Ranking Top 27 Outside Linebackers

Why wade through a ranking of 15 players listed as 4-3 defensive ends when you can get scouts' opinions on 27 3-4 outside linebacker candidates? That's what Packer Report gives you as we continue to break down the NFL draft like nobody else.

Here is how Packer Report ranks this year's prospects at outside linebackers, based on conversations with three scouts, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, and the NFL's longtime lead scout, Dave-Te' Thomas.

1. Dion Jordan, Oregon (6-6, 248): Our Best in Class.

2. Jarvis Jones, Georgia (6-2, 242): Our Overrated.

3. Jamie Collins, Southern Miss (6-3, 250): First-team all-Big 12 and earned some All-American recognition. Playing a hybrid defensive end/linebacker, Collins led the team in tackles with 92 and ranked first in C-USA in tackles for losses (20.0) and third in sacks (10.0), which both rank fifth on the school's single-season chart. He added four forced fumbles for a team that finished 0-12, so it was his Scouting Combine numbers (4.64, 41.5-inch vertical, 19 reps on the bench) that got him rising up boards. He started his college career as a defensive back. "He reminds me a lot of Brian Cushing," Thomas said. "I can play him at strong-side linebacker but I could move him inside and I could also play him on the defensive line if I need him to come in on an edge rush. I think he brings more value to the table than most of the linebackers that are out there." Added another scout: "Just unleash this son of a (gun). Now that is Lamar Woodley. That's a kid that I bring in and tell him, ‘Just go for the dogs, my man.'" Thomas called him the "best coverage linebacker in the draft" – he allowed 22 percent completions in three seasons as a starter, with 17 passes defensed and just 27 completions -- and thought he'd be  a possibility for Green Bay in Round 2.

4. Barkevious Mingo, LSU (6-4, 241): Early entrant is an almost-certain top-10 pick. He tallied 4.5 sacks, 8.5 tackles for losses, a team-high 12 quarterback hits and once forced fumble in 2012. Five additional pressures became interceptions. Mingo arrived on campus weighing about 200 pounds. He didn't start playing football until his junior year at West Monroe (La.) High. A fast learner, he was an all-state linebacker during both seasons. A track star, he ran the final leg on the championship 400-meter relay and placed fifth in the 200 and sixth in the 400. He shows that speed at the Combine with a 4.58 in the 40 with a 37-inch vertical. Despite starting just three games in 2011, he led the team with seven sacks 15 tackles for losses. "I look at Mingo and he is a major league (crap) disturber. John Abraham is the best way I can describe Mingo," Thomas said.

5. Bjoern Werner, Florida State (6-3, 266): Early entrant was considered a potential top-five pick after tying for third nationally with 13 sacks and 18 tackles for losses in 2012. But he ran 4.83 in the 40 with a 31-inch vertical at the Combine. "He's not going way before Green Bay," a scout said. "He might be there for them. I think you've got a better version of him in Nick Perry." He was a finalist for the Hendricks Award and a consensus All-American. His first time playing football was flag football when he was 15 and living in Berlin. Only two Germans have been drafted: Patriots lineman Sebastian Vollmer and Giants defensive lineman Markus Kuhn. Werner, whose introduction to some of the "finer points" of football came from a long-lost friend named Mirko and playing "Madden" video games, was a German exchange student who played only two years of football in the States before landing at Florida State. He played club football in Germany and two years at a prep school in Salisbury, Conn.

6. Corey Lemonier, Auburn (6-3, 255): Early entrant was first-team all-SEC as a sophomore and second-team in 2012. He started the season with a bang with five sacks in the first four games but had just one-half sack over the final eight games. He tallied 9.5 sacks in 2011. Moved up boards with a 4.60 in the 40 and 27 reps at the Combine. He has the potential to be a quality all-around linebacker because of his speed, strength, long arms (34.5 inches) and change-of-direction ability in coverage. "You know, I'm torn on him," Thomas said. "I definitely feel he's not a (4-3) defensive end. Could he play linebacker? In a 3-4, he's got some (Lamar) Woodley characteristics to him but he also has a lot of Vernon Gholston, so I'm not sure what I'm going to get out of this guy."

7. Cornelius Washington, Georgia (6-4, 265): Had just one-half sack, three tackles for losses and 24 tackles as a senior while mostly playing defensive end in Georgia's 3-4 scheme. He had five sacks in 12 games (six starts) as a junior playing mostly outside linebacker. He's a two-time member of the Athletic Director's Honor Roll. He was arrested for DUI in 2011 and suspended for two games. "The biggest sleeper in the SEC," Thomas said. "This is a kid that can step in and play a 3-4, this is a kid that can play a 4-3. When you're 270 pounds and run a 4.5, you've got to say to yourself, ‘Why in the hell didn't they give him more of an opportunity?' He does have some off-field issues but he seems to be pretty dedicated." Added another scout: "He absolutely blew up at the Senior Bowl and Combine. He did not play very well during the season but he sure did at the Senior Bowl. I remember Al Davis, he used to watch film from the Senior Bowl over and over because those guys are playing the best competition that they're going to play until getting to the NFL and there's not a whole lot of blitzing and you can play man or Cover-3. There's a lot of isolated matchups, so it's a great evaluation tool. That guy, he showed flashes of dominance from that game. If you wanted him, you'd probably have to take him in the second."

