Draft 2001: Outside Linebackers Analysis

2001 POSITIONAL ANALYSIS

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS


POSITION OVERVIEW
The loss of Dwayne Rudd leaves a hole for the Vikings that will be difficult to fill, especially from this year’s thin OLB draft crop. There is little likelihood that the Vikings will make a run at one of the top two linebackers, but, if someone like Orlando Huff or Markus Steele is available on the second day, expect to see the Vikings jump on one of them. The team will be looking for depth at all three LB positions, but, with Ed McDaniel likely at the end of his road with the Vikings after this season, look for the Vikings to take a good look at this position.


THE BEST OF THE BEST
TOMMY POLLEY, Florida State, 6-4, 230 —
Came out of high school from presigious Dunbar High School in Baltimore, where he starred in both football and basketball...A fifth-year senior...Began his college career as both a LB and tight end...A three-year starter who overcame a torn ACL and partially torn MCL in the 1999 College Championship Game...In three years as a starter, he had 268 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, six sacks and three interceptions...Weight is a concern, since he showed up at the Senior Bowl weighing just 218 pounds, but was up to 235 pounds at the Combine...Extremely aggressive and runs down plays anywhere on the field...His work ethic can’t be questioned, since he came back strong from an injury that likely would have sidelined most players last year...Has the experience of big-time play, winning four state high school titles and a national championship with Florida State...Not the strongest player and his weight is a major concern — he tends to lose weight during games and during the season...Did not work out at the Combine.
PROJECTION: If he can maintain his weight, he will be an impressive OLB in the NFL. However, some teams will be scared off by his light weight and one surgically repaired knee, so he could fall out of the first round.


QUINTON CAVER, Arkansas, 6-2, 229 —
Fifth-year senior who had to sit out the 1996 season because he was academically ineligible...Only a full-time starter for two years and was an All-SEC pick last year...In the last two years, he had 161 tackles, 18 for a loss, three sacks and an interception...He has tremendous athleticism, but his lack of size will eliminate him from top consideration by many teams...A locker room leader who earned respect from coaches and teammates...Has long arms that make him a force in the short passing game...Doesn’t have great size or strength...Ran a 4.63 40 at the Combine, as well as doing 23 reps with 225 pounds and a 37-1/2 inch vertical jump.
PROJECTION: A good player who has improved each year he has played. He has the chance to be a tremendous NFL player, but will likely take time, which is why he won’t get picked until the second round.


THE NEXT BEST THING
SEDRICK HODGE, North Carolina, 6-4, 245 — Fourth-year senior...Also competed as a long jumper for N.C.’s track team, jumping 23 feet...Started every game the past three years, registering 250 tackles, 34 tackles for a loss and 10-1/2 sacks...Excellent speed and extremely coachable...Can get bigger...Good jumping ability...Has played through injuries...Not as polished a player as those rated above him...Combine work moved him up on draft boards, as a he ran an explosive 4.43 40, did 21 reps and had a 32-inch vertical jump.
PROJECTION: Because of his athleticism which he displayed at the Combine, he’s likely pushed his way into the second round of the draft.


ORLANDO HUFF, Fresno State, 6-2, 245 —
Played two years at Fresno State after transferring from Eastern Arizona Junior College...Didn’t start in five games in his two years at FSU, but still had 180 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 14 sacks — 10 of those coming last year...All-WAC and some All-America teams last year...Has the size and speed to be a prototype LB...Can play both OLB positions because of his strength and long arms...Likely won’t be able to step in and start immediately, because he doesn’t have the functional big-college experience...Didn’t run or jump at the Combine and did just 16 reps.
PROJECTION: A player who will need patience to become a top NFL LB, he will likely go in the second round late to a team with a chance to let him work into his role with the team.


ERIC WESTMORELAND, Tennessee, 5-11, 233 —
Fifth-year senior...Played as a true freshman before red-shirting as a sophomore with a knee injury...Re-injured knee as a junior, but was a three-year starter...In three seasons of full-time play, he had 213 tackles, 30 tackles for a loss and five sacks...Came to Tennessee as a standout high school running back and safety...All-SEC linebacker last year...Uses his speed to rush the quarterback and track down plays anywhere on the field...Viewed as too small — both in weight and height — for a starting linebacker, but has proved people wrong before...Ran a 4.74 40 at the Combine, as well as doing 21 reps and a 36-1/2 inch vertical jump.
PROJECTION: Unless a team really has a workout that blows their minds, he’s likely to hang around until the third round.


MORLON GREENWOOD, Syracuse, 6-0, 237 —
Fifth-year senior who started all 48 games of his college career...A tough player who was New York’s 215-pound high school wrestling champion as a senior...Made himself some money by being selected Defensive MVP of the Blue-Grey All-Star Game...In four years, he had 307 tackles, and five sacks...Never intercepted a pass in college and last year didn’t have a pick, force a fumble or sack the QB once...Team leader whose durability was something teammates aspired to...Excellent closing speed...Not a big-play guy who turns games around...Gets taken out of plays too often by larger blockers...At the Combine, he ran a 4.62 40, did 21 reps and had a 33-1/2 inch vertical jump.
PROJECTION: Because of his durability and athleticism, he’ll go on the first day of the draft, but, as of now, he projects out to a part-time player and special-teamer, which will drop him into the third round at least.


MARKUS STEELE, USC, 6-3, 233 —
Two-year starter who transferred from Long Beach City Junior College...Trojans thought a lot of him by giving him No. 55 — worn by future pros Junior Seau, Willie McGinnest and Chris Claiborne...Has shoulder surgery after the 1999 season, but kept playing through it...Hindered by a sprained ankle last season...Big hitter in the Seau mold and a student of the game...Had a down 2000 season, which hurt his stock badly...Makes mistakes because of his own aggression...Didn’t run or lift at the Combine, but had a 33-inch vertical jump.
PROJECTION: Based on his junior season, you’d expect him to go higher, but injuries and inexperience will likely drop him into the third round.


PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
Brian Allen, Florida State, 6-0, 245
Matt Stewart, Vanderbilt, 6-4, 236
Patrick Chukwurah, Wyoming, 6-2, 240
Keith Adams, Clemson, 5-10, 222
Jason Glenn, Texas A & M, 6-0, 236
Ryan Goven, North Dakota, 6-4, 255
Roylin Bradley, Texas A & M, 6-1, 243
Chris Edmonds, West Virginia, 6-3, 245
Byron Thweatt, Virginia, 6-1, 232
Anthony Denman, Notre Dame, 6-1, 236


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