While statistics are considered meaningless, or even misleading, when scouting pro prospects, Kuechly's productivity is simply an indicator of his relentless pursuit of the ball.
The 183 tackles with which he was credited in his consensus All-American and first-team All-ACC 2010 season also included 10 stops for loss and 1.5 sacks. The runner-up for the 2010 Butkus Award (nation's top linebacker) also intercepted three passes, broke up three others and forced two fumbles during the year.
His 2009 numbers may have been even more remarkable considering his status as a true freshman. The Freshman All-American and ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year racked up 158 tackles and 87 solo (both ranking second in the entire FBS), along with 13 stops for loss and four pass break-ups.
Kuechly will not wow scouts with exceptional athleticism test results at the Combine, but his production and football intelligence will endear him to 4-3 teams looking for a James Laurinaitis-like leader of a defense. Whether he leaves after his junior campaign or finishes out his eligibility, expect Kuechly to be a top 50 pick.
Read & React: Intelligent player who knows his keys and "feels" his way to the ball. Aggressiveness allows him to be fooled by those keys, like pulling guards, on misdirection and takes a false step forward on play action, but also recovers well and regularly sniffs out reverses and other trick plays to prevent big gains.
Run Defense: Constantly around the ball between the tackles, flows through traffic easily and steps into gaps instead of waiting for the play to pass the line of scrimmage. Tracks the ball to either sideline, though he needs the angle to make plays against quicker ballcarriers. Anchors against strong backs with lowered pads, stops them in their track when filling a gap. Does not have elite size to stand up to NFL-caliber lineman inside, but regularly rips off blocks with strong hands and can make plays even if initially knocked backwards a couple of yards.
Pass Defense: Not an elite athlete but covers some ground in pass coverage. Gets good drops, takes correct angles to reach the first down marker and can stay with tight ends and bigger slot receivers down the middle. Takes time to reach running backs going into the flat. Reliable tackler in the middle zone to prevent yards after the catch on crossing routes. Follows quarterbacks' eyes and makes easy and difficult interceptions over the middle with good hand-eye coordination. Looks to turn the pick into points by following blockers and running tough.
Tackling: Secure tackler who, while not putting great fear into opponents, plays strong and finds a way to bring down ballcarriers. Drops his hips and keeps his head up to drag down ballcarriers. Makes running backs pay for going out of bounds with a strong shoulder. Occasionally goes for the high tackle in space, allowing the ballcarrier to elude him. Relies on hustle and angles, rather than straight-line speed, to make plays outside the box.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Not asked to blitz often, lacks great closing speed to reach the quarterback from the stack. Difficult for quarterbacks and running backs to evade him, however, once he's in the backfield because he is solid in his tackling technique.
Intangibles: Last name pronounced "Keek-ly." Exceptional on-field hustle and instincts, as well as off-field work ethic. Has gained significant muscle in the weight room. Shoulder garner top general and football character and intelligence grades. Serves as back-up long snapper. Unassuming young man learning to be more vocal on the field to lead his teammates."
Is one of the best pure tacklers in the country and does a great job breaking down inside, lowering his pad level into contact and wrapping consistently. Showcases “plus” instincts inside vs. the run game. Keys quickly, is consistently getting early jumps on the football and showcases a little burst when attacking downhill.
Does a great job extending his arms into contact when asked to avoid blocks and knows how to fend off blockers trying to get into his frame. Uses his inside hand well to keep blockers at bay once he side steps contact. Isn’t overly shifty, but consistently is able to beat a blocker to a spot because of instincts, gain leverage and keep himself clean.
Showcases the power to take on blocks in the hole as well. But, isn’t overly long and opposing lineman will simply wrap him up and engulf on contact. Showcases a willingness to try to shed, however, is only average in this area.
Takes excellent angles in pursuit. Showcases the ability to instantly key on the run and reaches top end speed quickly. Doesn’t have a great first step and straight-line speed is only average. However, plays faster because he routinely gets early jumps on the football, understands angles and has a little burst when he’s finishing on the ball carrier.
Wraps well in space, brings his legs through contact and knows how to get his man to the ground. Isn’t the most powerful kid on contact and isn’t going to force a ton of fumbles on contact.
Is an above-average open field tackler as well. Lacks a little range, but shoots well into contact, takes good angles and routinely gets bigger/faster ball carriers to the ground, even if they gain a step.
Possesses a good feel in zone coverage. Keys well, feels routes developing around him and stays low and balanced in his drop, allowing him to quickly change directions. Demonstrates the ability to re-direct and get out of his breaks laterally. However, doesn’t generate much of a burst or first step.
Is clean to change directions, but there is no initial burst that allows him to routinely make plays on the throw, as he forced to often just play the man. Gets average depth when asked to turn and run down the field with tight ends.