8. John Simon, Ohio State (6-1, 257): Won the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year Award after tallying nine sacks and 14.5 tackles for losses. He had five tackles for losses against Nebraska and four sacks against Wisconsin. He ranks seventh in school history with 20 sacks and 43 tackles for losses. Simon was the eighth two-year captain in school history. Simon played linebacker at the Senior Bowl. A revered leader, Simon was given the game ball after the victory over Michigan, even though he missed the game with a knee injury. "Love this kid. I look at this kid and see Mike Vrabel," Thomas said. "In a 3-4 defense, I'd make him a strong-side outside linebacker; 4-3, I'm moving him up on the defensive line as my strong-side defensive end. Kid could also play DT, even though he's only 260 pounds. You're going to get a blue-chip ball-player and a blue-collar worker. Me, I'd take him in two and say, ‘Everybody says three or four and I got him before you even thought about him.'"

9. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M (6-4, 250): Moore (6-4, 250) played linebacker in 2011 before moving to end in 2012. Considered a possible top-five pick before a horrendous Scouting Combine, Moore led the team with 12.5 sacks, 21 tackles for losses, 85 tackles and two blocked kicks en route to All-American honors. Moore, the first Aggies defensive lineman to lead the team in tackles since Sam Adams in 1993, was a finalist for the Hendricks Award. He tallied 26.5 sacks in his three seasons. Moore was arrested for possession of marijuana in summer 2011. Then-coach Mike Sherman suspended him for the 2011 opener and met with him weekly to keep him on track. "When a guy comes to the Combine and runs 4.9 and only benches 12 times and those types of things, for a guy who was as successful in college as he was, it tells you he wasn't working as hard as he needed to be," a scout said. "A guy has to have a strong work ethic. So, he's created some questions. Listen, we talk about corners or safeties or linebackers, ‘Man, he can only do 12 reps on bench?' Let alone a damned defensive end. There's a chance he could not go in the first round." What Moore does boast are long arms, great balance and an array of pass-rush moves. Still, the workout numbers are a major issue. Said Thomas: "I think Moore is the most overrated defensive end in this draft," Thomas said. "Would I draft him? No. Will somebody take him in one? Likely. The kid cost himself a lot of money because he's lazy as all hell and never got into the training room. Look at his poor performance at the Combine, especially in the bench. The whole thing comes down to is the kid motivated or not. I seriously doubt it."

10. Sam Montgomery, LSU (6-3, 262): Early entrant. Montgomery (6-4, 260) led the Tigers with eight sacks, 13 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles in 2012. That's on top of his 2011 campaign of nine sacks and 13.5 tackles for losses. He was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, which goes to the nation's top defensive lineman, in each of the last two seasons. Despite playing in just 32 games (he missed eight games in 2010 with a knee injury) he's eighth in school history with 32.5 TFLs and sixth with 19 sacks. Scouts are in agreement that he is better as a 4-3 end. One said Montgomery "wasn't athletic enough to stand up and rush," but another liked Montgomery's quickness off the ball and lateral agility as a potential linebacker. There are other questions, too. "Montgomery, he's had some issues," a scout said. "I don't know that I've ever spoken to someone who seemed like he was so far off the reservation. When you talk to him, you can tell he's just nuts. He's a little nutty and it would be against the grain for the Packers to take him, to be honest."

11. Trevardo Williams, Connecticut (6-1, 241): Played linebacker at the Senior Bowl and that's almost certainly where he projects in the NFL given his size. He was all-Big East his final two seasons, including as a senior, when he had 11.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for losses. He's the school's career leader with 30.5 sacks and added 40.5 TFLs and five forced fumbles. Only San Jose State's Travis Williams (32.0) had more sacks among active players. Not bad for a guy who arrived on campus weighing 205. Then-coach Randy Edsall offered Williams a scholarship after watching him compete at the state track and field championships. Williams had a monster Combine with a 4.57 in the 40, a 38-inch vertical and 30 reps on the bench. One scout said he could see him as a player who could play outside linebacker as well as inside in a 3-4.

