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DRAFT TALK: Linebacker Scouting Reports
By Tony Pauline
Special To Jets Insider.com
April 24th, 2008
Southern Cal LB Keith Rivers.
Southern Cal LB Keith Rivers.
NFL Draft expert Tony Pauline breaks down the top college linebackers in this week's draft with complete scouting reports.

Inside/Middle Linebackers

Inside/Middle Linebackers

 

P-Rank

Round

Full Name

School

1

1B

Jerod Mayo

Tennessee

2

2C

Jonathan Goff

Vanderbilt

3

3C

Philip Wheeler

Georgia Tech

4

4A

Beau Bell

UNLV

5

4C

Ben Moffitt

South Florida

6

5A

Vince Hall

Virginia Tech

7

6A

Wesley Woodyard

Kentucky

8

7A

Danny Lansanah

Connecticut

9

7C

Steve Allen

West Texas A&M

10

FA

Jameel McClain

Syracuse

11

FA

Jeremy Leman

Illinois

12

FA

Thomas Keith

Central Michigan

13

FA

Josh Johnson

Marshall

14

FA

Joe Brockington

Notre Dame

15

FA

Nelson Coleman

Tulsa

16

FA

Mike Klinkenborg

Iowa

17

FA

Christian Taylor

UCLA

18

FA

Misi Tupe

Texas A&M

19

FA

Jermaine Dias

Virginia

20

FA

Drew Fowler

Air Force

21

FA

Daniel Brooks

Jackson State

22

FA

Trent Allen

Houston

23

FA

Weston Dacus

Arkansas

24

FA

Fred Wilson

East Carolina

 

Full Name:    Jerod Mayo                 School:    Tennessee                           Pos:      ILB

Ht:    6-1.5          Wt:    242             40:     4.57                 Year:       4Jr

Bio:

Two year starter awarded all-Conference honors last season after leading

Tennessee in tackles posting 140/8.5/1.  Also intercepted one pass and broke up

 two more.  Sophomore totals included 83/12.5/5.

Pos:

Tough, run-defending linebacker with a terrific head for the ball.  Breaks down well, holds his ground against blocks and forceful up the field.   Strong at the point, displays ability in pursuit and wraps up tackling.  Smooth opening his hips in transition and fluid pedaling in reverse.  Effectively quarterbacks the defense and gets his teammate in proper position.  Hard-hitter and likes to intimidate opponents.

Neg:

Slow finding the ball in pass coverage and late reacting to the action.  More often

than not removed from the field on passing downs.

Analysis:

Mayo is a tough, run-defending linebacker who plays bigger than his listed size. 

He capped off a terrific junior campaign with an outstanding combine workout. 

Best making plays downhill, Mayo is a good fit at middle linebacker or on the inside of the 34 alignment and has starting potential in the NFL.

Full Name:    Jonathan Goff              School:    Vanderbilt                             Pos:      ILB

Ht:    6-2             Wt:    245             40:     4.73                 Year:       5Sr

Bio:

Three-year starter who also saw extensive action with the first-team as a

freshman.  All-Conference selection the past two years most recently totaling

113/6.5/3 as a senior when he intercepted two passes and broke up one more. 

Pos:

Strong, physical run-defending linebacker that flies around the action to make

positive plays.  Displays a good head for the ball in run defense, quickly fills gaps

up the field and plays with a nasty attitude.  Immediately locates the ball carrier,

scrapes well laterally and fluid moving to the flanks, showing ability in pursuit. 

Attacks the action, plays with a nasty attitude and chases hard to get involved. 

Remains disciplined in coverage and rarely off his feet.

Neg:

Does not get great depth on drops and displays marginal ball skills. 

Over-pursues the action and does not consistently take proper angles to the play.

Analysis:

Goff has been a steadily improving linebacker and comes off a career senior

campaign which was followed by a terrific performance at the combine.  He offers a lot of possibilities as a starting middle linebacker in the NFL.

 

Full Name:    Philip Wheeler             School:    Georgia Tech                        Pos:      ILB

Ht:    6-2             Wt:    248             40:     4.83                 Year:       5Sr

Bio:

Three-year starter who played both strong side and middle linebacker. 

All-Conference selection the past two years totaling 88/8.5/5.5 as a senior after

89/14.5/9 during his junior campaign.

Pos:

Tough, strong run-defending linebacker who plays bigger than his size.  Displays a good head for the ball, quickly diagnoses the action, and likes to mix it up.  Fights through blocks to get to the action, takes good angles to the play, and effectively uses his hands to protect himself.  Wraps up ball-carriers and brings them down on initial contact.

