By Casey Conroy
on Wednesday, February 19th
Deciding if a prospect plays inside linebacker or outside linebacker is becoming more of a debate, especially with the many more schemes going on in the NFL. Some players coming into the NFL will fit inside in 3-4 defenses, and others are more likely to fit in the 4-3 style defenses. With the NFL combine coming up on Friday most of the linebackers getting drafted will be on display for all 32 teams to see. For the sake of argument though, I decided to list the inside linebackers according to the NFL participants list.
1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Hands down the top inside linebacker in this class Mosley is seen by many as a top 10-15 player. Mosley is more than likely the only inside linebacker that will be drafted in the first round. Mosley can do little to improve his stock at this point. Maybe he should sneak into the gauntlet drill with the wide receivers to show that hecan actually catch.
2. Shayne Skov, Stanford
Skov is another all around good linebacker, he can do it all, just not on the level that Mosley does it. Skov will check out medically fine, he tore his ACL back in 2011, but teams will always fear ACL tears. I'm looking for Skov to have very good numbers in drills to show off how athletic he is. A good three cone time could help him in the eyes of teams as it relates to his pass rushing abilities.
3. Chris Borland, Wisconsin
Borland is a good every down linebacker who's biggest limitation is his height and the length of his arms. Having long arms can help a player get off blocks, and Borland is basiacaly a t-rex with his arms. Being short and having very short arms may limit him in the NFL to being a two down linebacker. Showing off some crazy athleticism and an impressive vertical could help him out a ton.
4. Telvin Smith, Florida State
Easily the biggest question regarding Smith is his weight. At the Senior Bowl Smith weighed in at just 218 pounds. This would essentially make him the lightest linebacker in the NFL. At such a light weight people in the NFL are probably going to question his ability to make it through an entire season without injury. He's got the makings of a very impressive, sideline-sideline linebacker at the next level, he may just need to add about 15 pounds.
5. Jeremiah George, Iowa State
George is a very aggressive downhill linebacker that doesn't get much attention in the media. He'll likely get some attention this week at the combine as he is a fast player. George is like Telvin Smith combined with Chris Borland size wise, which is going to hurt George a ton. Listed at 5'11 (Borland) and 219 pounds (Smith), hopefully he's put on some weight getting ready for the combine.
6. Christian Jones, Florida State
When watching Jones, his 2012 tape is what to look at. Half way through 2013 Florida State moved Jones up and used him as more of an edge rusher than an actual linebacker. This shouldn't really hurt Jones as he already has a solid body of work. Jones size is fine for the linebacker position and having spent some time at the line of scrimmage should actually help him. I'm looking for Jones to hopefully impress in the 40 because he is slow on tape.
7. James Morris, Iowa
Morris is a downhill linebacker who does great work against the run. Like several of these next linebackers, Morris needs to impress in the coverage drill for the linebackers. Plenty of people can be two down linebackers, but being a three down linebacker is what helps drive teams to want to draft you. Morris's stats against the pass aren't promising (Five interceptions, 11 deflections) so impressing in the coverage drill is very important.
8. Preston Brown, Louisville
Listed at 6'2, 255 pounds, Brown is a physically imposing linebacker. Brown played on a bad Louisville defense, and he didn't do a whole lot to make it any better. Brown, like Morris, needs to show up to the combine, run a solid 40 and blow the pants off people in the coverage drill. If he can't show that he isn't just a big linebacker, and that he can move around in space, it'll keep teams from strictly listing him as a two down linebacker.
9. Max Bullough, Michigan State
Bullough has ideal size at 6'3, 245 pounds, but yet again, another linebacker who looks stiff and slow in coverage. Bullough needs to do the same as Morris and Brown and impress in the coverage drill/40. Most already consider Bullough a two down linebacker, so if he can buck that label it would mean a lot.
10. Andrew Jackson, Wester Kentucky
The last of the "two down linebackers" on this list. Jackson is listed at 6'1, 257 pounds, making him the biggest inside linebacker on this list. Jackson looks incredibly slow, sloppy, and stiff in coverage and needs to either show up lighter, or show that he can run at this weight.
11. Khairi Fortt, California
Fortt needs to go into Indianapolis and be a top linebacker in every category. Fortt struggles with mostly everything on the field and his best bet is to become a physical freak and hope teams fall in love with him. If he posts great numbers in drills, a team could see him as a valuable project, but that's about as far as that goes.