matchup early in the season and capped the regular season with a then-career high 15 tackles and a key interception late to help the Buckeyes beat arch-rival Michigan in a double-overtime thriller.

 

After his splashy sophomore debut, Baker was projected as a future first round pick entering the 2017 season. Quite frankly, he failed to live up to that hype for much of his junior campaign with below-average performances in several key games, most notably Ohio State's stunning 31 point loss on the road at Iowa.

 

Just as he did a year before, however, Baker played arguably his best game of the season in the biggest game of the year, setting a new personal best with 16 tackles in the win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship, giving the Buckeyes their first conference title since 2014. Baker was the only player on either team to record double-digit tackles, which included two for loss and one sack, while also showing his speed in coverage, helping to limit the Badgers' star tight end, Troy Fumagalli, to a relatively toothless five catches for 45 yards.

 

Just three years removed from high school, it is clear that Baker is not yet a finished product and the team that invests an early round selection in him is gambling that he possesses the work ethic to take advantage of his undeniable athleticism. Although he will benefit from getting stronger and speeding up his mental processor, Baker has the athleticism and aggressive nature that are solid building blocks for a starting NFL linebacker, warranting top 50 consideration.

 

BACKGROUND
Jerome Baker was a Top 10 linebacker prospect nationally whose last high school game was a state championship game win over Kettering Alter, 21-14, in Ohio Stadium ... Baker scored twice, including the winning score early in the fourth quarter, to cap a 14-1 season and give Benedictine its seventh state title and coach Joe Schaefer state crowns as a Bengal player (2003) and coach ... Baker also had 11 stops on defense to earn game MVP honors ... a U.S. Army All-American, Baker was used sparingly on offense as a senior but still finished with 3,065 career rushing yards ... Baker was a consensus 4-star prospect who was ranked as the No. 41 player nationally by Rivals and the No. 67 player on the ESPN 300 ... earned impressive outside linebacker ratings by Rivals (No. 4) and Scout (No. 10) ...

 

ANALYSIS
STRENGTHS
Possesses rare athleticism for the position, showing impressive agility and straight-line speed, even amongst Ohio State's JV NFL team. Shows balance when dropping back into coverage, with a smooth backpedal and loose hips to turn, plant and accelerate smoothly. Arrives in a blink once he locates the ball, zipping past would-be blockers and flashing explosive collision power.

An aggressive open-field tackler, showing the grit to take on bigger ball-carriers and the length to lasso or drag them to the ground. Plays linebacker almost like a running back, locating holes and filling them aggressively, showing a willingness to "shoot his gun" when he sees a crease, often leading to big tackle for loss opportunities for himself and teammates. Knows how to "get skinny" to slip by blockers at the point of attack, turning his shoulders to slide through. Has the frame to get bigger, especially in his limbs. -- Rob Rang 12/22/2017

 

WEAKNESSES
While there is no questioning his athleticism and potential, the mental part of the game hasn't shown the same development, playing too reactionary without the anticipation and processor that it takes to play the position at a high level. Baker puts himself in position to make plays, making contact with the ball carrier, but too often he fails to finish and misses the tackle.

He possesses a relatively slim build for a linebacker and while alert and aggressive to slip blocks and attack, Baker struggles to disengage, lacking upper body strength and hand technique at this time. Simply put, he normally has to avoid blocks to defeat blocks, rarely making tackles while simultaneously fighting off a blocker. Fails to consistently provide an initial pop to backs and tight ends, allowing receivers free release and immediate separation in man coverage. Though he is fast enough to recover, Baker too often turns back to steal looks at the quarterback, inexplicably losing track of his coverage responsibilities. -- Rob Rang 12/22/2017

 

COMPARES TO:
Telvin Smith, Jaguars. Like the 6-3, 215 pound Smith, Baker does not possess the compact, powerful and intimidating frame most associate with an NFL linebacker. They both possess elite range, however, which - if protected by a stout defensive line - can make them effective "erasers" against today's increasingly horizontal offenses.

 

IN OUR VIEW:
Quick passes to backs and tight ends are forcing defensive coordinators to find athletic linebackers who can cover with many willing to sacrifice size for speed. Because of this fact, Baker has a chance to earn an early selection. That said, one shouldn't have to search for linebackers on tape and all too often that has been the case with Baker. No one denies that he possesses rare athleticism for the position - including agility and straight-line speed - but those traits must be complemented by greater awareness and take-on strength if Baker is to live up to the success of the Ohio State linebackers who preceded him.

 

 

 

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