Scouting the LB prospects

As part of our series previewing the NFL draft, we examine the top prospects at every position. This installment features the linebackers.

Overall class strength: This has the look of a pretty good year at the position with some top-end talent and good depth. There's a lot more quality prospects at inside linebacker than usual, while there are three of four first-round picks on the outside.

The best: A.J. Hawk, Ohio State; Chad Greenway, Iowa; Ernie Sims, Florida State; DeMeco Ryans, Alabama; D'Qwell Jackson, Maryland; Bobby Carpenter, Ohio State.

The next wave: Abdul Hodge, Iowa; Rocky McIntosh, Miami; Thomas Howard, UTEP; Gerris Wilkinson, Georgia Tech; A.J. Nicholson, Florida State; Omar Gaither, Tennnessee.

Possible sleepers: Freddie Keiaho, San Diego State; Tarna Nande, Miami (Ohio).

First-round projections: Hawk, Greenway, Sims, Ryans, Carpenter.

Quick hits: Hawk played outside linebacker at Ohio State, but some scouts think he's better suited to play inside. ... Hawk, incidentally, is engaged to the sister of Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, who he sacked twice in the Fiesta Bowl. ... Sims has been compared by some to former Florida State star and longtime Tampa Bay Bucs stalwart Derrick Brooks. ... Carpenter is the son of former New York Giants running back Rob Carpenter. ... In addition to Hawk and Carpenter, Ohio State has another highly rated linebacker prospect in the draft in the form of Anthony Schlegel. ... Regardless of where he will end getting draft (if he gets drafted), few prospects have a cooler name than Hawaii linebacker Kila Kamakawiwo'ole. ... Ryans is a former Academic All-SEC selection.

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