While there are about a handful of solid senior prospects all the linebacker positions will be junior driven. The more talent that comes from the ranks of the underclassmen, the stronger this position will be next April. Here are a few scouting reports on the top prospects at both inside and outside linebacker.
Scouting Report: Derrick Johnson School: Texas
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 230 40: 4.55 Yr: 4Sr
The Good: Explosive athlete that forces the action up the field. Displays good range, covers a lot of area and makes plays in any direction of the field. Outstanding in pursuit, easily cuts the corners off from running backs and quick filling gaps up the field. Hard-hitting and brings it down on opposing ball carriers.
The Bad: Not efficient, instinctive or quick in his head. Bites on play action passes and gets caught out of position. Takes a lot of missteps as well as incorrect angles to the action.
The Skinny: Physically, Johnson is far and away the best senior linebacker in this draft. That said his propensity to take himself out of the action is a concern. Has the ability to play several linebacker positions but should be most effective on the strong side in a system that does not require him to do a lot of thinking.
Scouting Report: Darryl Blackstock School: Virginia
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 235 40: 4.65 Yr: 3Jr
The Good: Athletic outside linebacker effective defending the run or covering the pass. Moves well laterally, displays pursuit speed from the backside and the ability to string plays out to the flanks. Disciplined, reads the action and stays with assignments. Covers a lot of area on the field and displays good range. Plays with leverage and knee bend. Strong and defeats blocks.
The Bad: Must improve his footwork in reverse as he does more turning and chasing in in pass defense rather than actual covering.
The Skinny: A solid athlete that's improved as a player every season, Blackstock is rounding out his entire game and possesses the potential to be a three down defender. Once he learns to make plays in reverse as efficiently as he does up the field Blackstock will he a hot commodity and an early draft choice.
Scouting Report: Kevin Burnett School: Tennessee
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 235 40: 4.61 Yr: 5Sr
The Good: Outstanding athlete that forces the action; breaks down well bending his knees, plays with leverage and explosive. Fast off the corner on the blitz, a display speed to the flanks and possesses excellent range. Moves well laterally and also gets depth on pass drops. Fluid changing direction and immediately alters his angle of attack or redirects to the ball carrier. Plays with excellent balance and rarely off his feet. Effectively uses his hands to stay off blocks and wraps up tackling.
The Bad: Not quick in his head, lacks top instincts and at times slow locating the ball. Not decisive and does more chasing then actual covering in pass defense. Has a history of knee injuries.
The Skinny: An outstanding athlete that displays flashes of brilliance while also showing steady progress on the football field, Burnett offers a lot of upside potential for the next level. Can quickly start on either the weak side or strong side but must stay healthy and have his mental abilities catch up to the standout physical skills he possesses.
Scouting Report: Kevin Simon School: Tennessee
Ht: 5-10 Wt: 225 40: 4.55 Yr: 4Jr
The Good: Explosive and athletic linebacker excellent in pursuit. Breaks down well, bends his knees and stays on his feet off the initial hit. Displays lateral speed, scrapes to the flanks and chases then catches ball carriers from the backside. Makes plays sideline-to-sideline. Possesses both explosion and suddenness. Disciplined and stays with assignments.
The Bad: Undersized and slow getting off blocks.
The Skinny: An outstanding combination of speed and instinct, Simon possesses good upside for the next level. Projects well to the weak-side or possibly inside linebacker in a three-four scheme. Will only get better as his as he physically matures.
Scouting Report: Cameron Vaughn School: LSU
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 222 40: 4.60 Yr: 3Jr
The Good: Athletic linebacker effective in pursuit. Breaks down playing with good lean and leverage. Moves well laterally, displays speed up the field and also gets depth on pass drops. Effectively uses hand technique to stay off blocks, redirects to the action and fast pursuing to the play. Smart in his head, picks up assignments and does a good job making the defensive calls.
The Bad: Does not play with great body control and over-pursues the action. Slow getting off blocks once engaged at the point. The Skinny: Physically gifted, Vaughn makes a lot of plays on the ball in any direction of the field. Stands out on film and a solid prospect for the future.
Scouting Report: DeMarcus Ware School: Troy State
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 235 40: 4.63 Yr: 4Sr
The Good: Collegiate defensive lineman who projects to outside linebacker at the next level. Leverage defender that keeps his pads low to the ground, moves well laterally and makes plays up and down the line of scrimmage, chasing the action. Displays speed off the edge, plays with exceptional balance and immediately alters his angle of attack. Physical and likes to get involved in the action. Effective if asked to twist or stunt and uses his hands to stay off blocks.
The Bad: Slow shedding blocks or easily knocked off his feet by bigger opponents. Lacks great first step quickness out of a three-point stance. Mentally hesitant and not quick locating the ball.
