Kiper's Top OLBs & ILBs for 2014 Draft

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Kiper's Top OLBs & ILBs for 2014 Draft

Postby Pudge » Thu May 16, 2013 12:39 pm

Outside Linebackers ... fl_xxx_xxx

Top 5 outside linebacker prospects
Anthony Barr could have been the first OLB taken in 2013
Originally Published: May 16, 2013
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider

AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi
Anthony Barr had an impressive junior season. Can he follow it up with a big senior season?
If you want a sense of how occasionally confusing the projections around what will make a great NFL outside linebacker can be, consider the 2013 draft.

The guy who was the No. 1 outside linebacker on my board by draft time was Dion Jordan, who at 6-foot-6 and a wiry 248 pounds fits the profile of a dynamic edge-rusher who can also drop and play in space. Fittingly, Miami moved up to get him -- and the Dolphins don't even play a 3-4 as their base defense. Jordan really aced the draft evaluation process, but he's still developing as a player and when recruited to Oregon was also looked at to play tight end. During the 2012 college football season, he wasn't the best outside linebacker prospect in his conference. That was Anthony Barr, who piled up 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss.

How well did Barr fit the profile of an eventual star at outside linebacker? He fit it so well that 12 months earlier he made seven starts for the Bruins as a fullback and also saw work on special teams.

The thing about outside linebacker, perhaps more than any position right now, is you're constantly on the look for traits: length, explosiveness, bend and the ability to change direction, work in space and pursue. You're looking for indicators. Jordan has them, so much so that Miami thinks he's capable of becoming a great pass-rusher, regardless of scheme. And Barr clearly had those indicators, which is why the UCLA coaches made the positional move.

Here's a look at the top-ranked prospects at outside linebacker headed into 2014:

1. Anthony Barr, Senior, UCLA

Though he exploded on the scene last year, given his track record as a fullback headed into the season, it's not fair to say that Barr surprised teams early, piled up stats and slowed as teams adjusted. What you like about Barr is that he notched at least a share of a tackle for loss in every game.

Barr has a long frame and reach, has a great initial burst and often beats blockers with quickness. He can close fast and shows some decent instincts in space. He needs to work on counters and getting free of blockers who get their hands on him. He'll need to become stronger against the run. But the tools are there, and he's not your typical senior given his limited time at the position.

2. Adrian Hubbard, Junior, Alabama

He's not a complete player yet, but this is about potential, not finished products. Hubbard has the length and athleticism to become an effective pass-rusher, and he led the Tide in sacks last season. He's a willing defender against the run and will take on blocks.

What he needs to do is show a little more burst and even nastiness at the point of attack, where he often allows blockers to get their hands on him too easily. I think as he develops a little more strength and technique, he'll take another step forward. He'll certainly get the coaching.

3. Kyle Van Noy, Senior, BYU

It wasn't Ezekiel Ansah who did the most damage for the BYU defense; it was Van Noy, and it wasn't close. He piled up 13 sacks and 22 tackles for loss, and what really catches your eye is his relentlessness. If he doesn't make the play initially, he'll chase it down. He could add some bulk to his frame, but he won't want to cost himself his exceptional closing speed. This is a guy who has good instincts about when to attack and the burst to make plays when he does.

4. Ryan Shazier, Junior, Ohio State

Highly instinctive, Shazier was the most consistent playmaker on a strong defense last year and should take another step forward this year. He shoots gaps to make plays against the run and can work down the line in pursuit, using his quickness to slip blocks.

Where he's vulnerable is that he needs to add weight, because he just doesn't have the size to hold up when blockers get him lined up. He's thus forced to rely too often on quickness. I think he projects as a very good 4-3 weakside linebacker.

5. Jeremiah Attaochu, Senior, Georgia Tech

Tall, rangy and with good closing speed, he could play either outside linebacker or defensive end but projects better at OLB for the NFL. He led Tech with 10 sacks and 12 tackles for loss last season, and I like how well he holds up at the point of attack and pursues in the run game, where he adds plenty of value.

Up next
Carl Bradford, Junior, Arizona State
Picked up 11.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss in a breakout sophomore season. Arizona State is not going to be much fun to block in 2013.

Christian Jones, Senior, Florida State
A phenomenal athlete and a versatile linebacker, he's played both strong and weakside over the last two seasons in FSU's 4-3.

Trent Murphy, Senior, Stanford
He led a very good defense in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (18) in 2012.

Hayes Pullard, Junior, USC
With Dion Bailey moving to safety, Pullard will need to carry the load at linebacker in 2013.

Ishaq Williams, Junior, Notre Dame
A developing prospect with ideal length (6-5) and size (255 pounds). I expect him to break out in 2013.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.

