Combine Preview: Inside LBs

The Packers are set for 2010 at inside linebacker but they might want to plan ahead for 2011, when A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop might not be on the roster. There are a lot of inside linebacker prospects, but which would fit in a 3-4 scheme?

The NFL's ultimate job interview, the Scouting Combine, began on Wednesday in Indianapolis, with the first on-the-field workouts starting on Friday.

Packer Report gets you ready for the Combine with a position-by-position look at the 329 players on the invitation list.

Inside linebackers

State of the Packers

At least for now, this is not a position of need. Starters Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk are expected to return, Brandon Chillar was signed to a contract extension and Desmond Bishop is under contract, too. Looking ahead, though, Hawk is due $10 million in 2011 and Bishop will be a restricted free agent.

Combine guest list


THIS SERIES
Quarterbacks
Running backs
Wide receivers
Tight ends
Offensive tackles
Interior offensive line
Nose tackles
Defensive ends
Outside linebackers

Pat Angerer, Iowa

Donald Butler, Washington

Lee Campbell, Minnesota

Jamar Chaney, Mississippi State

Phillip Dillard, Nebraska

Travis Goethel, Arizona State

Josh Hull, Penn State

Micah Johnson, Kentucky

Boris Lee, Troy

Rolando McClain, Alabama

Mike McLaughlin, Boston Coll.

Roddrick Muckelroy, Texas

Darryl Sharpton, Miami (Fla.)

Brandon Spikes, Florida

Nathan Triplett, Minnesota

Daryl Washington, TCU 

Kion Wilson, South Florida

Who to watch


Donald Butler
K. Grinolds/Dawgman.com
— Pat Angerer, Iowa: At 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, he doesn't have ideal size but all he did was pile up 145 tackles during his senior season for the juggernaut Hawkeyes defense. He's got sideline-to-sideline range and a nose and passion to get to the ball. Plus, he picked off five passes as a junior. Should go early in Day 3.

— Donald Butler, Washington: Butler (6-1, 244) really improved his stock at the Senior Bowl. Might have gone undrafted but now figures to go somewhere around the fifth round. He's an instinctive, hard-charging player but needs to get better at shedding blocks.

— Lee Campbell, Minnesota: Campbell (6-3, 246) has good size but lacks top athletic ability. But he plays smart and with great instincts. The former defensive end piled up 119 tackles as a senior, including 11.5 for losses. If he tests well, he could be a late-round pick.

— Jamar Chaney, Mississippi State: Chaney (6-1, 241) was named the South's defensive MVP to cap a strong week at the Senior Bowl. A broken leg sidelined him for 2008 but he finished with 39 starts. He's a good all-around player but doesn't really excel at anything. Has superior strength but isn't a big hitter. Could make sense for the Packers late in the draft.

— Micah Johnson, Kentucky: Johnson (6-2, 258) would have been an early-round prospect but a torn MCL suffered in a December bowl game — along with an MCL injury earlier in the season — will send his draft stock tumbling. When healthy, he was productive, earning all-SEC accolades three times. He's got the size, and he puts that to good use in the run game. Might not be a three-down player, but could be worthy of a late-round pick.

— Rolando McClain, Alabama: McClain is the best inside linebacker in this draft. The Crimson Tide run a 3-4, so he'd be able to hit the ground running. At 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds, he's got everything you want from size, athletic ability, production and intimidation. He's a four-time all-conference performer and won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker. Flat-out stud and a possible top-10 pick.

— Brandon Spikes, Florida: Spikes is a thumper at 6-foot-3 and 256 pounds. He's a potentially dominant defender in the run game. Spikes' draft stock fell this season. His 68 tackles and 6.5 tackles for losses are about half of his production as a sophomore. Plus, an eye-gouging incident against Georgia raised some red flags. Still, he's got everything you want.

— Daryl Washington, TCU: At 6-foot-2 and 226 pounds, Washington's lack of size would be a concern but a good 3-4 can get by with one big guy (like A.J. Hawk) and one runner (like Nick Barnett). He was a driving force behind the nation's top-ranked defense. Superb reactions and sideline-to-sideline speed, and could be a real demon in coverage. Should go in Day 2.

Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri: It's hard not to love Weatherspoon (6-1, 241). He's a nonstop chatterbox on the field. It's not trash talking but words of encouragement for his group. He's a natural leader — but you wonder how all of that talking will translate to a group of professionals, especially if Weatherspoon doesn't become a big-time player. He was exactly that in college, with 266 tackles, 33 tackles for losses and 9.5 sacks over his last two seasons. He can do everything and could sneak into the first round, as either a 4-3 outside linebacker or 3-4 inside linebacker.


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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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