Aaron Hansford is a sixth-year senior linebacker who originally came to Texas A&M as a wide receiver. He redshirted his freshman year and saw limited action at receiver over the next two years. Going into his junior year, Hansford made the transition from receiver to linebacker and that was the move that jumpstarted his career. Over the next three years, Hansford continued to develop his skills at linebacker and finished his last season with eighty-nine tackles and two sacks. As a player, Hansford is a very physical linebacker that loves violent collisions with ball-carriers. Hansford is an inside linebacker that can be an effective C-gap-to-C-gap player. Outside of the box, Hansford looks to have limited athleticism and could be a mismatch issue against running backs coming out of the backfield. Early on in his NFL career, Hansford will be best served to primarily play on early downs while he develops his pass coverage ability.
Ideal Role: First and second down inside linebacker
Scheme Fit: 3-4 scheme
Written by Keith Sanchez
Games watched: Mississippi State (2021), Alabama (2021), Ole Miss (2021), Auburn (2021)
Best Game Studied: Auburn (2021)
Worst Game Studied: Ole Miss (2021)
Tackling: As a tackler, Hansford plays with a physical presence and invites violent collisions. He is a full-body tackler that likes to wrap ball-carriers up and drive them back. Hansford has the power to knock back tacklers and stop them in their tracks.
Football IQ/Instincts: At Texas A&M, Hansford aligns in multiple positions and does them effectively. Hansford appears to have a good understanding of gap integrity when he is aligned at both inside and outside linebacker as an edge rusher. The one aspect of Hansford’s instincts that he could improve is his ability to decipher between runs and play-action. Hansford often bites in too hard on run-action fakes and quarterbacks are able to take advantage by simply throwing the football at the location he vacated.
Competitive Toughness: Hansford shows to be a tough-nosed, gritty player. At the linebacker position, he thrives in head-on collisions with offensive linemen trying to block him in the run game. Once he identifies run, he plays downhill and looks to out-physical offensive linemen. He is a physical presence at the inside linebacker position for the Aggies.
Pass Coverage: In his pass coverage, Hansford can use a lot of improvement. In man-to-man matchups, Hansford struggles to keep up with backs out of the backfield. He also has limited down-the-field speed which limits how far down the field he can cover TEs and receivers running up the seam.
Run Defending: Hansford thrives as a run defending linebacker. From the ILB position Hansford does a good job diagnosing the run well and quickly triggering downhill towards the line of scrimmage. Hansford is a reliable c gap to c gap run defending linebacker that I believe will be best suited on early downs and in situations where there is a high probability for run plays.
Block Deconstruction: To deconstruct blocks Hansford utilizes his overall strength and size. Hansford has the size to meet offensive lineman in the hole and stop them from working to the second level effectively. He has the overall length and strength to lock and shed them quickly to free himself to get to the ball-carrier. All of Hansford’s physical traits aid him in being an effective run-stopping linebacker.
Lateral Mobility: When Hansford has to use his lateral mobility to work sideline to sideline, he struggles in multiple areas to be an efficient run defender. Hansford appears to lack the overall speed to close to ball carriers. Hansford also struggles when he has to plant a foot in the ground and redirect, as his limited athleticism forces him to take multiple steps to regather himself and then plant to change directions.
Flexibility: There are many aspects of Hansford’s game that highlight his limited flexibility as a player. When Hansford is dropping in zone coverage, he appears to have stiffness in his hips that hinders him from making his hip-flip transition fluid and quick. Hansford also plays in an upright position that affects his ability to react to running backs’ lateral movements. Hansford is a linebacker that is best working in linear situations. Anything that requires him to move laterally he struggles.
Leadership: Hansford’s leadership is shown in two ways. I believe that his physical presence at the linebacker position motivates his teammates. When he delivers a big blow to a ball-carrier, it re-energizes the defense. Hansford shows that he understands the defense and can assist in getting his teammates aligned in the proper alignments.
Versatility: Hansford has some value as a versatile defender due to his size and length. Hansford’s length allows him to line up as an edge rusher and use his arm length to effectively set the edge as a run defender. While Hansford has great length, he looks to be raw as a pass rusher—so for him to be an effective rusher, he would need to be developed in this area of his game.
TDN Consensus: 67.25/100 (Seventh Round Value)
Crabbs Grade: 71.00/100
Sanchez Grade: 64.50/100