- He was Arizona's hyper-athletic leading tackler last year, just his second season playing linebacker, but he's not going to the biggest event of the NFL evaluation process. Here's what scouts will like about Paul Magloire Jr. once they dig into the tape.
Earlier this week, we looked at 10 snubs from this year’s NFL scouting combine invitations. Here’s one more (and the second member of our Draft This Dude team): Arizona linebacker Paul Magloire Jr.
Magloire has taken a roundabout path to being an NFL draft prospect: He signed with Appalachian State in 2012 to play quarterback, moved to running back, then to safety during the 2014 season at Arizona Western (in the Juco ranks), and finally to linebacker for 2015 and ’16 with Arizona.
Keep in mind that lack of linebacking experience, because even though Magloire was productive (a team-leading 81 tackles, plus 5.5 tackles for loss in 2016), it might help explain some of his more frustrating moments. But before we get there, let’s start with why Magloire has a chance to make it at the next level ... and why he deserved a spot at the combine in Indianapolis.
Arizona’s 3-3-5 defense features a pair of safety/linebacker hybrid positions (dubbed Spur and Bandit). The Wildcats had Magloire ticketed to play there initially, but he wound up starting as a linebacker instead. That’s probably where his NFL future lies, too, although his versatility could help him stick on a roster.
Take, for example, the below effort against Stanford, in which Magloire (listed at 6' 1", 227 pounds) lined up as an edge rusher, as he occasionally would, and helped generate a sack.
The balance really stood out on that play—Magloire kept his feet despite a lunging cut block, then closed on the QB in a hurry. He also showed decent bend when he had those pass-rushing opportunities off the edge, another nod to his physical attributes.
While Magloire does not have the size nor the edge-rush repertoire to live in that role for an NFL team, putting that element of his game on tape only helps his case. His real star turns, though, come as a downhill defender against the run.
Here, he made a play on BYU running back Jamaal Williams, another 2017 draft hopeful and a tough back to bring down.
The balance was evident there again, as Magloire bounced off the block thrown by BYU’s lead fullback, regrouped and finished the play. He obviously had help from his teammates in closing off Williams’s space, but this is what Magloire can do at his best. When he aggressively looks to fill a gap, he can blow up plays.
Two more glimpses at his run-stuffing potential, from this year’s Shrine Game. On the first, Magloire exploded through the line before Michigan right guard Erik Magnuson could reach him with a block, then found the running back and brought him down for a loss.
The second ought to provide even more of an NFL feel to Magloire’s game. He was a missile closing on the back this time.
Maybe a 3-4 team wants to play him inside, akin to his role at Arizona. Maybe a 4–3 team seems him as a fast-flowing weakside linebacker. A safety/hybrid split also still could be in the cards—his size matches the players who have filled that NFL role of late, and his experience as a safety is a plus.
Regardless, he is a defender a team should want down in the box, attacking the line of scrimmage.
He has the instincts to be successful in those moments. And when we talk about “instincts” as it pertains to a linebacker, that usually means a player can diagnose what’s happening in front of him and react to it without any unnecessary hesitation. To wit: Magloire’s read on this Christian McCaffrey run.
McCaffrey moved the sticks with a solid gain on third-and-two, but Magloire kept Stanford’s star back from springing free for a huge play. Magloire read the option correctly, recognized that McCaffrey was headed off the left side and picked his way through the muck to make the tackle. There was no chance for Magloire to make that tackle any earlier than he did.
Of course, NFL linebackers—and, especially, NFL LB/S hybrids—have to be able to cover. Because of that year he spent as an Arizona Western safety, Magloire arrived at Arizona with a bit of a background in that regard. It paid off on this play from the Shrine Game:
The tight end had room to the outside at first, but Magloire closed the window in a hurry to break up the pass. This attempt came one snap after that earlier hard-charging tackle behind the line of scrimmage seen above.
In space against NFL running backs or tight ends, Magloire will have his work cut out for him. He is athletic, to be sure, but not always in the change-of-direction way required to stick with backs coming out of the backfield. At least at this point in his career, he’s a safer bet to drop in zone coverage or to blitz the QB.
The blitzing brings us back to that whole experience discussion. If there is a negative that shows up on a semi-consistent basis for Magloire, it’s that he does show a little hesitation at times when attacking vertically. He’ll stymie his own blitz attempts before even reaching a blocker by taking a couple of stutter-steps or attempting to loop his path wide, rather than flying in a straight line.
It’s the same against the run. That play on McCaffrey, where he danced his way through traffic laterally, was a prime example of what Magloire can do as a heady, athletic linebacker. At times, however, he can get stuck trying to guess what’s coming.
To be fair, that had to be among the worst plays of Magloire’s season. And had BYU’s Williams cut to his right there, that play may have unfolded in duplicate to Magloire’s tackle on McCaffrey. Magloire appeared to read it the same way: that Williams was going to break away from him and try to bounce outside around the tackle.
The problem, of course, is that Williams instead cut back right into the hole where Magloire should have been. Magloire got caught leaning, and Williams gained 40 yards. Had Magloire burst through the gap there, Williams would have had little room to maneuver. In that case, the goal for Magloire should have been to push Williams wide—Arizona would have loved the BYU back to string that play out, rather than sprinting forward.
This is an element of Magloire’s game that could be improved in time, with NFL coaching. The goal wouldn't be to take away his read-and-react nature but to make sure he’s not sacrificing his downhill explosion in favor of overanalyzing what he sees.
One issue that likely will never go away is Magloire’s size and strength. He is always going to be at a disadvantage when an offensive lineman reaches him head-on, and most tight ends will have significant weight on him, too.
In those cases, when Magloire is tentative or flowing more east-to-west than north-to-south, this can happen:
Ideally, he will not end up in those spots much. His NFL team will want to keep him clean, so he can plant and fire toward the ball-carrier.
When Magloire is able to do that, he looks like a linebacker with pro-caliber characteristics. He’s not flawless, and he’s not going to be a match for every defense. But remember, this is how Magloire looks after just two years on the job at linebacker. The potential is there for him to be a solid NFL player.