Active player in pursuit that shows good speed and closing burst on the ball. Shows good toughness and will break down and make the stop in the open field. Willing to step up and meet ballcarrier in the hole. Shows decent ball skills when working in coverage. Has the hips to match up with backs and tight ends in the flat or over the middle. Comfortable working in medium zones, and able to keep things in front of him.
Undersized and not a sure or strong tackler. Will duck his head or do a poor job wrapping up at times at the point of attack. Not a reliable open field tackler. Needs to take better angles when working in space and pursuit. Struggles holding up against the inside run at the point of attack, and doesn't do a great job attacking the ball and gets stuck in traffic. Lacks closing burst as a blitzer off the edge. Can get caught looking in the backfield when working in coverage, and has inconsistent awareness in zone. Doesn't have the speed or hips to run with receivers on the outside.
He played mostly strong safety at Pitt, but was really an undersized linebacker. He has a chance to stick in the pros on special teams, but is a bit of a tweener. Doesn't have the size you want in a linebacker prospect, and lacks the speed and range to move back to safety. He moved to WILL linebacker in the second half of this past year, particularly after hamstring injuries hampered him early on. Finished with team lead with 94 tackles, 6 for loss, 5 INTs, and 2 pass breakups. His two previous years as the starting strong safety, combined for 144 tackles, 1 for loss, 7 INTs, and 10 pass breakups.
DeCicco should be a linebacker at the next level. Any team that puts him at safety is asking for trouble. The best way for him to improve his chances of playing in the NFL is getting bigger and stronger. If he can get up to the 240-245 pound range, he should be OK. He'll never be a great tackler, but in time can be decent enough that you won't shrug. But his real upside is to play special teams. If he can perform ably there, then he has a chance to stick long-term in the league and eventually develop into a decent nickel linebacker. His role potentially is similar to that of Coy Wire. Wire, too was a safety coming into the league (after playing linebacker in college) and was overmatched in that role. But eventually he was moved back to linebacker, got bigger and stronger. And while he's not a great tackler either or the best cover guy, his veteran smarts and toughness make him an effective nickel option and his speed helps him a lot. The same you can hope for DeCicco, but that's about it. He can add depth at WILL linebacker and play on special teams, but that's pretty much what you can expect out of him for most of his career.
DeCicco brings similar traits to the table as Wire, and potentially could push for a special teams role in Atlanta with the hope he develops down the road into a similar player. But his upside is limited on defense, and he's really more of a body to push for a special teams job. If he proves himself an ace on special teams, he can be retained beyond his rookie contract, but he's never going to really be a valuable defensive option and the Falcons can certainly sure up their depth with better players eventually. He's probably likely to land a practice squad early on, with that year or two to bulk up and get stronger, and then have a better shot at making the roster in a couple of years.
If a team is really in love with his special teams potential, they might snag him at the end of the seventh round. But he's really the caliber of player you try to get as an undrafted free agent since he lacks real upside on defense.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Point of Attack: 2.0
Pass Rush: 2.0
Scouting reports of the linebackers in the 2011 Draft.
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