Position Analysis: Inside linebackers

The Vikings may be set at inside linebacker with E.J. Henderson and Jasper Brinkley in the fold, and that could be a good thing. This year's class of middle 'backers isn't too impressive. We review more than a dozen of the top options with analysis, stats and projections.

POSITION ANALYSIS – This is one of the weaker positions in the Class of 2011 and there is almost no chance that an inside linebacker will come off the board in the first round. Even teams with needs here can feel secure trading down and getting the same player they may be targeting. There is decent depth and there are likely to be more players drafted than the 12 taken in the 2010 draft, but, like center on the offensive side, when a team gets a middle linebacker they like, there is little need to make it a priority on draft weekend. We could see a shop teacher's handful of player (four to five) coming off the board in the first two days, making this one of the weaker groups to follow in this year's draft.

VIKINGS INSIDE LINEBACKERS – E.J. Henderson, Jasper Brinkley.

VIKINGS NEED – What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, there were significant questions as to whether the Vikings were going to have Henderson back for the 2010 season. Anyone who saw his leg snap against the Cardinals in 2009 knows the concerns the organization had that the injury could be career-threatening. Fortunately, the team had drafted Brinkley in the 2009 draft and he stepped in as Henderson's replacement. While Henderson made a full recovery, there are some questions about his durability moving forward. But, seeing as the Vikings run a 4-3 defense, they are likely to keep only two middle linebackers on their final 53-man roster, which means that it almost certain that Henderson and Brinkley will be those two, so it wouldn't be shocking to see the Vikings ignore middle linebacker completely in the draft.

THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Greg Jones, Michigan State, 6-1, 240 –
Fourth-year senior…Became a starter midway through his freshman season and started 46 of 52 career games…Recorded a whopping 465 tackles with 46.5 tackles for a loss, 16.5 sacks and two interceptions…The first freshman in 35 years to lead the team in tackles…Led the Big Ten in tackles with 154 in 2009…Excellent instincts with elite read-and-react skills…Uses his hands to consistently get through blocks and to the ball-carrier…Strong tackler who wraps up and hits with some pop…Has good lateral quickness and agility to get outside…A vocal team leader…Can flip his hips and run with RBs and TEs…Doesn't have good top-end speed…Is not strong in terms of taking on defenders head-up at the point of attack…Has short arms and blockers can get into his body…Moved from strongside to the middle during his career, so his experience at making line calls is somewhat limited and his production dropped…Ran a 4.75 40 at the Combine with 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 31½-inch vertical jump and a 9-9 broad jump.
PROJECTION: In a class that doesn't have a first-round prospect, a durable four-year starter at a major program gives Jones an edge. He isn't going to be a dominating banger, but he does a lot of thing right and would be good fit for a 3-4 team in the second round.

Martez Wilson, Illinois, 6-4, 250 – Fourth-year junior who missed the entire 2009 season with a neck injury that required surgery…Started just 21 of 38 career games…His only year as a full-time starter in 2010, he made 112 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks and four passes defensed…Had a horrible childhood that included living briefly in a Twin Cities homeless shelter…A high school All-American…Got stabbed in 2009 coming to the aid of a teammate in a bar fight near campus…Ideal size and arm length. Has good burst off the line and makes plays by out-quicking everyone else…Uses hands to get past blockers and wraps up tackles very well…Has the speed to chase plays to the sideline…Not an explosive highlight-film tackler, he tends to drag down runners instead of driving them backward…Doesn't get away from blockers once they get their hands on him…Doesn't make a lot of plays in the passing game…A lazy player who didn't start studying game film until last season…His neck injury (he still wears a collar) will be a concern to some teams…Worked out with the outside linebackers at the Combine, running an impressive 4.42 40 with 23 reps, a 36-inch vertical jump and a 10-4 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Nobody looks the part as much as Wilson. He's an impressive specimen in a uniform, but, if you see a couple of his games, you're taken aback by the passivity of his game. Any team that takes him in the second round will have to find a way to make him more aggressive – or put him in a spot that negates his negatives.

Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina, 6-2, 235 – Fourth-year senior…Became a starter during his freshman season and started 38 of 46 career games…Had 309 career tackles with 27.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, nine passes defensed and four interceptions…In 2008, led the country in solo tackles (87)…Arrested for marijuana possession in July 2010…Was charged (but later cleared) with academic fraud and contact with an agent as a senior…Excellent straight-line speed…Aggressive to the line in run support…Excellent read-and-react skills…Intelligent and is an on-field leader…Can chase running backs and tight ends in coverage because he has experience both outside and inside…Good lateral movement and agility and is able to stay on his feet in traffic…Misses too many tackles in the open field…Doesn't have elite playing speed to go with his timed speed…Doesn't have great closing speed…Doesn't have ideal size or upper-body strength and will need to improve…Ran a 4.55 40 at the Combine (best among the inside linebacker group with 21 reps, a 34-inch broad jump and a 9-7 broad jump.
PROJECTION: One of the most football-smart players in the draft, it helps compensate for his lack of pure athleticism. He will need to be in the right system, which could keep him on the board until late in the second or third round, but he has as much a chance to be a pro starter as anyone in the group. It's just teams he can thrive with are more limited than the others.

THE NEXT LEVEL

Casey Mathews, Oregon, 6-0, 232 –
Fourth-year senior…Became a starter midway through his sophomore year and started 33 of 50 career games…In two years as a full-time starter, he made 160 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks, eight passes defensed and four interceptions…Bloodline is a huge plus – his father Clay played in the NFL for 19 years, his uncle Bruce is a Hall of Fame guard and his brother Clay won a Super Bowl with the Packers last year…A vocal on-field leader…Great instincts and is always around the ball…An excellent wrap-up tacklers who almost always rides his man to the ground…Is relentless in pursuit and never gives up on a play…Has adequate anchor strength to stymie lead blockers on running plays…A student of the game…Not overly productive and his numbers were wildly inconsistent from one game to the next…Played in a defense that had him blitzing a lot and plays naturally came his way…Doesn't have ideal blitz quickness…Will struggle with running backs and tight ends in coverage…Has a hard time getting away from blockers once they lock on…Injured his right shoulder (he has a shoulder injury history) at the Combine during the bench press, finishing with just 13 and didn't finish the rest of the drills.
PROJECTION: The latest of the Matthews clan to make the jump to the NFL. But, if they were the Jackson family, he would be Tito. He's a hard worker and could become an NFL starter, but his physical limitations will make it a struggle to maintain a starting job. Worthy of selection in the third round, but, if you're expecting Li'l Clay, you'll be disappointed.

Akeem Dent, Georgia, 6-1, 236 – Fifth-year senior…A part-time starter in his first three seasons, he finished with 32 starts in 47 career games…In his only full season in 2010, he had 126 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks – which more than doubled all of his career stats…His father is in prison…Had two surgeries on his left foot – one football-related and one in an offseason accident…Never had an interception in his college career…Has good upper-body and lower-body strength to take out lead blockers vs. the run…Blew up as a senior, posting 10 tackles a game and dominating just about every game he played…Has versatility, started both inside and outside…Misses too many tackles and falls off tackles when he doesn't have good leverage…Very raw in coverage assignments and will get beat…Needs time to change direction and pick up speed…Ran a 4.74 40 at the Combine with 24 reps, with a position-best 37½-inch vertical jump and a position-best 10-3 long jump .
PROJECTION: He has the size, versatility and production that make him a third-round candidate, but his lack of speed will likely limit him to being solely an inside ' backer on a 3-4 team, which could keep him on the board awhile.