The Skinny: An outstanding athlete with exceptional size\speed numbers, Ware possesses the versatility to be used at several spots in the NFL. May be tried as a rush end on the outside of a 3-4 alignment and has excellent potential as a strong side linebacker should he prove the ability to play in space.
Scouting Report: Ahmad Brooks School: Virginia
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 240 40: 4.71 Yr: 3So
The Good: Exciting middle linebacker that dominates play. Quick in his head, immediately diagnoses the action reading either running or pass assignments. Flashes on the scene, moves laterally with speed and always willing to get involved in the action. Plays with reckless abandon and throws his body around the field. Explosive filling gaps in run defense and holds his ground against blocks. Solid skill in pass coverage staying with backs downfield then locating the ball.
The Bad: Only marginal closing speed. Must improve his blitz skills.
The Skinny: A complete linebacker and three down defender, Brooks made his mark upon immediately arriving at Virginia. Continually improves and offers a large upside for the next level. A prospect that will be selected during the initial 32 picks whenever he enters the draft.
Scouting Report: Odell Thurman School: Georgia
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 230 40: 4.75 Yr: 3Jr
The Good: Explosive linebacker that projects to either the middle or on the outside. Immediately diagnoses the action, flashes on the scene and displays quickness in all aspects of the game. Gets depth on drops, displays good range and the ability to make plays sideline-to-sideline. Exceptional playing speed and possesses a good degree of suddenness. Runs well to the ball, displays good hand technique getting off blocks and has a closing burst of speed. Packs a wallop at the point of attack.
The Bad: Not overly efficient and wastes a lot of motion. Undersized and slowed by blocks.
The Skinny: An athletic prospect with an excellent combination of speed and quickness, Thurman can play any number of linebacker spots in different schemes. Needs to refine his game and play with better control but a top 45 prospect whenever he enters the draft.
Scouting Report: Barrett Ruud School: Nebraska
Ht: 6-1.5 Wt: 240 40: 4.72 Yr: 4Sr
The Good: Intelligent defender with outstanding instincts. Quickly diagnoses the action, takes good angles to the play and gets through the trash laterally pursuing the action. Breaks down well, holds his ground against blocks and stays on his feet. Solid sideline-to-sideline pursuit skills with the ability to cut off the corners from running backs
The Bad: Does not get depth on pass drops and has difficulty covering tight ends downfield. Lacks top first step quickness and not explosive.
The Skinny: A quick learner with outstanding football intelligence, Ruud is always in a position to make plays on the ball handler. Possesses adequate size as well timed speed, all of which could help him develop into a three down defender at the next level.
Scouting Report: Lance Mitchell School: Oklahoma
Ht: 6-2 Wt: 245 40: 4.75 Yr: 5Sr
The Good: Explosive linebacker with outstanding speed and strength. Hard worker that gets off blocks and consistently makes plays on the ball carrier. Displays solid sideline-to-sideline range, the ability to change direction as well as playing balance. Disciplined and stays within himself, quickly locating the ball.
The Bad: Tore a ligament in his left knee at the start of the 2003 season, causing him to miss the remainder of the year. Times poorly for the stopwatch.
The Skinny: A hard working three down defender, Mitchell has been known as a consistent producer in college. And while a solid football player, the health of his surgically repaired knee coupled with timings in the 40 prior to the draft will ultimately dictate where he is selected.
Scouting Report: Abdul Hodge School: Iowa
Yr: 4Jr Ht: 6-2 Wt: 230 40: 4.65
The Good: Explosive linebacker with outstanding range. Quickly picks up assignments, diagnoses the action and gets depth on drops. Effectively uses hand technique to stay off blocks, quickly fills gaps in run defense and wraps up tackling. Good athlete with the ability to make plays sideline-to-sideline.
The Bad: Not decisive in pass coverage. Takes false steps and not efficient.
The Skinny: A hard working defender with a good feel for the position, Hodge is a prospect that can play several linebacker spots. Developing into a three down defender and will be a first day pick once he improves his pass cover skills.
Scouting Report: Adam Seward School: UNLV
Yr: 5Sr Ht: 6-1.5 Wt: 235 40: 4.82
The Good: Nasty, two down defender, explosive stuffing the run. Breaks down well, takes good angles the action and displays the ability to get off blocks. Stays on his feet, jolts ball carriers at the point of attack and wraps up tackling. Quick to key or diagnose the action and explosive filling gaps up field.
The Bad: Does not display great lateral movement skills nor does he cover a lot of area on the field. Gets depth on pass drops but does more chasing then actual covering when the ball's in the air.
The Skinny: Tough as nails, Seward loves physical contact and is an excellent run defending middle linebacker. Has limitations in pass coverage but solid consideration in the middle frames.