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Linebacker Profiles: Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College

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If you’ve heard the name Mark Herzlich but are not familiar why you have probably heard it because he is the most inspiration story in all of college football. Herzlich discovered that he had cancer and battled it all throughout the 2009 season and returned this year to the starting lineup at Boston College a remarkable feat.

The biggest question about Herzlich is will he ever be the same player he was in 2008 when he was destined to be a number one draft pick after a monstrous year.

Be sure to leave your comments about Herzlich or any other prospect profiled so far.   


Born September 1, 1987 senior. 

Height: 6035 

Weight: 250 pounds 

Hands: 10 1/8 inches 

Arm Length: 32 5/8 

Wingspan: 77 5/8 


65 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 4 INT, 4 passes broken up, 1 QB hurry, 2 FF 

2008: 110 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 6 Interceptions, 8 passes broken up, 2 fumble returns, 2 forced fumbles. 

2007: 97 tackles 12 tackles for loss, 1.5 sack, 4 passes broken up, 1 QB hurries, 2 FF 

As you can see his numbers took a noticeable dip from 2007 2008 to 2010 after he spent a year battling and beating cancer.  But when he was at his best he was a production machine racking up tackles,sacks, and getting his hands on the football. Over the last two seasons Herzlich has 10 interceptions from the linebacker spot which is very impressive. 

Scouting Reports (rest is here) 

Instincts/Play Recognition: Mark Herzlich has the best instincts as a linebacker in his last two years playing in college football 

Coverage: To start the year Herzlich was playing further outside than most would expect from an outside linebacker.  It was an interesting move because it was apparent that Herzlich still hadn’t gotten back to full speed after going through cancer treatments and a difficult foot injury. Mark Herzlich continued to make his comeback case, though. Herzlich made few mistakes in the open and when he did it wasn’t glaring in the least. As the year went by, Herzlich became better and better with his coverage and proved to many doubters that instincts can make up for agility when in coverage

Run Defense: Mark Herzlich can blow up the offensive blocking scheme from the outset. He’s averaged around 7 TFL’s in his last two seasons. In an instant, Herzlich can diagnose a rushing play and disrupt the play in the backfield.  Herzlich’s pure size is enough to intimidate any running back, but his ability to shed blocks has made Herzlich the player he’s always wanted to be

Pursuit/Lateral Movement and Agility: If Mark Herzlich can score well with scouts during the Senior bowl tryouts and time well at the combine, look for Herzlich to be a second round pick. The problem is that the lateral movement we saw in 2008 has still not regained its full shape; as a matter of fact it may never return. Herzlich will use his intelligence to beat the runner to the spot but he had a difficult time chasing the ball carriers this season. These traits will be the X factor to decide whether or not he is worth the risk early in the draft.  

   • Good size with a rangy frame, long arms and big hands
   • Athletic with fine speed, quickness and a burst
   • Very instinctive with a high football IQ
   • Has a non-stop motor and does a great job in pursuit
   • Covers a lot of ground sideline-to-sideline
   • Excels as a pass rusher and blitzer
   • Able to take on blockers and then disengage
   • Nice ball skills and more than holds his own in coverage
   • Has displayed a knack for making the big play
   • Fiery, intense and is extremely competitive
   • Very mature and is a respected team leader
   • Super tough and has a fantastic work ethic
   • Offers some schematic versatility
   • Ample experience against superior competition

   • Durability and long-term health are major concerns
   • Needs to hit the weight room and get stronger
   • Struggles in space and will miss some tackles
   • Marginal agility and change of direction skills
   • Can be almost too aggressive at times 

Positives: Plays with fire and intensity, a natural leader at the linebacker position who embraces that role… Has ideal frame to play inside in 4-3 scheme, but in athletic enough to drop into zone coverage and make plays in a 3-4… Loves to hit, never shies away from contact, forced seven fumbles in four years at Boston College… Fearless and very instinctual on the field, generally stays with gap assignments and isn’t often fooled by misdirection plays… Does not give up on plays, always wants to make the tackle… Production is unquestionable, tallied 110 tackles (81 solo) and six interceptions in 2008 (12 career picks)… Does not miss many tackles, breaks down well and wraps up ball carrier… Battled and overcame Ewing’s sarcoma to come back and play only a year later… Has received numerous awards for courage and leadership… Has the mentality NFL teams look for in a linebacker and team leader.