Nate Irving, North Carolina State, 6-1, 242 – Fourth-year senior who missed the 2009 season after a horrific car accident in which he suffered a separated shoulder, a collapsed lung, fractures in both his left tibia and fibula and broke three ribs after falling asleep at the wheel – eventually being charged with careless and reckless driving…Started 26 of 34 career games, making 228 tackles, 40.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, 12 passes defensed and four interceptions…Versatile player with experience at multiple positions…Good size, arm length (33½ inches) and the type of body that can add weight and bulk without sacrificing quickness…Good agility and quickness; stays on his feet in traffic…Has good acceleration to the hole and able to make himself skinny and knife through gaps…Delivers the big hit…Uses his hands well…Doesn't have good upper-body strength and struggles to get blockers off of him once they engage…Doesn't have elite athleticism…Injury history is a big red flag…Doesn't break down and make tackles well in the open field and will get faked out of his shoes on some plays…Did not work out at the Combine.
PROJECTION: He has a lot of the intangibles needed to be an effective pro, but his long-term durability is going to be a big concern for a lot of teams, which will drop him into the third day of the draft – where he might become a priority-type pick.

Mike Mohamed, California, 6-3, 241 – Fifth-year senior…Two-year full-time starter, making three starts at OLB before moving inside for the final 22 games – leading the team with 207 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss and four sacks…Led the Bears in tackles each of the last two years…Team captain…Good speed and makes plays from sideline to sideline…Smart player who has great read-and-react skills…A strong tackler who rarely misses…Hits the hole in run defense very aggressively and can blow up plays before they get started…Student of the game and intelligent player…Plays too high and can get easily steered by big linemen in the run game…Isn't a big-play type of guy…Not a thumper, tends to be more of a leg and ankle tackler…Will need to add 10-15 pounds of bulk to be effective…Pedestrian blitzer who rarely got to the QB…Looks like a big safety…Ran a 4.65 40 at the Combine with 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 32-inch vertical jump and a 9-7 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A Day 3 prospect who will need time to grow into his position at the next level. He will make an immediate contribution on special teams, but those types of players are usually available in the fourth or fifth round.

THE BEST OF THE REST

Nick Bellore, Central Michigan, 6-0¾, 248 –
Fourth-year senior…Started all 52 games of his college career…Amassed a whopping 472 tackles, 32.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, nine passes defensed and five interceptions…Led the Mid-America Conference in tackles twice…A three-time team captain…A high-octane personality and field demeanor…Aggressive heavy hitter who plays to the sideline and plays to the whistle…Seeks out contact…Incredible production and durability…A strong special teams player…Diagnoses plays quickly and doesn't get caught out of position…Undersized and will have trouble taking on lead blockers at the next level because his growth potential is about at high as it can get…Doesn't break down well and too often dives and misses tackles…Doesn't have ideal speed and closing burst that will make him an eyelash late too often at the NFL level…Didn't play top competition, which some will say inflated his numbers…Ran a disappointing 4.84 40 at the Combine with 23 reps, a 32½-inch vertical jump and a 9-1 broad jump.
PROJECTION: An undersized small-college player who posted mammoth numbers in college. What he lacks in elite competition, he makes up for in being a durable, experienced leader on the field. He may never be an NFL starter, but he will have a pro career. Look for him to come off in the fifth round range.

Kelvin Sheppard, LSU, 6-2¼, 246 – Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who had 226 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and two interceptions…Has good combination of speed and agility…Plays with a lot of emotion and is a vocal leader…Times blitzes well…Consistent production throughout his time as a starter…Has good footwork and finds his way to the ball through traffic…Has good read-and-react skills…Can chase down plays well in pursuit…Versatile and can play inside or outside…Takes himself out of too many plays with his own aggression…Is not overly strong and allows blockers into his body and, once engaged, has a hard time getting away…Will take bad angles…Doesn't have a lot of explosion…Pedestrian sack production, he pressures QBs, not bringing them down…Didn't run at the Combine because of a hamstring injury, but did complete 22 reps of 225 pounds, had a 33½-inch vertical jump and 9-2 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A classic off-the-charts athlete who doesn't translate his skill to the field nearly as much as he should. Because of that, he may get drafted higher than we have him ranked, but he shouldn't be.

