NFL Combine: Linebackers – What Do They Need To Prove?

    Who are the best linebackers going into the NFL Combine, and what do they need to prove in Indianapolis?

    February 17, 2016

    Who are the best linebackers going into the NFL Combine, and what do they need to prove in Indianapolis?


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    1. Myles Jack, UCLA

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – The physical is all that matters. If he looks all back full after his knee injury – or close to it – he’ll be a lock to go in the top 15. It was a one-time injury and not a chronic issue, but considering the high price tag in a good first round, any sort of a blip could cause him to slip.

    – Does he have the right body type? The positive – he’s ultra-athletic in a fullback’s body. The negative – he’s build like an NFL power running back. Will he have the elite athleticism to go along with the big frame? That’s going to be the question mark throughout the rest of the pre-draft speculation.

    – What is he? He’s built like a killer in the middle, but he’ll probably be turned loose on the outside. In a draft when everyone is looking for a Von Miller type, there’s a chance he can be seen as a hybrid. That’s not a bad thing, but his interviews will be interesting – if we ever find out what happens during them.

    2. Reggie Ragland, Alabama

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – What is he? He’s an inside linebacker, but he hasn’t been shy about working out on the outside and in pass coverage. He doesn’t have to lock down a position, but he has to establish himself as a main man to work around in the middle – that’s his spot.

    – Just how quick is he? It’s not that big a deal considering few will think of him as a pass rusher on the outside, but the more he’s able to show, obviously, the better.

    – He needs to destroy the pads. When he’s able to show his punch and his power, he should stand out. There’s a chance he should get everyone buzzing just by looking the part.

    3. Darron Lee, Ohio State

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – How much bigger can he get? Everyone will love his athleticism and skills, but he’s just not going to be big enough. He’s good enough as is, but his stock will depend on whether or not he can bulk up to around 240 pounds. He’s rocked up as is.

    – Where does he fit? He’s not going to do too much on the inside against the power teams, so if he doesn’t fly around on the outside, he could slip – it might be hard to find him a spot.

    – Raw strength. Ohio State prospects are always workout warriors, and if Lee can rip up the bench, he’ll go a long way to answering those who don’t think he can hold up or hit at an NFL level.

    4. Leonard Floyd, Georgia

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – If everyone is looking for a Von Miller type, this might be as close to it as possible in this draft in terms of a pure pass rusher. Now he has to take that possible comparison and run with it – at least athletically. The one big difference is that Miller is short and thick, and Floyd is tall and thin. However, Floyd might have the same speed off the edge.

    – What’s Miller’s biggest key? He can take the angle around the edge like no one else other than maybe Robert Mathis a few years ago. Floyd can do that, too. He can zip around a tackle and be unblockable. He has to show off that flexibility.

    – Can he add more weight to his frame? He’s way too lean, and he needs to put on at least 15 more pounds of good weight. But is he maxed out?

    5. Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: First Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Obviously it’s all about the knee. The main example for why superstar NFL prospects should never, ever, play in a non-playoff bowl game, the knee doesn’t supposedly have any major nerve damage, but 2016 is a redshirt year. Does that mean he can return to his normal self in 2017?

    – Even 100% healthy, he needs to gain a little bit of weight. He’s a great tackler, but he could stand to get to around 250 rocked up to add a little more pop.

    – His game is based on his speed and efficiency – he’s a heat-seeking missile to the ball. Everyone in the first round is going to have a thought on when the right time is to go get him. At least in the interviews and on the whiteboard, he has to prove he’s worth the wait.

    6. Joshua Perry, Ohio State

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Second Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Can he do enough in the interview process to show off his key positives? He’s the type of defender every defensive coordinator wants to have in terms of smarts, personality and toughness. He’s a great guy who might move up just because of the intangibles, but …

    – Does he have the quickness to match his other tools? Very big and always seemingly in on every tackle, he has the size and the look of someone who can stick on the inside and engulf everything. Now he has to be able to run a little bit.

    – Is there any versatility to his game? Can he be a pass rusher? Can he come up with anything to suggest that he’s good for any and every defense?

    7. Su’a Cravens, USC

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Second Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – The workout has to be incredible. Is he just a big safety, and can he be a bigger linebacker? The athleticism is expected to be there, and he’s going to be smooth as silk in all the drills. At least that’s the hope.

    – Does his body have the look and potential to add more good weight? He’s just not big enough to be for everyone, but he’s too good not to be shoehorned into any scheme.

    – Is there any possibility of playing inside? With his pass coverage skills he’s a natural on the outside at either spot, but the more versatility he can show with his strength and power, the better.

    8. Scooby Wright, Arizona

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Third Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Can he run at all? There’s no question he can hit, but is he able to move at all, especially in the short drills? The 40 time will be horrendous, but as long as he’s not too lumbering around the cones, he’ll do what the scouts want.