Negatives: Tends to tackle too high, needs to lower pad level when making hits near line of scrimmage… Does not drive feet particularly well when tackling, uses upper-body strength to wrestle opponents to the ground instead of driving through with legs… Has decent speed, but not as quick as top players at the position… Does not have a big arsenal of pass-rushing moves, mostly relies on upper-body strength to shed blockers instead of utilizing spin and rip moves to disengage… Is able to run with most TEs in college, but may have difficulty keeping up with NFL TEs, is probably best suited in zone coverage… Some teams may have questions about health after battling cancer a season ago.

CBS Draft Scout

Read & React: Rare diagnosis skills. Is seemingly always around the ball. Reads his keys quickly and takes excellent angles to beat the football to a spot. Aggressively attacks the line of scrimmage against the run, but can apply the brakes and change direction quickly if initially fooled by play-action. Run defense: Good initial quickness toward the line of scrimmage against the run. Slices through gaps, showing good burst, lateral agility and instincts to consistently meet the ballcarrier near the line of scrimmage. Good balance, agility and vision to flow through the trash and the line of scrimmage, as well as laterally to string plays wide. Has an explosive pop to disengage quickly from blockers. Has the prototypical long arms, good upper-body strength and good balance required for breaking free quickly. Rare effort in pursuit laterally and downfield. Goes all out, all the time. Pass defense: Gains good depth on his initial drop, staying balanced and ready to turn either direction quickly. Efficient footwork. Rarely takes a misstep. Has good, not great, overall agility and straight-line speed for sticking with his receiver or tight end assignment, but understands the angles of the game, remaining consistently in between his opponent and the passer. Tracks the quarterback’s eyes and shows good route-recognition and the burst to break on the ball. Good ball skills. 

Tackling: One of the more reliable open-field tacklers in the nation. Excellent balance for his size when breaking down to tackle smaller, quicker athletes. Shows proper technique in running through his tackles and his form is a picture of the hit-lift-drive technique. Shows legitimate explosiveness as a hitter, often knocking the ballcarrier backward. Wraps his arms securely rather than relying on impact when leading with his shoulder or helmet. Possesses the long arms and good hand-eye coordination to trip up ballcarriers in pursuit. 

Pass Rush/Blitz: Very experienced as a pass rusher in this scheme, showing good timing of the snap, burst to beat the tackle wide and rare closing speed for a man of his size to chase down the quarterback. Typically relies on his speed or a good bull rush to gain freedom off the edge. Could be that much better off the edge with refinement of his pass-rush technique. Flashes a swim move, but doesn’t use it enough. Must be more aware of protecting his knees. To his credit, he gets back up quickly, but is consistently knocked to the ground because he doesn’t bend and use his hands effectively to slap away cut-blocks, especially from running backs. Flashes the leaping ability to jump over blocks, but isn’t consistent in this area. 

Intangibles: Highly respected on and off the field by the coaching staff, teammates and fans. Was a fixture on the BC sideline throughout the 2009-10 season while battling cancer. Helped raise over $200,000 for cancer research. Earned numerous honors for his courage and outreach, including the Disney Spirit Award, an honorary Lott Trophy and the ACC Commissioner’s Cup. As part of his treatment for the weakening of the tibia in his left leg, Herzlich had a titanium rod inserted in the center of his fibula for support. He battled various other injuries in 2010, including a stress fracture in his right foot and a broken left hand. 

National Football Post (sums it up beautifully)

Impression: Is a good athlete for his size, but is able to play even faster at times due to his instincts. Never quite regained his form from 2008, but slowly improved as the year went on. His medical will be huge in determining his draft stock and if he can prove he’s healthy, the guy can a player in the league.Big Board Rankings 75th overall 

CBS Draft Scout 51st overall 79th overall 

Where the Mocks Have HimFalling (on 1/27/2011) 3rd round pick #70 Cleveland Browns

draftsite 3rd round pick #68 NY Giants

Newnfldraft 2nd round pick #60 Baltimore Ravens

Bartolis Final Thoughts

Some prospects make bad decisions in life or are lazy or don’t love the game enough to be 1st round picks or succeed in the N.F.L. This is not the case with Mark Herzlich he was fast tracked for a 1st round pick in the draft with his amazing prodution and intensity and then he was just unlucky and found out he had cancer. But he bounced back and came back pretty strong to have a fine season with Boston College this past season.