Neg:

Struggles in coverage and has difficulty staying downfield with tight ends.  Lacks

quickness, the ability to immediately change direction, lateral speed, and the

ability to make plays outside the box.  Not known as a hard-working player.

Analysis:

Wheeler is a physical linebacker who’s been productive for three years running in college and he offers starting potential on the inside of a 3-4 alignment.  Likely a two-down defender at the start of his career, Wheeler has the skills to develop a complete game.


Full Name:    Beau Bell                    School:    UNLV                                   Pos:      ILB

Ht:    6-1.5          Wt:    244             40:     4.75                 Year:       4Sr

Bio:

Three-year starter named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year last

season after totaling 126/9.5/3, intercepting four passes, and breaking up three

more.  Junior-year totals included 76/9/4 when he struggled with an ankle injury.

Pos:

Strong, hard-hitting linebacker who stands out in run defense.  Disciplined, scrapes well in the box, and uses his hands to protect himself.  Displays a quick first step to the action, rarely off his feet, and weaves through traffic to get to the ball-carrier.  Strong at the point and holds his ground against blocks even when taking on opposing linemen.  Squares into ball-carriers and wraps up when tackling.

Neg:

Struggles in coverage or when required to make plays moving in reverse.  Not

considered a team leader or a hard worker.

Analysis:

Bell is a productive linebacker with a good degree of upside potential.  He has the

ability to be a starter at the next level if he makes football a priority and does

more than rely on his natural skill.

 

Full Name:    Ben Moffitt                   School:    South Florida                        Pos:      ILB

Ht:    6-1             Wt:    234             40:     4.58                 Year:       5Sr

Bio:

Full-time starter the past three seasons at middle linebacker after seeing action with the first team as a freshman on the outside.  All-Conference selection as a senior after totaling 101 tackles and four interceptions.  Junior-year totals included 112 tackles and four sacks.

Pos:

Hard-working two-down defender who plays with a combination of toughness and intelligence.  Displays a tremendous head for the game, quickly diagnoses the action, and very instinctive.  Quarterbacks the defense, gets teammates in proper position, and stays with assignments.  Efficient, takes good angles to the action, and plays faster than his 40 time.  Scrapes well in the box and fluid moving to the sidelines.

Neg:

Gets caught up in the trash and easily blocked from the action.  Struggles in

coverage and exploited by tight ends.

Analysis:

Moffitt is a hard-charging defender with a good head for the ball.  He offers

possibilities on the inside of a 3-4 defense or could be used at middle linebacker.

 

 

 

Full Name:    Vince Hall                   School:    Virginia Tech                        Pos:      ILB

Ht:    5-11           Wt:    232             40:     5.08                 Year:       5Sr

Bio:

Three-year starter and previous All-Conference selection who totaled

100/6.5/3.5 as a senior, intercepting one pass and breaking up four more. 

Missed four games with a fractured wrist.  Junior-year totals included 128/10.5/2.

 Sophomore-year numbers included 112/8.5/3.

Pos:

Active, instinctive run-stuffing linebacker.  Quickly diagnoses plays, explodes up

the field, and slices through the small gaps of the offense to make the tackle. 

Displays good awareness, takes good angles to the play, and remains disciplined

with assignments.  Fluid changing direction, collapses from the outside defending

the run, and wraps up when tackling.  Displays solid footwork in reverse, gets

depth on pass drops, and effective in zone coverage.  Plays faster than his 40

time.  Quarterbacks the defense and gets his teammates in proper position.

Neg:

Average strength at the point and struggles taking on blocks.  Lacks the blinding

lateral speed and the ability to cut off the corner.

Analysis:

Hall is a productive defender with a passion for the game.  He is an intelligent

prospect who gets the most from his abilities and plays beyond his size/speed

numbers.  Hall offers possibilities at a number of linebacker spots and is a

middle-round selection who could surprise at the next level.

