2006 Draft Preview: LB A.J. Hawk

Seahawks.NET's Draft coverage continues as our own Scott Eklund begins a series on the linebackers available in this year's NFL Draft. Up first is one of the best linebackers to come out of the college ranks in over a decade -- Ohio State's A.J. Hawk.

1. A.J. Hawk, LB Ohio State 6-1, 248 (4.42)

NFL Comparison - Takeo Spikes, Buffalo

Overview –

An "old-school" player with freakish athletic ability, Hawk will be the prototypical linebacker in the NFL for the foreseeable future. Hawk is intense, runs like a deer and has incredible instincts. Is very aggressive and hits hard, but is controlled and analytical at the same time. Natural playmaker who has few, if any, weaknesses. Four-year starter for the Buckeyes and a consensus All-American.

Against the run –

You won't find a better pursuit linebacker than Hawk. He runs well from sideline-to-sideline and doesn't get caught up in traffic. Has incredible instincts, seemingly arriving at the ball before anyone else. When he gets his hands on the ballcarrier, the play is over. Great feet, excellent quickness and sheds blockers well. Outstanding technique is also one of his trademarks.

Against the pass –

He didn't drop back much in college, but when he did he was above-average in space. He has good hips for a player his dimensions and his ability to read routes by backs and slot receivers allows him to make plays others can't. His one weakness would be that he is not adept at man-to-man coverage with backs and tight ends. Is even better when asked to blitz the passer and has a knack of at least getting a hit on the quarterback. Has incredible recovery and closing speed.

Roster impact on Seattle –

Hawk would be an ideal strongside linebacker in the Hawks' scheme, but he could play weakside as well. Lofa Tatupu in the middle and Leroy Hill on one side, combined with Hawk would make the Hawks linebacking corps the best in the league.

Final Analysis –

If not for the entry of Reggie Bush, Hawk would probably be the top prospect in the Draft. Matt Leinart and Vince Young will probably go before him, but there aren't many defensive playmakers in the same universe with Hawk. He will likely be off the board by the fifth selection and could go earlier depending on trades. Hawk should be one of the front-runners for all of the rookie-of-the-year honors passed out at the end of the season and with his instincts, toughness and athletic ability, expect him to be a Pro Bowler within his first two or three seasons.

Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.

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