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Top Ten 2014 Draft Prospects: Linebacker Edition

Learn About Khalil Mack, C.J. Mosley, and Other Top Linebacker Prospects

2014 NFL Off-Season

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As the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks would be happy to attest, a strong defensive line is critical if you want your team to dominate on the gridiron. If you, like me, hunkered down and ignored responsibility yesterday, you saw some of the NFL’s next generation of linemen show their stuff. This year’s class is relatively deep and features a few guys, like C.J. Mosley and Khalil Mack, who have become household names. Today, we break down the ILBs and OLBs you need to know before draft day. 


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Top Ten 2014 Draft Prospects: Linebacker Edition

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

1. Khalil Mack (OLB-Buffalo) - This kid can flat out play. Mack’s 6’3, 245 pound frame, combined with the fact that he started all four years of college, mean that durability shouldn’t be an issue in the pros. Though Mack primarily played MAC teams that weren’t hugely competitive, he did look good against some of the NCAA’s best, including Ohio State. All in all, Mack is a competitive player with great instincts who should become an instant factor come September. 


2. C.J. Mosley (ILB-Alabama) - Mosley is another guy with exceptional on-field instincts. Furthermore, Mosley has leadership skills both in the locker room and in the weight room; he’s a hard worker and understands the importance of being a team player (his National Championship rings don’t hurt either.) In addition to his character, NFL scouts will love that Mosley has the ability to play successfully in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme.


3. Anthony Barr (OLB-UCLA) - Barr was one of yesterday’s top three cone drill performers, clocking-in at 6.82 seconds; he’s fast and has the ability to be a playmaker. Barr comes from a football family and looks the part at 6’5, 244 pounds. NFL front offices will love Barr’s natural athleticism. Barr is almost a sure first-rounder. 


4. Ryan Shazier (OLB-Ohio State) - Shazier, measuring 6’1, 230 pounds, isn’t as big as some of the other OLBs in his class, but certainly proved himself on the field in Indy yesterday. Shazier was a top performer in vertical jump, broad jump, and 3 cone drill. This showing, in addition to the fact that he was the Big Ten’s No. 1 tackler in 2013, should improve Shazier’s draft stock.


5. Chris Borland (ILB-Wisconsin) - Borland, who enjoyed first-team All-Big Ten honors three times during his college career, has great eyes and tracks the ball well. At 5’11, Borland is shorter than many of his peers, which may worry some NFL coaches and scouts. Borland is, however, likely to make a special teams impact right away and possesses the potential to become a starter down the road. 


6. Trent Murphy (OLB-Stanford) - Murphy, a 6’6, 261 pound workhorse, had an NCAA-high 15 sacks in 2013. Murphy enjoyed an impressive 3 cone drill performance yesterday, but his 4.86 40 time left a little something to be desired. Murphy’s a tough, smart player, though, who ought to translate well to the NFL, especially if he’s given a season or two to adapt. 


7. Jordan Tripp (OLB-Montana) - Originally projected to a be a late rounder, Tripp thoroughly impressed in his combine performance yesterday, which could elevate his draft stock considerably. Tripp was a top performer in both his 20 yard shuttle and 3 cone drill. In addition, Tripp has impeccable character, loves the game, and works hard both on and off the field. These traits will be attractive to teams around the league. 


8. Kyle Van Noy (OLB-BYU) - Van Noy didn’t look as solid as some expected at the combine, but still performed well. Van Noy is an excellent pass rusher and has good size for the NFL. I see Van Noy going somewhere between the first and third rounds, depending largely upon the outcomes of his pro-day performance and individual workouts. 


9. Telvin Smith (OLB-Florida State) - Smith ran a fairly impressive 4.52 40 yesterday, which is proof positive of his on-field speed. Though Smith is lean for an NFL back, he led FSU with 90 tackles in 2013. Front offices would probably like to see Smith bulk-up a bit before trying him as a starter; he may struggle with the physicality of the pro league given his build. Smith isn’t likely to be drafted before the mid-rounds.


10. Shayne Skov (ILB-Stanford) - Skov is an exceptional tackler and a tough player, which, unfortunately, led him to suffer an 2011 ACL injury that he still hasn’t come back from entirely. Skov is certainly talented, but I’m worried about his longevity since he’s already been through numerous knee surgeries. This, coupled with the fact that he still appears to be underperforming due to 2011’s setback, probably has Skov going somewhere in the fourth or fifth round.

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