Ranking Top 25 Inside Linebackers

The draft class goes much deeper than first-round prospects Kevin Minter, Manti Te'o and Alec Ogletree. Arthur Brown, Khaseem Greene and Sio Moore could go in the second round, and A.J. Klein and Mike Taylor add some Wisconsin flavor.

Here is how Packer Report ranks this year's prospects at inside 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. Kevin Minter, LSU (6-0, 246): Our Best in Class.

2. Manti Te'o, Notre Dame (6-1, 241): Few defenders have won as many honors as Te'o. Not only did he win the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker, but he claimed the Walter Camp (player of the year), Bednarik (defensive player of the year), Lombardi (best lineman), Nagurski (best defensive player) and Lott (performance and character) awards. He was a finalist for the Heisman and won the Senior CLASS Award in part because of his well-documented "personal loss." Te'o had 113 tackles and a stunning seven interceptions as a senior. The scouts' views are mixed, and it has nothing to do with the off-the-field drama. "I have a high opinion on Te'o, despite any of the other stuff," a scout said. "I can't discredit what happened in one game (against Alabama in the title game). Granted, he's playing a damned good team that's as close to what he's play in the NFL. His whole team, everybody on that sideline, got their (butts) kicked. He wasn't the only one. OK, yeah, he missed some tackles but the damned D-line was getting knocked back off the ball 3 yards. You can't discredit what the guy did the whole season. In the NFL, he'll be playing with some people who are better equipped. The defensive tackle's not going to be in his lap when he's trying to make a tackle. His character, he's going to maximize everything he's got. He ran 4.80 but Rey Maualuga ran 4.82 and Rey's one of the better inside linebackers in the league. Te'o is more instinctive and has better work habits. He's a better player than Maualuga. I think he'll be fine." Thomas wasn't sold: "Let me put it to you this way: Te'o is a great chaser. Te'o is the type of guy who needs to play middle linebacker but be supported by two very physical outside linebackers. If I want physicality out of my middle linebacker, I'm not looking at him at all." Savage liked him in coverage as a potential three-down player.

3. Alec Ogletree, Georgia (6-3, 242): Early entrant. A part-time starter in 2011 (at linebacker) and 2010 (safety), Ogletree led the Bulldogs this season with 111 tackles despite missing the first four games due to a suspension. He added three sacks, 11.5 tackles for losses and a forced fumble. He missed six games in 2011 with a broken foot, was suspended for a game in 2010 and was pulled over for drunken driving a couple months ago. "Not only Oglegree's character but Ogletree's brain," Thomas said. "Outside of quarterback, my smartest guy on the football field has to be my middle linebacker. I don't think that Ogletree has a conception of what to do on the field but go ahead and tackle people." Said another scout: "He's just so fast to the ball," a scout said. "If it's fantasy football, he's my guy because he'll put up numbers. Now, does he fit what you need? I'd want him to line up alongside Hawk so Hawk can run the defense, but I'd think you'd be looking to eventually replace Hawk."

4. Arthur Brown, Kansas State (6-0, 241): Five-star recruit from Wichita, Kan., who pursued his dream and played for Miami. He played sparingly in his first two seasons and transferred to Kansas State. As a senior, Brown was named the Big 12's defensive player of the year, earned some All-American recognition and was a Butkus semifinalist with 100 tackles and two interceptions. "Brown is the most underrated linebacker in this draft," Thomas said. "Can he play inside? Definitely. Can he play outside? On the weak side, yes; I wouldn't use him as a strong-side linebacker. As far as the middle linebackers go, I think he's got better upside than any linebacker in this draft." Quietly, he's right in the mix to be the top inside linebacker off the board, scouts agreed. Strong pro day with 4.67 in the 40.

5. Sio Moore, Connecticut (6-1, 245): Moore posted a strong finish to his career with 72 tackles and team-leading figures of eight sacks, 15 tackles for losses and 11 pass breakups. In 2011, he had three interceptions and forced two fumbles. Over his last two seasons, he chalked up 14.5 sacks and 31.5 tackles for losses. Scouts like him better than Trevardo Williams, one of the top outside linebacker candidates, because of his consistency. Born in Liberia during its civil war, he came to the States when he was 5 months old. His full first name is Sinorsio, which means "God is the greatest." Scouts love his versatility. "In a nickel package, you could drop him back into coverage and play him in the deep secondary," Thomas said. Another scout joked that Moore would "take his term paper in crayons." That's an exaggeration, but this is not: 4.65 in the 40, 38-inch vertical and 29 reps on the bench.

6. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers (6-1, 241): Perhaps the best defender in school history, led the team with six sacks, 12 tackles for losses, 136 tackles and a whopping six forced fumbles to earn Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors as a senior. It was quite an encore from 2011, when he was the co-Defensive Player of the Year with 141 tackles and 14 tackles for losses. It's an incredible transformation for a player who started at safety in 2010. Scouts, however, don't universally love Greene. "Honestly, it was hard for me to get fired up about him," a scout said. "He takes way too many plays off. Is he super-athletic and does it show up on film? Absolutely, but his motor is very hot and cold. It was hard for me to get excited." Showing that scouts can see entirely different things in the same player, one thought he would be outstanding in coverage and another said he'd have to be a third-down rusher only. "What I love about the kid is I love those ‘hair's on fire' type of guys," Thomas said. "What I mean on that is you put him on the weak side and you let him roam the field, it would be like Troy Polamalu at a linebacker position. This is a kid that if you need spark, if you need big plays, you bring him in. He's second round all the way. I'd take him in two and go home happy." Ran 4.67 at Combine.

7. A.J. Klein, Iowa State (6-1, 250): Our Sleeper.

8. Gerald Hodges, Penn State (6-1, 243): If Klein's not the target, perhaps it'll be Hodges. He was all-Big Ten the past two seasons. As a senior, he finished fifth in the Big Ten with 109 tackles and added 8.5 tackles for losses, two interceptions and seven passes defensed. He was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award. He missed most of 2010 with a broken leg. How athletic is Hodges? The former safety was used as a kickoff and punt returner against Ohio this season. "Gerald's a good player. I'd give him the nod over A.J. Klein," a scout said. "I know you have to look at the intangibles and all of that. They're probably in that third to fourth round but I'd lean more toward third (for Hodges)." Ran 4.70 at Combine and 35-inch vertical at pro day.

9. Kevin Reddick, North Carolina (6-1, 243): Thrived in the Tar Heels' new, attacking defense. He was first-team all-ACC after a standout senior season of 85 tackles, an ACC-leading 18.5 tackles for losses and a team-high two forced fumbles. He started the final three-and-a-half seasons and was a two-year captain. He was the unquestioned leader of the team. His speed (4.72), however, would make him a two-down player – though he'd be an option as a cheaper version of Hawk. "I don't have a whole lot of love for him," a scout said. "I think he's more of a mid- to late-round guy. I've seen some mock drafts where he goes in the second round and I'm like, ‘Woo, I hope that happens because that means we get another good player falling to us."

10. Kiko Alonso, Oregon (6-3, 238): Our Overrated.

11. Jon Bostic, Florida (6-1, 245): Started 32 games for his career, finishing with 237 tackles, 19 tackles for losses, 7.5 sacks, five interceptions and two fumbles. He started all 13 games at middle linebacker the past two seasons. He was second-team all-SEC with 68 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, three sacks and two interceptions. Remarkably, Bostic posted a 4.0 grade-point average this fall. He, like Hodges and even Klein and Greene, could provide depth inside and outside. His 4.61 at the Combine surprised scouts, who didn't think he had the speed to match up with NFL tight ends.

12. Nico Johnson, Alabama (6-2, 248): Rugged run-stopper in the middle of the Tide's 3-4 defense, finished third on the team with 55 tackles and second with two forced fumbles, even though he was removed in the sub packages. A finalist for the high school Butkus Award, Johnson was a three-year starter for Alabama. He's a big, two-down linebacker. "I've got to look at Nico Johnson from Alabama. This is a kid that was a five-star product. This is a kid that came into Alabama and got bounced around. He said, ‘Coach, where do you want to play?' ‘I'll play you middle today, I'll play you strong side tomorrow.' He's the type of kid you need to settle down to one position. If they settle him down at middle linebacker, yes." Ran 4.73 at pro day.

13. Jake Knott, Iowa State (6-2, 243): Knott was first-team all-Big 12, doing so even after missing the final four games with a shoulder injury that required surgery. In eight games, he tallied 79 tackles, six tackles for losses, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He piled up 347 tackles — fifth-most in Big 12 history — eight interceptions and forced 10 fumbles for his career. Knott was supposed to have his shoulder surgery on a Friday. He asked the medical staff to push it back to a Monday so he could play one final game. He had 11 tackles and forced a fumble against Baylor to win Big 12 defensive player of the week. Ran 4.84 at pro day.

14. Jelani Jenkins, Florida (6-0, 243): The early entrant played in 36 games, including 31 starts, and totaled 182 tackles, 16.5 tackles for losses, six sacks and three interceptions. A thumb injury and a broken toe limited him to nine games in 2012 and he managed only 29 tackles. The highlight of his season was returning a blocked punt 36 yards for a touchdown with 2 seconds left to beat Louisiana. He had a 4.0 GPA in high school. "Jelani Jenkins is too smart for his own good," Thomas said. "If he goes back to even before his injury last year, there were a lot of holes in his game. I would call Jelani Jenkins ‘Swiss Cheese.'" Added another scout: "Bostic is the superior player, especially with how Dom plays his defense." Ran 4.67 at pro day with explosive 35.5-inch vertical.

