Outside Linebackers

Class Review: This linebacker class is pretty solid, especially at the weakside position. Napolean Harris is probably the only first round prospect. Levar Fisher (N.C. State) and Saleem Rasheed are the second-tier guys who will probably be selected in the second round. There are some solid weakside guys that will probably all be picked prior to the fifth round: Raonall Smith (Washington), James Allen (Oregon), David Thornton (North Carolina), and Larry Foote. On the strongside there is Ben Leber, Akin Ayodele (Purdue), and Algie Atkinson (Kansas). There is not a whole lot of talent after that, but some decent prospects. This class is helped by such a wealth of undersized defensive ends that many teams will try to convert into linebackers.



FIRST ROUND


Napolean Harris
(6'3" 255) Northwestern (4.5)

Harris is a solid prospect at the outside linebacker position. He has good range and could play either outside position. But he is built like a strongside linebacker and will be best there. He has good strength and can get upfield, two building blocks that can make solid SAMs in the NFL. Has the speed to be effective in coverage, although he's not great in that area. Played this past year at defensive end, which helped him a lot in developing his pass-rushing instincts. Harris projects either to a strongside linebacker in a 4-3 defense and could play the left outside linebacker spot in a 3-4. Harris is an excellent athlete. Basically Harris does everything pretty well, and is a solid building block for a linebacker corps, although he'll probably never be the star of any defense.


SECOND ROUND


Saleem Rasheed
(6'2" 227) Alabama (4.5)

Rasheed played inside linebacker at Alabama, but will play on the outside in the NFL. Has good speed and can be solid in coverage. Not great at point of attack but probably better than some 250 pounders. Has good strength and basically is a solid all-around linebacker. He should have waited a year, so he could be the top linebacker next season. He doesn't have great size, so NFL teams will want him to bulk up and add some weight, and probably play in the 235 range. Should be a solid playmaker on the next level.


THIRD ROUND


Ben Leber
(6'3" 244) Kansas State (4.6)

I really like Leber. He looks to be a solid second-tier strongside prospect. Is more tall than thick in frame, so he's not a powerful guy. But has nice strength to play the point of attack. Has a good nose for the football is effective in coverage. Has good speed and can be a very good edge rusher. He's a solid all-around linebacker, but is not particularly flashy or great. He should be a solid contributor on any defense.

Trev Faulk
(6'3" 235) LSU (4.65)

Faulk is a good player who does not play as big as he measures or as fast as he times, but he plays well. He has a nose for the football and can be a playmaker on the next level. Played middle man at LSU, but I think he projects as a weakside guy in the NFL. Could play inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He's not great at the point of attack. He's nothing special, but he's a solid linebacker.

Larry Foote
(6'1" 233) Michigan (4.75)

Foote is a playmaker at linebacker. He projects best as a weakside guy. But he could also play the middle on certain teams with a Dungy-style defense (Jets, Rams, Bucs, and Colts) where there's much more emphasis on speed. Foote does not have blazing speed, but has good playing speed. He is effective in coverage and is basically a solid pursuit player. He lacks size and strength, but has enough to be a good NFL player.


FIFTH ROUND


Dominique Stevenson
(6'2" 232) Tennessee (4.55)

Stevenson played the middle at Tennessee, but lacks size to play that position in the NFL. He's best as a pursuit player so he projects as a weakside guy. Needs to improve in coverage, but he has good speed. Stevenson is not a great prospect, but was good in college and should be a decent pro player.


SIXTH ROUND


Aaron Thompson
(6'1" 238) Maryland (4.8)

Plays the strongside position at Maryland, but is too small to play there in the NFL. He has good speed and should make a smooth transition to the weakside in the NFL. Does not have great speed, but is good in pursuit, and also has good instincts. Despite lack of size, he's pretty decent at point of attack. Overshadowed a bit by E.J. Henderson in college, but is still a good prospect.

Will Witherspoon
(6'2" 234) Georgia (4.55)

Witherspoon has shot up some boards recently with some really good workouts. He has some strength and could possibly play the strongside position, but would need to add a little more muscle. He projects as a weakside guy. He's nothing special, and will probably make his living in the NFL as a special teams performer.


SEVENTH ROUND


Bryan Knight
(6'1" 225) Pittsburgh (4.85)

Knight had a big junior year, but had a down senior year. He played defensive end at Pittsburgh, and projects to the NFL as an outside linebacker. Does not have a lot of size, and looks more like a Corey Moore-type player than anything else. Does not have blazing speed, and NFL teams will probably want him to add ten or more pounds of muscle. Has good strength. His future in the NFL will probably be as a situational pass rusher, but he'll probably never be a starter.

Victor Hobson
(6'1" 235) Michigan (4.7)

Hobson is a good weakside prospect, that probably won't be a starter, but a good backup and special teams player. He has nose for the fooball and pretty good speed. He lacks strength, but can get through blockers by using his speed.

Justin Eilers
(6'2" 230) Iowa State (4.8)

Is a pure pursuit player. Does not have a lot of strength, and struggles when facing blockers. But he's smooth and quick and flows to the football. Not as physical as you want at linebacker, but is decent. He projects long-term as a special teams ace. Could become a good backup down the road.

Corey Smith
(6'2" 250) N.C. State (4.8)

Smith might be able to play defensive end in the NFL if he continues to add bulk. But he's really undersized, and probably projects best as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He'll begin to lose some speed if he gets much bigger. Has nice srength and matched up pretty well with lesser offensive tackles in college. Could get a shot as a situational rusher on the next level, but his best bet is to get nabbed by a 3-4 team.


UNDRAFTED


Amir Purifoy
(6'2" 225) Pittsburgh (4.7)

Purifoy is an average prospect who could make it in the NFL as a special teams. He is a good coverage linebacker with nice speed. He's a decent weakside prospect who does everything you really want him to, but is nothing special. Was only average in college, but is a decent backup prospect.

Joe Hill
(6'3" 230) Texas Christian (4.75)

He's too small to play defensive end in the NFL, but has good speed and burst off the edge. Has nice strength and could convert to outside linebacker pretty quickly. Is too tall and lean, and will need to add some more muscle to even out his frame. A decent project, but nothing special.

Brad Kassell
(6'2" 235) North Texas (4.95)

Plays like an oversized weakside linebacker, but could play in the middle in some schems. Lacks strength and does not have great instincts. He'll get an opportunity to make an impact on special teams.

Max Yates
(6'2" 229) Marshall (4.9)

He's an undersized middle man, who's good in pursuit and weak at the point of attack. He'll need to improve in coverage if he wants to be a weakside guy, or else he's just a special teams player.

Ralph Street (6' 255) Marshall (5.0)

He is an undersized defensive end, and is short and squat in terms of frame. Could be a decent prospect as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He's not very fast and could struggle at linebacker because of it. Has some strength and is not great at the point of attac. He's a marginal prospect. He needs to actually lose weight to add speed.

Brian Jamison
(6'2" 220) N.C. State (4.7)

Jamison may have to play strong safety in the NFL. He has very little strength and is quite easily blocked. He's not very physical for a linebacker. He's got good speed, but is not great for a defensive back. Whether he plays linebacker or safety, Jamison's niche in the NFL will be as a special teams player. He's too much of a project right now.


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