Top Ranked Outside Linebackers
Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Mack has been streaking up the draft board after the 2013 season ended, and now could be the second consecutive MAC prospect to be the number one overall pick. He was the third ranked LB in January, but now tops all. Mack is a serious threat off of the edge as a pass rusher, and fits best as a rush backer in a 3-4 defense. The only drawback is that Mack is inexperienced in pass coverage, and other than run stuffing and rushing the passer, he doesn't bring pass down coverage skills to the table. That being said, he's as athletic as they come, and it can be a wonder what a little coaching can do.
Anthony Barr, UCLA
Barr, like Mack, is a pass rush specialist who also specializes in tackles for loss, but has absolutely no offering as a pass cover guy. UCLA had him rush the backfield on every play, and if he wasn't doing that, then he wasn't doing anything. Luckily, he's very good at what he does do. Barr is only entering his third season of playing LB, and because of that, he can use more coaching. His football IQ is high, and so is his desire to learn. He requested the switch to defense after being used ineffectively and stupidly as an F-Back in Rick Neuheisel's ill fated Pistol Offense. Barr's move to defense shows why Jim Mora is a better coach, and is smarter than Rick Neuheisel.
Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Shazier brings what Mack and Barr do not, and that's an ability to get back and cover some in the passing game. That's a good thing, because Shazier lacks the size that those two have playing LB. Shazier, while highly productive, is built more like a big safety. He reminds me a bit of former Steeler Carnell Lake, another college LB who moved to Safety in the NFL. Shazier will fit somewhere, and will definitely earn his first round designation.
Kyle Van Noy, BYU
Van Noy is a beast, and despite having great speed, he can flat out bust up a pocket, or collapse the pocket coming from the outside. He is athletic enough to cover RBs and TEs, but is really better served busting up the backfield. Van Noy may be the most complete LB on the outside in this draft. He should be a star on Sundays. The only thing that must be mentioned is that he had some serious red flag issues with alcohol and other off-field problems when younger, but he seems to have overcome all of that. He needs discipline.
Carl Bradford, Arizona State
Bradford seems to be a bit short and squat, and lacks any kind of elite speed. I find his rating of mid-second rounder to be a bit high, based on what he really brings to the table. He has been productive, so he cannot be dismissed out of hand, but he doesn't fit in my profile as an elite athlete that would fit as a starter at OLB on Sundays.
Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
Attaochu played DE at Georgia Tech, and will likely be kicking outside in the NFL. He was a hughly aggressive end in the ACC, and is an excellent pocket collapse specialist who has good burst off of the line. THe only issue is that he will be learning how to play standing up, and will need some time to develop. He will also be fairly useless in pass coverage, making him a bad fit for 4-3 teams.
Trevor Reilly, Utah
Reilly is a dark horse in this draft, and may be one of the more complete packages that will be found in the early third round. He has a long frame, and isn't heavy, and plays with decent footwork for a big LB his size. His overall athleticism will be his selling point.
Telvin Smith, Florida State
Even more so than Shazier, Smith will likely have to drop out of the OLB spot, and play more like a SS or Rover in the NFL. At only 218 lbs., Smith lacks the ability to really add more to his frame than he has. He has good speed for a guy his size, and will likely have to cut it on special teams and show that he has the ability to move to the secondary to really have a shot.
Christian Kirksey, Iowa
While Kirksey loves to line up over the slot, he doesn't exactly have the speed to keep up in the passing game, and his instincts are not always perfect. He was a part of one of the best LB corps in the game last season. Other talent around Kirksey covered his lack of instinct, but he is still a decent player, just far from perfect.
Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA
Zumwalt is one of my more underrated LBs in this draft, and will make someone very happy in the 4th round. If you want to know how aggressive Zumwalt can be, watch the video link below when he destroys Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas in the Sun Bowl.
Top Ranked Inside Linebackers
CJ Mosley, Alabama
Mosley is a super disciplined disciple of the Nick Saban defensive principles.Mosley is a big time tackler, and plays with smarts and solid physical skills. He is an every down middle linebacker who has an amazingly high football IQ, and very few can break down a play before it happens like Mosley. His major drawback is that he has a severe injury history, and will have to be evaluated before the draft as to where his physical health stands overall.
Chris Borland, Wisconsin
Borland is undersized, but very productive. He will never overwhelm you with his athletic skills, but somehow, he just seems to get it done, mostly due to his workmanlike qualities on the football field. He brings the lunch pail on every play, and will work harder than anyone else on the field. He may be a bi hit and miss, but I'd take a chance on him and see what transpires.
Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut
Smallwood is a super productive LB who averaged just shy of 120 tackles per season over the last two seasons at U Conn. He is athletic enough to line up in different schemes and packages, but his postseason 40 times have been all over the board. Despite his athleticism and undeniable production over the last two years, there is something that rings inconsistent about the kind of athleticism he could flash on Sundays. He will be all or nothing, boom or bust, but will find no ground in between.
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