Author's note: Greene is my second favorite ILB pick for Houston behind Arthur Brown at the bottom of the first this year. I've seen about six of his games and I've come away impressed from all of them. There are some things he does even better than Brown, and to be honest I would be just fine with either one of them were they both to be available at pick 27. It's a toss up for me...a glorious, beautifully violent toss up. Look for him in the Senior Bowl this Saturday on NFL Network.
Khaseem Greene #20, ILB, Rutgers
- Good zone coverage skills.
- Smooth back pedal and fluid hips.
- Good enough speed to content with TEs and RBs on deeper routes.
- Excellent wrap-up tackler.
- Reads plays and sifts through traffic well.
- Constantly attacks the ball on tackles.
- Good edge rusher with speed and solid hand usage.
- Uses speed well in delayed A-gap blitzes.
- Good motor and back side pursuit speed.
- Locks in on QB’s eyes in zone coverage and sometimes doesn’t pay attention to the routes being run around him.
- Aggressiveness causes him to be prone to being looked off and pump faked out of position.
- Doesn’t have strength or size to stack and shed vs linemen and will often get blown out of the play by pulling guards.
Greene is an interesting prospect that I’ve had my eye on for a couple months. With the evolution of spread offenses and their sudden resurgence in the NFL, more and more teams are going to need these new breed of safety/linebacker hybrids to contend with athletic tight ends and do-it-all running backs that have instantaneously become the most dangerous weapons in football. Greene, a former safety himself, almost looks like a beefed up defensive back when he plays. His back pedal is smooth, and hips are as fluid as any top flight defensive back you’ll find in this class. Despite his 236 pounds of bulk, he has the speed of a safety as well, and it showed up in his ability to stay stride for stride with fast scat backs deep down the sideline.
His previous experience at safety really shows itself when he drops into a zone. He almost looks like a linebacker version of Ed Reed with the way he never takes his eyes off the quarterback. His primary objective is to read the throw and make a play on the ball on every snap, and over the last two seasons this has worked with spectacular results. At times, however, his propensity to lock in on a QB’s eyes and aggressiveness in going after the football causes him to not notice receivers running right by him and get looked off by the quarterback (Good examples are 00:16, 00:51, and 5:49 in the Syracuse video). He'll need to fix that tunnel vision to avoid being taken advantage of by the Tom Bradys and Peyton Mannings of the world. When he does pay attention to the receivers, read the route combinations, and watch the quarterback, he transforms into one of the best coverage linebackers in college football (6:31 in Syracuse video and 5:21 in the UConn video).
Beyond coverage ability and interceptions, Greene is an absolute monster when it comes to making game-changing plays on the ground too. He is an excellent wrap-up tackler and he loves violently attacking the ball at every opportunity. If he is within arm’s reach of the ball, you can be sure that Greene will be trying to strip it (1:46, 4:22, 5:15 in the Syracuse video). His speed and agility when blitzing make him a nightmare to call protections against as well, since can explode around the edge or make his presence felt up the middle on delayed blitzes on any given down.
The main knock on Greene is that he isn't really effective versus the run unless he is allowed to play clean. As soon as a guard, tackle, or center engages him on the second level, it’s a good bet that he will get blocked out of the play. While he does get away from blocks with pure agility on occasion, Greene has nowhere near the strength or power required to stack and shed someone 100 pounds heavier than he is. If Greene is allowed to play in space, he could become a star, but that’s a big "if." I anticipate him having a lot of trouble with pulling guards in his career, so it is imperative that he has a big interior monster on the line to soak up blocks and a good run-stopping Mike backer to work with as a tandem in the run game.
In the NFL, I think Greene can become a great Will in a 4-3 or a stud Mo backer in any 3-4 scheme, especially in a system that employs a good crop of two-gap linemen. The more space he has to operate with, the more highlight reel plays he can make. Throw in his way above average coverage ability and you have yourself a linebacker that can actually be trusted against players like Ray Rice and Owen Daniels on all three downs. Greene is very much worthy of a first round selection, and will undoubtedly put up first round numbers if he is in the right situation. If he’s taken anywhere after pick 32 I would start calling it a steal.