Continuing the countdown of the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, let’s break down the 27th best player in linebacker Paul Worrilow.
To read about the methodology in how these rankings came about, you can click here.
Total Score: 48/100
Last year’s rank: 18th
Player Grade: 53/100
Teams he is starter: 11 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 0 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 20 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +3
Positional Bonus: +3
What a difference a year makes. A year ago, Worrilow was expected to be one of the key difference-makers on defense especially in light of the season-ending injury to linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
However, Worrilow was anything but a difference-maker. Coming off an impressive rookie campaign in 2013, Worrilow failed to take that next step in 2014. While a smart and instinctual player, Worrilow seemed a bit overmatched when it came to the more physical aspects of playing inside linebacker in the NFL.
He routinely struggled to get off blocks, make stops at the point of attack and was exploited in man coverage throughout the year. Worrilow certainly had some good games, particularly in the second half of the year when most of the team’s defenders improved their play. Yet despite being named a defensive captain at the midpoint, Worrilow was far from one of team’s best players on defense. That will need to change in 2015 if he truly wants to fill the mantle as a defensive leader.
Worrilow should see improvement this year if for no other reason than the fact that he really can’t get much worse. But the simplified defensive scheme of Dan Quinn should free up a player like Worrilow to do less thinking and more reacting and allow him to live up to the impressive athleticism that he displayed during his pro day at Delaware two years ago. Simply put, that sort of “plus” athlete has not been regularly on display over the course of Worrilow’s first two years in the NFL and perhaps Quinn’s staff will be the first to pull it out of him.
If they do, then Worrilow certainly has the potential to get back on the track he appeared to be on after 2013, which was to become of the league’s better middle linebackers. While Worrilow shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as the top players like Bobby Wagner or Luke Kuechly, he still is a young player with room to grow. At this point the Falcons would probably happily accept a starting middle linebacker on par with Curtis Lofton or James Laurinaitis, which Worrilow certainly should be able to hit this year and potentially exceed.
It’s a make or break year for Worrilow, as the Quinn staff isn’t likely to show as much patience with him as the previous regime showed and could easily look to upgrade that spot a year from now. They already have an in-house candidate in Justin Durant. So it’s up to Worrilow to show that any plans to make changes at the position are premature.