Josh Bynes, Auburn, 6-1½, 239 – Fourth-year senior…Became a starter five games into his sophomore season and started all 35 games from that point on. In two years as a full-time starter, he had 177 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks…An ultra-competitive vocal leader…Has good speed and powerful closing burst…Quick to fill holes in run support and will take on offensive linemen…Times blitzes well…Durable, experienced player who is battle-tested…Stiff in movement and doesn't look good when asked to break down and tackle one-on-one in the open field…Doesn't change direction well at all…If he doesn't have a clear shot at a back or QB he is usually picked up…Struggles to make plays to the sideline…Did not work out at the Combine.
PROJECTION: An old-school type of heavy hitter whose heavy feet may be his biggest liability, making his best chance to be in a 3-4 defense with limited coverage responsibility. A sixth-round option.

OTHERS TO WATCH

Chris White, Mississippi State, 6-3, 244 –
Fourth-year senior who spent two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College…Started all 25 games for MSU, making 185 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks and two interceptions…Emerged in 2010 with 110 tackles, 15.5 for loss, six sacks and two picks…A big hitter who seeks out contact…Intelligent and has good instincts…A very good wrap-up tackler who rarely lets a ball carrier get away…Has good closing speed…Showed ability as a blitzer last year…Consistent production…Short arms…Not overly athletic…Does not have speed to get to the corner on sweeps…Struggles badly breaking down in open field…A stiff-legged prospect who will end up in an NFL camp, but will have to make an impression in order to stick.

Derrell Smith, Syracuse, 6-0, 236 – Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who made starts in his final 35 games…In that span, he had 269 tackles, 24.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and two interceptions…A highly decorated high school athlete, being named Delaware's Gatorade Player of the Year and being a two-time state discus champion…Had surgery to repair a torn left meniscus after the 2009 season…A classic between-the-tackles banger…Has big hands and uses them to keep blockers away from his body…Has good agility to slide down the line and shoot gaps…A solid wrap-up tackler…Doesn't have great speed to make plays on the outside…Goes for the highlight-film hit and will whiff at times…Doesn't take good angles and doesn't have speed to make up for mistakes…Didn't play great competition…A two-down prospect that will be used primarily to stop the run in a 3-4 system. That combination makes him a late-round pick at best.

