This year’s class overall is vastly different from the past few draft classes in that there is no true “can’t miss” prospect stealing all the headlines in the way Cam Newton, Sam Bradford, etc have done in their respective years. One positive about the upcoming draft, though, is the sheer depth of talented LBs available for all 32 teams to choose from. Ranging from both outside and inside linebackers, this along with the offensive linemen is the best stocked position. Plenty of teams are searching for a dominant force to either rush the passer or become an asset in pass coverage, and this year’s draft class surely won’t disappoint. But, out of this fairly impressive draft class, comes 5 players that stand out the most when watching the tape. Coming in at #5 in our countdown is:
5) Manti Te’o, Notre Dame: Early into the 2012 collegiate season, it seemed to be a slam-dunk deal that he was the “can’t miss” prospect in this year’s LB stock. Following his terrible performance in the BCS Championship Game against the defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide, he got caught in one of the worst public relations disasters in recent memory.
The “Catfish” scandal isn’t what truly dropped his stock from Top 10 to borderline 1st/2nd round pick, but his play in that very championship game as well as a disappointing draft combine. He recorded a 4.82 in his 40 yard dash, where granted speed isn’t everything, but that low time has placed teams to question his ability to excel in the much faster speed of the NFL. If he has anything to dispute those claims, is his play-making ability.
One must not forget he was the runner-up to winning the Heisman Trophy, and his play truly displayed his potential. He’s never going to be considered the most athletic LB, nor is he ready to step into the starting line-up immediately. With the right environment and coaching, though, he can develop into a great player, with his best fit being an ILB in a 4-3 style scheme.
4) Arthur Brown, Kansas State: With this prospect, size clearly doesn’t matter. Despite being “just” 6’0″ and a rather stocky 241 lbs, what we have here is a true tackling machine that has the sideline-to-sideline speed that will attract teams. He plays much bigger than his size would indicate, and would be an excellent fit in either a 4-3 or a 3-4 as an ILB or even as an OLB.
Of course, his small size will be tested mightily against the huge offensive linemen that dominate in today’s NFL. But, his stature offers a somewhat unique advantage when it comes to leverage, where he can use his “smallness” to slip through would-be blocks. He also has the strength to fight and disengage blockers, and that is key when looking at any linebacker, big or small.
Will he be able to prove that once he goes live against opposing offenses in the NFL? Only time will tell, but he is my “sleeper” in this class of linebackers.
3) Dion Jordan, Oregon: He is the athletic freak when you compare him to the rest of this year’s draft class. Not only is he 6’6″, and 248 lbs, but he also recorded a 4.6o in the 40 yard dash, which will attract a ton of teams looking to add a real 3-4 OLB that can also play with his hand in the turf as a “tweener” 4-3 end.
Although his pass-coverage skills are questionable, he did play rather well in the open field, which is rare for a LB of his size to be capable of. His best fit hands-down is in a 3-4 defense, but he can also become a DE in a 4-3, or even play as an OLB with a 4-3 defense. Where he was perhaps the most impressive player in the combine, he must prove himself to be more than a “work-out warrior”. The competition he will face is dramatically different in the pros than it was in the Pac-12 conference.
2) Alec Ogletree, Georgia: Here is the best ILB prospect in this year’s draft class. He has the ideal size at 6’3″ 240 lbs, with plenty of frame to pack on even more pounds. His range is decent, and he’s probably the best in terms of being able to effectively stuff a running play at the line of scrimmage.
Also, he’s proven his ability to be an effective pass rusher when sent on a blitz, as he closes in extremely fast for a typical ILB, whether it’s as a 4-3 or as a 3-4 ILB. What I was most impressed with, was his coverage skills. Where he’s not the fastest, he makes up for in pure instincts. His cuts and pursuit angles are excellent, and he is a hard hitter once someone crosses into his zone.
With all these positives, come some rather serious character concerns. Not only did he start his season off on the wrong foot with a 4-game suspension due to a failed drug test, but he was arrested in February for DUI charges. One could say his best choice would have been to stay for his senior season, but he’s declared for the draft, and shall still be a player to watch in the 1st round.
1) Jarvis Jones, Georgia: Where his teammate in Alec Ogletree is the best ILB prospect in this year’s draft, Jarvis Jones is the best all-round prospect in this year’s draft class. He shares a fair amount of strengths that Ogletree does, with his pursuit angles and play-making ability some of the best you’ll ever see coming out of college in the upcoming draft.
But his skills go beyond that, as his versatility to dominate in the running game as well as being a dangerous pass-rusher makes him by far the best linebacker to be had. His hands and ability to fight off blocks are simply outstanding, and he really reminds me of a Von Miller type of player. He can fit in the 3-4, or the 4-3, preferably as an OLB.
Can he make the slide inside, sure, but then you’d be wasting his talent for getting to the QB. In 2012, he recorded 14.5 sacks with the Bulldogs, and made a lot of plays from behind the line of scrimmage. His medical condition is a cause for concern, but he has been given the “go-ahead” to play by an independent doctor. He could very well be gone within the 1st ten picks come later this month, and I can easily see why.
Make no mistake, this crop of linebackers is a strong group collectively, and surely any LB needy team is eager to draft one of these young future pros. Where do you, the fans and readers, believe each of these linebackers will go in the 2013 NFL draft? Sound off!