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Here is the list of my top outside linebackers in the 2012 draft. Some fit as Will linebacker (weakside in a 4-3), some a Sam Backer (Strong side in a 4-3) and some can play the Strong Side stand up linebacker in a 3-4 base.
1. Lavonte David 6-0 235lbs Nebraska
Strengths: Very instinctive linebacker, reads run vs the pass quickly and makes plays. Does a nice job of slipping under and between blocks to make tackles in the run game. Is excellent in pass coverage whether it’s man or zone, has the ability to make tackles in space on a regular basis. Will be a “Will” linebacker in the 4-3. Does a good job covering RB’s out of the backfield.
Weaknesses: Can get blown up at the point of attack by tight ends and fullbacks in the run game. Has good cover skills, but tight ends have an advantage in jump ball situations because of his height.
Grade: Late 1st-Early 2nd round
2. Shea McClellin 6-3 260lbs Boise St.
Strengths: Has nice size to play the strong side linebacker in a 3-4 and 4-3. Has a body type similar to that of former NFL pro bowler Willie McGinest, and similar skills. Has 16.5 sacks over the last two seasons in college and shows the ability to get to the QB.
Weaknesses: For a player his size, he should be better at the point of attack in the run game. Is blown off the ball way too often for my liking. Just like other DE’s making the conversion to linebacker, can he cover?
Grade: 2nd round
3. Ronnell Lewis 6-2 253lbs Oklahoma
Strengths: Lined up at defensive end for the Sooners and is attempting to make the transition to OLB, whether in a 4-3 or 3-4. Has good strength at the point of attack, holds the edge well, uses his hands to disengage blockers and make plays.
Weaknesses: Can he make the transition to playing a traditional linebacker position? He has good numbers in the 40 and agility drills, but does that translate to the field? He’s shown some pass rush ability, but not at an elite level. Will he show the awareness and cover skills to play in zone and man against tight ends and running backs?
Grade: 3rd round
4. Nigel Bradham 6-2 245lbs Florida St.
Strengths: Is at his best when covered by the defensive line and allowed to flow and make plays. Has elite speed and agility and uses it in pass coverage, does a nice job covering his zone and sticking with backs on pass routes. At times he shows great football instincts and the ability to figure out the play and blow it up.
Weaknesses: For his weight, he doesn’t take on and defeat blocks as he should. He also loses play discipline at times and is out of position when a team runs a counter or reverse.
Grade: Mid 3rd round
5. Zach Brown 6-1 244lbs UNC
Strengths: Is one of the best athletes overall in the draft. Ran track at UNC and set the school record in the 60 meter dash at his size. Has all the physical abilities to be a playmaker at the next level. Is exceptional at making plays in the open field against the pass.
Weaknesses: Lacks the natural instincts at the linebacker position. At times he’s like a chicken with its head cut off out there on the field. Used his speed to make up for it in college, but won’t get away with it in the NFL. Gets killed at the point of attack when taking on lead blocks.
Grade: Late 3rd- Early 4th round
Next 5: Bruce Irvin 6-3 245lbs West Virginia, Sean Spence 5-11 230lbs Miami, Keenan Robinson 6-3 242lbs Texas, Travis Lewis 6-1 248lbs, Demario Davis 6-2 235lbs Arkansas St.
Next up: Top 5 Safeties