Orie Lemon, Oklahoma State, 6-0¾, 244 – Fifth-year senior who missed the 2009 season with a torn right ACL…Two-year starter who had 223 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks…Good upper-body strength and will take on big blockers in the hole and win the battles…Uses hands well to shed blockers…Is very high-energy and will run plays to the sideline…High character…Doesn't play the pass very well and often looks lost when asked to change direction…Doesn't have ideal pursuit speed…Ineffective in pass defense unless he is in a zone scheme…Doesn't play with good leverage…A player who came back from a season away from the game with a big year, but is likely a fit only as a zone inside linebacker for 3-4 teams and may never be more than a special teamer fighting for his job every August.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"This is one of the weaker positions in the Class of 2011 and there is almost no chance that an inside linebacker will come off the board in the first round. Even teams with needs here can feel secure trading down and getting the same player they may be targeting. There is decent depth and there are likely to be more players drafted than the 12 taken in the 2010 draft, but, like center on the offensive side, when a team gets a middle linebacker they like, there is little need to make it a priority on draft weekend. We could see a shop teacher's handful of player (four to five) coming off the board in the first two days, making this one of the weaker groups to follow in this year's draft. E.J. Henderson, Jasper Brinkley. What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, there were significant questions as to whether the Vikings were going to have Henderson back for the 2010 season. Anyone who saw his leg snap against the Cardinals in 2009 knows the concerns the organization had that the injury could be career-threatening. Fortunately, the team had drafted Brinkley in the 2009 draft and he stepped in as Henderson's replacement. While Henderson made a full recovery, there are some questions about his durability moving forward. But, seeing as the Vikings run a 4-3 defense, they are likely to keep only two middle linebackers on their final 53-man roster, which means that it almost certain that Henderson and Brinkley will be those two, so it wouldn't be shocking to see the Vikings ignore middle linebacker completely in the draft. Fourth-year senior…Became a starter midway through his freshman season and started 46 of 52 career games…Recorded a whopping 465 tackles with 46.5 tackles for a loss, 16.5 sacks and two interceptions…The first freshman in 35 years to lead the team in tackles…Led the Big Ten in tackles with 154 in 2009…Excellent instincts with elite read-and-react skills…Uses his hands to consistently get through blocks and to the ball-carrier…Strong tackler who wraps up and hits with some pop…Has good lateral quickness and agility to get outside…A vocal team leader…Can flip his hips and run with RBs and TEs…Doesn't have good top-end speed…Is not strong in terms of taking on defenders head-up at the point of attack…Has short arms and blockers can get into his body…Moved from strongside to the middle during his career, so his experience at making line calls is somewhat limited and his production dropped…Ran a 4.75 40 at the Combine with 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 31½-inch vertical jump and a 9-9 broad jump. In a class that doesn't have a first-round prospect, a durable four-year starter at a major program gives Jones an edge. He isn't going to be a dominating banger, but he does a lot of thing right and would be good fit for a 3-4 team in the second round. Fourth-year junior who missed the entire 2009 season with a neck injury that required surgery…Started just 21 of 38 career games…His only year as a full-time starter in 2010, he made 112 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks and four passes defensed…Had a horrible childhood that included living briefly in a Twin Cities homeless shelter…A high school All-American…Got stabbed in 2009 coming to the aid of a teammate in a bar fight near campus…Ideal size and arm length. Has good burst off the line and makes plays by out-quicking everyone else…Uses hands to get past blockers and wraps up tackles very well…Has the speed to chase plays to the sideline…Not an explosive highlight-film tackler, he tends to drag down runners instead of driving them backward…Doesn't get away from blockers once they get their hands on him…Doesn't make a lot of plays in the passing game…A lazy player who didn't start studying game film until last season…His neck injury (he still wears a collar) will be a concern to some teams…Worked out with the outside linebackers at the Combine, running an impressive 4.42 40 with 23 reps, a 36-inch vertical jump and a 10-4 broad jump. Nobody looks the part as much as Wilson. He's an impressive specimen in a uniform, but, if you see a couple of his games, you're taken aback by the passivity of his game. Any team that takes him in the second round will have to find a way to make him more aggressive – or put him in a spot that negates his negatives. Fourth-year senior…Became a starter during his freshman season and started 38 of 46 career games…Had 309 career tackles with 27.