Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama
Weight: 254 pounds
40 time: 4.68
An extremely intelligent and instinctive player who was one of the leaders of the Crimson Tide defense that helped propel Alabama to their 2009 National Championship, Rolando McClain has been described as being another coach on the field for his defense.
A three-year starter with 32 career starts and great production in college, McClain leaves Alabama having recorded 275 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, 14 pass breakups, and five interceptions over the course of his career in Tuscaloosa.
One of the most instinctive players in this year’s draft, McClain offers a tremendous football IQ to his team at the next level. In addition to being what has been described as a defensive coordinator on the field, McClain understands not just what his assignment on every play, but also the assignment of each of his teammate’s as well. He has a great work ethic off the field preparing for his opponents and his leadership and competitive play are both fantastic; he was named a team captain as a junior in 2009 and he never missed a game during his career at Alabama.
A tough and physical inside linebacker, Rolando has a great combination of size, strength, and athleticism for a linebacker prospect. He’s an aggressive, downhill defender who offers sideline-to-sideline range with good, but not great overall speed. He’s an active defender with a great motor who also has great short-area quickness and is always around the football. Rolando is a very strong tackler with great upper-body strength (24 reps on the bench at the Combine), as he can drive through the ball carrier when making the tackle. He’s also shown the consistent ability to take on and shed blockers in the run game. McClain does a great job of pursuing the ball down the field and has shown the he can chase down the fastest of backs in the SEC on outside runs.
Rolando’s most effective way of rushing the passer is using his size and strength to bull-rush the blocker to create penetration and get into the backfield. In coverage, McClain is at his best in zone coverage where he can use his intelligence and instincts to read and react to the plays that he sees in front of him. He offers a burst with good closing speed to effectively make a tackle on a receiver attempting to make the catch in front of him. In man coverage, he has the athleticism to cover the tight end down the field, however he’s a bit stiff in the upper body and there are times when he will struggle covering the quicker receivers that he’ll sometimes face.
Some scouts worry that playing behind Terrence Cody at Alabama helped McClain, as he didn’t have to face as many on-coming blockers with Cody eating up the interior of the line. I understand the concern here, however I think the McClain is smart enough to make an adjustment if he doesn’t have a nose tackle eating up blocks in front of him at the next level. Rolando revealed at his Pro Day that he has Crohn’s Disease, which is a disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive tract; he said that he’s played with the disorder since his freshman year of high school and it shouldn’t affect him long-term as he goes on to play in the NFL; however, this is certainly something that the team that drafts him will want to keep a close eye on. I project that McClain will be drafted in the first round, specifically among the Top 15 picks in the draft.
Rolando McClain has all of the physical tools as well as the leadership and outstanding intangibles needed to develop into a premier linebacker in the NFL. His best fit will come as an inside linebacker in either the 4-3 or 3-4 defense. His potential and upside are both very high and he has the talent and skills to develop into a terrific player in the NFL.
Notes: Rolando was named first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC in 2009 while also being given the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker; he was also named first-team All-SEC in 2008. One of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school, Rolando was rated as the No. 1 player in the state of Alabama as well as the No. 2 inside linebacker and No. 35 overall player in the country by Rivals.com. Between his junior and senior seasons in high school, McClain recorded 210 tackles and 24 tackles for loss, with one interception, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery during his junior year; he also caught 24 passes for 436 yards as a junior. As a prep, Rolando also started on his high school’s basketball team.
McClain is probably the most complete LB in this draft class, and could have some fantasy potential. He’s probably not as talented as fellow ex-Tide LB DeMeco Ryans, and is probably best suited to play one of the inside spots in the 3-4 scheme.
If he’s drafted by a team running the 3-4, his fantasy ceiling could be a bit lower than the potential a MLB has in the 4-3. He simply doesn’t have the pure speed to run as a true MLB. That said, he’s incredibly intelligent and has terrific instincts (the “it factor”, if you will), and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him ranked in the top-10 LBs come 2-3 years’ time.