Positional Analysis: Outside linebackers

While there are a few top-end prospects at outside linebacker, after that it depends on what a team is looking for. Some fit more of a specialty role for 3-4 teams while others might only become special-teams contributors. We detail the analysis, stats and projections for 15 of the top choices.

POSITION ANALYSIS – A position of typical need with the increase in the number of teams running a 3-4 defense and the standard use of backup linebackers on special teams. However, last year's draft class was among the worst in draft history. Only one OLB was taken on the first day and only four went in the first two days. In all, just 14 outside linebackers got selected – a number that could potentially double in a deeper class this year. Texas A&M's Von Miller (along with CB Patrick Peterson, he is one of the two top athletes on our draft board) heads the OLB class, but there could be as many as four OLBs that come off the board in the first round and just as many in the second round. While not a deep class loaded with talent, there are going to be eight to 10 teams that draft an outside linebacker with the intention of him being a starter sooner than later.

VIKINGS OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS – Chad Greenway, Ben Leber (FA), Heath Farwell, Erin Henderson, Kenny Onatolu.

VIKINGS NEED – The team slapped the franchise tag on Greenway and the other three players not named Leber are known more for their ability on special teams than for playing the position. Leber has likely done himself no favors by being a named plaintiff in the players' antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. A solid contributor, the Vikings could look to replace him as one of their starting linebackers in 2011. If he is willing to come back at the right price, he may still face competition for his starting job. Greenway was tendered a one-year, $10 million franchise tag, but without a signed long-term contract (even though it seems like a foregone conclusion that he will be signed to a significant contract extension), the Vikings enter the draft with more questions than answers at the OLB position. If a player they really like in the second round is available, they may jump, but more likely they will take a player in the later rounds and try to be aggressive when free agency begins to sign a veteran – whether it's Leber or someone else.

THE CREAM OF THE CROP

Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M, 6-2¾, 237 –
Fourth-year senior…Two-year starter who had 116 tackles, 39 tackles for a loss, 27.5 sacks and 11 passes broken up…Showed up at A&M as a 215-pound freshman…Won the Butkus Award, given annually to the top college linebacker…Named the team's Weightlifter of the Year in 2010…Team captain…Has excellent speed and field vision…Incredible sack production (27.5 in two years)…Unparalleled closing speed…Excellent instincts and read-and-react skills…Rarely gets himself out of position…Very strong upper body and powerful tackler…Powerful hand punch…Came back for his senior season and it paid off…A little raw in pass coverage…Could stand to add about 10 pounds of bulk…Will fly around the field and occasionally take himself out of plays…Ran a sparkling 4.42 40 at the Combine with 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-8 broad jump.
PROJECTION: In our view, Miller is the best player in the draft and should go with the first overall pick. However, he likely won't be and could drop as low as five or six. If he gets to No. 3, somebody should trade up to get him. He's that good.

Justin Houston, Georgia, 6-3, 258 – Fourth-year junior…Two-year starter who had 106 tackles, 33.5 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks in that span…Was suspended in 2009 for violating the team's substance abuse policy…Was a finalist for the Butkus and Nagurski (best defensive player) Awards in 2010…Very strong upper body…A player who could be a pass-rush end in a 4-3 or a linebacker in a 3-4…Explosive burst off the snap and gets moving to top speed very quickly…Has good agility and balance; rarely ends up on the ground…Uses his hands well and gets by blockers with ease…Very good closing speed…Good wrap-up tackler…A raw talent who didn't have good production until last season…Doesn't have great lower-body strength or bulk and will struggle vs. the run…Improving in read-and-react skills, but bites too often and takes himself out of position…Comes at blockers too high and can get washed out…When plays don't come his way, he will at times give up – it stands out when you see it on tape, almost like a defensive version of Randy Moss…Ran a 4.62 40 at the Combine with a position-best 30 reps of 225 pounds, a 36½-inch vertical jump and a 10-5 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Houston doesn't have the bulk to be a DE at the next level and "plays lazy" too often to be a lock at OLB. There is no questioning his speed and physical ability. If he harnesses his game and takes it more seriously than he has to date, he will be a Pro Bowler for years. The questions about his passion, however, will drop him into the second half of the first round.

