2006 Draft Preview: Inside Linebacker

It is rare for middle or inside linebackers to find their way into the first round of the NFL draft.  Yet when chosen during the initial frame, more times than not the results are good.  For teams with a need at this position, April 2006 could be the mother lode compared to recent drafts. 

The key word describing the top prospects at this position is versatility.  Most all have the potential to be used on the outside as well as in the middle and there are a large number of three-down defenders.  Best of all, the highest rated players have the ability to produce as rookies in the NFL. 

Junior Ahmad Brooks of Virginia is the top middle linebacker prospect and a player who will be an early selection when he enters the draft.  A dominant force, Brooks is an extraordinary run stuffer who delivers the knockout blow and stuns ball carriers with his hard-hitting style.  Also effective in pass coverage, Brooks is a three-down defender with top size.  Turning down the NFL draft earlier this year, all signs point to Brooks' departure from Virginia next January. 

Abdul Hodge of Iowa does not possess the size or strength of Brooks, yet is another three-down defender with possibilities on the outside.  Hodge is a scrappy linebacker that flows nicely to the ball carrier, making plays against the run or in pass coverage.  Undersized, he gets caught up in the wash and is not overly efficient.  Hodge projects nicely to several NFL defensive schemes and is top-60 material. 

Tennessee's Kevin Simon is an explosive defender with a great head for the game.  Possessing the ability to make plays sideline-to-sideline, Simon has the speed needed to cut off the flanks from ball carriers or run with tight ends in coverage.  Leading the Volunteers in tackles during the '03 campaign, Simon missed almost the entire season last year after a major knee injury.  A return to health and prior playing form makes Simon a top-45 prospect. 

D'Qwell Jackson of Maryland is a terrific combination of athleticism and instincts.  Constantly around the ball making positive plays, he is a fierce competitor and another talented prospect that will be given consideration on the outside. 

Early in his college career Freddie Roach looked like the next great linebacker from the Alabama program.  A hard-hitting defender, Roach is productive stopping the run and has the penchant for making plays behind the line of scrimmage.  His play the past two seasons has been inconsistent and Roach needs a big senior campaign to guarantee him a spot in the draft's first day next April.

Ohio State offers a pair of prospects in Anthony Schlegel and Mike D'Andrea.  Schlegel is a solid run stuffer in the box and a defender who displays coverage skills in zone.  Schlegel missed time this spring with a knee injury, something that must be watched.  He was the starter at middle linebacker early last season until he got hurt.  Quite possibly a more complete defender, he is a solid prospect overlooked by many draft prognosticators. 

Former Kentucky linebacker Chad Anderson is a ferocious run stuffer in the middle who likes to mix it up.  Explosive up the field, Anderson flies through the gaps and stops ball carriers dead in their tracks.  Ruled academically ineligible to play this season, Anderson recently passed up the supplemental draft in favor of training for next April's event. 

The Pac Ten offers a pair of solid players in the middle.  Spencer Havner  of UCLA and Arizona State's Dale Robinson are instinctive defenders who quickly diagnose the action and find the ball.  Neither display great range on the field and present themselves as two-down defenders.


 Name School
Ahmad Brooks* Virginia
Abdul Hodge Iowa
Kevin Simon Tennessee
D'Qwell Jackson Maryland
Freddie Roach Alabama
Mike D'Andrea Ohio State
Anthony Schlegel Ohio State
Spencer Havner UCLA
Dale Robinson Arizona State
Tim Dobbins Iowa State
Chad Anderson x-Kentucky
Lance Laury South Carolina
Kyle Killion* Indiana
Brandon Downing Mississippi State
Clarke Moore Arkansas
Trent Bray Oregon State

*- denotes underclassmen

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