NFL Draft: Top LB Prospects
Over the next couple of weeks my daily blog will breakdown the top players at each position for this year’s NFL draft. In today’s blog, I have included the top linebacker prospects complete with strengths, weaknesses and an overall projection of what round each prospect will likely be drafted in.
Josh Buchanan who runs JBScouting.com does a great job following FCS football and he contributes significantly to my FCS preview. Josh also has scouted for the Texas vs. Nation Game and East Coast Bowl the last few years and has interned with the Carolina Panthers. He has great knowledge of all the draft prospects and has offered to breakdown the top players at each position from his film evauluation and feedback from top NFL scouts.
If you need complete rankings, career statistics, pictures and draft projections for this year’s top prospects download the2010 Draft Guide absolutely free! Also included in the draft guide is pro day workout dates, a draft order for the 1st two rounds, combine invitees by position plus college teams with most draft losses!
Keep checking the guide regularly to get all the latest and greatest information on this year’s draft as we will be adding new information daily. I will be back on Monday with the top DB prospects. Have a great weekend!
Top Inside LB Prospects for the 2010 NFL Draft
1. Rolando McClain, Alabama
40 Time: 4.68
Strengths: Has great size and length and is tremendous at reading and reacting to plays. Has the ideal bulk for an inside linebacker. He is also smart and very good against the run.
Weaknesses: Must improve hand technique when blitzing. Sometimes overruns plays and misses some tackles. Inexperienced in dropping back into zone.
Overall: Has the ideal physical tools for an inside linebacker and had a productive career (275 tkls, 23.5 tfl, 8 sks) at Alabama. He is a downhill thumper type linebacker that should come off the board in the first round.
2. Sean Lee, Penn State
40 Time: 4.60
Strengths: Good instincts and football intelligence. Diagnoses screens quickly and is a sound wrap up tackler. Shows good lateral range and runs hard. Very competitive.
Weaknesses: Had a torn ACL as a junior so there are medical concerns. Tight in the hips and does not get good depth in coverage. He is also high in his backpedal and is an average blitzer.
Overall: Lee bounced back from a torn ACL to have a great senior season with 86 tackles, 9 tfl and 2 sacks. His intelligence and tackling ability make him an interesting prospect and should come off the board in the top 100 selections.
3. Donald Butler, Washington
40 Time: 4.61
Strengths: Reliable open field tackler that plays with good balance and quick feet to change direction and recover. Has good straight line speed and lateral agility and balance to avoid blocks.
Weaknesses: Some might view him as an outside linebacker because of his frame and ability in coverage. Not an explosive hitter and can be out of control when he crashes the line at full speed.
Overall: His stock has risen more than anyone else in this group since the end of the season and while he has a narrow build and lacks ideal height to play inside, he is a relentless player that likely comes off the board in the 3rd or 4th round.
4. Brandon Spikes, Florida
40 Time: 4.95
Strengths: Has great size and quick feet. His instincts and anticipation are very good and he is strong against the run. Good tackler with good zone awareness and is a versatile player.
Weaknesses: Ran much slower at his pro day than expected. Lacks the top end speed for an ideal inside linebacker and has had some off field troubles with a one game suspension in 2009. He also struggles to break down in space and misses some tackles.
Overall: Spikes’ production over his career has been very impressive but his best season was his sophomore year. It is possible that his best days are behind him and combined with his slow 40 time, his stock has fallen from a potential first round pick to a likely mid round selection.
5. Pat Angerer, Iowa
40 Time: 4.64
Strengths: Has a nose for the ball and shows good instincts by reading and diagnosing quickly. Shows good closing speed and can go sideline to sideline and downfield to chase the ball from the middle. Quick enough to avoid blocks and chases the ball very hard.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size and is not overly athletic. If he does not avoid a block he can be engulfed by them.
Overall: He finished 2009 with incredible production with 145 tackles and 4 tfl. Despite the size his motor, instincts and hustle make him an intriguing mid to late round prospect.
6. Darryl Sharpton, Miami
40 Time: 4.81
Strengths: Explosive hitter with special teams experience. Solid wrap up tackler with good effort and energy. He is versatile as he has lined up at all the linebacker spots and is quick to shoot gapes when he sees them.
Weaknesses: Medical concerns due to a knee and ankle in 2005. Slow on his keys and needs to work on angles. Lacks ideal height. Slow to unlock his hips and lacks the range to be in coverage. Struggles to run with backs and is just average as a blitzer.
Overall: His ability to play all the linebacker positions and special teams makes him a versatile athlete that would make an ideal mid round selection because he can be the backup across the board at linebacker and immediately contribute on special teams.
7. Jamar Chaney, Mississippi State
40 Time: 4.58
Strengths: Has a good build and is a former weak side linebacker with good athletic ability and knowledge of a pass defense to be a four down backer. Gets good depth in coverage and breaks down well in space against smaller athletes. Good hustle in pursuit.
