2009 Draft Countdown: Inside Linebackers

With the 2009 NFL draft only days away, we offer our extensive position-by-position breakdown. Each report includes an analysis of the Dolphins' status at the position, the likelihood of a draft pick being spent at the position, a look at which prospects the Dolphins have worked out or visited with, a list of the top prospects, and the sleepers. We continue with the inside linebackers.

Where the Dolphins stand: The Dolphins will bring back last year's group intact, and that probably is a surprise because starter Channing Crowder had been expected to leave as a free agency before he wound up re-signing with Miami. Also back are fellow starter Akin Ayodele, as well as versatile backup Reggie Torbor. There is no other pure inside linebacker on the roster, although some of the outside linebackers probably could swing inside in an emergency situation.

Likelihood of the Dolphins using a pick at the position: The issue at linebacker is finding an impact player on the outside opposite Joey Porter, but that's not to say the Dolphins couldn't use an upgrade inside as well. Crowder and Ayodele were solid last season, but neither made a lot of impact plays. Because the Dolphins have more pressing needs at OLB, WR and CB, the inside linebacker position probably won't be addressed until the second day, but if the right guy is available, don't be shocked to see an inside linebacker (say, James Laurinaitis from Ohio State) become the Dolphins' first-round pick.

The top prospects: 1. Rey Maualuga, USC; 2. James Laurinaitis, Ohio State; 3. Darry Beckwith, LSU; 4. Gerald McRath, Southern Miss; 5. Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina; 6. Scott McKillop, Pittsburgh; 7. Jason Phillips, TCU; 8. Dannell Ellerbe, Georgia; 9. Josh Mauga, Nevada; 10. Frantz Joseph, Florida Atlantic

Summary: While there is an abundance of top-notch outside linebacker prospects in this year's draft, the same can't be said for the inside linebacker position. Maualuga, who has drawn comparisons to Junior Seau, clearly is the best prospect at the position. Keep an eye on McKillop, an undersized prospect with limited physical tools who's got a lot of Zach Thomas in him.

Sleepers: Andy Schantz, Portland State

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