After all the tape study, the combine measurements/workouts, some pro-days, and re-watching of tape, there has been slight movement in the post combine inside linebacker rankings.
Jayson Braddock and Dory LeBlanc used extensive criteria that included (but was not limited to) read & react skills, run defense, pass defense, tackling, pass rush/blitzing, physical makeup, and productivity into determining how those attributes translate to the NFL.
The ten-best prospects at the I/MLB position are:
1. Luke Kuechly, Boston College, 6’3” 242 Lbs.- Before the combine, the only knocks on Kuechly were that he lacked speed and size. With an added 5Lbs, he ran both his 40’s in the mid 4.50-range. EVEN
2. Dont’a Hightower, Alabama, 6’2” 265 Lbs. – A versatile player who can play DE in a 4-3 or ILB who happened to be one of the biggest playmakers on the nation’s best defense. EVEN
3. Mychal Kendricks, California, 5’11” 240 Lbs. – We liked Kendricks before the combine, so his workout was not a shock to us, he did move up in our rankings due largely in part to Burfict falling out of them. +2
4. James-Michael Johnson, Nevada, 6’1” 241 Lbs. – A force against the run, JMJ turned some heads in Indy, but he turned ours months ago with his game tape; he shows urgency and fights to be a part of every play. -1
5. Max Gruder, Pittsburgh, 6’1” 235 Lbs. – Gruder isn’t the biggest or fastest, but is a tough, smart, instinctual player who can play all three LB slots. +2
6. Emmanuel Acho, Texas, 6’1” 238 Lbs. – Played primarily at OLB, we think he moves inside at the next level.EVEN
7. Audie Cole, NC State, 6’4” 246 Lbs. – Cole is a big body in the middle of the defense who has the ability to make plays, just needs to show more urgency.+1
8. Najee Good, West Virginia, 6’0” 244 Lbs. – He looked good at the combine, showing fluidity during drills and quick feet in reverse and on tape fills a gap quickly and is a solid tackler. +1
9. Tank Carder, TCU, 6’2” 236 Lbs. – Just as we said a month ago, this may seem high on him given injury concerns and size, but with the ILBs not having a deep talent pool, we would gladly take the risk on his injuries and size, than lack of talent. Place him on the inside of a 3-4 defense and put him on a NFL workout schedule. +1
10. Jerry Franklin, Arkansas, 6’1” 241 Lbs. – Seems strange a player who led his team in tackling for four years and ended up 10th in tackles on the season wouldn’t get an invite to Indy, but Franklin more than made up for it at Arkansas’ Pro Day running a 4.68 40, 37.5 vert, and 6.98 in the 3-cone. +4
Dory LeBlanc, co-hosts NFL Draft Cheat Sheet on RotoRadio and freelances for BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You may email Dory at email@example.com or follow her on twitter @DoryLeBlanc