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Re: Kiper's Top OLBs & ILBs for 2014 Draft

Postby Pudge » Thu May 16, 2013 12:39 pm

Inside Linebackers ... fl_xxx_xxx

Top 5 inside linebacker prospects
Nick Saban should be well-equipped at linebacker in 2013
Originally Published: May 16, 2013
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
C.J. Mosley would have been the first inside linebacker off the board in the 2013 draft.
When we scrutinized the 2013 NFL draft class of inside linebackers, speed was a big discussion. The debate about it became a big deal because, historically, a very good linebacker who lacks speed is the type to end up on the inside. Shed blocks, plug holes, occasionally hit the A-gap with a blitz and make tackles. That's the old paradigm.

Now, there's a greater emphasis on how well inside linebackers can cover -- not just in the seams, but also to the edges -- what kind of length they have to tighten windows, and whether they have the athleticism to move around and help defensive coordinators provide more exotic looks. The scrutiny over Manti Te'o's 40 time wasn't a big deal because of the surrounding storylines, it was a real number that teams legitimately associate with what he's able to do on a football field. Yes, the film comes first, but it speaks to the demands on the position. You have to be able to do a lot of things.

Here's a first look at prospects I consider the best right now for the 2014 draft.

1. C.J. Mosley, Senior, Alabama

It says a lot about Mosley that he played in all 13 games for Bama as a true freshman, finished the year third on the team in tackles and did that when he'd turned 18 only about a month before fall camp started. Given his auspicious start, it's almost surprising that Nick Saban will have him back for another year. Had he been in the 2013 NFL draft, Mosley had a chance to be the first inside linebacker off the board. Now, at 6-foot-2, 232 pounds he'll play on the edge plenty, but I project him as a player who will play inside in a 3-4, or likely as a weakside LB in a 4-3 at the next level.

Mosley does most things well, but where he's particularly sound is in coverage. He reads the eyes of the quarterback even as he moves, and his ability to both attack the line of scrimmage and make plays, as well as drop and cover (and pick off passes if you test him), means you never have to take him off the field. He could get stronger so he's better equipped to shed blocks, but he'll be an immediate NFL starter after another year of seasoning, and as you can see, he'll have help.

2. Trey DePriest, Junior, Alabama

While Mosley is the rangy playmaker who can really cover, DePriest is the bigger, more physically imposing linebacker who could also project to the edge because he's not without skills as a pass-rusher. At 6-2, 245 pounds, he definitely carries NFL size for the position, and he's capable of both fending off blocks and closing on running backs down the line.

If you want something surprising about DePriest, it's that Ohio State, with a pretty good history at the position, allowed him to get out of the state. He was maybe the best high school linebacker in the country, and played about 45 minutes west of Columbus.

3. Yawin Smallwood, Junior, Connecticut

The Huskies had four players drafted off the 2012 defense, and right now I could see three of them starting NFL games pretty early on in 2013. The guy who might be the best of them is still in college.

Smallwood redshirted as a freshman, and was physically prepared to help, starting all 12 games in his first year and every game in 2012, when he led the team with 120 tackles. Smallwood has great instincts, and at times looks like he's reading the game about a half-second faster than everyone else.

4. A.J. Johnson, Junior, Tennessee

The junior from Gainesville … Georgia, came to campus ready to play. As a true freshman, he really jumped to prominence when he piled up nearly 40 tackles during a three-week stretch when the Vols played LSU, Bama and South Carolina. Last season, Johnson showed off sound technique and consistently quick reactions in flowing to the ball quickly and taking on and getting off blocks. He piled up 138 tackles, which led the SEC.

Again, this was from a true sophomore. The presence of a clogger like 370-pound Daniel McCullers up front should help Johnson, who will be under pressure to keep the Vols in games during a season when the offense could take a step back.

5. Max Bullough, Senior, Michigan St.

When you watch Bullough, the first thing that stands out is his ability to take on and shed blockers, including guards who have him lined up. He's going to be an effective player against the run because of that skill. He doesn't have great speed to the edges, but anticipates well and doesn't lose his vision in traffic. At 6-3, he has some length to provide cover in the seams, but he can improve in turning his hips to run with tight ends.

Going into 2013, he'll have started 27 consecutive games. While not a track star, he's the definition of what you need from an inside linebacker.

Next up
Andrew Jackson, Senior, Western Kentucky
At 6-1, 265, he's built like a young Levon Kirkland, and simply attacks the running game, where he finishes his tackles with authority.

Eric Kendricks, Junior, UCLA
On the smaller side for the inside at just about 230 pounds, Kendricks flies to the ball, evidenced by a Pac-12 leading 93 solo stops last season.

A.J. Tarpley, Junior, Stanford
One of those players who kept making plays even when you're looking at his teammates, Tarpley could have a breakout season in 2013.

Chris Borland, Senior, Wisconsin
An experienced linebacker, Borland enters 2013 with 309 career tackles, a very good career for most.

Shayne Skov, Senior, Stanford Disciplined, he's a patient player who doesn't get himself out of position and overrun plays.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.

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