But, lacks great straight-line speed (looks like a 4.8 guy) and the further down the field he’s asked to run the more separation he gives up. Nevertheless, displays good ball skills and is smart enough to key quickly in the pass game and mature into an average option in zone as an ILB.
Impression: He’s not the biggest, strongest or fastest of athletes. But he’s instinctive, plays faster than he times, finds the football in all areas of the game and can really tackle. He’s going to be a bit limited in coverage, but he’s instinctive enough to play on third down in zone and should end up being one of the NFL’s top tackling linebackers for years to come."
Instincts/Recognition: Elite level instincts. Seems to always be flowing to where the ball is going long before it gets there. Kuechly will rarely blow an assignment. Won't get tricked by misdirection plays. Doesn't get picked off by pulling guards.
Pass Rush: At Boston College, Kuechly was never used as a blitzed and only got pressure when the play took a long time to develop. In the right situation, where there is an open hole to get at the quarterback, Kuechly could become useful in this area.
Pursuit: Plays with a lot of discipline, not overrunning the play or getting out of position. Is a technically sound linebacker who always plays with his head up and keeps blockers out of his feet. Quick to diagnose misdirection and screens.
Run Defense: Sniffs out the ball in a hurry. Kuechly is a sound wrap-up tackler who knows how to lower his shoulder and drive through contact. Struggles some taking on and shedding blockers, especially in the box. Isn’t a great playmaker. A lot of his tackles came up field.
Strength: Kuechly doesn't have an overly strong frame and doesn't have a powerful build. He could get stronger in his upper body to take on blocks better.
Final word: At the college level, Kuechly is arguably the most accomplished player in this year's draft. An All-American each of his three seasons at Boston College, Kuechly led the nation in tackles as a sophomore and junior. He's instinctual and will be able to contribute immediately as a rookie. His upside, though, is limited because he's not the strongest or a natural athlete."
Measurable don’t impress, but he is a smart, fundamentally-sound, instinctive run-stuffer who is always around the ball; takes great angles to the ball and is a solid wrap-up tackler who seldom misses a stop in the open-field; lacks sprinter speed, but is light on his feet and can dance around the traffic;
Not as effective in coverage, especially when forced to cover one-on-one, but takes good drops and breaks crisply on the ball in zone; had three picks and three other pass break-ups last year."
At one point in his career, had recorded double digit tackles in 33 consecutive games; holds the Boston College and ACC single-season tackles record, which he set his sophomore year, then broke again his junior year, also broke the ACC career tackles record in just three years...
Simply a ball hawk, always ends up near the play and finishes, has an incredible motor... Does not shy away from contact in any form, will take on blockers and wade through traffic at full speed to make a tackle...
Has pretty good size for the position, could stand to add some bulk, but looks like a good fit as a weak-side linebacker or on the inside in a 3-4... Is a cerebral linebacker, diagnoses plays very quickly and displays incredible instincts, shows great discipline and is rarely out of position...
No durability issues to speak of, despite high motor and reckless abandon on the field... Has the potential to be a highly productive linebacker immediately in the NFL and his style of play would work best playing for a team with a very good defensive line... Winner of the Lombardi, Lott IMPACT, and Nagurski trophies as a junior.
Negatives -- Not a natural man-coverage backer, is not especially quick or agile with his back to the quarterback and isn't asked to cover a tight end or running back very often...
Can get a little high at times when taking on blocks or forming up at the line of scrimmage, may have some difficulty taking down larger backs at the next level until he learns to play a little lower... Has decent speed but is not a burner by any means, makes up for lack of top straight-line speed by always being in position...
Not a natural pass rusher, rarely blitzes and lacks elite explosiveness when asked to rush the quarterback from the edge... Tackling numbers are out of this world but makes too many tackles after the runner has already picked up a good chunk of yardage...
Isn't a downhill linebacker that will crash gaps and make plays at the line, his tackling numbers pile up by the amount of tackles he makes downfield... Kuechly is being touted by most as a first rounder because of his tackling numbers and incredible instincts but he's no more than an average athlete and below average strength."
Kuechly has a ridiculous 80 solo tackles and 70 assists through nine games for a horrendous Golden Eagle squad. His 150 tackles are a hard-to-believe 85 more than any other player on the team. Kuechly has 8.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions, also best on the team.
Kuechly has good size at 6'3'' and 237 pounds, although he could add some bulk heading into the next level (and there is no reason why he won't go pro; he has done everything he can in college and Boston College is terrible). He generally runs in the 4.7s in the 40-yard dash and has been clocked as fast as 4.68 from that distance.
He is not an elite athlete and his relative lack of speed has never allowed him to be a prolific pass-rusher or sack-master. Quite simply, though, Kuechly has an incredible nose for the ball and is one of the most fundamentally-sound tacklers in the business. His instincts are second to none and those make him a solid pass defender despite lacking the athleticism that most ACC and NFL linebackers have."