Bruce Carter, North Carolina, 6-3, 230 – Fifth-year senior…Became a starter midway through his freshman year and started 43 of 48 career games…Finished his career with 215 tackles, 24 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks and three interceptions…In 2008, he led the country with five blocked kicks on special teams…A Butkus Award finalist in 2010…Tore his left ACL Nov. 20, 2010 and is still on the mend from that injury…Very good speed and athleticism…Aggressive in run defense…Smart and instinctive…Very good body control and doesn't end up on the ground much…An explosive hitter and excellent closer who finishes plays…Can handle tight ends and running backs in coverage…Uses his hands well to shed blockers…Is not a great blitzer and rarely gets all the way to the quarterback when he does…Tries to run around blockers more than take them on in pursuit…Will get out of position with play fakes and misdirection…Didn't make a lot of plays behind the line, tackles for loss dropped each of the last three seasons…Did not run or jump at the Combine, but did 25 reps.
PROJECTION: To look at him in workouts, he would be a top-five pick, but he doesn't play up to that level consistently in games. His ACL injury will be over-checked by team medical staffs leading up to the draft. If a position coach (oh, let's say, Kevin Greene with Green Bay) can harness and focus his talent, he could be a star in the NFL. But his finesse style doesn't work in the NFL and, as a result, will likely drop him to the very end of the first round or early into the second.

Akeem Ayers, UCLA, 6-3¾, 225 – Fourth-year junior…Two-year full-time starter who had 143 tackles with 24.5 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, seven passes broken up and six interceptions…Team captain as a senior…Has prototype size/speed measurables…Is quick off the edge and has incredible sack production with 24.5 in the last two years…Takes on blockers face up in run defense…Drops well into coverage and has the hands to make interceptions…Excellent burst and closes quickly…Has good upper-body strength on the field (not in the weight room – see below)…Doesn't have good lower-body strength and will need to refine his game…Doesn't have great instincts and will bite on fakes and misdirection and take him out of plays…Not overly instinctive and raw in his ability to read and react on plays…Doesn't aggressively try to drive the ball carrier into the ground…Is reckless and will sneak peaks in the backfield and get burned…Doesn't get away from big blockers when they latch on…Ran a disappointing 4.81 40 at the Combine with a position-worst tying 18 reps with a 31-inch vertical jump and a 9-8 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Although we have him as the fourth-rated prospect at OLB, he could well be the second linebacker off the board because of outstanding physical ability. However, he is the most likely of the boom-bust players at the top of the draft. He has never been consistent and makes critical mistakes by his own free-lancing that will drive coaches nuts. He has the talent to be a star, but has too many question marks to be a first-round lock.

THE NEXT LEVEL

Ross Homan, Ohio State, 6-0½, 229 –
Fifth-year senior who was granted a medical redshirt four games into the 2007 season after suffering a turf toe injury…Team captain who already graduated…Started 30 of 54 career games…A two-year, full-time starter who had 180 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, three sacks, nine passes broken up and six interceptions…Always around the ball and had outstanding production his last two years…Reads and reacts very quickly and has great run-pass instincts…Tough and physical…Active pass defender who covers backs and tight ends very effectively…A good wrap-up tackler who rarely peels off…Takes good tackling angles…Does not have ideal athleticism and makes a lot of plays because of his effort…Is shorter than desired…Doesn't have the lower-body strength to take anchor on blockers at the next level…Not a blitz threat, never having more than two in any season…Has an injury history….Worked out with the inside linebackers at the Combine, running a 4.66 40 with a monstrous 32 reps of 225 pounds with a 35½-inch vertical jump and a 9-3 broad jump.
PROJECTION: An old-school classic linebacker from the Big Ten, he has the football smarts and is a very physical overachiever. The coaches on the team that draft him will love him, but he will be a push to come off the board prior to the third round. For a team with athletic LBs late in the second, he could be a consideration.

Dontay Moch, Nevada, 6-1¾, 239 – Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who made starts in his final 40 games…Had 175 tackles, 59.5 tackles for a loss and 30 sacks…Never recorded an interception in 40 starts…No stranger to winning, he won two high school state football titles in Arizona as well as the state 200-meter title in track…Led the WAC in tackles-for-loss three straight seasons…Has incredible speed and makes some explosive hits…Chases down plays consistently and, at times, looks on tape like he's running at a different speed…Disruptive player who has incredible production behind the line…Durable player who has never seriously been injured…Isn't a ballhawk and never had an interception…Did not consistently play top competition…Will play out of control and open up big plays in the defense…For all his speed, he doesn't change directions very well and get back to full speed…Doesn't have the bulk strength to take on big blockers at the point…Played defensive end at college, but has to learn a new position…Made a lot of money at the Combine with a position-best 40 time (4.40 seconds), broad jump (10-8) and vertical jump (an amazing 42 inches).
PROJECTION: He saw the handwriting on the wall and dropped 10 pounds before the East-West Shrine Game and showed he could play linebacker. However, he will be a project, which typically drops a player like that into the third round or later, but, given his crazy Combine numbers, Al Davis and the Raiders might take him in the second round (fortunately for them, they don't have a first-round pick).

