Middle linebackers, as well as safeties, are exceedingly peculiar in this way. They don't necessarily have one guy they will be matched up against. On one play an MLB could be chasing a tight end, on the next a running back or wide receiver. It's also not necessarily predetermined who the match up will be, but likely something that won't be known until the ball is snapped. So, decision making comes into the equation. That is something subjective, which everyone has to judge for themselves.
Still, certain baselines physical traits do exist, as well as a few somewhat reliable trends. For one, the majority of MLBs who achieve high levels of success are running sub 4.7 second forties, and often into the 4.5 range. Secondly, a player's agility score (based on the short shuttle and 3-cone drill) does appear to have a significant relationship to their ability to drop into coverage. Thirdly, just like OLBs and defensive ends, a good Kangaroo Score has a positive correlation to their likelihood of being a good blitzer. Nothing is set in stone, these are just the way things tend to go on average.
Being too rigid about what you are looking for here can be a problem. Not many MLBs are going to be great at everything. Some are good run stoppers. Some are good in coverage. Some are good blitzers. Some run stoppers are only good against inside runs, while some are better at getting to the sidelines. It's a mad world! The only ones worth paying serious attention to, in my opinion, are the guys who can pretty much do it all, but they almost always get drafted before the end of the second round.
Despite being undrafted, and being a Blue Hen, Paul Worrilow actually compares rather favorably to some of the better MLBs in the league. He's been picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Falcons, and despite the odds, I'm wagering (my ego, not my money) that people will start hearing his name in the next couple years. Here's how he compares to some of his peers.
Player 40 time Bench Kangaroo Score Agility Score
If the Kangaroo scores seem a bit lower in general, this is because these players are graded with all the OLBs and defensive ends who throw off the curve for the other MLBs. The average result for middle linebackers is probably closer to -0.800 (for now, use that as the baseline for judging these Kangaroo Scores), so all of these players would be above average for their position. The average Kangaroo Score for Pro Bowl or All Pro MLBs would be -0.362. I realize that this makes things look a bit odd, compared to a baseline of 0, but I'm sure you will survive. Scores are shown as the number of standard deviations above or below average that a player is for his position group.
What you will hopefully notice about Paul Worrilow is his shocking agility score that is 2.480 standard deviations above average for his peer group. He might have the highest agility score of any linebacker currently in the NFL. The closest current NFL players I can find are A.J. Hawk (1.891) or Von Miller (1.846). Worrilow also had one of the better 40 times in the 2013 linebacker class, as well as an excellent bench press of 30 repetitions.
So, what did he actually accomplish in his time at Delaware?
Tackles TFL Sacks Pass Def. Int. FF Fumbles Rec.
2012 107 9 3 2 - 1 -
2011 97 11 1 2 1 - 1
2010 113 9.5 2 3 - 2 2
2009 60 4 0 1 - - 2
Now, I'm not claiming that he is going to be the next Brian Urlacher or Ray Lewis. I'm just saying that he is a very athletic guy, who showed steady and solid production in college. The most interesting stat to me is his number of tackles for a loss. This is always one of my favorite stats, since I think it really says something about a player's aggressiveness to go after the play, rather than just letting it come to him. In this regard, and many others, Worrilow does as well or better than players like Arthur Brown, Manti Teo, or Kevin Minter who were all taken well ahead of him (since everybody was taken ahead of him).
Still, you might wonder if he actually looks like he can play...
He might disappear, never to be heard from again. In a league where so few middle linebackers are actually worth very much, I would find it to be a shame if Paul Worrilow didn't get a real shot. Teams seem more interested in recycling a mediocre talent like Rolando McClain. So how does Paul compare to the overrated McClain, who is being given yet another chance despite accomplishing nothing beyond being a former first round pick?
Player 40 time Bench Kangaroo Score Agility Score
Rolando McClain 4.68 24 -0.564 0.074
Yup, Rolando was pretty much just average across the board, but somehow people are surprised that he failed. Paul pretty much crushes him. However it all plays out, it's always fun to bet on a somewhat odd prospect like Worrilow, even if he does come from an a place that is just a puffed up sandbar.
Oh, one other thing I wanted to make a note of is the annual "he's an undersized linebacker" nonsense that the commentators spout about anyone under 6' 4" and 250 pounds. The average height and weight, of the 17 Pro Bowl and All Pro middle linebackers that I have numbers for, is 6' 1.2" and 239 pounds (Worrilow is 6'2" and 238#). People used to always say that Ray Lewis was undersized, when it seems he was very much the typical build for an MLB. So, maybe, people should shut up about this stuff.