One of the neat things about being part of SB Nation is the access we have to their various experts throughout the network. If we want more details about the Chicago Bears' next opponent, we'll talk to one of our sister sites. If we want the skinny on the NFL Draft, we'll hit up our draft editor. And if we want some insight on the latest rookie class for the Chicago Bears, we'll go straight to the site that has covered their entire collegiate career.
Recently we had the chance to talk with Ryan T. Smith, writer at Voodoo Five, the SB Nation site that covers the South Florida Bulls, about undrafted free agent linebacker Devekeyan "DeDe" Lattimore.
Windy City Gridiron - Lattimore didn't receive an invite to the NFL Combine, but at his pro day he preformed very well in the 3 cone drill, the 20 yard shuttle, and his 40 time would have been the 2nd best among all inside linebacker prospects. Did he play that fast and quick at South Florida?
Ryan T. Smith - Absolutely. Lattimore's a very instinctual player and his greatest strengths were his speed and nose for the ball. He played every snap aggressively and excelled in moving vertically to the ball carrier. This can--and did-- lead to overpursuit and playing out of position from time to time, but no one can question his effort or motor.
Windy City Gridiron - Middle linebackers tend to get undervalued in the NFL Draft, but Lattimore started 48 of 49 career games, was a tackling machine and was team captain in 2013. Was there one glaring weakness that stopped him from being drafted?
Ryan T. Smith - I wish I could tell you for sure. Lattimore was underrated his entire college career, and his getting snubbed for all-conference honors became a bit of a yearly joke. I was shocked he didn't get invited to the Combine and still pretty surprised he didn't get drafted. I'd guess that his size (he's listed around 6'1", 230, but that's generous) and lack of strength turned teams away, but I can't help thinking the Bears got a huge steal snagging him as an UDFA.
Windy City Gridiron - The Mike backer is the quarterback of the defense; how was he at making in game adjustments and lining up his teammates properly during games?
Ryan T. Smith - A fun fact about Lattimore is that he actually came to USF as an outside linebacker, and spent the better part of three seasons there before getting shifted to the middle for good his senior year. He handled the transition about as well as anyone could ask and was the unquestioned leader of the defense last season, but I can't see him playing that kind of role in the NFL, even if he were to crack a two-deep.
Windy City Gridiron - A few of the scouts I've read call him most likely a 2 down player; how was he in coverage last season, and were his coverage skills something he improved on throughout his collegiate career?
Ryan T. Smith - I think the 2-down linebacker tag is pretty accurate as far as his NFL prospects go. Lattimore has nice speed, but he did have a tendency to get lost in zone coverages and leave guys open underneath or over the middle. This definitely improved as he got older, but that probably has something to do with an change in defensive coordinators as well. He's definitely more suited for run-stuffing and blitzing off the edge.
Windy City Gridiron - Bottom line, do you think he has what it takes to go from undrafted free agent to an NFL roster?
Ryan T. Smith - I really, really do, and that's bias aside. I don't think he's a complete enough player or good enough athlete to start at the pro level, but Lattimore is absolutely the kind of guy you want to have rounding out your roster. He's a fast, smart, versatile player who's spent four years proving people wrong. I can see him sticking on special teams, or even working onto the rotation in a limited role. I was surprised when he didn't get drafted, and I'll be even more surprised if he doesn't wind up on a roster somewhere.
Thanks again to Ryan T. Smith of Voodoo Five!