Mark Herzlich, Boston College, 6-3¾, 250 – Fifth-year senior redshirted in 2009 after playing three seasons…Was a two-year starter (started 35 of 52 career games)…In two years as a starter, he recorded 175 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, 12 passes broken up and 10 interceptions…Was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008…In 2009, was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a cancer found in bone and soft tissue and had a titanium rod inserted into his left leg while he underwent radiation and chemotherapy (the rod is still in his leg)…Is one of the most instinctive players in terms of diagnosing plays as there is in this year's draft…Good size and long arms…Plays with a mean streak and loves the game…Good wrap-up tackler with closing burst…Doesn't have great straight-line speed…Doesn't have speed to be an effective blitzer – had none as a senior…If there has ever been a red flag, it's a player who has already been diagnosed with cancer…Did not look good at all at the Senior Bowl…Is a little stiff in coverage…Production dipped significantly last year…Ran a plodding 4.91 40 at the Combine with an impressive 29 reps, a 32½-inch vertical jump and a 9-4 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Prior to being diagnosed with bone cancer, Herzlich was viewed as a potential first-round prospect coming off a big 2008 season. There are some teams that likely won't even put him on their boards because of the cancer questions, but he has the talent to be a third- or fourth-round pick. A risk-reward pick that could slide if team doctors have concerns, and several will.

Brooks Reed, Arizona, 6-2½, 257 – Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 107 tackles, 24.5 tackles for a loss and 16.5 sacks…Never had a collegiate interception…Recruited as a TE/H-back, but switched to defense during his redshirt season…Big hustle player who is always chase plays to the sideline and until the whistle…Works hard in practice and lives in the weight room…Intelligent player with top read-and-react skills…Has good pass-rushing skills and technique…Undersized for an NFL DE and will almost certainly have to move to OLB in a 3-4 system, which reduces the numbers of teams that prize his skill set…Limited production…Didn't hold up well at the point of attack against power rush teams, which every team is capable of being in the NFL…Doesn't have good change-of-direction skills, which will be critical…When rushing the passer, if a blocker got his hands on him, he was typically controlled…Doesn't have the type of body that can add 20 pounds of muscle and bulk…Worked out with the defensive ends at the Combine, running a 4.65 40 with an impressive 30 reps of 225 pounds, a 30½-inch vertical jump and a 9-5 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A high-energy player who gives his all. He has the chance to be a specialty linebacker and special-teams ace, but his upside might be marginal. If put in pass-rushing role, could be a solid contributor.

Colin McCarthy, Miami, 6-1¼, 235 – Fifth-year senior who was granted a medical redshirt for a shoulder injury four games (all starts) into the 2008 season…Has undergone three left shoulder surgeries – one in high school and two in college…Three-plus-year starter who started 34 of 44 career games…Good speed and range to the sidelines…Outstanding production (214 tackles the last two years in 25 games)…A big hitter who wraps up players and makes them pay the price when he gets the chance…An on-field leader who plays with a lot of passion…Has versatility, having played both inside and outside…Injury concerns abound and will hurt his stock badly…Is undersized and doesn't have great strength or push at the point of attack…Doesn't protect his legs and ends up on the ground a lot…Doesn't have speed or burst to get many sacks (four in 44 career games)…Worked out with the inside linebackers at the Combine, running a 4.59 40 with 23 reps, a 36½-inch vertical jump and a 9-11 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A tackling machine, his limitations are pronounced. His value may be as a reliable backup and special-teams ace. Teams that covet such players (New England comes to mind), he could be a third- or fourth-round pick. But, his injury history and his liabilities are a little too much for some teams.

