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NFL Draft Profile: Louisville LB James Hearns’ ceiling may be as a special teamer

The Louisville linebacker has some pretty underwhelming tape.

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 05 Louisville at Boston College Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

James Hearns

RUSH | 5SR | Louisville

Date of Birth: 9/20/1993 | Height: 6020 | Weight: 250

Projection: Undrafted | Player Comparison: Nick Bellore


2014 (1 games): 4 tackles
2015 (13 games): 12 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 2.5 sack
2016 (14 games): 43 tackles, 11.0 TFLs, 8.0 sacks, 5 forced fumble
2017 (12 games): 42 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, 7.0 sacks, 4 forced fumble

Scout Hub Featured Background:

Jesse Fritsch

Tallahassee, Florida native. Four-star recruit according to 247Sports. Unknown major. Redshirt. Played in 2 games as a freshman. Played in 12 games as a sophomore. Played in 12 games as a junior. Accepted invitation to play in the 2018 East-West Shrine Game.


Primarily plays standing up, but has played from both 2 and 3 point stances. Keeps his eyes on the ball and rarely loses the ball carrier. Appears to maintain his assignment and doesn’t freelance. Tackling technique is solid and maintains his fundamentals to bring down ball carriers. Shows some technical ability with his hands and technique, doesn’t rely on athleticism to win.


Hearns doesn’t look for work very often. When the play is going away from his assignment, you see a lot of standing around watching, even in the red zone. Seems very stiff in his movements and doesn’t show good bend on the edge. Plays very upright, opens himself to blockers. Doesn’t drop into coverage often, but looks lost when he does. Play strength doesn’t look very good, nor does play speed or quickness. Doesn’t show much aggression against his blockers, too often playing passive.


This has been one of the toughest players to watch for me this offseason, as I’m often distracted by the better talent playing on Louisville’s defense or the players on the other team. Hearns doesn’t look to have any elite traits that would give him early round consideration, and the few NFL traits that he does have are teachable to a player with more upside.

He has a decent motor and appears to be a player that coaches would like as he sticks to his assignment and does his job. Unfortunately, far too often he’s beaten easily at the line by single blockers and the same is true when met in space. I don’t see much value in him for the NFL based on the games I’ve seen and can’t project a draftable grade, but developing him on special teams with a minor, rotational role as a run defending linebacker should find him a spot in camp and potentially on a roster.


Easily blocked off the line by a single lineman against Kentucky in the red zone, followed up by diving at his blocker’s feet the next play. Got a sack that turned into a fumble against Syracuse on an extended play that looked broken, was a nice inside move, though. Very few positive traits to pull off of tape or to project athletically. Had 7.0 sacks in 2017, but 5.0 of them were against Virginia and Clemson. Hearns was shot in 2016, sustaining minor injury, after a minor scuffle at a party got out of hand.

All Player links:

Game Tape:

Kentucky 2017

NC State 2017

Clemson 2017

Florida State 2017

Mississippi State 2017

Syracuse 2016

Other Links:

Team-Team Page

Draft Profile-Jesse Fritsch Report

Injury - Gunshot wound