Herzlich is one of the most interesting players in the draft because his ability and talent level when fully healthy is first round. His intangibles are first round, his leadership, and everything about him would make a team proud to have him on their roster and would convince teams that he is a first rounder.

But the cancer, as bad as this sound, is going to intially cost him millions of dollars. This is a unique position for teams. He was not the same player he was in 2008 as he was in 2010. And no one knows what kind of player he can be now. I don’t know the long term effects of cancer and neither will a lot of personnel men. I’m not sure what kind of research is in long term cancer recovery, let alone for Professional caliber athletes.

 But there is so much to love about Herzlich. His instincts are great, his strength is very good, his intesnity,fire and leadership is excellent. He is a punishing tackler, he is a Mean scary SOB on the football field. 

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Previous Profiles 


Gabe Carimi

OL Anthony Castanzo


Brandon Harris


Kyle Rudolph


Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA

Bruce Carter North Carolina

Greg Jones, Michigan State


Mark Ingram

DeMarco Murray


Aldon Smith

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9 Responses to “Linebacker Profiles: Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College”

  1. Steve B. says:

    I think Mark Herzlich was a great LB, and a great person to have on your team, but the cancer treatment has really hurt him. He played the 2010 season, which was amazing, but was constantly beat up, and I think that had to do with the Chemotherapy, and making his bones not as strong as before (had broken wrist i believe). And the real question is whether his bones will be able to recover, and I am not sure anyone really knows.

    Another issue I noticed, was that some reports from the senior bowl was that he wasnt that good in coverage, which is a concern.

    But, with all that said, this is the type of player who will find his way back on to the football field, and you just cannot count on him being out of the fight.

    Although he was a first round talent, I wouldnt feel comfortable using our first 4 picks on him. If he is there 5th/7th round, by all means take a chance, because I think he will fall pretty far in the draft.

    Side note: Bradshaw said Giants told him hes one of the top priorities to resign

  2. Joe says:

    He won’t fall to the 6th round. I’d he is at 5 some team will take a chance on him. He might even be a Tim tebow like suprize in round 1 or 2

  3. BIGPAPI360 says:

    DRAFT HIM!!!!!

  4. Jason C. says:

    Great kid, great story, could be a great player, I still wouldn’t gamble anything past a 5th round pick, it’s still a business.

  5. Dave C says:

    ive watched Herzlich many many times, and he is good to very good in coverage, breaks on the ball better than any linebacker currently on the Giants..and actually catches the ball when throw to him, also unlike any DB on the giants..yes he might be somewhat injury-prone now, but he is able to make BIG plays which the giants have been lacking on defense for some time now…take him in the 3rd if he is there, but i dont believe he will still be around..giants need more guys like him, who actually want to win and not just collect their checks, maybe we would collapse every year if we had more guys like him

    • well said, Dave C.

      I like Herzlich.

      He’s grown on me a lot. I was worried about the injury, but if he checks out medically second round is good value.

    • Steve B. says:

      Well said

      I really struggle With Mark Herzlich, because as great of a talent he was in 2007-08, after the cancer treatment, I just dont know if he will regain that form.

      With that said, we had Pierce, then Goff who were late round/UFA who played pretty good for the Giants, and they showed that Instincts can cover speed questions, and Herzlich is clearly one of the most instinctual LB’s in the draft.

      The combine will really determine is draft stock.

      I like him, but the real question is how much do the Giants like him?

      And Dave C. Brings up a good point, I’ve been thinking these last few weeks, watching teams that are less talented then the Giants in the playoffs, and I am asking myself what is missing?

      There is some missing piece that the Giants lack, and it seems like year after year we start off great, and collapse at the end. This team has way too much talent to have missed the playoffs the last 2 years, and you wonder what is missing? Maybe a guy like Mark Herzlich is that missing piece, a guy who has more heart then anyone else on the field. Maybe his leadership, intensity, fire, etc.. is the missing ingredient for a championship team.

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