THE BEST OF THE REST

K.J. Wright, Mississippi State, 6-3¼, 246 –
Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter that had 252 tackles, 23.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and 14 passes broken up…Never had a collegiate interception…Durable player with consistent production that increased every year…Versatile with experience at both weakside and strongside linebacker…Vocal on-field leader…Good change-of-direction skills and read-and-react ability…Good closer who finishes…Doesn't have great upper-body strength…Ends up on the ground far too much and doesn't use his hands to protect himself well…Board hands and has never picked off a pass…When he gets contacted by big blockers, he is typically stopped…Ran a 4.75 40 at the Combine with 20 reps, a 32-inch vertical jump and a 10-0 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A technically sound player who has very long arms and good size. He could be a solid sleeper candidate and, in a worst-case scenario, a good special-teams contributor.

Lawrence Wilson, Connecticut, 6-0¾, 225 – Fifth-year senior…Started all 52 games of his career…Amassed 449 tackles, 39.5 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks, 10 passes broken up and five interceptions…Led the Big East in tackles the last two seasons…Played the weakside for three years before moving to middle linebacker last season…Good speed and agility to chase plays to the sideline…Has the type of intangibles that fit in both a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme…A strong tackler who pops the pads…Good read-and-react skills…Never gives 50 percent or takes a play off…Doesn't have great speed or a closing burst in pursuit…Doesn't have ideal size and will struggle to add the 20 pounds he will likely need…Doesn't have good take-on strength because of his lack of bulk…Will bite on fakes and get out of position…Very short arms…Too often he looks like safety playing linebacker…Ran a 4.71 40 at the Combine with 24 reps, a 32½-inch vertical jump and a 9-5 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A four-year starter who has a lot of range, but not a lot of size or strength makes him a stretch to be a regular starter in the NFL. He doesn't jump out on tape, but anyone who made 263 tackles the last two years is worth taking a look at in the middle rounds.

Mason Foster, Washington, 6-1¼, 241 – Fourth-year senior…Became a starter late in his freshman year and started 41 of 50 career games…Had 378 tackles, 38.5 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, 11 passes defensed and four interceptions…In this last three season was flip-flopped from weakside to strongside and back again…Very instinctive and reads-react skills are outstanding…A vicious run-support linebacker…Can take on blocks at the point and hold his ground…Can chase plays to the sidelines…A good tackler with solid pop…Had a monster senior year (163 tackles, 14 for loss and 6.5 sacks)…Is not fast and doesn't have great acceleration or burst…Slows down markedly when he has to change direction…Doesn't always have consistent effort and production…Isn't overly physical and doesn't have ideal playing strength…Ran a 4.75 40 at the Combine with 22 reps, a 31-inch vertical jump and a 9-2 broad jump.
PROJECTION: It's hard to ignore his production, especially in 2010, but he does have some physical limitations. That being said, he's my pick as the linebacker S.O.D. (Steal Of the Draft) at this position. He should be on the board until well into Day 3 and, if harnessed by a patient coaching staff, could develop into a much better NFL player than some we have rated higher. His downsides, however, can be managed, not eliminated.

OTHERS TO WATCH

Chris Carter, Fresno State, 6-2, 220 –
Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 190 tackles, 36 tackles for a loss, and 19.5 sacks…In that entire span, he had one pass broken up and no interceptions…Played the entire 2008 season with a broken finger…Has good explosiveness and delivers the big hit…Excellent instincts…Chiseled physique and looks like a beast…Uses his hands very well…Shoots gaps and was a presence as senior with 11 sacks…Had a very good week at East-West Shrine Game…Does not change direction well and comes to a complete stop…Doesn't have ideal upper-body strength…Gets washed out by blockers too often…A college DE that only projects as a linebacker at the next level…An underdog type who will be asked to become an rush linebacker in a 3-4 system, but his lack of physicality will drop him into the later rounds.

Brian Rolle, Ohio State, 5-10, 220 – Fourth-year senior…Two-year starter who had 171 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, five passes broken up and four interceptions…Spent his first two years backing up Rams LB James Laurinaitis…An explosive hitter who played with a lot of energy…Has great speed and makes plays to the sidelines…Very competitive and emotional leader…Has good pass coverage technique…Is very short for the position…Doesn't have bulk strength and gets hammered by blockers…Doesn't have top read-and-react skills…Ends up on the ground far too much…A good locker-room type, but too much of a "Rudy" to expect that he will be more than a special teamer or practice squad project.

