FanPost

NFL Draft Prospects '11: OLB

Last year the Rams went 7-9, but something that remained from the 1-15 season was the awful play of the outside linebackers.  The position was manned by players who we probably wouldn't know if they played on different teams. 

Despite having a defensive line that had three players who had a good argument for the Pro Bowl, the Rams ranked 17th overall in Adjusted Line Yards defensively (per FO).  Delving futher, the Rams ranked 28th overall in 2nd level yards and 29th overall in open field yards.  Considering that James Lauranitis is their MLB, it is obvious who is to blame for those low rankings.  

But anybody who watches the Rams with a prick of football knowledge could have told you that our OLBs suck.  Considering Chad Greenway recently signed his franchise tag, they likely will not get one via free agency.  Unfortunately every other great OLB did this as well with LaMarr Woodley doing it, Tambi Hali doing it, David Harris doing it.  Lastly, James Anderson was RFA tendered by the Panthers which could be invalid but likely means the Panthers will be getting him back leaving Thomas Davis the best available OLB option who was injured for all of 2010. 

So to say that the draft is the only way to go is not necessarily true.  However, the draft is the only way to go if the Rams want a franchise starter.  And most of the free agent options out there have as much risk of being a bust as draft prospects, but with incredibly lower upside.

I'm ranking these players based off of where they are expected to fall not my opinion.  That makes it easier on me where I can just put what I think and the reports on him and you can tell where this guy will probably be picked.  

Last note I want to make.  There are more than a few prospects who are listed as DE/OLB on Walter Football which makes it nearly impossible to grade this position.  Most of the time, those prospects I list at DE because if we drafted them, they'd become defensive ends. (Like Aldon Smith for instance)  I also switch a few ILB (According to WF) to OLB for the simple reason that other sites have those players as OLB (Greg Jones for instance has a scouting report listed as an OLB but is graded with ILBs for some reason)

1. Von Miller, Texas A&M

Why get him - He's a sack specalist with 18 sacks the past two years; If he touches you, you cease to be moving; He runs a 4.46 40 yard dash and more importantly shows it on the field; leader with good work ethic; can cover the whole field; good football IQ

Why not to get him - Well, he is a bit small for a 4-3 OLB; It's a little disconcerting that his highlight videos are 80% of him sacking the QB - Where's the rest of his game? - Walter Football calls him scrictly a 3-4 OLB

Summary - Well, if I were Billy Devaney, I'd think long and hard about getting him despite his limitations, however, it looks like that decision is not going to have to be made with recent talk that he may be picked second overall.

Projected - Top 10 Pick

2. Akeem Ayers, UCLA

Why get him - extremely versatile as he played OLB, DE, and MLB at UCLA, one of the most athletic players in the draft, good in coverage

Why not get him - I have almost nothing positive to say watching his game tapes.  Let's go through the list: Gets blocked fairly easily; seems to pad stats by letting blocker block him and then running backwards to tackle a runner with 4+ yards, doesn't make many plays in the backfield, invisible in some games

Summary - I went from a "I don't really want him because UCLA fans don't believe in him" to "Don't get him with a 2nd round pick" - He seems to get burned almost as much as he makes plays and he's small and his Combine 40 was slow at 4.80 (He's not one of those game fast players either)

Projected Pick - 1st round

3. Bruce Carter, UNC

Why get him - athletic, strong, agile, can cover the whole field, good in special teams with six blocked punts and one blocked field goal, plays fast and hard, has a penchant for the big hit (I refer you this play)

Why not get him - He is an injury risk with ACL reconstructive surgery in December, sometimes too aggressive, not much of a pass rusher

Summary - I think if we were able to get him in the 3rd round that would be fantastic.  His negatives are not really that negative (especially since the pass rushing thing is more a negative for 3-4).  He got surgery in middle of December and it takes 7-9 months to recover so he should be ready for most of this next season if not all.

Projected Round - 2nd-3rd round

4. Mason Foster, Washington

Why get him - Constant motor, tends to take good angles to the ballcarrier, great work ethic, good against the run, does not miss many tackles, consistent player

Why not to get him - He's a little slow; smaller for an OLB prospect at 6'1, struggles in coverage at times, can imagine that losing some of that 245 pounds and turning it into muscle would be beneficiary

Summary - Overall, I liked what I saw in Foster.  His good routes to balls could let him get away with being a little slow.  If he can come to the NFL, slim down, I'm sure it would help his speed.  Another player that I would love to get in the 3rd round.

Projected Round - 2nd-3rd round

5. Greg Jones, Michigan State

Why get him - a ridiculous 465 tackles in his four year career, great speed, great experience at the college level, consistent tackler, leader with good work ethic, covers the entire field

Why not get him - lacks size at 6'1 and bulk, doesn't deliver a lot of big hits, not great in man coverage, no highlight videos of him on youtube (kidding - but seriously Michigan State fans step it up!)

Summary - He played inside linebacker in college, but his size and speed should prevent him from doing so in the NFL.  So if you're confused as to why I have him here, it is because he fits better as an OLB.  Anyway, this is yet another player I would love to get with a 3rd round pick, but we could even snag him later than that.

Projected Round - 3rd-4th round

6. Dontay Moch, Nevada

Why get him - elite speed at 4.45 and he shows it on the field as well; good stats with 8.5 sacks and 22 TFLs, explosive, extreme athleticism, great first step

Why not get him - He's soft, lack of instincts, projects mainly as a 3-4 OLB, a pass-rushing DE in college, workout warrior, low football IQ

Summary - WF mentioned that he looked like Vernon Gholston on tape... about six months before he had the greatest Combine since Gholston.  I doubt we have much to worry about in terms of drafting him because he is solely a 3-4 OLB, but it does say something about him that his best comparison is Gholston.

