When it comes to Oregon, much of the focus has been on their impressive offense under Chip Kelly; with good reason. The defense led by coordinator Nick Aliotti has a few talented prospects in their own right including their inside linebacker Kiko Alonso. Alonso was a tremendous fit in Eugene and had an impressive senior year for the Duck defense including 58 solo tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 1 sack, 3 pass deflections and 2 forced fumbles.
Alonso has tremendous instincts for the game of football and has a great sense of where plays are going to get himself in a position to make plays. These instincts are even more apparent in the passing game where Alonso shines in coverage. He is a fluid athlete that has pretty good agility, the ability to change direction well, can flip his hips welland drop into his zones quickly. Alonso does a good job dropping back with a shuffle technique allowing him to keep his eyes in the backfield and react to what the quarterback is doing As a result, he is rarely caught by surprise with where the pass goes and is able to come off his man as soon as the pass is thrown and make tackles on guys as soon as they get their hands on the ball. He can also play man coverage with some against tight ends and some running backs because of his ability to anticipate where plays are going. Alonso has shown a knack for finding himself in the path of the football and has flashed some good ball skills at times and the ability to intercept passes.
Against the run, it is easy to like Alonso’s aggressiveness and willingness to attack the line of scrimmage. His instincts and ability to read quickly allow him to have a good idea where plays are going and to come full speed at the play. He has a good sense of timing and can find creases in the blocking scheme to make plays at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield. That same ability allows Alonso to be an effective blitz option coming up the middle.
In spite of impressive instincts, Alonso is constantly taking terrible angles to the football and having to change direction which is slowing him down. He has solid quickness and is effective in a short area but his top end speed is not overly impressive. As a result, his range is somewhat limited.
Alonso’s tackling style gets the job done but he could continue working to improve his technique to be more consistent and effective. Although his attacking style allows him to slip past blockers, he needs to work on getting better at taking on blockers. At the very least he needs to do a better job being stout against them in order to allow teammates make plays, but he also needs to learn to shed them due to the demands of being a middle linebacker. He also ends up on the ground too much and needs to find a way to stay on his feet.
Alonso is somewhat of a tweener as his skill set in coverage is best suited to play as a weak side linebacker, but his lack of top end speed could cause him to be kept as a middle linebacker or the weak inside backer in the 3-4. With those positions, teams have to hope he can get better at taking on and shedding blocks. Alonso needs to continue adding strength and has the frame to do so which will make it easier to improve in these areas.
Alonso’s ability as a coverage linebacker could get him drafted in the 3rd round but he is more likely to end up as a solid 4th round value with teams looking at him as a nickel linebacker specialist until he is able to improve his technique enough to move into the starting lineup, likely as an inside linebacker in a 4-3 or 3-4, but there is a small chance he could find himself as a weak side backer. Alonso has an attitude, motor, and awareness on the field teams will like and while he is not ready to contribute much outside of special teams and passing situations, he does have the potential to grow into a starting linebacker. If he is able to develop, he goes from a tweener to a versatile defender with the ability to be special. Alonso’s style might remind some of Sean Spence who is currently in the Steelers pipeline and hopes to develop into their next weak inside backer. Even if Alonso never gets any better, his current skill set could have some staying power in the NFL as long as he can also contribute on special teams.