Weaknesses: Medical redshirt in 2008 is cause for concern. Has marginal vision and can be engulfed by blockers. Lacks elite lateral quickness to avoid blocks and needs to use his hands better to play off blocks.
Overall: Chaney is an inconsistent tackler who misses more than he should but has good instincts and could be a WILL linebacker in the NFL. Has been steady over his career. Will have to make a team by his play on special teams. Should be a mid-late round selection.
8. Alex Joseph, Temple
40 Time: 4.62
Strengths: Has very good speed and athletic ability. Explosive player that makes a lot of plays. Active. Good tackler. His change of direction is also impressive as well as his toughness.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size for an inside linebacker. Needs to work on his technique, use of hands, and bulk up some more.
Overall: Joseph is a team captain who earned All-MAC honors in 2009 and was impressive at the Texas vs. Nation Game. His speed and ability to help on special teams makes him a solid late round prospect that could surprise as a rookie.
9. Josh Hull, Penn State
40 Time: 4.76
Strengths: Has great size and good speed. Productive, tough, hard-working player. Versatility shown by the fact he has played both inside and outside in his career. Shows the ability to get off blocks.
Weaknesses: Not as much starting experience as most elite linebackers. Has adequate but not outstanding numbers. Sometimes gets caught backtracking in coverage and can be fooled at times. Must improve technique.
Overall: In his second year as a starter he was very productive in 2009 showing the potential to be a solid player at the next level.
10. Travis Goethel, Arizona State
40 Time: 4.81
Strengths: Reliable player with good size who was productive during his career. Very good reaction time and recognition skills. Does a good job of sniffing out plays. Gets good leverage to push piles. Hard-working player.
Weaknesses: Lacks the quick-twitch movement and recovery speed scouts look for. Also lacks the speed to blow up plays before the catch. Slow to compose himself after cut blocks.
Overall: Earned honorable mention All-Pac 10 honors in 2009 after a productive season. Has just average speed but he hustles and has good instincts to make up for it. He could potentially play outside linebacker or inside in a 3-4 defense. Special teams ability will likely be what determines whether he makes a roster.
11. Kion Wilson, South Florida
40 Time: 4.87
Strengths: Has a good physique and is a hard working player that is tough, plays hard, and has good character. Quick getting to the flat to cover backs and drop into coverage.
Weaknesses: Has average athletic ability and his instincts are lacking. Doesn’t possess great bulk strength and is tight in his movement. Drops catchable interceptions in coverage and does not blitz much. Lacks explosiveness from his stance to be an elite sack artist.
Overall: Wilson spent two years at Pearl River CC and was a solid but not outstanding player for the Bulls. He hustles, has heart and will give everything he has. Late round or free agent type prospect that will have to make it on special teams.
12. Joe Pawelek, Baylor
40 Time: 4.75
Strengths: Has good height, is tough and plays hard. He shows good instincts to make plays all over the field and uses his hands well to shed blocks. Fills holes well and attacks downhill. Good leader.
Weaknesses: Lacks elite athletic ability and speed. Not explosive. Gets lost in traffic at times. Not very fluid and can be jolted out of plays. He also struggles tackling in the open field sometimes.
Overall: Underrated player due to lack of elite athletic ability but is productive and should come off the board in the late rounds or as an undrafted free agent.
13. Matt Mayberry, Indiana
40 Time: 4.57
Strengths: Has great straight line speed and good strength. Workout warrior type who excels in workouts. Hard-hitter.
Weaknesses: Undersized player that lacks change of direction skills, has short arms, and looks to be too muscular. Inconsistent player that would be a non-factor at times.
Overall: Mayberry is highly athletic, fast, and flashes ability to be a solid backup and star on special teams. His pro day workout likely solidified himself as a late round or high priority free agent prospect.
14. Mike McLaughlin, Boston College
40 Time: 4.84
Strengths: Has a good frame and shows great anticipation in the pass and run game and is physical. Plays with good effort. Finds the ball quickly and attacks the line of scrimmage against the run. Shows good footwork for dropping into coverage. Has enough ability to avoid blocks in the hole.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal height and speed. Lacks the athletic ability to recover when beat. Has just marginal body control to adjust and make the tackle when moving full speed. Not a great bender. Tight-hipped and not a fluid mover. Struggles to shadow quicker backs and tight ends. Durability is a concern.
Overall: His best season was his junior year with 89 tackles, 8 tfl and 4 sks. He is an overachieving player that works hard and will have to make it on special teams. Likely a late round or priority free agent prospect.
