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Prospect Profiles: Dont’a Hightower

DONT’A HIGHTOWER, ILB, ALABAMA

TRIANGLE NUMBERS: 6-2, 265, 4.68

SCOUTING REPORTS:

NFP:

A strong, thickly built middle linebacker prospect with a long set of arms, strong hands and muscular looking lower half. Displays natural flexibility and bend when asked to sit into his stance and diagnose the play. Isn’t nearly as stiff as his size would indicate. Showcases good foot quickness for his size, natural balance when trying to change directions and can pick his way through the line of scrimmage. Doesn’t have a great first step or great range sideline-to-sideline. But keys well, is fast enough and showcases a slight burst when closing into contact. Looks like a 4.8 guy when asked to range off his frame. However, is a good wrap up tackler in space. Uses his long arms well to wrap and has a real snap through the hips into contact.

Is a powerful in the box run defender. Exhibits a burst when asked to close downhill, takes good angles inside and has a jarring pop on contact. Stays down, displays an explosive pop on contact at the point and brings his legs through the play. At times will struggle to find the football on some miss-direction plays and lacks the kind of speed to make up for a slow recognition. Does a great job though extending his arms into contact when asked to keep himself clean and/or play off blocks. Has the power and length to stack on contact with the quickness to shed and wrap on the ball carrier. Exhibits “plus” instincts inside and displays a sixth sense of when he needs to attack downhill and run through/take on a block for a negative play or shed and make the tackle. Is very natural making quick decisions on the fly and creating impact plays.

Showcases natural balance and some surprisingly change of direction skills for his size in zone. Isn’t a great self-starter, but feels routes developing around him well, gets early jumps on the action and has closing speed to finish on the play. Isn’t a guy who can turn and run with a back down the field on wheel routes, but is natural in the flat, can cleanly re-direct out of his breaks in zone and reacts well to the football. Used a lot as a pass rusher off the edge in nickel situations. Looks natural sitting into his stance and has a good first step. Loves to work the inside move, gain leverage and overpower on contact. Exhibits natural explosion as a bull rush guy and despite lacking ideal know how to shed, he can push the pocket. Demonstrates just enough of a first step to reach the corner, is violent with his hands when working the club/swat to keep himself clean and will try to drop his pad level and dip under blockers, despite being a little tight.

Motor tends to run hot and cold. Is a talented kid who has the skill set to dominate, but too often doesn’t seem into the game and will get lazy.

Impression: Looks like a potential impact caliber 34-inside linebacker who has the skill set to win inside vs. the run and create pressure on third down as a savvy rush guy as well.

PFW:

Upside:

• Outstanding size and take-on strength
• Plays big — clogs the middle, stuffs the run
• Hammers isolation lead blockers
• Physical tone setter
• Capable outside leverage pass rusher

Downside:

• Leaves production on the field
• Limited burst, acceleration to outside
• Builds to speed
• Limited man cover skills
• Average coverage instincts

The Way We See It:

A two-time team captain and respected leader who stands out most for his sheer mass, take-on strength and physicality. Has played too cautiously since his knee injury, but has clear first-rount talent. Could get looks as an outside rush ’backer.

FF Toolbox:

A redshirt junior, Hightower is in his fourth season at Alabama during what has already been an interesting career. As a freshman, he was as highly-touted as fellow Crimson Tide linebacker Rolando McClain (who was taken eighth overall in the 2010 NFL Draft). Midway through the 2009 campaign, however, Hightower tore the ACL in his left knee and got a medical redshirt. Of course, the redshirt is likely inconsequential since the linebacker will almost certainly bolt for the next level after this year.

Hightower bounced back nicely in 2010, leading the team with 69 tackles and being named to the All-SEC Second Team by both the Associated Press and the coaches. So far this season, on an absolutely dominant Alabama defense, Hightower leads the way with 48 total tackles (six for loss) in addition to one interception and six quarterback hurries.

