NFL Draft Early Entries: Linebackers

    2016 NFL Draft Early Entries: It's a strong group of interior pass rushing tackles and good-sized run stoppers.

    January 18, 2016

    2016 NFL Draft Early Entries: The best linebackers are hurt, bringing down the stock of a mediocre group.

    2016 Early Entries: Linebackers

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    Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma, 6-0, 224

    Right Move? The lack of raw bulk is going to be a problem – he needs to be about ten pounds bigger and stronger – but there’s no questioning his tackling ability and there’s no concern about his leadership and football ability. Can he hold up? That’s going to be the big concern, but after making close to 300 tackles in three years, he needs to save the wear and tear for the next level.
    Projection: Third Round

    Beniquez Brown, Mississippi State, 6-1, 238

    Right Move? While the size is there and the hitting ability isn’t a question, he should be a late-round flier. He came up with 99 tackles with four sacks and 11 tackles for loss, but his real worth is as a leader who knows how to always get into the right position. However, there’s nothing about his game that stands out at an NFL level – it’ll be a fight to make a team.
    Projection: Free Agent

    Su’a Cravens, USC, 6-1, 225

    Right Move? The only concern is that he’s really a bulked up defensive back. The athleticism is off the charts and he tackles everything that moves, but he also gets banged up and might be a constant on the injury report. Coaches will love him and he should crank up huge numbers if he’s in a linebacking corps with more bulk. Turn him loose and let him make things happen. He’s a first round talent who’ll drop to the second because of his size.
    Projection: Second Round

    Leonard Floyd, Georgia, 6-4, 231

    Right Move? A standout even among a loaded linebacking corps, he’s the freak of nature playmaker who everyone raved about from the start. Last year he came up with 74 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, but he’ll really shine once he starts working out. He’s going to blow up the Combine.
    Projection: First Round

    Myles Jack, UCLA, 6-1, 245

    Right Move? If you’re going to suffer a knee injury, do it early in the season. Unlike Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith, Jack got hurt early enough get plenty of time to rehab and give scouts and medical personnel a better look at how fast he’ll be back to normal. With his size, frame, and athleticism – at least before the knee injury – he’s the prototype NFL outside linebacker. Someone will be more than happy to take the chance on him early.
    Projection: First Round

    Darron Lee, Ohio State, 6-1, 235

    Right Move? Everyone will fall in love with him throughout the process. Very fast and very tough, he came up with 66 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss, with the quickness to effortlessly drop into coverage and the pop to get nasty against the physical running games. The workouts are going to look smooth as silk.
    Projection: First Round

    Steve Longa, Rutgers, 6-1, 225

    Right Move? A great college player whose skills won’t necessarily translate, he’s just not the right fit for any one spot. He can move and he can hit, coming up with 117 tackles last year, but being feisty and tough for his size will only mean a lot as a special teamer early on. His versatility for a linebacking corps could help him stick.
    Projection: Sixth Round

    Brett McMakin, Northern Iowa, 6-4, 216

    Right Move? He’s not going to be drafted, but he’s a good-sized, fast hitter who came up with 123 tackles last year for a strong run defense while also showing off a great knack for getting behind the line. He’ll be a free agent, but he’s not built for the gig – he’ll have to make it on special teams.
    Projection: Free Agent

    Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame, 6-3, 240

    Right Move? Absolutely he should’ve come out – he might as well be getting paid while he does his rehab. The new cautionary tale for top talents who unnecessarily play in meaningless bowl games, he suffered a horrible knee injury that will likely drop him from a sure-thing top ten selection to potentially out of the first round. Now it’s all about how fast he can come back and be the same explosive hitter he was before getting hurt.
    Projection: First Round

    Nick Vigil, Utah State, 6-2, 235

    Right Move? A tackling machine for the last three seasons, he’s active, is always around the ball, and he’s just plain good. He might not have the ideal skill set, and he might not quite seem the part, but he’ll fit somewhere in a linebacking corps and make lots and lots of plays after making 144 stops with three sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.
    Projection: Third Round

    Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt, 6-5, 255

    Right Move? It’s going to depend on what he wants to be. Will he bulk up and be more of a defensive end, or will he be seen more as a tweener outside linebacker who can do a little bit of everything? He’s not a dominant pass rusher, but he looks the part. He’ll test well in workouts.
    Projection: Sixth Round

    Scooby Wright, Arizona, 6-1, 246

    Right Move? When he was healthy, he was the best defensive player in college football destroying everything in his path as a sophomore with 163 tackles with 14 sacks and 29 tackles for loss. Everyone will try to find faults – he doesn’t have the right body and he wasn’t able to hold up – but as long as he’s in one piece he’ll be a major factor. Expect him to slide thanks to medical concerns, and then dominate.
    Projection: Third Round

    MORE: 2016 Early Entries: Quarterbacks


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