15. Phillip Dillard, Nebraska
40 Time: 4.60
Strengths: Runs better than expected. Shows good instincts and is a fast downhill type player against the run. Takes good angles and reads misdirection and running back routes well. Moves well through traffic and uses his hands well to jolt blockers and stay free to make tackles.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal height for the position and only has marginal change of direction ability. Just a straight-line athlete with stiff hips and lacks the speed to cover running backs.
Overall: Dillard had a very good senior season and flew under the radar for the most part but scouts noticed him. His ability to shed blocks and play aggressive make him a player that coaches love. Likely not a high draft pick due to lack of size and being a late bloomer but is a solid late round or priority free agent type prospect.
Top Outside LB Prospects for the 2010 NFL Draft
1. Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
40 Time: 4.52
Strengths: A productive player with a good nose for the ball that can read and react quickly. He shows good athletic ability, agility, and closing speed. He can break down on runners in space and is reliable in coverage.
Weaknesses: There are not many weaknesses in his game but he sometimes stays blocked too long and can become engulfed. Struggles to navigate through traffic and can be bounced around.
Overall: His production, explosive play, and IQ make him one of the top defenders in this draft. Weatherspoon finished his senior season with 111 tackles, 10 sks, and 4.5 tfl and combined with his performance at the combine, he should be a guaranteed first round selection.
2. Sergio Kindle, Texas
40 Time: 4.65
Strengths: Kindle has great length and plays with good instincts. He shows superior quickness and balance and can make the tackle in the open field. Is explosive with his first step and can get to the QB quickly. Rarely is fooled with misdirection and routinely stays at home.
Weaknesses: Has character issues after a DWI in 2007. Lacks experience matching up in man-to-man coverage. Has trouble shedding blockers and needs to develop more pass rush moves.
Overall: Kindle reminds many scouts of former Longhorn Brian Orakpo who was a 1st round draft choice of the Redskins last year. Kindle has great athletic ability and will be best suited as a OLB in a 3-4 scheme. He does have the pass rush skills to play DE in a 4-3 defense but will need to add weight. Look for him to get drafted in the late 1st round.
3. Koa Misi, Utah
40 Time: 4.75
Strengths: Misi shows good instincts and the ability reads routes knowing where the hot read is in coverage. His strong upper body allows him to bring his hips to explode into runners and breaking down in space is easy for him.
Weaknesses: Lacks the bulk to play end in the NFL and struggles getting off blocks. Must develop counter moves and improve on his use of hands. Late to adjust and counter and is often stalled.
Overall: Misi finished with 71 tackles, 5 sks and 4.5 tfl as a senior but like many ends before him will likely be a 3-4 outside linebacker whose motor and potential make him an intriguing 2nd-3rd round pick.
4. Daryl Washington, TCU
40 Time: 4.54
Strengths: Uses his quickness to react and explodes into running lanes and is fast enough to recover from a false step. Productive player with good straight-line speed and the hustle to chase downfield and to the sideline.
Weaknesses: Needs to bulk up as he is thin-framed. Marginal strength at the point of attack and mostly runs around blocks instead of taking them on. Sometimes overruns plays and is just a one-year starter.
Overall: Washington improved greatly each year of his career and showed that he could be a solid WLB at the next level or at worst a nickel linebacker. His speed, size, and length make him an intriguing player that could fit in the top 50 selections.
5. Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State
40 Time: 4.58
Strengths: Great athlete that is fluid in space showing a quick first step. Moves very well laterally and has the strength, speed and length to be a good chase tackler. Displays good body control and plays hard.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent against misdirection and relies on his speed too much. Needs to develop counter moves. Not strong against the run. Lacks ideal size for an end so likely moving to outside linebacker.
Overall: Gibson is very athletic showing the ability to stand up and become a linebacker after playing end in college. He is a project that will need some time. Likely coming off the board in the second or third round.
6. Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech
40 Time: 4.49
Strengths: Quick and agile and is at his best when rushing the passer. Shows a variety of pass rush moves such as the swim, rip, spin and club. Relentlessly works to shed blocks and is a good wrap up tackler.
Weaknesses: Has questionable body control and is too often pushed back trying to anchor vs the run. Needs to use his pass rush moves more. Lacks elite closing burst and has some hip tightness.
Overall: Worilds played defensive end in college but projects best as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. His speed, production, and toughness make him a likely second or third round pick.
7. Eric Norwood, South Carolina
40 Time: 4.71
Strengths: Norwood plays with a lot of effort and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He breaks down well in space and is flexible playing with natural leverage to bend off the edge. Smart, tough, durable, and a vocal leader of the team.
Weaknesses: Lacks the ideal height to play end so likely moving to linebacker. Slow backpedal and marginal straight line speed. Lacks the fluidity for coverage showing average zone awareness.
Overall: Highly productive player who played end and linebacker in college and is a tweener for the next level. Probably fits best in a 3-4 scheme and will come off the board in the top 100 selections.
