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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: LB Tuf Borland

  • The Draft Network
  • January 9, 2021
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Tuf Borland is a well-seasoned linebacker prospect who has illustrated an admirable level of mental and physical toughness throughout the course of his career with the Buckeyes. Borland is a multi-year starter and captain for Ohio State and his career is highlighted by playing through an Achilles injury suffered in the spring of 2018. Physically, Borland is an adequate athlete for the NFL level and his play should be welcomed on special teams units first and foremost. Borland’s ability to negotiate the point of attack isn’t as prominent as some of his other teammates on the second level of a stacked Ohio State defense, but he’s been the player implemented at the heart of the unit for several seasons now. Moving forward, Borland’s play on the base defensive unit will be dependent on how much his defensive line can protect him from traffic; if he’s got a stout pair of tackles in front of him, he has the mobility to flow to and find the football between the tackles. But if he’s placed into a single-gap front, he may find life harder to come by as a defensive piece. 

Ideal Role: Depth linebacker and core special teamer.

Scheme Fit: Even front with stout IDL to keep him clean.


Written by Kyle Crabbs

Games watched: Penn State (2020), Indiana (2020), Northwestern (2020), Clemson (2020), Alabama (2020)

Best Game Studied: Northwestern (2020)

Worst Game Studied: Alabama (2020)

Tackling: Consistency here has been an issue over the years. His motor and role have afforded him a chance to serve as a vacuum tackler and he’s seemingly always in the pile. But when he’s head up and isolated in one-on-one situations, his limited length and tackle radius can get the best of him if he fails to sit and come to balance. 

Football IQ: There are too many reps second-guessing his path, especially for a long-time starter at the position. Misdirection and play-action can freeze him and he doesn’t have the recovery ability or high-end athleticism to mask these issues. 

Competitive Toughness: You’d be a fool to question his mental toughness given the circumstances of his Achilles injury in 2018 and the rehab he completed to be able to play that season. I appreciate his hustle and rally skills. But with that said, offensive linemen can too easily derail his pathways and angles—and when he’s confronted with a block, he does not show the power, length, and separation skills to free himself quickly. 

Pass Coverage Ability: Borland went out in poor fashion over the course of his final few games with the Buckeyes in coverage. His area of influence is low in zone coverage and his peripheral vision to feel route development isn’t where you’d like it. He can get pressed vertically and overtaken by deep over routes. He will struggle to navigate pick plays and, as a result, is late to work over the top and into position. 

Run Defending: His best reps come when he anticipates and attacks the LOS early. He is light on his feet playing forward and can dip down into the hole and create a bottleneck at the point of attack. Teams that wish to challenge him with climbing OL will have success if they’ve got athletes up front, however. He wins with quickness and finesse first and foremost and those that can mirror his angles will get a seal. 

Block Deconstruction: Borland does not have a great deal of punch power or length in his frame to help him negotiate blocks. He’s, at times, caught getting nosy to the backfield and can get suckered and pulled down into unideal real estate, which further is complicated with his lack of success here. He makes life more difficult for himself at times by wandering into bad angles. 

Lateral Mobility: I wouldn’t consider him to possess sideline-to-sideline mobility. His long speed is only suitable. But Borland does have a fair amount of short-area agility and can duck and drop underneath a block with effectiveness if given too much room to align his path to the football. 

Flexibility: Borland displays adequate mobility throughout his frame in all planes of motion—driving forward, flipping to the sideline, or working for depth. He’s not especially dynamic, however. He does offer good natural leverage as a tackler thanks to his stature. 

Leadership: He’s a multi-year captain who drew praise from his coaching staff. Borland is exactly the kind of worker you want in your locker room, but balancing his intangibles with limited physical skills could hinder his ability to have the same clout in an NFL locker room. Coach Ryan Day referred to him as a “professional” who serves as the “tip of the spear” of the Buckeyes defense. 

Versatility: I’d lean heavily into special teams usage for Borland, as he’s not especially effective in coverage. Both Clemson and Alabama found ways to attract him in coverage during the 2020 CFB Playoff and had big results. So while he’s a fine athlete, he’s best served for depth and coverage. 


TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Kyle Crabbs: 67.5/100

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