By Sam Ingro
It seems that one trip to the injured reserve list has made 2012 NFL Draft pick Emmanuel Acho all but a distant memory. Taken in the sixth round of the draft, the younger and smaller brother of Arizona Cardinals’ linebacker Sam Acho, came out with the potential of being a draft-day steal.
Acho came out of the Texas Longhorn program, a group led by head coach Mack Brown that has always prided themselves on their linebackers getting after the passer. In this case, Acho is no exception.
A strong inside linebacker, what Acho lacks in size (6’1″ and 240 pounds) he makes up for in his angles, discipline and ability to tackle in the open field. At 22-years old, he still has time and room to fill out his long frame, so we may have only seen the tip of the iceberg for Acho.
While at Texas, Acho played inside linebacker, but scouts have projected him to play the SAM linebacker role. The position of SAM entails lining up across from the tight end, who is usually next to the right tackle, or whichever side contains the most personnel. Acho’s speed would allow him to get in the backfield to tackle the running back, who is often following the block of the tight end. Where the position becomes most vital is that the SAM must have strong safety abilities in man coverage, often blanketing the tight end, an area that Acho excelled at while with Texas.
Acho’s numbers in college paint the picture for how productive he has been in the middle of the field. In his final year, he posted his most productive season of his career, racking up an impressive 110 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble. With numbers like that, it should have come as no surprise that former general manager Tom Heckert jumped on the pick during the NFL draft last year. Taken just one spot away from surprising standout lineman Billy Winn this season, is it possible that lightning struck twice in back-to-back picks for the Browns?
It’s not only possible, this writer feels it is quite likely. Acho’s college accomplishments alone warrant taking an extended look at the former first-team All-Big 12 linebacker. Acho was also the winner of the 2010 Arthur Ashe Award, a three time first-team Academic All-Big 12 member, a finalist for the 2011 Lott Trophy for college football’s Defensive Impact Player of the Year, as well as a finalist for the Wuerffel Trophy.
Over the course of his career, Acho totaled 278 tackles, 41 TFL, eight sacks, seven forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, two INTs, 13 PBU and 26 pressures. That kind of fierce production would be very welcome from sideline to sideline in First Energy Stadium next season. If defensive coordinator Ray Horton can work the same magic on Emmanuel as he did with his brother Sam in Arizona, we could be seeing an impressive diamond in the rough in 2013.