Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges was a big play-maker for the Nittany Lions, making well over 200 tackles over the past two seasons. Originally recruited as a defensive back, Hodges moved to linebacker in his freshman season.
Hodges is a small linebacker at 6-1, 243 pounds. He added 30 pounds after coming to Penn State, and it doesn’t appear like he’ll be able to add that much more weight. From that standpoint alone, you’re probably looking at a guy who can play only as a 4-3 linebacker, and most likely as the Will (weak side). That’s fine, but it will drop his stock since most 3-4 teams won’t be interested.
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Hodges ran a 4.78 at the Combine, and he elected to not run the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. Long speed is obviously an issue for Hodges, but it’s not like he’s too slow to play linebacker. He also jumped 35.5 inches and ran a 4.25 short shuttle, showing he has a little burst in short areas.
On tape, Hodges plays like a safety. He’s outstanding in zone and man coverage, flipping his hips and turning to run with ease. He can cover backs out of the backfield, although he might struggle with big tight ends at his height. When Penn State played spread offenses, Hodges lined up in the slot like a nickel cornerback, and he manned that position just fine.
Hodges is a linebacker who excels in pursuit and won’t consistently hold up at the point-of-attack. That makes me think that he’s a pure Will linebacker who can make plays if he’s in the right situation. He’ll probably come into the NFL as a nickel linebacker before he proves he can hold up against the run.
NFL Comparison: Justin Durant
Hodges reminds me very much of Cowboys free agent acquisition Justin Durant. Both players are undersized, beating blockers with quickness instead of power.
Like I said, Hodges is a talented player but he’ll drop because he’s so limited in what he can do. I think the fifth round is a likely landing spot, although he could easily go a round earlier or later.
Fit In Dallas
The Cowboys had Hodges come into town for a visit, so there’s at least mild interest. I’ve said for a while that I would use Bruce Carter as the Sam in the new 4-3 and go with an incredibly undersized, fast lineup, but it appears that Carter will play the Will for Dallas. Hodges would compete to be Carter’s backup if that’s the case.
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Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.