Hightower has a great combination of size and speed at 6’4”, 260 pounds. He has been clocked as fast as 4.67 in the 40-yard dash, a number he should be able to improve upon at the combine and enhance his draft stock. When he is at 100 percent, there is no denying that Hightower is a first-round talent. He can play rush linebacker in a 3-4 scheme in the NFL while also having the ability to play inside. Look for him to go off the board in the mid or late first round.

VIDEO:

GiantsGab Thoughts:

Dont’a Hightower is a productive, talented linebacker prospect. Played in a 3-4 in college. Tore his ACL in 2009. Good size. Hard hitter. Great pass rusher. Can play multiple positions. Not the best in coverage. Not the best athlete. Doesn’t always play hard. Hightower played in a NFL defense, but there are some questions. Where does he best fit? 34 ILB? 34 LOLB? 43 MLB? My guess would be in a 30 front, because he doesn’t have the athleticism to run and cover ground. With the Giants, however, he could play a “Joker” role. Play Mike and Sam, and put his hand in the dirt on 3rd down, or give the defense some flexibility by putting Hightower in a “Leo” role. Hightower seems perfect for the Steelers or Patriots, or even the Ravens  and I would be surprised if he gets past them. If he is available at 32, it would be worth a look. No, I don’t think he is a typical Mike backer, nor does he have the requisite cover skills, but Hightower would help with run defenses on 1st and 2nd downs, and then be moved into an attacking role on 3rd downs. He would be a favorite of Perry Fewell, because he could be used all over. Sort of a poor man’s Mathias Kiwanuka.

PREVIOUS PROFILES:

QB:

BJ Coleman

RB:

David Wilson

LaMichael James

Chris Polk

Robert Turbin

Vick Ballard

Doug Martin

WR:

Juron Criner

Marvin McNutt

Tommy Streeter

AJ Jenkins

Ryan Broyles

Brian Quick

TE:

Coby Fleener

Dwayne Allen

Ladarius Green

Orson Charles

Michael Egnew

OT:

Mitchell Schwartz

Mike Adams

Zerbie Sanders

Bobby Massie

Andrew Datko

OG:

Cordy Glenn

Brandon Washington

Kelechi Osemele

Brandon Brooks

Kevin Zeitler

C:

Peter Konz

Ben Jones

DE:

Malik Jackson

Chandler Jones

Whitney Mercilus

Andre Branch

Jake Bequette

Jonathan Massaquoi

DT:

DaJohn Harris

Mike Martin

Billy Winn

Jerel Worthy

Marcus Forston

LB:

Luke Keuchly

Zach Brown

Lavonte David

James-Michael Johnson

Sean Spence

Keenan Robinson

Bobby Wagner

CB:

Casey Hayward

Brandon Boykin

Chase Minnifield

Josh Robinson

Josh Norman

Janoris Jenkins

S:

George Iloka

Harrison Smith

Mark Barron

Antonio Allen

Markelle Martin


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7 Responses to “Prospect Profiles: Dont’a Hightower”

  1. Big Daddy says:

    This is the type of player who could turn out to be either a huge bust or solid part of a great defense. He has the tools but dose he have the heart?

    To me right now he’s a 3-4 type defender and does not fit a 4-3 defense with his skill set unless it was 1990.

    Fewell bases his defense on the Tampa 2 system, in that the MIKE plays a role that requires a smaller quicker player, that’s why there is talk of moving Boley to that position. The only real position for Hightower in a 4-3 is defensive end, although he could change things up by moving around, dropping into coverage or rushing the passer from a 2 point stance, he could be very versatile. Again does he have the heart to become such a defender, this hasn’t been shown to be by his play so far.

    The safe place for him would be a 3-4 type defense to let him find his way. He is not a Giants type player and not a Reese type in my opinion. But you never know Reese just might throw a curve ball here because without doubt he does have a lot of potential and versatility within that potential.

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