The linebacker class is deep and talented. The class will include several high draft picks with the potential of at least one going in the top five. Our rankings:
1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama: Mosley is a plugger with big with very good technique and is able to shed blockers. He can play in any style and brings pop as a very good tackler. No doubt Mosley is a first round pick and has the potential to be a high level middle backer for years to come.
2. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State: Shazier is very athletic with superb quickness but still smallish after putting on significant weight at Ohio State. He is a big time tackler with sideline to sideline ability. The OSU backer may have trouble shedding blocks but is great at anticipating plays and flowing to the ball. We would love to see him as an insider backer in a 3-4 and he is a first round talent.
3. Chris Borland, Wisconsin: Borland will not win a foot race and is not the prettiest dog in the pound but he can flat out play football. After all, isn’t that all that matters? He isn’t the ideal height but his instincts are exceptional as are his work ethic and desire to win. Borland is always around the ball and a thumper who won’t back down from anyone. Gritty and tough, Borland will be a high level starter for a long time and is certainly worth a second round pick.
4. Shayne Skov, Stanford: Skov is a mean and nasty linebacker with idea size and temperament. He has tremendous instincts and packs a punch on contact. Skov lacks speed but will make up for it by reading plays and reacting quickly. He will be an immediate fan favorite and should be a third round pick but intangibles may lift him to the second. Expect a valuable starter and leader for a number of years.
5. Max Bullough, Michigan State: Bullough is a big, rugged linebacker who brings it. He has been underrated due to a perceived lack of athleticism but finds the ball and is a sound fundamental player with excellent technique and coaching at Michigan State. Bullough will be a leader and a gamer that plays for a number of years and is our sleeper worth a third round pick.
6. Yawin Smallwood, UCONN: Smallwood plays small and gets engulfed by blockers. He can move but often over runs plays resulting in poor tackling. Smallwood is a solid player but we wouldn’t take him higher than the late third round.
7. Christian Jones, FSU: Jones is a rangy athlete with good athleticism. He is a smooth, fluid runner who looks the part and with seasoning could be a steal in the fourth round.
8. Lamin Barrow, LSU: Barrow is a talented athlete, quick and versatile but he often overruns tackles. He is better suited for a 3-4 and should be a good solid player worth a fourth round pick.
9. Preston Brown, Louisville: Brown is a good solid player. He lacks measurables but is a solid fourth round talent who will make a roster with a shot at being a solid starter.
1. Anthony Barr, UCLA: Barr has dropped behind Mack in most mock drafts and prospect rankings but not due to anything he did on the field. He is raw due to only a few years at linebacker - but his natural skills were on full display under Jim Mora Jr’s tutelage. Barr is ultra productive with outstanding pass rushing skills. He may struggle in coverage initially but is a pass rusher - a 3-4 pass rusher. He has the ability to be a special player and should be a top ten draft pick.
2. Khalil Mack, Buffalo: Mack is a freak athlete whose stock rose dramatically with his dominating play against Ohio State. However, he mostly played against inferior competition and at times didn’t have big games when needed. Regardless, he has exceptional athleticism and plays with a chip on his shoulder. Mack may be a project with big upside but no doubt a risky pick if taken high. He is likely worth a top ten pick but no doubt high risk-high reward.
3. Kyle Van Noy, BYU: Van Noy is very active and aware in coverage and has tremendous quickness and reaction in space. He is a good open field tackler, plus a very good pass rusher and the most well rounded backer in the draft. He will be a valuable asset for any team that is fortunate enough to get him. Van Noy is a heady player with grit and should be a first round pick and could end up being the best of the outside linebacker group.
4. Telvin Smith, FSU: My sleeper of the group, Smith is a tremendous athlete and play maker. He lacks size but flat out plays with aggression and is everywhere on the field. Smith can run, flat out run and changes direction on a dime. He would prefer to seem as an inside backer in a 3-4 defense. Regardless, some team will be thankful to get Smith. I would take him in the second round and he would be a steal as a third round pick.
5. Trevor Reilly, Utah: Relly is just a very good football player and finds a way. He can rush the passer with excellent body lean, is very good in coverage and locates the ball and adjusts with impressive agility. His maturity will not be an issue as he is a 26 year old who served on a Mormon mission while at Utah. Some teams may shy away for that very reason as his ceiling may not be as high plus the number of years left in his career is less than the standard rookie. However, he is a player and worth a second round pick.
6. Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech: Attaochu is a very good athlete and looks the part and with seasoning could develop into a very good situational pass rusher. He likely will be drafted higher than he should based on pure aesthetics but should be a third round pick.
7. Christian Kirksey, Iowa: Kirksey is an underrated, tough football player who plays fast and makes things happen. He is a sideline to sideline player who is versatile, adept in coverage and good against the run, a very good third-fourth round pick.
8. Carl Bradford, Arizona State: A versatile player, Bradford mostly played on the edge but capable in coverage. He lacks size but his versatility may prove beneficial as he can play inside as well. Bradford can rush the passer and doesn’t quit on plays, chasing down long runs. He is a gritty player who will take on blocks effectively and be a good pick in the fourth round.
9. Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA: Zumwalt has good size and athleticism and lines up in multiple positions. His versatility makes him worth a pick and likely will make a roster as result.
10. Ronald Powell, Florda: Powell tore his ACL twice after being a heralded recruit, but is a gritty player who will work his way onto a roster.
11. Chris Smith, Arkansas: Smith played defensive end for the Razorbacks and is a solid player who will likely be over drafted. He should be picked but not until the fifth round or later.
12. Adrian Hubbard, Alabama: Hubbard is a 6’6” linebacker with good pass rushing skills and worth a shot in the fifth round on measurables alone.
13. Devon Kennard, USC: Kennard could be drafted as a defensive end - a tweener-type with a history of injuries. He had a productive final season at USC -and will make a roster as a late round pick.
Khari Fortt, California
Morgan Breslin, USC
Prince Shembo, Notre Dame
Jordan Tripp, Montana
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