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Geno Hayes - The Forgotten Star - Part 3

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Okay, this is the last bit on Geno Hayes I'll post for now. I promise. But, hey, after the last two articles detailed his success at splash plays - against the pass and the run - I have one more: his consistent play against the run. You see, when he was involved in a run play, he stopped the running back from gaining 'successful' yardage  82% of the time. Successful yardage is defined as 45% of yards on first down, 60% on second down and 100% on third and fourth down. Geno Hayes' 82% was the second-best mark among 4-3 linebackers, behind only Lance Briggs' 85%. 

This is further confirmation that Geno can really be a very valuable linebacker. He suffers from two problems, though: he can't shed blocks, but that's not all that relevant for a weakside linebacker in the Bucs' system. More importantly, he has a tendency to overrun plays and take himself out of the picture. That's a lack of discipline, although that should improve with more time.

This is something we can see in the stats, to some extent, as Geno only had 44 plays against the run. The aforementioned Lance Briggs actually had 5 fewer plays against the run, but he played one less game and played behind a much better defensive line which made plays before he could get to them. At the same time, though, Geno Hayes made more splash plays than Lance Briggs and comparing the two isn't as farfetched as one might think. 

Another weakside linebacker in a similar system is Ben Leber of the Minnesota Vikings. Again, he's playing behind a much better defensive line, but his stats actually look significantly worse than Geno's He makes nowhere near as many plays as Geno, and when he does make a play he makes them much farther down the field than Geno does - despite that D-line. And then there are the similarity scores of Football Outsiders: which players are most similar. For 2010, that'd be Thomas Davis' '07 season. Davis was a competent starter in '07 for the Panthers, but exploded in 2008 and was again much improved in '09 before injuring his knee which seems to have ended his career.

If we look at a longer period of time, Geno Hayes resembles Angelo Crowell and Pisa Tinoisamoa most. Crowell was a very good linebacker who the Bucs actually tried to bring in, but who couldn't get on the field because of injuries. Tinoisamoa was a good linebacker for some poor Rams teams, and has been a starting linebacker for the Bears when healthy these past two seasons. If these comparisons hold water, Geno Hayes will turn out to be just fine as a starter in the NFL, and will actually get better. 

Of course, Geno has been in the league since 2008 and has been the starter for two years now. So how likely is it that he's still going to get better? Pretty big, actually, because Geno's just 23 years old - no older than most 2011 draftees, and actually a little younger in some cases. He's still  very young player, which means there's not only a lot of room to grow for him, but also a long career ahead of him.