12. Alex Okafor, Texas (6-4, 261): Started 33 games during his career, including 32 in a row. He was first-team all-Big 12 the last two seasons, and notched 12.5 sacks, 18 tackles for losses and four forced fumbles as a senior. He ended his college career with a bang by tallying 4.5 sacks in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State, then continued his success with a strong week at the Senior Bowl as the only defender to regularly challenge Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher. Scouts, however, have a problem with Texas defensive linemen and linebackers for lacking toughness and fight. "I'm not convinced that this kid could play linebacker in the 3-4 and I'm not convinced he can play defensive end in a 4-3," Thomas said. "If you go look at Texas' stats and go look at the real stats, you see they padded those stats left and right over there. There is no way he spent that much time in the backfield. Stay away from Okafor until the fourth round. Somebody's going to be stupid and go on him in two or three." Ran 4.67 at pro day.

13. David Bass, Missouri Western (6-4, 262): Our Sleeper.

14. Mike Catapano, Princeton (6-4, 271): Catapano was recruited by the likes of Boston College, Syracuse and Virginia but chose Princeton for its academics. Turns out, he'll be heading into the NFL, anyway, potentially in the third or fourth round as the Ivy League's best or second-best prospect. Princeton hasn't had a player selected since Seattle took offensive tackle Dennis Norman in the seventh round of 2001. He finished second in FCS with 12 sacks and had 15.5 tackles for losses. Three pressures turned into interceptions, and he caused three fumbles. A Combine snub, he put up 33 reps on the bench with a 4.75 in the 40 at his pro day. "He's a sleeper. Oh, my God, that Princeton son of a gun," Thomas said. "If you remember Aaron Kampman, that's what you're going to get out of Catapano. He's my favorite guy among all of the defensive ends. Where he's come from — 215 pounds three years ago and 280 pounds now, high-ass motor. Why he wasn't down at the Senior Bowl is anybody's guess. He'll be the first Ivy Leaguer drafted and there should be three or four of them. He's a,‘Yes, sir; no, sir' guy, then you put him out on the football field and this son of a (gun) can play."

15. Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky (6-5, 250): Led the Hilltoppers in sacks for the third consecutive season, piling up team-leading figures of 12.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for losses while forcing three fumbles as a senior. He had three sacks against Alabama, so don't blow off his production. Smith's 1.25 sacks per game led the nation as he was named Sun Belt Conference defensive player of the year. Despite missing two games with a torn ACL that kept him from performing at the Combine or at pro day, he fell a half-sack short of setting the Sun Belt single-season record. His five sacks against Florida International also was No. 1 in the country. "He's banged up and he has no conception of how to play the game," a scout said. Said another: "He has a ton of ability but he has some (character) issues along with his injury deal. If you got a bargain on him in the third round, you might take a swing because he has starter ability."

16. Chase Thomas, Stanford (6-3, 244): Early entrant started 47 of 52 games, including 39 as an outside linebacker in Stanford's 3-4 scheme. He finished his career with 27.5 sacks and 50.5 tackles for losses, along with nine forced fumbles. As a senior, he was first-team all-conference with 7.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for losses. Of his 43 tackles in the run game, those plays gained just 1 yard. As good as those numbers were, he did not have a good Senior Bowl week and he wasn't much better at the Combine with a 4.91 in the 40, a 32-inch vertical and 18 reps on the bench. "When it came time for postseason action, he looked very stiff," a scout said. "Hip movement was nonexistent. He's a great downhill ball-player but I just think he lacks the hip snap to play in pass coverage. He'll go later in the draft — should have been a two but probably in four."

17. Ty Powell, Harding (6-2, 249): Dominated the Division II ranks with 8.5 sacks, 15 tackles for losses and four blocked kicks to earn second-team All-America honors. He played defensive end at Harding and was an All-America safety at DeAnza junior college; he'll probably play outside linebacker in the NFL. Scouts had major questions about the level of competition, obviously, but he acquitted himself nicely as a late addition to the Senior Bowl. Unanswered are character concerns after a spate of alcohol-related offenses and a domestic abuse charge. There are no doubts about his athletic ability after a Combine of 4.64, 28 reps and 37 vertical.

18. Malliciah Goodman, Clemson (6-4, 276): Tallied seven sacks, 9.5 tackles for losses and a team-leading four forced fumbles. Touted as the next great Clemson defensive end as a Parade All-American, that production fell fall short of Andrew Branch (10.5 sacks, 17 tackles for losses in 2011) and Da'Quan Bowers (15.5 sacks, 26 tackles for losses in 2010). Goodman had the biggest hands (10 7/8 inches) and wingspan (87 3/4 inches) among players at the Senior Bowl. "I like Malliciah," Thomas said. "He reminds me of Lorenzo Bromell, who came out of it years ago, but same thing with Lorenzo: Are we going to get any fire or desire out of the guy? He's very conscious of his statistics and statistics don't play on the football field — 11 guys do." Ran 4.87 with 26 reps at Combine.

