Posluszny, Alexander lead LB class
The 2006 crop of outside linebackers was special. After two years (2004-'05) with two outside linebackers being selected in the first round, that number doubled in 2006 when A.J. Hawk, Ernie Sims, Chad Greenway and Bobby Carpenter were off the board after 18 picks. As it looks right now, the 2007 senior class has two prospects -- Paul Posluszny (Penn State) and Rufus Alexander (Oklahoma) -- worthy of first-round consideration.
|INSIDE THE NFL DRAFT|
With the college football season under way, NFL scouts are hard at work evaluating prospects for the 2007 draft. Our Scouts Inc. draft specialists are no different. DraftTracker 2007 already is loaded up with in-depth scouting reports on nearly 250 college seniors who are on the NFL's radar, and our guys are filing updates each week as the prospects perform on the field.
• NFL DraftTracker 2007
With more and more NFL teams implementing 3-4 defensive alignments, an increased emphasis is being placed on the inside linebacker position. Unfortunately, the same is not true in the college game, so the supply has not caught up with the demand. The last two drafts have seen an average of six inside linebackers selected on the first day, but none in the first round. Next spring's inside linebacker class should break that streak, thanks to Ole Miss' Patrick Willis, who projects as a mid to late first-round pick. Willis lacks ideal size and frequently gets nicked, but his instincts, quickness, power and toughness are what make him a special talent. H.B. Blades (Pittsburgh) is the second-best inside linebacker, in my opinion. He lacks Willis' range, but Blades is bigger and stronger.
Many NFL inside linebackers are transplanted outside linebackers. Prospects who potentially fit that mold include Tim Shaw (Penn State), Nate Harris (Louisville), Buster Davis (Florida State) and Sam Olajubutu (Arkansas).
Similarly, many NFL outside linebackers -- particularly in the 3-4 scheme -- are transplanted defensive ends. A few of those exist in this year's senior class, including LaMarr Woodley (Michigan), Brian Smith (Missouri) and Larry McSwain (UAB).
At least three underclass linebackers display enough potential to eventually warrant first-round consideration, including OLB Lawrence Timmons (Florida State), ILB Brandon Siler (Florida) and OLB Vince Hall (Virginia Tech).
The University of Michigan, which employs a 3-4 defensive scheme, could see three of its four starting linebackers selected next spring. Woodley is the highest rated of the three, followed by OLB Prescott Burgess and ILB David Harris. While it would be an impressive accomplishment, Ohio State's act from this year's draft will be tough to follow, as A.J. Hawk (Packers, first round), Bobby Carpenter (Cowboys, first round) and Anthony Schlegel (Jets, third round) were all selected on Day 1.
Other schools with multiple talents at the linebacker position include Penn State (Posluszny, Shaw and junior Dan Connor), Oklahoma (Alexander and Zach Latimer), Florida (Siler and Earl Everett) and USC (Oscar Lua, Dallas Sartz and junior Keith Rivers).
This year's senior class of linebackers is void of first-day talent from the small-school ranks, but OLB Zak DeOssie (Brown) and ILB Justin Durant (Hampton) are two prospects who could justify late-round picks with dominant senior campaigns, followed by strong postseason workouts.
|Top 25 Senior Linebacker Prospects|
|Rnk||Prospect, Pos, School||Height||Weight|
|1.||Paul Posluszny, OLB, Penn State||6-2||230|
|2.||Patrick Willis, ILB, Mississippi||6-2||230|
|3.||Rufus Alexander, OLB, Oklahoma||6-0||230|
|4.||H.B. Blades, ILB, Pittsburgh||5-10 6/8||241|
|5.||Earl Everett, OLB, Florida||6-2 1/8||227|
|6.||Prescott Burgess, OLB, Michigan||6-3||245|
|7.||Juwan Simpson, OLB, Alabama||6-2 3/8||228|
|8.||Desmond Bishop, ILB, California||6-1 5/8||240|
|9.||David Harris, ILB, Michigan||6-2||239|
|10.||Anthony Waters, ILB, Clemson||6-2 3/8||240|
|11.||Tim Shaw, OLB, Penn State||6-1||235|
|12.||Brian Smith, OLB, Missouri||6-3 3/4||237|
|13.||Stephen Nicholas, OLB, South Florida||6-2||225|
|14.||Oscar Lua, ILB, USC||6-0 1/2||240|
|15.||Nate Harris, OLB, Louisville||6-0||238|
|16.||Kevin McLee, ILB, West Virginia||5-11 1/2||251|
|17.||Stewart Bradley, OLB, Nebraska||6-3||240|
|18.||Buster Davis, ILB, Florida State||5-9 3/8||244|
|19.||Quincy Black, OLB, New Mexico||6-1 1/2||226|
|20.||Zach Latimer, ILB, Oklahoma||6-1||235|
|21.||David Holloway, OLB, Maryland||6-1 5/8||230|
|22.||Sam Olajubutu, OLB, Arkansas||5-9 1/4||230|
|23.||Justin Warren, ILB, Texas A&M||6-2 5/8||242|
|24.||Zak DeOssie, OLB, Brown||6-4||268|
|25.||Jason Durant, ILB, Hampton||6-0 1/2||232|
|Top 10 Potential Early Entries|
|Rnk||Prospect, Pos, School||Height||Weight|
|1.||Lawrence Timmons, OLB, Florida State||6-3||235|
|2.||Brandon Siler, ILB, Florida||6-1 5/8||235|
|3.||Vince Hall, OLB, Virginia Tech||6-0||234|
|4.||Keith Rivers, OLB, USC||6-3||225|
|5.||Xavier Adibi, OLB, Virginia Tech||6-2 1/2||228|
|6.||Jonathan Goff, ILB, Vanderbilt||6-4||240|
|7.||Brian Toal, OLB, Boston College||6-1||233|
|8.||Jon Beason, OLB, Miami (Fla.)||6-0||225|
|9.||Dan Connor, OLB, Penn State||6-2 1/2||231|
|10.||Nelson Coleman, ILB, Tulsa||6-2||235|
|Day 1 Linebackers in 2006 NFL Draft|
|Rnk||Prospect, Pos, School||Team||Round (Overall)|
|1.||A.J. Hawk, OLB, Ohio State||Packers||First (5)|
|2.||Ernie Sims, OLB, FSU||Lions||First (9)|
|3.||Chad Greenway, OLB, Iowa||Vikings||First (17)|
|4.||Bobby Carpenter, OLB, Ohio State||Cowboys||First (18)|
|5.||DeMeco Ryans, OLB, Alabama||Texans||Second (33)|
|6.||D'Qwell Jackson, ILB, Maryland||Browns||Second (34)|
|7.||Rocky McIntosh, OLB, Miami (Fla.)||Redskins||Second (35)|
|8.||Thomas Howard, OLB, UTEP||Raiders||Second (38)|
|9.||Abdul Hodge, ILB, Iowa||Packers||Third (67)|
|10.||Anthony Schlegel, ILB, Ohio State||Jets||Third (76)|
|11.||Jon Alston, OLB, Stanford||Rams||Third (77)|
|12.||Clint Ingram, OLB, Oklahoma||Jaguars||Third (80)|
|13.||James Anderson, OLB, Virginia Tech||Panthers||Third (88)|
|14.||Freddie Keiaho, ILB, San Diego State||Colts||Third (94)|
|15.||Gerris Wilkinson, ILB Georgia Tech||Giants||Third (96)|
The following is a graphic representation of the number of linebackers (inside and outside) selected in each round of the previous three NFL drafts. Most NFL teams use this type of chart to study position trends when setting up their respective draft boards each year.