WPB Dawg Fan Posted December 17, 2008 Report Share Posted December 17, 2008 I don't know if this has been posted...but I like the way it breaks down each player. LB class might be best in years By Nolan Nawrocki Dec. 10, 2008 James Laurinaitis, Aaron Curry This year’s LB class is very strong inside and outside and could be the gem of the draft, with intriguing versatility a signature of the group. With the addition of defensive ends being projected to rush linebacker, this year’s class really could turn out to be not only deep, but special — maybe even unmatched in its overall strength. Outside linebackers 1. SLB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest 6-1 3/4, 250, 4.61 A thickly built, strong, physical, hard-hitting ’backer with the size, instincts and overall athletic ability to line up at any position in a 3-4 or a 4-3 front. Curry’s value in large part stems from his versatility, as few linebackers possess the skill set to be effective at any position in either system. Might not have the overall length desired in a rush linebacker but has been extremely productive playing over the tight end, and his strength at the point of attack and ability to shed blockers is rare. With knuckle-breaking hand strength, he ragdolls blockers and plays a big man’s game with power. The most complete ’backer to come out in a long time, Curry has few deficiencies in his game and easily could fit into the top five. Scouts love his physical skill set. 2. SLB Brian Cushing, USC 6-2½e, 255e, 4.6e Despite playing over the tight end, Cushing kicked inside to replace an injured Rey Maualuga early this season and has the size, strength and striking ability to project inside in the NFL for a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense. Injuries have slowed Cushing throughout his career, and his overall injury history will be scrutinized closely and detract from his value, but he has played in every game in ’08 despite breaking a bone in his hand and wearing a cast. He is very competitive and driven and has played best in big games against better competition. He is tightly wound and somewhat stiff in the hips, but his all-out demeanor and overall intensity should allow him to contribute right away in the pros and push him into the first round. 3. SLB Clint Sintim, Virginia 6-2 3⁄8, 250, 4.7e Playing the same position at which Shawne Merriman excelled at Maryland, Sintim has been a force coming off the edge and has the experience rushing the passer to transition easily to the highly desired rush LB spot in a 3-4 front. Leading the nation in sacks from the LB position, Sintim has shown he can stick his hand in the dirt or drop into coverage. Having shed weight and shown better hand use and burst off the edge this season, he plays physically and also could be effective playing inside. However, he’ll warrant the most interest for his pass-rush ability and should fit into the first round. 4. SLB Mark Herzlich, Boston College (Jr.) 6-4e, 240e, 4.7e A miniature version of former NFL LB Bill Romanowski, Herzlich is expected to remain in school and could benefit from another year of seasoning. Somewhat mechanical and robotic in his movement, yet athletic enough to make plays to the sideline, “Little Romo” plays smart, with good technique and hand use and gets the most out of his ability. Somewhat similar to Patriots LB Mike Vrabel with the length and power desired to rush the passer, Herzlich could project outside in a 3-4 front. Leading the team in tackles from the SLB position, Herzlich’s motor, intensity and playing demeanor project well to the pro game. 5. WLB Perry Riley, LSU (Jr.) 6-0½e, 240e, 4.55e Having stood out and made more plays than more highly publicized teammate Darry Beckwith, Riley consistently cleans up ballcarriers from the weak side and has the potential to be the best ’backer to come out of LSU in the past 10 years. Tough, physical and instinctive, he shows very good range to the sideline and has the explosive movement skills to make plays all over the field and drive through contact. Does not have great size and can be engulfed if blockers get their hands on him, but when he is free to roam, he hits like a missile. Inside linebackers 1. James Laurinaitis, Ohio State 6-2e, 240e, 4.65e Perhaps a victim of very lofty expectations, Laurinaitis has disappointed evaluators who were hoping to see a bullet like Dan Morgan who was going to knock the heads off ballcarriers. Scouts have downgraded Laurinaitis for his lack of explosiveness and physicality. He’s not a nasty, downhill, blow-up tackler but is very instinctive with a great nose for the ball, makes plays sideline to sideline and has a great feel for coverage. He has the versatility to play every LB position and might be best suited playing on the weak side where he is covered up and free to roam, in the same mold as former Butkus Award winner Paul Posluszny, whom scouts also accused of peaking earlier in his career. However, despite not being a violent assassin, Laurinaitis’ character is exceptional and he might have the highest floor of any first-round talent because NFL clubs can know exactly what they are getting. Still should fit into the top 15. 2. Rey Maualuga, USC 6-2e, 250e, 4.7e A true “Mike” linebacker with terrific strength at the point of attack, Maualuga still gets out of position too often and takes some questionable angles. When he has a clean window, he can strike with the authority of a small truck and level ballcarriers. However, he is tight in the hips, does not change direction cleanly and could be restricted on third downs, limiting his overall value. Durability and overall character still need closer examination, and perhaps the biggest question scouts will want answered is whether he can be more than a two-down, “Mike” ’backer in the NFL. A strong tackler with good overall instincts, Maualuga should contribute readily in the pros if he can stay focused. 3. Brandon Spikes, Florida (Jr.) 6-2½e, 245e, 4.75e In a similar mold as former Gator and Miami Dolphins 2005 third-rounder Channing Crowder, Spikes is instinctive, has a knack for the ball and fits the mold of an old-school “Mike” linebacker. Very leggy and somewhat bow-legged, he is not a great natural athlete, has a tendency to let his pads rise and too easily can be cut. However, he is limber with great stride length and overall range, and when he plays with bent knees he can knock ballcarriers backward. Has a reputation for running his mouth and plays the game with a lot of vinegar and intensity, setting the tone for the defense. Brings emotional, on-field leadership qualities highly desired by many coaches and initially was expected to declare early for the draft. However, he lacks great speed and could benefit from another year of training at Florida. 4. Dannell Ellerbe, Georgia 6-0 7⁄8, 240, 4.55e Might work out and test as well as any linebacker in the draft, possessing exceptional speed and power. However, as much as the weight room might be his domain, he has not been able to transfer his workout numbers consistently to the field and his performance as a senior has slipped. Is naturally explosive and plays with good knee bend but has been too tentative and does not consistently uncoil. Having missed 3½ games with injury, he has gained some weight and not appeared quite as quick as he did chasing down ballcarriers a year ago. However, he still can run like the wind and might warrant even more interest on the weak side. Has run into problems off the field, and his character could affect his draft value. 5. Darry Beckwith, LSU 6-0½, 240, 4.6e Scouts would like to see Beckwith play more physically. He lacks great size and take-on strength and too often has struggled locating the ball as a senior, not showing the natural instincts to consistently produce. He gets good depth in coverage and has good movement skills, but too much of his game is based on finesse and he needs to become a more forceful tackler to play inside in the pros. Having missed time in September following a knee scope, he has not played at full health, but the injury does not justify him being out of position as much as he has this season. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.