LB Ali Highsmith (6-1, 225) – Louisiana State
Strengths: A sensational athlete with very good speed in open space. Has the kind of range that allows him to make plays sideline to sideline. A sure tackler with game experience at all three linebacker positions. High-energy guy who is incredibly active on every snap. Does a quality job in coverage, and he can also get after the passer in blitz packages.
Weaknesses: Definitely undersized and will have to put on some weight at the next level. Can sometimes be too aggressive and will overrun ball-carriers. Not the most instinctual linebacker and can be slow to react to the play. Has trouble shedding blockers and can get caught up in the trash at the line of scrimmage. Needs to get much stronger in the weight room.Projection: Second or third round.
LB Ali Highsmith
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Highlights: Won the national championship this past season as a member of the Tigers, who defeated Ohio State 38-24 in the BCS Championship Game. Registered a sack and a forced fumble that was recovered by LSU against the Buckeyes. Tied for the team lead with 101 tackles. Also recorded nine tackles for loss, three sacks, and eight pass break-ups. Second-team All-American as a senior. Named All-SEC each of the last two seasons. A semi-finalist for the Butkus Award in 2006. A three-year starter on a top defense for one of the best programs in the country. His cousin, Alonzo, was a standout linebacker at Miami and played seven seasons in the NFL. Originally signed with Miami but never enrolled.
JC's Take: Highsmith will not be a very good fit for some teams, especially on defenses that run the 3-4, but he could develop into a pretty good 4-3 linebacker on the weak side. Remember that Lance Briggs was not considered an elite prospect coming into the 2003 NFL Draft and only went in the third round, so a lot of coaches believe you can get away with a marginal talent as long as he is fast enough and a sure tackler in space. Highsmith possesses both of those traits, just like Briggs does. Jamar Williams will be given first crack at replacing Briggs and GM Jerry Angelo remains a big fan of Michael Okwo, but the rest of the second-team linebacking corps is somewhat of a question mark right now. Rod Wilson, Darrell McClover, and Nick Roach are considered little more than special-teams contributors, and Highsmith would appear to have more upside than all three of those players – he has a reputation for being great on the coverage units, too.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.