8. Rennie Curran, Georgia
40 Time: 4.65
Strengths: Thick built kid with a low center of gravity who reads keys quickly and makes many of his plays around the line of scrimmage. Has good speed and is a reliable open field tackler.
Weaknesses: Undersized player with a small frame. Can lose the ball and gets lost in traffic. Shows some hip tightness and there is concern over his durability.
Overall: Curran is a undersized but highly productive and a respected team leader. A search and flow linebacker who makes up for his lack of size with his speed. Likely third or fourth round selection.
9. Navorro Bowman, Penn State
40 Time: 4.62
Strengths: Bowman has a great nose for the ball and displays good balance. Fluid mover who bends naturally and plays well in space. Shows up in big games.
Weaknesses: Needs to get more consistent getting off TE blocks. Sometimes bites on play action because he is so aggressive. Character and maturity are concerns.
Overall: Had two very productive seasons in 2008 and 2009. Undersized but rangy and plays fast. Likely going to play in a 4-3 scheme. Should come off the board in the third or fourth round.
10. Ricky Sapp, Clemson
40 Time: 4.65
Strengths: Very athletic player with long arms and has great potential. Good draft down tackler from behind who wraps up well and hustles downfield to make plays in pursuit.
Weaknesses: Needs to bulk up. Has durability concerns. Inconsistent motor with just average production. Does not play strong. Lacks the strength at the point of attack to shed blocks when engaged.
Overall: Highly touted player who never quite lived up to the hype but he has had injuries. Sapp is athletic showing a good burst and bend. Lacks instincts that could help him in the NFL. Likely to be a linebacker in a 3-4 scheme after playing end in college. A little overrated as some think he is a first or second round talent but should come off the board in the third round range.
11. Perry Riley, LSU
40 Time: 4.64
Strengths: Thickly built player that attacks fast downhill and is physical. Tough and plays hard. Has been durable and shows good work ethic. Reliable open field tackler who takes good angles and closes quickly in pursuit.
Weaknesses: Has questionable instincts and shows some stiffness. Average athletic ability and foot speed. Limited in coverage. Can be easily distracted by trappings.
Overall: Not very productive and undersized. Is viewed as a tweener and will probably inside linebacker due to bulk. Had just two good seasons of production and looks like a solid fourth or fifth round selection.
12. A.J. Edds, Iowa
40 Time: 4.67
Strengths: Shows good eyes recognizing play action and misdiredction. Gets to the flat to cover screens. Good wrap up tackler in the open field and has good size and length. Loose hipped to play in space and gives good effort.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal strength at the point of attack, not explosive, and doesn’t always break down in space. Lacks elite change of direction skills. Need to see him blitz more.
Overall: Edds was never a dominant player but was steady. While he lacks the elite skills to be a playmaker that would get him drafted earlier, he should have a solid career because he is smart, athletic, and could help in nickel situations. Mid round prospect who will can make an immediate impact on special teams.
13. Arthur Moats, James Madison
40 Time: 4.64
Strengths: Highly athletic player with a good motor and quickness off the edge. Displays good functional strength. Relentless pass rusher with great production.
Weaknesses: Tweener prospect who lacks the size and length to play his college position of defensive end. At the all-star game he looked lost at times showing that he will need time to adapt to his projected position.
Overall: Moats won the 2009 Buck Buchanan Award as the top defensive player in the FCS and played well in the Texas vs. Nation Game showing that he can be a solid linebacker with time. He performed well at the NFL Scouting Combine and should be taken off the board in the 5th or 6th round.
14. Chris McCoy, Middle Tennessee State
40 Time: 4.70
Strengths: Athletic player with good speed and explosiveness. Quick off the edge player with good production who makes plays down field a good bit. He is a project but definitely worth taking a shot on.
Weaknesses: Has decent but not great strength. Will likely convert to outside linebacker because he lacks the bulk to play his college position of defensive end.
Overall: McCoy is a fast riser since his solid pro day workout who flashed during the season. He was named the 2009 Sun Belt Co-Defensive Player of the Year after he tallied 64 tackles, 13 tfl, and 7 sks. Could come off the board in the mid to late rounds.
15. Dekoda Watson, Florida State
40 Time: 4.40
Strengths: Very athletic player with great speed and agility. Closes quickly to the runner and attacks the line of scrimmage in run support. Good timing for the blitz with good arm length that allows him to jam and control tight ends off the line. Shows good body control and moves well laterally.
Weaknesses: Not very explosive and has a passive on field demeanor. Has marginal diagnosing skills and can be fooled by a good play action. Can’t break free from blocks once engaged. Was suspended three games for an academic scandal. Durability can be an issue.
Overall: Gradually got better each year in college with his best season coming in 2009 with 65 tackles, 6.5 tfl and 6.5 sks. He lacks great instincts but is a fluid mover with great speed and upside. Should come off the board in the late third to fifth round range.