We finish off our training camp preview on the Cleveland Browns’ middle linebackers with two youngsters. As we made clear in Part 1, the top middle linebacker won’t be a key piece of the defense -- but several players will still be needed for depth, special teams, and multi-tasking (could try some outside linebacker).
4. Kenneth Olugbode - Rookie Middle Linebacker
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 222 lbs | Age: 21
Experience: Rookie | College: Colorado
If there is one undrafted free agent’s name you should know heading into camp, make sure it’s Olugbode’s. After the 2017 NFL Draft, he was deemed one of the top undrafted free agents available, including by Pro Football Focus, who had him as their #2 available player along with this assessment:
Olugbode went undrafted largely because he measured out at just 6-foot-1, 222 pounds, at his pro day, but his significant improvements as a run defender in 2016 and potential as a coverage and special-teams player may land him a roster spot. He posted a PFF overall grade of 87.7 at Colorado last season, and was at his best in the biggest games. Against Michigan, Stanford, and Washington, Olugbode racked up a total of 33 solo tackles with 18 defensive stops.
You can also see how his 87.7 grade in 2016 was a significant improvement over his previous two seasons:
As a senior, Olugbode registered 108 tackles, 6 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, and 2 interceptions. Lance Zierlein of the NFL Network credits his frame and actual production, but doesn’t like what the tape shows about his instincts. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports had the following review on Olugbode:
He is more of a linebacker/safety tweener with his undersized frame and limited growth potential, lacking ideal length and functional strength for the position. As an athlete, Olugbode is average in the open field with adequate play strength to shadow in coverage and stay in stride with backs and tight ends. He trusts his eyes to find the ball, but his angles are wild and lead to missed plays, despite his productive résumé. Overall, Olugbode is a physical competitor who plays bigger than he looks, but his below average size, strength and play range create concerns about his fit in the NFL.
Even though things are volatile at middle linebacker, I can’t see Olugbode jumping to the top of the depth chart. I could see him displacing a guy like Dominique Alexander, though, if the team likes his skills better on defense.
Final Roster Odds: 40%
5. James Burgess - Backup Middle Linebacker
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 233 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: 1 year | College: Louisville
Burgess was an undrafted free agent in 2016 who signed with the Miami Dolphins. He didn't make the roster out of camp, but he bounced around to practice squads of five teams throughout the season, including the Dolphins, Chargers, Ravens, Jaguars, and then finally the Browns in late December. That’s a pretty unusual number of teams to be with in one season.
Burgess was a starter for his final three years at Louisville and was pretty consistent in production throughout. His senior year saw him log 91 tackles, 9 tackles for a loss, and 5 passes defended. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports said the following about him at the time:
Burgess is a rangy linebacker and looks natural dropping in space, showing off his athleticism by sticking to backs and tight ends in coverage (20 passes defended and seven interceptions in his career). While he has the cover skills and athletic traits to possibly find a home at the next level on special teams, his lack of size, length and strength will limit his ceiling, following in a similar path as his father (James, Sr.), who went undrafted out of Miami and spent two seasons (1997-98) in the NFL.
Final Roster Odds: 5%
Here is your poll question for Part 2:
Between Olugbode and Burgess, who makes the Browns’ final roster?
This poll is closed
Both Olugbode and Burgess
Neither Olugbode nor Burgess