 

 

Outside Linebackers

 

P-Rank

Round

Full Name

School

1

1A

Vernon Gholston

Ohio State

2

1A

Keith Rivers

USC

3

2A

Dan Connor

Penn State

4

2B

Cliff Avril

Purdue

5

2C

Curtis Lofton

Oklahoma

6

3A

Erin Henderson

Maryland

7

3A

Marcus Howard

Georgia

8

3B

Bryan Kehl

BYU

9

3C

Shawn Crable

Michigan

10

3C

Xavier Adibi

Virginia Tech

11

4A

Tavares Gooden

Miami-Fl

12

4B

Geno Hayes

Florida State

13

4C

Stanford Keglar

Purdue

14

5A

Gary Guyton

Georgia Tech

15

5B

Vince Redd

Liberty

16

5C

Jordan Dizon

Colorado

17

6A

Ezra Butler

Nevada

18

6A

Spencer Larsen

Arizona

19

6B

Ali Hightsmith

LSU

20

6B

Alvin Bowen

Iowa State

21

6B

Bruce Davis

UCLA

22

6C

Kroy Biermann

Montana

23

6C

Curtis Gatewood

Vanderbilt

24

6C

David Vobora

Idaho

25

6C

Titus Brown

Mississippi State

26

7A

Thomas Williams

USC

27

7A

Andy Studebaker

Wheaton

28

7B

Jolonn Dunbar

Boston College

29

7B

Durrell Mapp

North Carolina

30

7C

Hilee Taylor

North Carolina

31

7C

Chris Graham

Michigan

32

FA

Mike Humpal

Iowa

33

FA

Steve Octavien

Nebraska

34

FA

Angelo Craig

Cincinnati

35

FA

Marcus Buggs

Vanderbilt

36

FA

Lamar Myles

Louisville

37

FA

Joe Mays

North Dakota State

38

FA

Larry Grant

Ohio State

39

FA

Nick Watkins

Clemson

40

FA

Robert James

Arizona State

41

FA

Bryan Smith

McNeese State

42

FA

Kelly Poppinga

BYU

43

FA

Robert Killebrew

Texas

44

FA

Kaleb Thornhill

Michigan State

45

FA

Derrick Doggett

Oregon State

46

FA

Shaun Richardson

Tennessee State

47

FA

Casper Brinkley

South Carolina

48

FA

Brannon Carter

Northern Iowa

49

FA

SirDarean Adams

Michigan State

50

FA

Brandon Ogletree

Idaho

51

FA

Jon Banks

Iowa State

52

FA

Nick Osborn

San Diego State

53

FA

Matt Castelo

San Jose State

54

FA

LeRue Rumph

North Carolina State

55

FA

Scott Derry

Texas

56

FA

Martail Burnett

Utah

57

FA

Corey McKeon

Nebraska

58

FA

Erik Walden

Middle Tennessee

59

FA

Bo Ruud

Nebraska

60

FA

Brandon Miller

Georgia

61

FA

Nick Moore

Baylor

62

FA

Anthony Hoke

Cincinnati

63

FA

Jeremy Jones

UTEP

 

 

Full Name:    Vernon Gholston          School:    Ohio State                            Pos:      OLB

Ht:    6-3             Wt:    266             40:     4.65                 Year:       4Jr

Bio:

Two-year starter awarded All-Conference honors last season after totaling

37/15.5/14.  Sophomore-year totals included 49/15/7.5.

Pos:

Explosive college pass-rusher who makes a lot of plays in the backfield.  Displays outstanding first-step quickness, plays with good pad level, and fast off the edge or in pursuit of the ball-carrier.  Gets leverage on blockers, stays within his pass-rush angles, and effortlessly alters his angle of attack to make plays in any direction of the field.  Constantly doubled, yet deceptively strong and holds his ground.  Possesses a great closing burst of speed and very explosive in his all-around game.

Neg:

Stiff moving in reverse when asked to play in space.

Analysis:

Gholston has been an impact player at Ohio State the past two seasons and he

offers tremendous upside for the next level.  He offers potential at a variety of

positions in either a three-point stance or standing up over tackle.  Gholston

should be off the board during the initial 10 picks of round one and has the

potential to quickly produce as a rookie in the NFL.

 

 

Full Name:    Keith Rivers                 School:    USC                                    Pos:      OLB

Ht:    6-2.5          Wt:    241             40:     4.65                 Year:       4Sr

Bio:

Three-year starter awarded All-Conference honors after his senior and junior

seasons.  Totals last season included 78 tackles with five tackles for a loss. 

Junior-year numbers were 85/7.5/2.

Pos:

Athletic linebacker who makes plays in every direction of the field.  Plays with

great suddenness and flashes on the scene.  Quickly changes direction, fluid

moving in reverse, and covers a lot of area on the field.  Possesses good catch-up

 speed and has a burst to the play.  Explosive filling gaps up the field and fast

pursuing the action.  Squares into tackles and wraps up.

Neg:

Slow shedding blocks and handled by tight ends.  Inconsistent in coverage last

season.  Bites on play-action passes, displays average instincts, and struggles

making plays with his back to the ball.

