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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Top Ten Outside Linebackers

I'm sure many of you are looking at these lists and wondering if I have a man-crush on Melvin Ingram. After all, he's my number one prospect on the lists for defensive ends, 3-4 outside linebackers, and 4-3 outside linebackers. Well, I can assure you that I do not, but he really is one of the most versatile players in this draft. In my opinion, he can play almost every position in the front seven (he could also occasionally play tackle in pass rush situations).

I have no idea why he's probably going to go in the mid-teens, except the possibility that many general managers and coaches are not sure where they would play him. Or, they think he's a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none. Either way, any of the teams in the top ten that need a pass rusher and pass on him are making a huge mistake.

If your primary guide to evaluating players is the combine, you will not have Lavonte David ranked second on your list. His lateral movement and footwork looked slow and awkward, and his measurables were some of the worst in his group. However, if you watched him on Saturdays, you know that's not indicative of his talent. David is a sideline-to-sideline Tasmanian devil. He's explosive and his football IQ is at an elite level. He's a little light, without much room to add weight, but he'll be a great pro if he plays in a system that allows him to roam.

Here are the rest of the rankings:

RankNameSchoolHeightWeight
1Melvin IngramSouth Carolina6014264
2Lavonte DavidNebraska6005233
3Shea McClellinBoise St.6033260
4Whitney MercilusIllinois6035261
5Bobby WagnerUtah St.6010241
6Bruce IrvinWest Virginia6030245
7Ronnell LewisOklahoma6016253
8Zach BrownNorth Carolina6012244
9Nigel BradhamFlorida State6017241
10Sean SpenceMiami-Fl.5113231

Everyone might be surprised to see Zach Brown check in at number eight, when so many other people have him ranked higher. There's no doubt that he's a fantastic athlete with world class speed, but when you get labeled and the film shows that you shy away from contact, that's a really big problem for a linebacker. You might think I'm contradicting myself in my comments about David, but there's a big difference: Brown appears to try and avoid contact, whereas David does not.

Bobby Wagner is another player in this group that could sneak up on the average football fan. A relative unknown, he has made a lot of scouts go back to the tape after his play at the Senior Bowl and his performance at his pro day. In addition to good workout numbers and statistics from college, he has a fantastic motor and ability to find the football. His movement skills are well above average as well. I look for him to go somewhere on the second day.

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