Jonas Mouton, Michigan, 6-2, 228 – Fourth-year senior…Started 42 of 44 career games, recording 341 tackles, 26 tackles for a loss, five sacks, nine passes broken up and six interceptions…Led the Big Ten in tackles with 117 in 2010…Has speed, agility and instincts to sift through blockers to the ball consistently…Chases down plays, has good pursuit speed and takes good angles…Looks natural in coverage…Is undersized, a converted safety who has about maxed out his body potential…Isn't physical and doesn't drive players into the ground…Has a history of injuries…Gets blocked too easily…Will get out of position in pursuit and take himself out of plays…An athletic player with a ton of upside, his lack of physical toughness may make him an early casualty if he gets in a coach's doghouse.


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":"A position of typical need with the increase in the number of teams running a 3-4 defense and the standard use of backup linebackers on special teams. However, last year's draft class was among the worst in draft history. Only one OLB was taken on the first day and only four went in the first two days. In all, just 14 outside linebackers got selected – a number that could potentially double in a deeper class this year. Texas A&M's Von Miller (along with CB Patrick Peterson, he is one of the two top athletes on our draft board) heads the OLB class, but there could be as many as four OLBs that come off the board in the first round and just as many in the second round. While not a deep class loaded with talent, there are going to be eight to 10 teams that draft an outside linebacker with the intention of him being a starter sooner than later. Chad Greenway, Ben Leber (FA), Heath Farwell, Erin Henderson, Kenny Onatolu. The team slapped the franchise tag on Greenway and the other three players not named Leber are known more for their ability on special teams than for playing the position. Leber has likely done himself no favors by being a named plaintiff in the players' antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. A solid contributor, the Vikings could look to replace him as one of their starting linebackers in 2011. If he is willing to come back at the right price, he may still face competition for his starting job. Greenway was tendered a one-year, $10 million franchise tag, but without a signed long-term contract (even though it seems like a foregone conclusion that he will be signed to a significant contract extension), the Vikings enter the draft with more questions than answers at the OLB position. If a player they really like in the second round is available, they may jump, but more likely they will take a player in the later rounds and try to be aggressive when free agency begins to sign a veteran – whether it's Leber or someone else. Fourth-year senior…Two-year starter who had 116 tackles, 39 tackles for a loss, 27.5 sacks and 11 passes broken up…Showed up at A&M as a 215-pound freshman…Won the Butkus Award, given annually to the top college linebacker…Named the team's Weightlifter of the Year in 2010…Team captain…Has excellent speed and field vision…Incredible sack production (27.5 in two years)…Unparalleled closing speed…Excellent instincts and read-and-react skills…Rarely gets himself out of position…Very strong upper body and powerful tackler…Powerful hand punch…Came back for his senior season and it paid off…A little raw in pass coverage…Could stand to add about 10 pounds of bulk…Will fly around the field and occasionally take himself out of plays…Ran a sparkling 4.42 40 at the Combine with 21 reps of 225 pounds, a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-8 broad jump. In our view, Miller is the best player in the draft and should go with the first overall pick. However, he likely won't be and could drop as low as five or six. If he gets to No. 3, somebody should trade up to get him. He's that good. Fourth-year junior…Two-year starter who had 106 tackles, 33.5 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks in that span…Was suspended in 2009 for violating the team's substance abuse policy…Was a finalist for the Butkus and Nagurski (best defensive player) Awards in 2010…Very strong upper body…A player who could be a pass-rush end in a 4-3 or a linebacker in a 3-4…Explosive burst off the snap and gets moving to top speed very quickly…Has good agility and balance; rarely ends up on the ground…Uses his hands well and gets by blockers with ease…Very good closing speed…Good wrap-up tackler…A raw talent who didn't have good production until last season…Doesn't have great lower-body strength or bulk and will struggle vs. the run…Improving in read-and-react skills, but bites too often and takes himself out of position…Comes at blockers too high and can get washed out…When plays don't come his way, he will at times give up – it stands out when you see it on tape, almost like a defensive version of Randy Moss…Ran a 4.62 40 at the Combine with a position-best 30 reps of 225 pounds, a 36½-inch vertical jump and a 10-5 broad jump. Houston doesn't have the bulk to be a DE at the next level and \"plays lazy\" too often to be a lock at OLB. There is no questioning his speed and physical ability. If he harnesses his game and takes it more seriously than he has to date, he will