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, nine passes defensed and four interceptions…In 2008, led the country in solo tackles (87)…Arrested for marijuana possession in July 2010…Was charged (but later cleared) with academic fraud and contact with an agent as a senior…Excellent straight-line speed…Aggressive to the line in run support…Excellent read-and-react skills…Intelligent and is an on-field leader…Can chase running backs and tight ends in coverage because he has experience both outside and inside…Good lateral movement and agility and is able to stay on his feet in traffic…Misses too many tackles in the open field…Doesn't have elite playing speed to go with his timed speed…Doesn't have great closing speed…Doesn't have ideal size or upper-body strength and will need to improve…Ran a 4.55 40 at the Combine (best among the inside linebacker group with 21 reps, a 34-inch broad jump and a 9-7 broad jump. One of the most football-smart players in the draft, it helps compensate for his lack of pure athleticism. He will need to be in the right system, which could keep him on the board until late in the second or third round, but he has as much a chance to be a pro starter as anyone in the group. It's just teams he can thrive with are more limited than the others. Fourth-year senior…Became a starter midway through his sophomore year and started 33 of 50 career games…In two years as a full-time starter, he made 160 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks, eight passes defensed and four interceptions…Bloodline is a huge plus – his father Clay played in the NFL for 19 years, his uncle Bruce is a Hall of Fame guard and his brother Clay won a Super Bowl with the Packers last year…A vocal on-field leader…Great instincts and is always around the ball…An excellent wrap-up tacklers who almost always rides his man to the ground…Is relentless in pursuit and never gives up on a play…Has adequate anchor strength to stymie lead blockers on running plays…A student of the game…Not overly productive and his numbers were wildly inconsistent from one game to the next…Played in a defense that had him blitzing a lot and plays naturally came his way…Doesn't have ideal blitz quickness…Will struggle with running backs and tight ends in coverage…Has a hard time getting away from blockers once they lock on…Injured his right shoulder (he has a shoulder injury history) at the Combine during the bench press, finishing with just 13 and didn't finish the rest of the drills. The latest of the Matthews clan to make the jump to the NFL. But, if they were the Jackson family, he would be Tito. He's a hard worker and could become an NFL starter, but his physical limitations will make it a struggle to maintain a starting job. Worthy of selection in the third round, but, if you're expecting Li'l Clay, you'll be disappointed. Fifth-year senior…A part-time starter in his first three seasons, he finished with 32 starts in 47 career games…In his only full season in 2010, he had 126 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks – which more than doubled all of his career stats…His father is in prison…Had two surgeries on his left foot – one football-related and one in an offseason accident…Never had an interception in his college career…Has good upper-body and lower-body strength to take out lead blockers vs. the run…Blew up as a senior, posting 10 tackles a game and dominating just about every game he played…Has versatility, started both inside and outside…Misses too many tackles and falls off tackles when he doesn't have good leverage…Very raw in coverage assignments and will get beat…Needs time to change direction and pick up speed…Ran a 4.74 40 at the Combine with 24 reps, with a position-best 37½-inch vertical jump and a position-best 10-3 long jump . He has the size, versatility and production that make him a third-round candidate, but his lack of speed will likely limit him to being solely an inside ' backer on a 3-4 team, which could keep him on the board awhile. Nate Irving, North Carolina State, 6-1, 242 – Fourth-year senior who missed the 2009 season after a horrific car accident in which he suffered a separated shoulder, a collapsed lung, fractures in both his left tibia and fibula and broke three ribs after falling asleep at the wheel – eventually being charged with careless and reckless driving…Started 26 of 34 career games, making 228 tackles, 40.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, 12 passes defensed and four interceptions…Versatile player with experience at multiple positions…Good size, arm length (33½ inches) and the type of body that can add weight and bulk without sacrificing quickness…Good agility and quickness; stays on his feet in traffic…Has good acceleration to the hole and able to make himself skinny and knife through gaps…Delivers the big hit…Uses his hands well…Doesn't have good upper-body strength and struggles to get blockers off of him once they engage…Doesn't have elite athleticism…Injury history is a big red flag…Doesn't break down and make tackles well in the open field and will get faked out of his shoes on some plays…Did not work out at the Combine. He has a lot of the intangibles needed to be an effective pro, but his long-term durability is going to be a big concern for a lot of teams, which will drop him into the third day of the draft – where he might become a priority-type pick. Fifth-year senior…Two-year full-time starter, making three starts at OLB before moving inside for the final 22 games – leading the team with 207 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss and four sacks…Led the Bears in tackles each of the last two years…Team captain…Good speed and makes plays from sideline to sideline…Smart player who has great read-and-react skills…A strong tackler who rarely misses…Hits the hole in run defense very aggressively and can blow up plays before they get started…Student of the game and intelligent player…Plays too high and can get easily steered by big linemen in the run game…Isn't a big-play type of guy…Not a thumper, tends to be more of a leg and ankle tackler…Will need to add 10-15 pounds of bulk to be effective…Pedestrian blitzer who rarely got to the QB…Looks like a big safety…Ran a 4.65 40 at the Combine with 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 32-inch vertical jump and a 9-7 broad jump. A Day 3 prospect who will need time to grow into his position at the next level. He will make an immediate contribution on special teams, but those types of players are usually available in the fourth or fifth round. Fourth-year senior…Started all 52 games of his college career…Amassed a whopping 472 tackles, 32.