“Upstanding citizen. I think he’s a starting Will linebacker all day long. He gives the Vikings versatility.” — Mike Mayock
A converted high school quarterback and successful wrestler (finished third in the state going 40-1 as a junior) from New Jersey, Hodges enrolled early and began his career at safety. He moved to linebacker during his true freshman season due to injuries there, playing in every game (three tackles). Hodges suffered a hairline fracture in his left leg after a hit on the opening kickoff against Alabama in 2010, missing four games. He consistently contributed after his return, starting one game and making 31 tackles, 2.5 for loss, on the year.
During the trials and tribulations of the Jerry Sandusky scandal in the 2011 season, Hodges led Penn State with 106 tackles and also had 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks as a full-time starter and second-team All-Big Ten pick. As a senior in 2012, Hodges totaled 109 tackles (8.5 for loss), a sack, and two interceptions. For the second year in a row, Hodges earned a second-team All-Big Ten selection.
Former safety with short-area quickness to handle coverage responsibilities on multiple levels. Stays with running backs and tight ends in man coverage, comes off one target in zone to lay a hit on the underneath route. Flashes downhill speed to wrap up ballcarriers or force them into decisions. Active hands when engaged, willing to be physical. Works through traffic to the ball in tight quarters. Stays with receivers on short outs, can knock away the pass without interfering.
Has only average bulk and length to take on NFL-sized linemen and tight ends. Does not consistently take advantage of interception opportunities. Lunges and fail to break down in the open field at times so more elusive ballcarriers can avoid him. Can be fooled on misdirection plays. Needs to prove himself a capable blitzer, doesn’t beat blocks consistently to force quarterbacks into making throws. Will get locked onto blocks, doesn’t always play with proper leverage.
GIL BRANDT ANALYSIS
Hodges is a converted safety who is growing into a NFL starting Sam linebacker’s frame -– but he still has the movement skills to bring down ballcarriers in space. Hodges most impressive trait is his ability to cover, however. He needs to improve at disengaging from blocks, but his coverage skills will likely see him selected on the second day.
MEL KIPER ANALYSIS
Hodges has the necessary measurables to play linebacker at the pro level, he can run and, as a former safety, has the coverage skills needed to succeed in today’s pass-happy NFL. He is also a good tackler. Hodges won’t be a huge sack guy or give you a lot behind the line of scrimmage, but he has excellent range and he has the necessary aggressiveness to be on the field every down. He wasn’t always impactful at Penn State and he doesn’t bring a “wow” factor to his film grades, but he will fit in nicely at the pro level thanks to his coverage and tackling ability and his experience in the Big Ten. Hodges isn’t a great prospect, but he should be able to find a home on an NFL roster.