December 21, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz (right) instructs middle linebacker Brandon Spikes (51) during the third quarter against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Bills 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
5. Brandon Spikes
Pros: big, aggressive thumper in the run game. Brandon Spikes is still relatively young and is one of the biggest linebacker names out there, because of what he was able to do in the Bills’ defense last year against the run. He can read and react to a play as quickly and correctly as any player in the league, and can attack blockers, stack, shed and makes tackles. Dominant run defender.
Cons: Spikes is also slow and fairly immobile, lacking straight-line speed, lateral speed and quickness, and change-of-direction ability to make plays around the field. He is nearly useless in coverage, and for the Bills generally came off the field on passing downs. He has had questions about his ability to maintain his composure in the past, as well.
Scheme fit: Spikes’ best fit is as a 4-3 under Mike backer or a 3-4 interior linebacker. He doesn’t have the speed to get out to the perimeter, has bad feet on misdirection plays, and generally needs to be surrounded by more athletic linebackers in order to focus on what he does best. He’s a two-down player only.
Market Value: Spikes is a name, and name still gets you something in the NFL come free agency time. He’s supremely good at the thing he does, which is shut down interior runs, and that’s something. He’ll find a role somewhere, though likely it’s with the Bills, now that David Harris has re-signed with the Jets. Look for him to get a three year, perhaps $18M contract.
Would he sign with the Raiders: no. Spikes is too limited a player for a Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton orchestrated defense, which relies on versatile, fast, rangy linebackers. He’s going to have more market value than a two-down player warrants, which will keep Reggie McKenzie away, and his best bet is to stay in Buffalo if they’ll have him, which may be what he does.
Next up: cornerbacks