Analysis:

Rivers is a speedy defender with good upside potential as a weak side linebacker.  He comes off a disappointing senior campaign, yet his size/speed numbers and production throughout his college career should keep him in the first half of round one.

 

Full Name:    Dan Connor                 School:    Penn State                           Pos:      OLB

Ht:    6-2.5          Wt:    231             40:     4.73                 Year:       4Sr

Bio:

Full-time starter the past two seasons after seeing sporadic action with the first team as a freshman and sophomore.  Led the team in tackles as a senior posting 145/15/6.5.  Also registered one interception and broke up six passes.  Junior-year totals included 113/9/5.  All-Conference and All-American selection the past two years.  Captured the Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player last season.

Pos:

Smart, instinctive linebacker with an outstanding feel for the game.  Diagnoses

the action, anticipates plays, and shows terrific reaction in all aspects of the

game.  Remains disciplined with assignments, possesses a sixth sense on the

field, and fundamentally sound.  Scrapes well laterally, takes good angles to the

action, and efficient.  Wastes no motion and rarely off his feet.  Wraps up when

tackling and shows good awareness in coverage.

Neg:

Does not display great sideline-to-sideline range.  Undersized and handled at the

point.  Slow getting off blocks.

Analysis:

Connor is a hard-working player with a passion for the game.  He possesses all

the intangibles to be a starter at a number of linebacker positions in the NFL. 

Connor may need to play in a system that allows him to freely flow to the action, yet he should be productive right out of the gates.

Full Name:    Cliff Avril                      School:    Purdue                                 Pos:      OLB

Ht:    6-3             Wt:    263             40:     4.59                 Year:       5Sr

Bio:

Full-time starter the past two seasons at defensive end and outside linebacker. 

All-Conference selection as a senior totaling 41/15/6.5 and adding one

interception.  Junior-year totals included 84/15/6.  Saw limited action starting at

outside linebacker in his first two seasons at Purdue.

Pos:

Athletic defender with good size and playing speed.  Plays with good pad level,

rarely off his feet, and uses good hand technique to protect himself.  Fast off the

edge, can bend around the corner, and covers a large amount of area on the field. 

Displays speed in pursuit.  Quickly changes direction, nicely redirects to the

ball-carrier, and displays a good head for the action.

Neg:

Slow shedding blocks and engulfed by larger linemen.  Did not live up to

expectations as a senior.

Analysis:

Prior to last season, Avril had displayed himself as an up-and-coming prospect

with a good amount of upside.  His play last season was disappointing, yet he is

still a legitimate prospect as a pass-rushing linebacker in a 3-4 alignment.

 

Full Name:    Curtis Lofton                School:    Oklahoma                            Pos:      OLB

Ht:    6-0             Wt:    246             40:     4.79                 Year:       3Jr

Bio:

First-team All-Conference selection last season when he became a full-time starter and led Oklahoma in tackles with 157/10.5/1.  Also intercepted three passes and broke up three more.  Started five games as a sophomore and posted 32 tackles.

Pos:

Explosive linebacker who made major strides in his game last season.  Quick in all aspects of the game, makes plays in every direction of the field, and rarely off his feet.  Gets depth on pass drops, covers a good amount of area on the field, and displays skill in coverage.  Physical, squares into tackles, and wraps up.  Flies around the football and works to make positive plays.  Keeps his head on a swivel and quickly picks up assignments.

Neg:

Inefficient and does not consistently take correct angles to the play.  Slow

shedding blocks through the traffic.

Analysis:

Lofton is an athletic linebacker with size limitations but great versatility.  He'll

offer possibilities at the next level as a one-gap linebacker, on the inside of a 34

or potentially on the weak side.

 

 

Full Name:    Erin Henderson            School:    Maryland                              Pos:      OLB

Ht:    6-2.5          Wt:    244             40:     4.77                 Year:       4Jr

Bio:

Former cornerback who started the past two years and won All-Conference honors after each season.  Senior-year totals included 133/11/1 after 114/6.5/1 the previous year.

Pos:

Active linebacker who makes plays in every direction of the field.  Fast moving

laterally, fluid pedaling in reverse, and explosive filling gaps up the field in run

defense.  Gets depth on pass drops, can flip his hips, and runs downfield with

opponents.  Collapses from the outside defending the run, slides off blocks, and

wraps up when tackling.  Hustles around the field and works hard to make plays.

Neg:

Inefficient, wastes a lot of movement, and does not consistently play within

himself.  Very quick up the field and gets caught out of position.  Easily knocked

off balance by opponents and blocked at the point of attack.

