2003 Middle/Inside LB Rankings

Although there is some talent at the top, overall the inside linebacker position is weak, as the players in this group are exclusively run-stuffers with minimal pass support skills.

1. Full Name: Terry Pierce School: <Kansas State Ht: 6-2 Wt: 245 40: 4.61 Year: 4Jr Number: 56

"A great athlete and a forceful linebacker; Terry Pierce impacted the Kansas State defense since he was a red-shirt freshman and has great potential at the next level." Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview


Bio: 2001: Honorable mention Big 12 selection and first team Academic Big 12 choice. Had 10 starts at linebacker, totaling 68/11/3. 2000: Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and first team Academic Big 12 choice, starting in the final six games and totaling 38/14/0/1/3.

The Good: Game-impacting defender that has the possibility of playing several different linebacker positions. Tremendous athlete that displays great range and gets a lot of depth on his pass drops. Quick picking up assignments, forceful moving up the field and pursuing to the action with speed in either a straight line or laterally. Squares into his tackles, wraps up then brings the ball carrier down on initial contact.

The Bad: A little slow locating the ball in run defense and does not always take the best angles to the play, inefficiently running around the field.

The Skinny: A terrific prospect in every sense that can be used in the middle or possibly on the weak side. Must improve the finer points of his game, but he's a defender who will quickly impact a team at the next level when he is drafted.


2. Full Name: E.J. Henderson School: Maryland Ht: 6-1 Wt: 245 40: 4.83 Year: 5Sr Number: 45

"A dominant collegiate defender that's been at the forefront of the Maryland Terps resurgence the past two years, E.J. Henderson made his presence known on Saturdays but how does he project to the next level?" Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview


Bio: 2001: Started 11 games; ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, consensus first team All-American and one of three finalists for the Dick Butkus Award. Led the ACC in tackles (150) and tackles for loss (28), also accumulated six sacks, one interception, four pass breakups, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble, and two blocked kicks. Broke Randy White's school record with four tackles for loss against Clemson. 2000: Started ten games, leading the team in tackles with 109/13/2. 1999: Appeared in eleven games, spending most of the year as a backup linebacker but made late-season starts against Florida State and Virginia, totaling 39 tackles.

The Good: Forceful run-defending linebacker that makes a lot of plays up the field. Breaks down well, takes on then defeats blocks at the point of attack and fires through the hole in run defense. Scrapes laterally to the flanks, quickly reading the action against the run and snuffing out the ball carrier. Displays a short burst of speed to the action and squares into the tackle, wrapping up ball handlers and bringing them down on initial contact.

The Bad: Pass covers well in a small area but lacks range and agility; he's better in confined quarters. Lacks the quick, fluid change of direction. Gets sucked up the field and out of position on play-action passes. Must improve his instincts against coverage.

The Skinny: Best against the run when his area duties are kept to a minimal. May also be better suited for three-four inside linebacker as opposed to a pure middle linebacker.


3. Full Name: Gerald Hayes School: Pittsburgh Ht: 6-1 Wt: 245 40: 4.71 Year: 4Sr Number: 51

"Gerald Hayes has been a steady yet underrated defender in the Big East, a conference with a lot of big names and early picks coming from the team down south. Still, Hayes keeps moving forwards and a terrific senior season has him moving north up draft boards." Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview


Bio: 2001: All-Big East defender starting every game at middle linebacker and totaling 104/15/6.5. 2000: Earned second team All-Big East honors leading Pittsburgh with 104 total tackles. Also logged 10 tackles for losses and three sacks. 1999: Played in ten games with three starts, posting 46 tackles with seven tackles for loss.

The Good: Tough, hard working linebacker that gives top effort for sixty minutes. Breaks down well and is quick to the ball carrier. Forceful moving up the field; a physical defender that attacks the ball carrier. Also scrapes laterally to the flanks with a good deal of efficiency. Has adequate instincts and takes good angles to the action.

The Bad: Not fast and cannot sustain his speed. Slowed by blocks and a tad short.

The Skinny: Having a great senior campaign and pre-draft workout results, most specifically his forty time, will dictate whether or not he moves into the top 45.


4. Full Name: Mario Haggan School: Mississippi State Ht: 6-2 Wt: 255 40: 4.94 Year: 5Sr Number: 98

"Mario Haggan has been a true leader on the Mississippi State Bulldog defense and one of the few positives in what has been a pair of miserable seasons recently; but how does he project at the next level?" Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview


Bio: 2001: Started 10 games, missing one with injury (ankle sprain). Registered a team-high in tackles (95) and tackles for loss (12) with four quarterback sacks. Played both defensive end and linebacker during the season. 2000: First-team SEC with 11 starts and totaling 132 /10/5. Caused two fumbles, pressured the opposing quarterback 11 times, and also had one pass interception.

The Good: Hard working linebacker best in a straight line. Heady, quick to read or anticipate the action, and a patient defender that fills the correct gaps in run defense. Forceful moving up the field, holds his ground against blocks and takes the correct angles to the action scraping laterally. Leader on the defense that gives the impression he knows what's happening on the field.

The Bad: Not fast or rangy, and limited in his ability to cover the pass. Not an explosive or sudden player either.

The Skinny: A lot of mental intangibles which help compensate for limited athletic skills. Probably best off as a three-four inside 'backer.


5. Full Name: Clifton Smith School: Syracuse Ht: 6-2 Wt: 250 40: 4.71 Year: 4Sr Number: 9

"A devastating run defender for Syracuse, Clifton Smith lived up to the lofty expectations placed on him coming out of high school and at times looks like a man amongst boys. But is he an every-down linebacker at the next level?" Tony Pauline-TFY Draft Preview


Bio: 2001: Starting 13 games and totaled 94 tackles. 2000: Started 11 games, earned first-team All-Big East and led the team with 108 tackles. 1999: Played in 11 games, starting eight, finishing with 66 tackles.

The Good: Big, powerful run stuffer that clogs the middle. Disciplined, quick to read the action and plays assignment football. Holds his ground against blocks or defeats them altogether on his way to the ball carrier. Strong at the point, squares into tackles, wraps up and easily brings the opponent down on initial contact.

The Bad: Best in a straight line, not fluid scraping laterally and limited making plays in reverse. Not effective against the passing game, has only minimal range.

The Skinny: Two-down defender at the next level.

To view the entire list of Inside/Middle LB's available for the 2003 NFL Draft, click here.


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