be a Pro Bowler for years. The questions about his passion, however, will drop him into the second half of the first round. Fifth-year senior…Became a starter midway through his freshman year and started 43 of 48 career games…Finished his career with 215 tackles, 24 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks and three interceptions…In 2008, he led the country with five blocked kicks on special teams…A Butkus Award finalist in 2010…Tore his left ACL Nov. 20, 2010 and is still on the mend from that injury…Very good speed and athleticism…Aggressive in run defense…Smart and instinctive…Very good body control and doesn't end up on the ground much…An explosive hitter and excellent closer who finishes plays…Can handle tight ends and running backs in coverage…Uses his hands well to shed blockers…Is not a great blitzer and rarely gets all the way to the quarterback when he does…Tries to run around blockers more than take them on in pursuit…Will get out of position with play fakes and misdirection…Didn't make a lot of plays behind the line, tackles for loss dropped each of the last three seasons…Did not run or jump at the Combine, but did 25 reps. To look at him in workouts, he would be a top-five pick, but he doesn't play up to that level consistently in games. His ACL injury will be over-checked by team medical staffs leading up to the draft. If a position coach (oh, let's say, Kevin Greene with Green Bay) can harness and focus his talent, he could be a star in the NFL. But his finesse style doesn't work in the NFL and, as a result, will likely drop him to the very end of the first round or early into the second. Fourth-year junior…Two-year full-time starter who had 143 tackles with 24.5 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, seven passes broken up and six interceptions…Team captain as a senior…Has prototype size/speed measurables…Is quick off the edge and has incredible sack production with 24.5 in the last two years…Takes on blockers face up in run defense…Drops well into coverage and has the hands to make interceptions…Excellent burst and closes quickly…Has good upper-body strength on the field (not in the weight room – see below)…Doesn't have good lower-body strength and will need to refine his game…Doesn't have great instincts and will bite on fakes and misdirection and take him out of plays…Not overly instinctive and raw in his ability to read and react on plays…Doesn't aggressively try to drive the ball carrier into the ground…Is reckless and will sneak peaks in the backfield and get burned…Doesn't get away from big blockers when they latch on…Ran a disappointing 4.81 40 at the Combine with a position-worst tying 18 reps with a 31-inch vertical jump and a 9-8 broad jump. Although we have him as the fourth-rated prospect at OLB, he could well be the second linebacker off the board because of outstanding physical ability. However, he is the most likely of the boom-bust players at the top of the draft. He has never been consistent and makes critical mistakes by his own free-lancing that will drive coaches nuts. He has the talent to be a star, but has too many question marks to be a first-round lock. Fifth-year senior who was granted a medical redshirt four games into the 2007 season after suffering a turf toe injury…Team captain who already graduated…Started 30 of 54 career games…A two-year, full-time starter who had 180 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, three sacks, nine passes broken up and six interceptions…Always around the ball and had outstanding production his last two years…Reads and reacts very quickly and has great run-pass instincts…Tough and physical…Active pass defender who covers backs and tight ends very effectively…A good wrap-up tackler who rarely peels off…Takes good tackling angles…Does not have ideal athleticism and makes a lot of plays because of his effort…Is shorter than desired…Doesn't have the lower-body strength to take anchor on blockers at the next level…Not a blitz threat, never having more than two in any season…Has an injury history….Worked out with the inside linebackers at the Combine, running a 4.66 40 with a monstrous 32 reps of 225 pounds with a 35½-inch vertical jump and a 9-3 broad jump. An old-school classic linebacker from the Big Ten, he has the football smarts and is a very physical overachiever. The coaches on the team that draft him will love him, but he will be a push to come off the board prior to the third round. For a team with athletic LBs late in the second, he could be a consideration. Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who made starts in his final 40 games…Had 175 tackles, 59.5 tackles for a loss and 30 sacks…Never recorded an interception in 40 starts…No stranger to winning, he won two high school state football titles in Arizona as well as the state 200-meter title in track…Led the WAC in tackles-for-loss three straight seasons…Has incredible speed and makes some explosive hits…Chases down plays consistently and, at times, looks on tape like he's running at a different speed…Disruptive player who has incredible production behind the line…Durable player who has never seriously been injured…Isn't a ballhawk and never had an interception…Did not consistently play top competition…Will play out of control and open up big plays in the defense…For all his speed, he doesn't change directions very well and get back to full speed…Doesn't have the bulk strength to take on big blockers at the point…Played defensive end at college, but has to learn a new position…Made a lot of money at the Combine with a position-best 40 time (4.40 seconds), broad jump (10-8) and vertical jump (an amazing 42 inches). He saw the handwriting on the wall and dropped 10 pounds before the East-West Shrine Game and showed he could play linebacker. However, he will be a project, which typically drops a player like that into the third round or later, but, given his crazy Combine numbers, Al Davis and the Raiders might take him in the second round (fortunately for them, they don't have a first-round pick). Fifth-year senior redshirted in 2009 after playing three seasons…Was a two-year starter (started 35 of 52 career games)…In two years as a starter, he recorded 175 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, 12 passes broken up and 10 interceptions…Was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008…In 2009, was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a cancer found in bone and soft tissue and had a titanium rod inserted into his left leg while he underwent radiation and chemotherapy (the rod is still in his leg)…Is one of the most instinctive players in terms of diagnosing plays as there is in this year's draft…Good size and long arms…Plays with a mean streak and loves the game…Good wrap-up tackler with closing burst…Doesn't have great straight-line speed…Doesn't have speed to be an effective blitzer – had none as a senior…If there has ever been a red flag, it's a player who has already been diagnosed with cancer…Did not look good at all at the Senior Bowl…Is a little stiff in coverage…Production dipped significantly last year…Ran a plodding 4.91 40 at the Combine with an impressive 29 reps, a 32½-inch vertical jump and a 9-4 broad jump. Prior to being diagnosed with bone cancer, Herzlich was viewed as a potential first-round prospect coming off a big 2008 season. There are some teams that likely won't even put him on their boards because of the cancer questions, but he has the talent to be a third- or fourth-round pick. A risk-reward pick that could slide if team doctors have concerns, and several will. Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 107 tackles, 24.5 tackles for a loss and 16.5 sacks…Never had a collegiate interception…Recruited as a TE/H-back, but switched to defense during his redshirt season…Big hustle player who is always chase plays to the sideline and until the whistle…Works hard in practice and lives in the weight room…Intelligent player with top read-and-react skills…Has good pass-rushing skills and technique…Undersized for an NFL DE and will almost certainly have to move to OLB in a 3-4 system, which reduces the numbers of teams that prize his skill set…Limited production…Didn't hold up well at the point of attack against power rush teams, which every team is capable of being in the NFL…Doesn't have good change-of-direction skills, which will be critical…When rushing the passer, if a blocker got his hands on him, he was typically controlled…Doesn't have the type of body that can add 20 pounds of muscle and bulk…Worked out with the defensive ends at the Combine, running a 4.65 40 with an impressive 30 reps of 225 pounds, a 30½-inch vertical jump and a 9-5 broad jump. A high-energy player who gives his all. He has the chance to be a specialty linebacker and special-teams ace, but his upside might be marginal. If put in pass-rushing role, could be a solid contributor. Fifth-year senior who was granted a medical redshirt for a shoulder injury four games (all starts) into the 2008 season…Has undergone three left shoulder surgeries – one in high school and two in college…Three-plus-year starter who started 34 of 44 career games…Good speed and range to the sidelines…Outstanding production (214 tackles the last two years in 25 games)…A big hitter who wraps up players and makes them pay the price when he gets the chance…An on-field leader who plays with a lot of passion…Has versatility, having played both inside and outside…Injury concerns abound and will hurt his stock badly…Is undersized and doesn't have great strength or push at the point of attack…Doesn't protect his legs and ends up on the ground a lot…Doesn't have speed or burst to get many sacks (four in 44 career games)…Worked out with the inside linebackers at the Combine, running a 4.59 40 with 23 reps, a 36½-inch vertical jump and a 9-11 broad jump. A tackling machine, his limitations are pronounced. His value may be as a reliable backup and special-teams ace. Teams that covet such players (New England comes to mind), he could be a third- or fourth-round pick. But, his injury history and his liabilities are a little too much for some teams. Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter that had 252 tackles, 23.