Projected Round - 3rd-4th round

7. K.J. Wright, Mississippi State

Why get him - three-year starter, hard worker with intense motor, athletic, dependable tackler, impressive power and strength, 9 pass blocked in senior year so he's decent in coverage

Why not get him - struggles to shed blockers, can be too aggressive at times (Note: I don't necessarily think this is a negative...), lacks fluid hips to change direction quickly

Summary - Let's see: durable, productive three-year starter who is good at tackling, works hard and his biggest negative in passing coverage was that he didn't make many impact plays.  Sign me up!

Projected Round - 3rd-4th round

8. Thomas Keiser, Stanford

Why get him - He's a beast at 6'5, 252 and given his size, his speed ain't too shabby either with a 4.75 40 time, 3 year starter for Big Six conference team, versatile, effective pass rusher with 19.5 sacks in college

Why not get him - His decision to leave early is very suspect (4.5 sacks last year, 37 tackles?), doesn't have NFL athleticism, seems likely to fit best and possibly only in a 3-4 defense

Summary - Unfortunately, being a 4-3 defense effectively eliminates half of the outside linebackers available.  Fortunately, this guy is nothing to get excited about.

Projected Round - 4th-5th round

9. Bruce Miller, UCF

Why get him - He was a very successful college player averaging nearly 50 tackles and 9 sacks a year as a four-year starter, good work ethic, got most out of limited talent

Why not get him - He is like Chase Daniels - works hard, gets the most out of what he has - but what he has is not very appealing, lacks athleticism.

Summary - A defensive end in college, he lacks the necessary qualities - speed, athleticism, shiftiness - to become a defensive end in the NFL.  As an OLB, the best he can be is a 3-4 OLB and probably depth at that.  Sorry another guy the Rams will not get (unless they believe he can be a DE)

Projected Round - 4th-5th roun

10. Ross Homan, THE Ohio State 

Why get him - three-year starter at a big time university, 6 interceptions the past two seasons, tough, he ran a 4.65 at the Combine maybe disproving he isn't fast, great motor

Why not get him - he does not have ideal OLB size, could add some bulk to his frame, could get eaten up by tacklers

Summary -  I can't think of a legitimate reason I don't feel good about him as a prospect, but that's the way I felt about James Lauranitis and this guy is similar to him in so many ways.  I feel like he has everything I look for, but that my gut tells me no on him.

Projected Round - 4th-5th round

11. Mark Herzlich, Boston College

Why get him - tough as nails as evidenced by his battle with cancer, good size and bulk, great work ethic, good athlete, leader of the Eagles, 4-year starter

Why not get him - he has lost a stop since cancer and is not the potential 1st round pick he used to be, he was slow at the Combine recorded at 4.92, struggles in coverage

Summary - I'd be ok with drafting him in the 6th round if he falls that far and not much else since he's a little too big of a risk for a position that can't afford many more "busts."  However, if he can become a good NFL player, he will because he has the drive and determination (Note: Don't like this reasoning though).

Projected Round - 5th-6th round

12. Lawrence Wilson, Uconn

Why get him - tackling machine with 243 tackles the past two years, very good instincts, sideline-to-sideline range, fast for a linebacker

Why not get him - one knack on him is that his playmaking skills are lacking, not very effective in pass coverage, sort of a one dimensional player

Summary - Wow, his traits sound like our current outside linebackers except he is better at tackling than they are.  He a good 4-3 OLB so I wouldn't mind taking a chance.

Projected Round - 5th-6th round

13. Chris Carter, Fresno State

Why get him - good pass rusher, solid instincts, speedy player, makes plays in the backfield, decent bulk and size of for the position

Why not get him - he is not even close to a good fit for a 4-3 system, purely a rush linebacker

Summary - Another player who is just not going to be drafted because he doesn't fit in our system at all.

Projected Round - 5-7th round

14. J.T. Thomas, West Virginia

Why get him - fundamentally sound tackler, good in zone coverage, above average range, top-end speed, good recognition skills

Why not get him - he is thin and can get easily blocked by bigger lineman, lacks elite strength, tends to take poor angles to the ball

Summary - His weaknesses are hard to ignore and it would be difficult to try and change those things except perhaps strength.

Projected Round - 5th-7th round

Late Round 3-4 OLBs

1. Brian Duncan, Texas Tech - Originally a inside linebacker, the switch to the 3-4 lowered his tackles and raised his sacks and TFL.  He is versatile so it is not out of the question that he can play 4-3, but it is less of a fit than a 3-4.

2. Kenny Rowe, Oregon - At Oregon, he played as an undersized defensive pass rusher, but in the NFL he must be a pass rushing 3-4 OLB.  Probably next to no chance we get him.

Late Round 4-3 OLBs

1. Brian Rolle, OSU - The undersized linebacker uses his speed and tackling ability to his advantage, but he also has trouble getting free of blockers.

2. Jonas Mouton, Michigan - Slightly undersized linebacker that extremely dissapointed at the Combine running at near offensive line like speed despite not overly big - also was suspended for a game.

3. Doug Hogue, Syracuse - This former running-back has only played 24 career games at linebacker has good speed, good instincts

4. Michael Morgan, USC - This linebacker has a good combo of size and speed, but struggles to tackle and is likely just depth for teams.

5. Malcom Smith, USC - This starter has a knack for making plays, but his quickness and strength don't match his big play ability.

There are more prospects and naturally some of the ones I missed will probably drafted, but I wouldn't tell you anything to make you anymore knowledgeable about them.  Anyway I thought I'd end this first prospect list with a poll about what round you think we should draft an OLB.  Take into consideration who we would taking and if you think that person is worth the pick.

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