    – How healthy is he? He was able to come back and play at a high level, but he took a beating over his career and he’s got a lot of wear on the tires. The medical evaluation could crank up a few red flags.

    – Is there any fluidity to his style? How robotic is he? Everyone loves him on tape, but he might be really, really limited once he gets on an NFL field.

    9. Kyler Fackrell, Utah State

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Second Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Just how healthy is his knee? He came back fine after tearing it up in 2014, but is there any concern going forward? Is this going to knock him back at all?

    – Even with the past knee problem, he’s going to come up with a terrific workout showing off the athleticism and size everyone wants – at least that’s the expectation. The bar is set way high to see how well he can move.

    – Is it possible to turn him into a big time pass rusher? He’s not a defensive end, but he has the frame to get up to around 255 pounds and still be able to flash into the backfield. If he can explode out of the blocks and if his splits are great, his stock will blow up.

    10. Kentrell Brothers, Missouri

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Second Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Considering he’s a great hitter, does he have the range? Anything he does to show he can be more of a sideline-to-sideline will be a big help. He has to prove athletically that he’s more than just a decent prospect.

    – Is there ANYTHING to his game to show that he might be available for the outside? He’s an inside linebacker only – a little athleticism might change that.

    – Does height matter? Even if he does check in at 6-0, will scouts care that he’s just not that tall? He’s built to hit, but body type is a big deal in the process.

    11. Jordan Jenkins, Georgia

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Third Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – There’s a chance he becomes a pet prospect after going through the interview process and stepping up to the whiteboard. He’s a great leader and high-character player everyone would love to have. The workout has to match.

    – Is there a burst to his style? He’s going to hit everything he gets to, but can he get to the ball? There has to be something to his weekend to suggest he could become a playmaker into the backfield.

    – As long as he can show off some sort of power or strength, he’ll do what’s being looked for. He’s not going to tear up the workouts, but he can’t stand out in a negative way.

    12. Kamalei Correa, Boise State

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Fourth Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – A true tweener, can he really be an outside linebacker? He’s more of a smallish defensive end as a pass rusher – and he might workout as one at the Combine – but he needs to show off good range.

    – How good are the splits? The burst out of the blocks on the 40 and the quickness through the short drills are going to matter – can he be an NFL playmaker into the backfield?

    – He could move his stock up at least a round with a tremendous workout. Give the scouts a reason to love him.

    13. Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Third Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – Can he beef up at all? He’s undersized, but fast. Most won’t want him to do anything to screw up that speed, but he needs to eventually get to around 230.

    – Is he more than a specialist? He could be a devastating force into the backfield on third downs, and he could find a role as a core special teamer, but he’ll be drafted to be far more than that.

    – He needs to show strength. One of the big concerns is his power for his size, and while he might be erased by any big blocker, a big bench will make a big difference.

    14. Tyler Matakevich, Temple

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Third Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – How much wear is there? He made SO many tackles and was such a big hitter over his college career, how are his shoulders? Where is there a red flag over things that might breakdown in the near future?

    – Does he have any athleticism whatsoever? He’ll tackle everything he can get to, but can he get to anything? Does he have the feet to get into the position to make plays?

    – He has decent enough size to get by, but does he have the raw strength? The bench press will matter with him.

    15. Deion Jones, LSU

    Pre-Combine Draft Projection: Third Round

    What He Needs To Prove

    – He’s too small, so does he have the elite quickness and other skills? He has to fly through the drills and he has to look a half-click smoother and faster than everyone else.

    – Is there any possibility to gain any more good weight? He’s already stretched out in muscle, but can he possibly add ten pounds to get up to 230? Can he do it while keeping his quickness?

    – Is he more than a key special teamer? That’s his floor, but if he’s a top 75 pick, he needs to be a key defender. Can he be terrific in pass coverage? He might look like someone who could be a killer on third downs.

    Other Linebackers Invited To The Combine (alphabetically)

    Devante Bond, Oklahoma
    Beniquez Brown, Mississippi State
    De’Vondre Campbell, Minnesota
    Steven Daniels, Boston College
    Travis Feeney, Washington
    Josh Forrest, Kentucky
    Kris Frost, Auburn
    B.J. Goodson, Clemson
    C J Johnson, Ole Miss
    Raphael Kirby, Miami
    Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia
    Cory Littleton, Washington
    Steve Longa, Rutgers
    Curt Maggitt, Tennessee
    Blake Martinez, Stanford
    Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn
    Antonio Morrison, Florida
    Jared Norris, Utah
    Montese Overton, East Carolina
    Gionni Paul, Utah
    Joe Schobert, Wisconsin
    Terrance Smith, Florida State
    Eric Striker, Oklahoma
    Nick Vigil, Utah State
    Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt

    MORE: Ranking Quarterbacks Ahead Of NFL Combine

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