15. Keith Pough, Howard (6-2, 239): FCS career leader with a whopping 83 tackles for losses. He was MEAC Defensive Player of the Year as a senior with a relatively mundane 72 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 10 tackles for losses and one forced fumble. Pough got on the recruiting radar too late. He was a 5-foot-8 receiver for his first two years of high school in Orangeburg, S.C., before getting a chance at linebacker as a junior. Exceptionally smart, well-spoken team leader. Ran just a 4.90 at the Combine and 4.87 at pro day.

16. Davonte Holloman, South Carolina (6-1, 243): Five-star recruit and the nation's No. 2 safety coming out of high school, played safety and the safety/linebacker hybrid "spur" position over his three years in the starting lineup. He finished his career with 207 tackles and seven interceptions. He was charged with DUI in June 2011. Thomas said he was a better fit in a Cover-2 scheme than for Green Bay's 3-4. He ran 4.76 at the Combine and at pro day with 34.5-inch vertical.

17. Vince Williams, Florida State (6-1, 247): As a senior, Williams finished fourth on the team with 59 tackles. He added one sack, tied for second with five quarterback hits, added 6.5 tackles for losses and recovered a fumble. He closed his career with 10 tackles and a sack in the Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois. Williams had a strong week at the Senior Bowl, as a fiery run defender. Somehow, however, he was not invited to the Scouting Combine. Ran 4.76 at pro day. "A late-round, sleeper type, it's Williams from Florida State," Thomas said.

18. Sam Barrington, South Florida (6-1, 246): Three-year starter who earned second-team all-Big East honors as a senior. His senior totals of 80 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles improved his career marks to 258 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 21.5 tackles for losses and five forced fumbles. He was arrested in November for driving with a revoked license. It was the fourth time arrest for driving with a revoked or suspended license. A scout said Barrington is a two-down Mike linebacker. "He's one tough son of a (gun) taking on linemen." Ran just 4.91 with a 32.5-inch vertical at the Combine but much better at pro day with 4.69 and 37 inches.

19. Etienne Sabino, Ohio State: Had 45 tackles, including two sacks and four TFLs, and a forced fumble in eight games as a senior. He missed four games with a broken fibula. After redshirting in 2010, Sabino started five games (played in 13) and had 62 tackles, two sacks and seven TFLs. He's a former five-star recruit out of Miami who signed with Ohio State when he was 16. One of his high schools coaches was Sonny Spielman, the father of former Ohio State linebacker and NFL star Chris Spielman. He started his career at middle linebacker. The Packers have been among the most interested teams. Ran 4.75 at the Combine and showed his strength with 30 reps on the bench at pro day.

20. Michael Mauti, Penn State (6-2, 243): Had his 2009 and 2011 seasons ruined by torn ACLs, one in each knee. He rebounded with a bang, winning the Butkus-Fitzgerald Award as the Big Ten's top linebacker and earning some All-American honors. The Butkus Award semifinalist was the only Big Ten player ranked in the top 10 in the conference in tackles (96), interceptions (three) and forced fumbles (three). He added 2.5 sacks and four tackles for losses. But he tore his left ACL again and missed the final game. Didn't run for scouts but put up 28 reps on the bench.

21. Brandon Hepburn, Florida A&M (6-3, 240): Led the Rattlers with 86 tackles and 5.5 sacks, was second with seven pass breakups and 4.5 sacks, and was named to the Allstate/AFCA Good Works Team. When he's not tackling running backs, he's the president of the Rattler Association of Chemists and during his summer internship found a way to kill certain cancer cells in rats using copper-loaded nanoparticles. Impressive 4.68 at the Combine and eye-opening 4.54 with 36-inch vertical at pro day.

22. Mike Taylor, Wisconsin (6-2, 234): Grew up just down the road from Lambeau Field. He was all-Big Ten in each of his final three seasons. In 47 career games (all starts), Taylor piled up 378 tackles, seven sacks, 38.5 tackles for losses and five interceptions. Nobody had more tackles over the past two seasons than Taylor among FBS defenders. He had 22 tackles against Ohio State in 2011. He missed the predraft workouts due to a sports hernia.

23. Jonathan Stewart, Texas A&M (6-4, 242): Finished second on the team with 81 tackles, including 2.5 sacks. Stewart started seven games as an outside linebacker as a freshman before moving inside. He led the team with 98 tackles as a junior. An A&M football history buff, he knows that his No. 11 was worn by former Packers linebacker Johnny Holland. He looks good "on the hoof," as scouts like to say, and his 4.68 in the 40 was good news, but he has "serious problems diagnosing the action" and has "poor instincts." Added a scout: "Can that be taught? I'm not sure but I'd like him on special teams."

24. Dan Molls, Toledo (6-0, 238): Molls led the nation with 166 tackles as a senior. He was not invited to the Combine and ran 4.71 with a 34.5-inch vertical and 21 reps at pro day.

25. Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech (6-1, 237): Three-year starter who was all-ACC honorable mention the past two seasons. As a junior, he missed six games with a Lisfranc foot injury that required surgery. During his final three years, he tallied 16.5 sacks, 33.5 tackles for losses and 219 tackles. His 5.01 at the Combine and 30.5-inch vertical were worst at the position.

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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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