19. Tourek Williams, Florida International (6-3, 260): Arrived at Florida International weighing just 220. He blossomed into a three-year starter and three-year all-conference performer, including first-team honors as a senior with 6.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles. "Powerful, strong son of a (gun) but a little light in the pants," Thomas said. "Would I play him out at end? He's got the speed but I don't think he has the recognition skills." Ran just 4.92 (with 25 reps and 33 vertical) at Combine but 4.71 at pro day.

20. Michael Buchanan, Illinois (6-5, 255): Second-team all-Big Ten the past two seasons. He finished his career with 14 sacks and 26 tackles for losses, including 4.5 sacks, seven tackles for losses and a forced fumble as a senior. That was down from his junior season, when he had 7.5 sacks and 13.5 sacks while a teammate of first-round pick Whitney Mercilus. "He just didn't apply himself this year," Thomas said. "He was scheduled to be a second-rounder. Look at how far he's fallen. I would say he doesn't go by six. He's got good speed but the biggst concern of mine is he going to bring it every play? He didn't do it." Asked about middle-round outside linebacker prospects, another scout said: "Not Michael Buchanan out of Illinois. I don't like that guy at all. I don't like him. If you get him in the sixth round, fine. I'm not a fan at all." Ran 4.86 with 31.5 vertical at Combine.

21. Eric Martin, Nebraska (6-1, 237): Martin was first-team all-Big Ten as a senior with 8.5 sacks and 18 tackles for losses, as well as 13 quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. A Combine snub, he ran in 4.53 with a 30.5 vertical and 20 reps at pro day. "I think he's one of the most underrated guys in this thing at the linebacker position," Thomas said. "The scheme they played at Nebraska didn't fit this guy. To me, he's a bigger version of Lavonte David." At least one team thinks he's worth a shot at fullback.

22. Travis Johnson, San Jose State (6-2, 240): Inexplicably, the NCAA active leader and WAC career leader in sacks (32) didn't get an invitation to the Scouting Combine. Johnson had 13 sacks and 20 tackles for losses during his senior campaign to be named WAC Defensive Player of the Year. Fast off the ball and plays with excellent leverage and hands. Not a great athlete with a 4.86 in the 40 32 inch vertical and 19 reps but, "He's a Ted Thompson kind of player," a scout said.

23. Brandon Jenkins, Florida State (6-2, 251): An all-ACC player in 2011 and preseason All-American in 2012, Jenkins missed the season with a Lisfranc foot injury sustained in the opening game. He could have taken a medical redshirt but elected to go pro. Ran sluggish 5.07 at pro day but wasn't yet up to full speed. Through three seasons, he ranked eighth in school history with 21.5 sacks and 36.5 tackles for losses.

24. Stansly Maponga, TCU (6-2, 256): Early entrant was first-team all-Mountain West in 2011 and first-team all-Big 12 in 2012. He tallied three sacks, 6.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles in 11 games (nine starts) in 2012. He missed two games with a foot injury that required surgery after the season. In 2011, he piled up nine sacks, 13.5 tackles for losses and five forced fumbles — just one of four players to rank in the top 10 nationally all three categories.

25. Travis Long, Washington State (6-4, 243): Long tore his ACL late in the season and had surgery on Nov. 21. Playing outside linebacker in the Cougars' 3-4 scheme, he had 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for losses and one forced fumble as a senior. That ran his four-year totals to 20.5 sacks, 42 tackles for losses and four forced fumbles as he won all-conference accolades all four seasons.

26. Armonty Bryant, East Central (Okla.) (6-4, 263): Dominated the lower-tier competition with 10.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles for losses, four forced fumbles and two blocked kicks as a senior to be a two-time Division II All-American. He was third in the nation (and first among defensive linemen) with 13.5 sacks as a sophomore. He was arrested in October on suspicion of felonious distribution of marijuana and was suspended for three games, so competition is hardly the only question mark. He ran 4.78 at the Combine and improved to 4.69 with a 34.5-inch vertical and 15 reps at pro day.

27. Walter Stewart, Cincinnati (6-4, 246): Had five sacks in five games before his senior season ended with a back injury. In fact, his father said Stewart would retire from football because of a congenital spinal defect. However, Stewart got a second opinion and decided to pursue his football career, and he put on a show at his pro day. Just where – or if – he'll be drafted is a mystery. Of the three scouts we talked to, none said his team would select him. "Every team's doctors are different but he did find somebody who would clear him," a scout said. "Some guys have a narrowing of their span but his is a more unusual case. It hasn't affected his play but when it does he's going to fall off a cliff and he'll be done. I wouldn't be surprised if he went undrafted. He wasn't an overly high guy to begin with. Great kid, though. I love that guy. The way that they talk about him at Cincinnati, they love that guy. It'll work out for him one way or the other. But that narrowing-spine deal, it's touchy." He finished with 17.5 sacks, 34.5 tackles for losses and eight forced fumbles in 43 games."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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