A deep crop of outside linebackers awaits those interested in an upgrade of what they have. In contrast, few upgrades would seem to be available among the inside linebacker prospects.
Texas A&M’s Von Miller tops the linebacker class. He’s a top-10, maybe a top-five pick who projects best in a 3-4 scheme, but Miller can play in any scheme and even offers potential as a hand-on-the-ground defensive end.
Miller is followed by UCLA’s Akeem Ayers, an athletic defender who can drop into pass-coverage or get up the field as a pass-rusher. The most intriguing prospect, however, might be Arizona defensive end Brooks Reed, a fast-rising player who projects best as a 3-4 outside linebackers.
Reed is a high-intensity player who possesses a high ceiling and projects as a late-first, early-second round pick. He’s being compared to Clay Matthews and he is said to be a coach’s dream.
The depth of the outside linebackers class would seem to be situated in the second-fourth rounds of the draft.
Martez Wilson of Illinois can play inside or outside. He has scintillating speed.
Dontay Moch of Nevada is a college end that projects as a linebacker. He will interest teams based on his explosiveness.
Bruce Carter of North Carolina makes plays on defense and on special teams but could fall in the draft due to a knee injury.
K.J. Wright of Mississippi State is a player with high upside. He has the skill set to make plays all over the field but needs more development.
Pass-rushers abound for the 3-4 teams. Another such prospect is Fresno State’s Chris Carter.
UConn’s Lawrence Wilson is a tackling machine. He covers a lot of ground but lacks ideal size.
Speed is the calling card of the outside linebacker class. Development would seem to be its challenge.
The inside linebacker group likely won’t offer a prospect until the second round. LSU’s Kelvin Sheppard, Michigan State’s Greg Jones and North Carolina’s Quan Sturdivant are the top names.
Pickings on the inside will be slim and not many inside linebackers carry even a draftable grade.
The Packers, of course, are thought to have need for a linebacker. A few would seem to fit where the Packers are picking in the first few rounds.
Vic Ketchman is a veteran of 39 NFL seasons and has covered the Steelers and Jaguars prior to coming to Green Bay.