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and 14 passes broken up…Never had a collegiate interception…Durable player with consistent production that increased every year…Versatile with experience at both weakside and strongside linebacker…Vocal on-field leader…Good change-of-direction skills and read-and-react ability…Good closer who finishes…Doesn't have great upper-body strength…Ends up on the ground far too much and doesn't use his hands to protect himself well…Board hands and has never picked off a pass…When he gets contacted by big blockers, he is typically stopped…Ran a 4.75 40 at the Combine with 20 reps, a 32-inch vertical jump and a 10-0 broad jump. A technically sound player who has very long arms and good size. He could be a solid sleeper candidate and, in a worst-case scenario, a good special-teams contributor. Fifth-year senior…Started all 52 games of his career…Amassed 449 tackles, 39.5 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks, 10 passes broken up and five interceptions…Led the Big East in tackles the last two seasons…Played the weakside for three years before moving to middle linebacker last season…Good speed and agility to chase plays to the sideline…Has the type of intangibles that fit in both a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme…A strong tackler who pops the pads…Good read-and-react skills…Never gives 50 percent or takes a play off…Doesn't have great speed or a closing burst in pursuit…Doesn't have ideal size and will struggle to add the 20 pounds he will likely need…Doesn't have good take-on strength because of his lack of bulk…Will bite on fakes and get out of position…Very short arms…Too often he looks like safety playing linebacker…Ran a 4.71 40 at the Combine with 24 reps, a 32½-inch vertical jump and a 9-5 broad jump. A four-year starter who has a lot of range, but not a lot of size or strength makes him a stretch to be a regular starter in the NFL. He doesn't jump out on tape, but anyone who made 263 tackles the last two years is worth taking a look at in the middle rounds. Fourth-year senior…Became a starter late in his freshman year and started 41 of 50 career games…Had 378 tackles, 38.5 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, 11 passes defensed and four interceptions…In this last three season was flip-flopped from weakside to strongside and back again…Very instinctive and reads-react skills are outstanding…A vicious run-support linebacker…Can take on blocks at the point and hold his ground…Can chase plays to the sidelines…A good tackler with solid pop…Had a monster senior year (163 tackles, 14 for loss and 6.5 sacks)…Is not fast and doesn't have great acceleration or burst…Slows down markedly when he has to change direction…Doesn't always have consistent effort and production…Isn't overly physical and doesn't have ideal playing strength…Ran a 4.75 40 at the Combine with 22 reps, a 31-inch vertical jump and a 9-2 broad jump. It's hard to ignore his production, especially in 2010, but he does have some physical limitations. That being said, he's my pick as the linebacker S.O.D. (Steal Of the Draft) at this position. He should be on the board until well into Day 3 and, if harnessed by a patient coaching staff, could develop into a much better NFL player than some we have rated higher. His downsides, however, can be managed, not eliminated. Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who had 190 tackles, 36 tackles for a loss, and 19.5 sacks…In that entire span, he had one pass broken up and no interceptions…Played the entire 2008 season with a broken finger…Has good explosiveness and delivers the big hit…Excellent instincts…Chiseled physique and looks like a beast…Uses his hands very well…Shoots gaps and was a presence as senior with 11 sacks…Had a very good week at East-West Shrine Game…Does not change direction well and comes to a complete stop…Doesn't have ideal upper-body strength…Gets washed out by blockers too often…A college DE that only projects as a linebacker at the next level…An underdog type who will be asked to become an rush linebacker in a 3-4 system, but his lack of physicality will drop him into the later rounds. Fourth-year senior…Two-year starter who had 171 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, five passes broken up and four interceptions…Spent his first two years backing up Rams LB James Laurinaitis…An explosive hitter who played with a lot of energy…Has great speed and makes plays to the sidelines…Very competitive and emotional leader…Has good pass coverage technique…Is very short for the position…Doesn't have bulk strength and gets hammered by blockers…Doesn't have top read-and-react skills…Ends up on the ground far too much…A good locker-room type, but too much of a \"Rudy\" to expect that he will be more than a special teamer or practice squad project. Fourth-year senior…Started 42 of 44 career games, recording 341 tackles, 26 tackles for a loss, five sacks, nine passes broken up and six interceptions…Led the Big Ten in tackles with 117 in 2010…Has speed, agility and instincts to sift through blockers to the ball consistently…Chases down plays, has good pursuit speed and takes good angles…Looks natural in coverage…Is undersized, a converted safety who has about maxed out his body potential…Isn't physical and doesn't drive players into the ground…Has a history of injuries…Gets blocked too easily…Will get out of position in pursuit and take himself out of plays…An athletic player with a ton of upside, his lack of physical toughness may make him an early casualty if he gets in a coach's doghouse. 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