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, nine passes defensed and five interceptions…Led the Mid-America Conference in tackles twice…A three-time team captain…A high-octane personality and field demeanor…Aggressive heavy hitter who plays to the sideline and plays to the whistle…Seeks out contact…Incredible production and durability…A strong special teams player…Diagnoses plays quickly and doesn't get caught out of position…Undersized and will have trouble taking on lead blockers at the next level because his growth potential is about at high as it can get…Doesn't break down well and too often dives and misses tackles…Doesn't have ideal speed and closing burst that will make him an eyelash late too often at the NFL level…Didn't play top competition, which some will say inflated his numbers…Ran a disappointing 4.84 40 at the Combine with 23 reps, a 32½-inch vertical jump and a 9-1 broad jump. An undersized small-college player who posted mammoth numbers in college. What he lacks in elite competition, he makes up for in being a durable, experienced leader on the field. He may never be an NFL starter, but he will have a pro career. Look for him to come off in the fifth round range. Fifth-year senior…Two-year starter who had 226 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and two interceptions…Has good combination of speed and agility…Plays with a lot of emotion and is a vocal leader…Times blitzes well…Consistent production throughout his time as a starter…Has good footwork and finds his way to the ball through traffic…Has good read-and-react skills…Can chase down plays well in pursuit…Versatile and can play inside or outside…Takes himself out of too many plays with his own aggression…Is not overly strong and allows blockers into his body and, once engaged, has a hard time getting away…Will take bad angles…Doesn't have a lot of explosion…Pedestrian sack production, he pressures QBs, not bringing them down…Didn't run at the Combine because of a hamstring injury, but did complete 22 reps of 225 pounds, had a 33½-inch vertical jump and 9-2 broad jump. A classic off-the-charts athlete who doesn't translate his skill to the field nearly as much as he should. Because of that, he may get drafted higher than we have him ranked, but he shouldn't be. Fourth-year senior…Became a starter five games into his sophomore season and started all 35 games from that point on. In two years as a full-time starter, he had 177 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks…An ultra-competitive vocal leader…Has good speed and powerful closing burst…Quick to fill holes in run support and will take on offensive linemen…Times blitzes well…Durable, experienced player who is battle-tested…Stiff in movement and doesn't look good when asked to break down and tackle one-on-one in the open field…Doesn't change direction well at all…If he doesn't have a clear shot at a back or QB he is usually picked up…Struggles to make plays to the sideline…Did not work out at the Combine. An old-school type of heavy hitter whose heavy feet may be his biggest liability, making his best chance to be in a 3-4 defense with limited coverage responsibility. A sixth-round option. Fourth-year senior who spent two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College…Started all 25 games for MSU, making 185 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks and two interceptions…Emerged in 2010 with 110 tackles, 15.5 for loss, six sacks and two picks…A big hitter who seeks out contact…Intelligent and has good instincts…A very good wrap-up tackler who rarely lets a ball carrier get away…Has good closing speed…Showed ability as a blitzer last year…Consistent production…Short arms…Not overly athletic…Does not have speed to get to the corner on sweeps…Struggles badly breaking down in open field…A stiff-legged prospect who will end up in an NFL camp, but will have to make an impression in order to stick. Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who made starts in his final 35 games…In that span, he had 269 tackles, 24.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and two interceptions…A highly decorated high school athlete, being named Delaware's Gatorade Player of the Year and being a two-time state discus champion…Had surgery to repair a torn left meniscus after the 2009 season…A classic between-the-tackles banger…Has big hands and uses them to keep blockers away from his body…Has good agility to slide down the line and shoot gaps…A solid wrap-up tackler…Doesn't have great speed to make plays on the outside…Goes for the highlight-film hit and will whiff at times…Doesn't take good angles and doesn't have speed to make up for mistakes…Didn't play great competition…A two-down prospect that will be used primarily to stop the run in a 3-4 system. That combination makes him a late-round pick at best. Fifth-year senior who missed the 2009 season with a torn right ACL…Two-year starter who had 223 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks…Good upper-body strength and will take on big blockers in the hole and win the battles…Uses hands well to shed blockers…Is very high-energy and will run plays to the sideline…High character…Doesn't play the pass very well and often looks lost when asked to change direction…Doesn't have ideal pursuit speed…Ineffective in pass defense unless he is in a zone scheme…Doesn't play with good leverage…A player who came back from a season away from the game with a big year, but is likely a fit only as a zone inside linebacker for 3-4 teams and may never be more than a special teamer fighting for his job every August. 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