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2015 Linebacker Rankings (Incomplete-will be finished up this weekend)

April 30, 2015
One of the best linebackers, safeties and running backs in this draft.

One of the best linebackers, safeties and running backs in this draft.

  1. Shaq Thompson Washington 6’0 1/8 228 Jr. I was disappointed to hear that he wanted to focus on defense alone in the NFL as one of the things I like the most about Shaq is his versatility. As a RB he had 456 yards on an impressive 7.48 ypc in 2014 and I think he could be a #2 or at worst a #3 RB for an NFL team. Nonetheless he’s a good WLB prospect too and combines production (80 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 FF) with very good quickness (4.08 shuttle) and speed (4.64 40). He’s a striker, a leader and is incredibly rangy with his athleticism but the best thing about him is his natural playmaking skills. He has 5 INTs, 2 FF and 4 fumble recoveries for a combined 5 defensive touchdowns! That’s incredible for a 3 year span and is right up there with Tyrann Mathieu as one of the more exciting defensive players to ever scout. Maybe some of those were fluke plays and I’m overrating him but I want Shaq on my team come Sunday as he always finds a way to help his team. 2nd round 4/30/15.
  2. Benardrick McKinney Mississippi State 6’4 1/8 246 Jr. He’s an elite athlete with his ’40 ½ vertical, 4.66 40 and ’33 arms. He fits best as an ILB in a 3-4 but could play in a 4-3 as a Sam or Mike linebacker too. His best year statistically ironically enough was his freshman year but he was productive all three seasons with the bulldogs. He had 7.5 sacks in 3 seasons but with his frame I would have expected more and think he might not have been utilized correctly by their coaching staff. Despite his good size he actually isn’t very strong and uses his length much more than his strength. An NFL team will want to improve that part of his game as he has the potential to be long, athletic and strong instead of just the first two. Yet even without good strength he’s still extremely difficult to block and is like Gumby at times just stretching his arms around a blocker to still grab hold of a runner and hang on until teammates gather. I’m very impressed with McKinney and think he’s a future above average starting LB with great versatility. He doesn’t go any higher on my board though due to his 0 career INTs, poor strength and surprisingly average number of sacks for his size and length. 2nd round 4/29/15.
  3. Eric Kendricks UCLA 6’0 ¼ 232 Sr. Brother of Mychal Kendricks. The Butkus Award winner in 2014 with 145 tackles, 4 sacks, 11.5 TFL and 3 INTs Kendricks surprised me with good Combine numbers as he doesn’t look all that fluid. He relies more on instincts, motor and toughness to get his production and that is fine by me but his 4.61 40 and ’38 vertical were a nice reminder that he’s an NFL caliber athlete. My issues with him though are that he’s short, he’s light, he doesn’t pack a wallop and he’s a little tight in the hips in coverage. None of those things are terrible but they all limit his upside which makes me think he’ll be an 8-10 year starter at WLB or MLB in a 4-3 scheme but will never be more than an above average starter. Late 2nd round 4/29/15.

*The top 3 are set in stone. I will finish up the remaining linebackers this weekend but only Alani Fua, AJ Tarpley and Denzel Perryman have a chance to be ahead of Paul Dawson so I basically got 4 of my top 7 done and then will add a few here or there.

Paul Dawson TCU 6’0 1/8 235 Sr. He ran an atrocious 4.93 40 along with a ’28 vertical to have arguably the worst Combine performance of the year. I love his tape as he’s strong, instinctive and versatile but his measurables still will concern me. His 2014 numbers though were elite with 136 tackles, 6 sacks, 20 TFL, 2 FF and 4 INT so he’s a great debate between tape and production vs. measurables and potential. I lean toward the former usually but again a 4.93 is just so god awful it continues to give me pause. Going back to the tape I’d say that he is slower than I remember but makes up for it a lot with his great instincts. Also he isn’t 4.93 slow but probably 4.8 which is still very slow for a LB. In the end I’m settling Dawson in as an early 3rd rounder as years of elite production can’t be wiped out by one horrible afternoon in Indianapolis 4/29/15.

Hau’oli Kikaha Washington Sr.  He led the nation with 19 sacks but never impressed at the Senior Bowl and I don’t see a ton of talent with him. He did have 13 sacks the year before too though and he has a good frame so he might fit best as a 3-4 ILB that is occasionally blitzed. 4th round 4/28/15.

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