Draft Position Preview: ILBs

Inside linebacker ranks sixth in our list of the Packers' draft needs. Even with A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett back as the starters and Brandon Chillar and Desmond Bishop back as reserves, there is reason to add another inside 'backer.

Packer Report continues its position-by-position looks at the NFL Draft with the inside linebackers.

Packers position rank by need

Sixth of 13.

State of the Packers

Leading tackler Nick Barnett and disappointing 2006 first-rounder A.J. Hawk return as the starters and Brandon Chillar and Desmond Bishop are back as the backups. Hawk, however, will make a king's ransom of $10 million in base salary in 2011 — a monster contract for a good run defender. Bishop will be a restricted free agent after the 2010 season. So, an inside linebacker could be a target for Ted Thompson, who is a forward-thinking general manager.

Forget about ...

Alabama's Rolando McClain (6-4, 249) will be long gone by No. 23 and could even go in the top 10. He's one of the best inside linebackers to come along in years because of his penchant for making big plays (seven sacks, 26.5 tackles for losses over final two seasons). He played the position for the Tide's Nick Saban, who called McClain a coach on the field.

Possible targets

— Mississippi State's Jamar Chaney (6-1, 242) is one of the best under-the-radar defenders in this draft. Chaney bounced back from a broken leg in 2008 to lead the Bulldogs in tackles for a third time. He was an above-average performer in his career but really excelled during the Senior Bowl. More of an athletic runner, like Barnett, than a banger, like Hawk.

No. 13: Quarterbacks
No. 12: Specialists
No. 11: Wide receivers
No. 10: Tight ends
No. 9: Nose tackles
No. 8: Running backs
No. 7: Defensive ends

He'll battle to be the second 3-4-style inside linebacker off the board with Washington's Donald Butler (6-1, 245). Butler was seen as a late-round draft pick until a brilliant senior season (15.5 tackles for losses) and week at the Senior Bowl. Not quite as athletic as Chaney, but Butler is bigger, more explosive and plays with great instincts. Of the two, he's clearly the best fit for the Packers.

— It will be incredibly interesting to see what happens to Florida's Brandon Spikes (6-3, 249). Arguably one of the finest defensive players in college football, Spikes' draft stock plunged in part for a one-game suspension for attempting to gouge the eyes of a Georgia running back and (in a larger part) for his plodding 40-yard time of 5.0 seconds. The film must mean something, though, and the three-time all-SEC performer is a hard-hitting, playmaking leader with 30.5 tackles for losses during his three years as the starter.

Spikes likely will go in the third round, as should Penn State's Sean Lee (6-2, 236). Lee had to sit out 2008 with a torn ACL but came back to post 11 tackles for losses and impressive seven passes defensed in 2009. He's tough, athletic and smart, and holds up better against blockers than his weight might suggest. Another third-round possibility is Texas' Roddrick Muckleroy (6-2, 240) who moved from the outside to the middle as a senior. Not real tough or athletic but makes up for it with exceptional football intelligence.

— Iowa's Pat Angerer (6-0, 235) is not big enough and he's not fast enough but his 145 tackles as a senior and five interceptions as a junior show that he knows how to play the game. Fearless, intense and with a definite nose for the ball, Angerer would be a popular selection in the fourth round.

— Like Spikes, Kentucky's hard-hitting Micah Johnson (6-2, 258) saw his draft stock plunge after running a 4.99 40 at the Combine. He piled up a career-high 105 tackles as a senior and recorded 19.5 tackles for losses over his final two seasons, but a torn MCL in the bowl game is a concern for a player who missed time in 2007 and earlier in 2009 with knee problems. Really excels as a run defender. He could be on the board late in the fifth.

— For late-round prospects, Nebraska's Phillip Dillard (6-0, 245) had an impressive senior season, but he also had Ndamukong Suh lining up in front of him and was just a one-year starter. He's solid against the run and pass. Arizona State's Travis Goethel (6-3, 240) started 39 games and surprised scouts with a 4.59 40 at his pro day. Mike McLaughlin (6-0, 242) fits the mold of a rock ‘em, sock ‘em Boston College linebacker. Baylor's Joe Pawelek (6-2, 237) is in the same mold. Miami's Darryl Sharpton (5-11, 229), South Florida's Kion Wilson (6-0, 239), Indiana's Matt Mayberry (6-1, 235) and Troy's Boris Lee (6-0, 238) are all undersized players who can run to the ball. If nothing else, all of these guys should contribute on special teams immediately.

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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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