Photo of Tavares Gooden
  • 4.65 SEC
    Top Performer
  • 35.0 INCH
    Top Performer
  • 118.0 INCH
    Top Performer
  • 6'1" Height
  • 233LBS. Weight


Considered the most dominating defensive player in the state of Florida during his days at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Tavares Gooden had a respectable, yet unspectacular career at Miami until he shifted to middle linebacker as a senior. Hampered by an assortment of injuries during his first three seasons with the Hurricanes, he bounced from weak-side to strong-side linebacker until he found a home in the middle.

Gooden is cut from the same cloth as past Miami linebackers -- a cat-quick defender who is very physical with his hands, using them well to maintain separation from blockers. Few defenders display the lateral pursuit skills that Gooden has. He is also an explosive tackler who consistently drags ballcarriers to the ground.

Regarded as one of the state's top players as a junior and senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Gooden was a two-time Class 4A All-State selection, adding first-team All-Broward honors at defensive end in 2002. Considered the most dominating defender in Florida, he was rated the nation's sixth-best linebacker by Allen Wallace's Super Prep and was named a Super Prep All-American.

Gooden was rated the sixth-best outside linebacker in the nation by Tom Lemming's Prep Football Report and was a member of the Rivals100 National Top 100 squad, in addition to receiving Super Southern 100 honors from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Orlando Sentinel Florida Top 100 pick was also a second-team selection on the Fox Sports Net All-South Team.

As a senior, Gooden registered 87 tackles, 12.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He added 26 tackles with four sacks and eight stops for losses as a linebacker and also saw action as a fullback during his junior campaign. He also excelled in track. He was the 2002 state champion in the discus at 181'0" (had a personal best of 197 feet) and added personal-bests of 20'1" in the long jump and 6"8" in the high jump.

Gooden enrolled at Miami in 2003, choosing the Hurricanes over scholarship offers from Ohio State, Oklahoma, LSU and Tennessee. He played in 13 games behind D.J. Williams at weak-side linebacker, coming up with 10 tackles (six solo).

Gooden took over weak-side linebacker chores for the first nine games of the 2004 season, but saw limited action in the final three games due to a left shoulder injury. He would still finish third on the team with 68 tackles (28 solo), a sack, 5.5 stops for losses and five pressures. He also deflected three passes.

In 2005, Gooden shifted to strong-side linebacker, making a pair of tackles in the season opener vs. Florida State. He dislocated his left shoulder in that contest and was granted a medical redshirt. He returned to start four of eleven games at strong-side linebacker in 2006, missing the Maryland and Virginia contests due to a concussion. He would produce 36 tackles (23 solo) with 2.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, three pressures and a trio of pass breakups.

Gooden made his third move within the linebacker unit in 2007, taking over in the middle. He led the team with a career-high 100 tackles (60 solo), including three stops for losses, an interception and three pass deflections.



Positives: Has a linear frame with room to carry at least another 10 pounds of bulk without having it impact his timed speed...Has a very well-defined body with a tight abdomen, broad shoulders, thick chest, good arm length, large hands and tapered thighs and calves...Has outstanding closing speed and burst and, while it does take him time to digest the plays (slower than one would like), he attacks with good strength, above-average range and good urgency, keeping his pads low while taking good angles in pursuit...Has the speed to make plays while in downhill pursuit and shows the ability to easily run with tight ends and halfbacks in the short area...Has the burst to close on the quarterback as a pass rusher, but must show better recognition skills, as he does hesitate and look slow trying to locate the ball on rare occasions that he penetrates the backfield...Aggressive player who will compete until the whistle, but must spend less time in the trainer's room (injuries impact his performance and he won't play hurt)...Has a quick first step to attack at the point, once he locates the ball (can be fooled by misdirection)...Plays low and fast, making him a force vs. the outside run, where he recovers quicker off blocks than when working inside...Needs to get more separation with his arm extension, but has enough pop on contact to shed and stack, when he stays low in his pads and uses his hands to protect himself from cut blocks...When he plays physically with his hands, he uses them well to maintain separation and shed...Has good strength to take on tight ends in attempts to reroute and to control the line of scrimmage (must use his hands and arm extension to be successful there, as he sometimes reverts to using his shoulders too much)...Shows explosion on contact to drag down ballcarriers and has the pursuit speed to generate a long chase (still runs through lanes behind the play)...When he takes good angles, he can sift through traffic better and generate a burst to close...Face-up tackler who delivers a blow on contact and hits with leverage and good wrap-up technique (needs to bring his legs with him better)...Shows the timed speed and quickness to run to landmarks in pass coverage and to get good depth in his drops (must work on tracking the ball in flight, as he fails to locate with his back to the QB)...Can flatten down the line as a pass rusher, using his hands well to get separation, but must generate better hip snap to deliver a sudden burst to close on the quarterback (strikes with leverage, but has had minimal chances to attack the backfield). Negatives: Has very good timed speed and the move to middle linebacker highlighted his downhill running ability and, while he can move to the ball working down the line, he is tight in his hips when having to change direction suddenly...Not the most instinctive player, as it takes him some time to diagnose plays...Bit of a liability in pass coverage, as he doesn't open his hips well to come out of his breaks cleanly and mirror the receiver through the route...Bites on play-action often and lacks a good feel for pocket movement...Best making tackles on the move, as he doesn't use his hands well to fend off blocks operating in tight areas...Injuries have limited his practice time and though he does well in the classroom, he does need several reps to retain plays...Not the type that will play through pain...Struggles to track the ball in flight with his back to the quarterback and must do a better job of using his hand jolt to fend off double teams, as he does get bounced around some trying to shoot the gaps...Gets stood up by the lead blocker when he fails to sink his pads vs. inside rush lanes...Makes better plays in space than in tight quarters (has ball location problems)...Good to take on the outside runs due to his speed, but fails to use weight-room strength when trying to plug the holes...Sometimes reverts to using his shoulder instead of his arm extension and hands in attempts to reroute the tight ends and slot receivers in pass coverage...Can flatten down the line on the blitz, but must be more alert to pocket movement (runs to spots after the quarterback flushes out, missing on the big play. Had only one sack for his career and just 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage)...His hands are a liability, as he lacks the natural agility to reach and pluck the ball outside his frame (has just one interception and nine pass breakups in 49 games)...Transitions well when he keeps his pads low, but lacks that ball anticipation skills to get a good jump on the pass...Must show better toughness and rehab ability with injuries (won't play hurt). Compares To: JORDAN BECK-Denver...Like Beck, Gooden can close downhill like a rocket, but he is not the most instinctive linebacker. He has the speed to give good chase along the perimeter, but does have some hip stiffness in transition that prevents him from staying on the hip of a receiver on deeper routes. He lacks toughness off the field, as he lets minor injuries affect his play and will not play hurt. His marginal production in the opposition's backfield is a concern. He certainly looks the part with his chiseled body. Like Beck, his ability to play all three linebacker positions will provide a team with depth, but before he's regarded as a potential starter, Gooden will have to show more fortitude challenging blockers and attacking the backfield.
Grade Title
9.00-10 Once-in-lifetime player
8.00-8.99 Perennial All-Pro
7.50-7.99 Future All-Pro
7.00-7.49 Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.50-6.99 Chance to become Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.00-6.49 Should become instant starter
5.50-5.99 Chance to become NFL starter
5.20-5.49 NFL backup or special teams potential
5.01-5.19 Better-than-average chance to make NFL roster
5.00 50-50 Chance to make NFL roster
4.75-4.99 Should be in an NFL training camp
4.50-4.74 Chance to be in an NFL training camp
No Grade Likely needs time in developmental league.