Posluszny, Alexander lead LB class

Updated: September 19, 2006, 6:43 PM ET
By Todd McShay | Scouts Inc.

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.
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Posluszny is a good athlete with great instincts and intangibles, but comparisons to Hawk are exaggerated. In order to maintain his high draft status, Posluszny must return to form following a knee injury suffered in the Orange Bowl. Alexander isn't quite as big or physical, but his impressive blend of speed and agility is why NFL scouts covet him.

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)

Three-Year Tally

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.

Inside Linebackers
Round 2006 2005 2004 Avg.
1 0 0 1 0.3
2 1 3 1 1.7
3 4 4 2 3.3
4 1 0 3 1.3
5 1 5 3 3
6 0 0 2 0.7
7 2 2 3 2.3
Total 9 14 15 12.7

Outside Linebackers
Round 2006 2005 2004 Avg.
1 4 2 2 2.7
2 3 2 4 3
3 3 2 4 3
4 2 1 5 2.7
5 4 5 3 4
6 1 3 1 1.7
7 2 2 2 2
Total 19 17 21 19

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