Analysis:

Henderson is an athletic linebacker who plays with a great degree of suddenness,

flashing on the scene.  He has an aggressive style of play, which projects well to

the next level if he can harness himself and learn to do the little things well.

 

Full Name:    Marcus Howard            School:    Georgia                                Pos:      OLB

Ht:    6-0.5          Wt:    237             40:     4.45                 Year:       5Sr

Bio:

Moved into the starting lineup as a senior and posted career-high numbers of

41/12/10.5.  Sophomore-year totals included 24/1.5/0.

Pos:

Explosive defender who’s charging up draft boards.  Athletic, fast in every direction, and plays with a good degree of quickness.  Explodes off the snap with a terrific first step, gets leverage on opponents, and rarely off his feet.  Can flatten off the edge, immediately change direction, and pursue from the back side with speed.  Deceptively strong for his size, keeps his feet moving on contact, and plays with discipline.  Fast out to the flanks and shows ability making plays in reverse if used in space.

Neg:

Lacks size and bulk and easily blocked by large opponents.  Marginally productive

 until last season.

Analysis:

Howard topped a terrific senior campaign with an outstanding performance at the combine.  Mainly lined up in a three-point stance at Georgia, Howard is likely to be stood up over tackle at the next level and projects to linebacker in a 3-4 alignment.

 

Full Name:    Bryan Kehl                  School:    BYU                                    Pos:      OLB

Ht:    6-2.5          Wt:    242             40:     4.68                 Year:       4Sr

Bio:

Two-year starter awarded All-Conference honors as a senior after tackling

numbers of 91/11.5/3.5.  Also intercepted three passes and broke up four more. 

Junior-year numbers included 70/8/3.

Pos:

Active linebacker who plays sideline-to-sideline.  Immediately diagnoses the

action, forceful up the field on the blitz, and has a quick burst to the play.  Gets

depth on drops, covers a good amount of area on the field, and displays speed in

every direction.  Aggressive and likes to hit hard.  Quarterbacks the defense and

gets his teammates in proper position.

Neg:

Not a sure tackler.  Struggles getting off blocks once engaged.

Analysis:

Kehl is an active linebacker who has watched his game improve the past two

seasons.  Tough against the run, he also displays skill in coverage and could

develop into a starter on the weak side by his second season in the league.

 

Full Name:    Shawn Crable              School:    Michigan                              Pos:      OLB

Ht:    6-5             Wt:    245             40:     4.65                 Year:       5Sr

Bio:

Two-year starter awarded All-Conference honors after his junior and senior campaigns.  Totals last season included 90/28.5/7.5 after 37/10.5/4.5 the previous year.

Pos:

Athletic linebacker who forces the action up the field.  Breaks down well, strong,

and easily defeats blocks on his way to the action.  Quick changing direction or

altering his angle of attack.  Displays ability in pursuit and plays with outstanding

explosion.  Fast in a straight line or laterally, quickly gets to the action, and wraps

 up when tackling.  Makes some terrific open-field tackles.

Neg:

Not fluid pedaling in reverse and struggles in coverage.  Gets minimal depth on

drops.  Stiff in his hips and tightly round.  Does not think quickly on his feet.

Analysis:

A physical defender who can dominate the opposition, Crable is at his best

making plays up the field.  He possesses enough talent to find a starting job as a

pass-rushing linebacker in a 3-4 defense.

 

Full Name:    Xavier Adibi                  School:    Virginia Tech                        Pos:      OLB

Ht:    6-1.5          Wt:    232             40:     4.73                 Year:       5Sr

Bio:

Three-year starter at inside and outside linebacker.  All-Conference selection as

a senior after leading Virginia Tech in tackles with 115/12/3, intercepting two

passes, and breaking up five more.  Junior-year numbers included 82/6.5/3.

Pos:

Fast-moving, athletic linebacker who plays with great explosion.  Breaks down well, quickly changes direction, and immediately alters his angle of attack.  Displays good footwork moving in every direction, covers a lot of area on the field, and shows great range in pass coverage.  Fluid pedaling in reverse, gets depth on drops, and has a terrific burst of closing speed.  Fast to the flanks, plays with an aggressive style, and works to get involved.

Neg:

Shows hesitation in his game, not a quick-thinker, and slow to react.

Analysis:

Adibi is a large and forceful linebacker who makes plays on the ball when he sees

the action.  He is best suited for a system that does not have a complex playbook

and that keeps his mental responsibilities to a minimum.


 

Tony Pauline is the NFL Draft analyst at SI.com. His year round work on the NFL draft can be found at www.TFYDRAFT.com.