Top Outside Linebacker Prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft

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Sayre and I decided to break the outside linebacker prospects into two groups 43 and 34 e linebacker prospects Because it’s two of us doing the rankings together there was some disagreement for one weren’t on agreement where Nico Johnson’s best fit would be in the N.F.L.

Updated December 2nd 2011

Here’s what we came up with.

43 Rankings

1. Zach Brown

2. Lavonte David

3 Travis Lewis

4 Sean Spence

5 Nigel Bradham

6. Sean Porter

7 Tyler Nielsen

8 Tank Carder

9. Danny Trevathan

10. Chase Thomas

11 Keenan Robinson

12 Kenny Tate

13. Nico Johnson, Alabama

 34 Rankings

Jarvis Jones, Georgia

Brandon Jenkins, Florida State

Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma Sooners

Bruce Irvin, West Virginia

Melvin Ingram South Carolina

Vinny Curry, Marshall

Nick Perry, Alabama

Nico Johnson, Alabama

Shane Skyov, Stanford

Jonathan Massaquoi, Troy

Brandon Lindsey, Pittsburgh

Sammy Brown, Houston

Darius Flemming Norte Dame

Alex Okafor, Texas

Kyle Wilber, Wake Forest

Jelani Jenkins, Florida

Preseason rankings

. Travis Lewis, Oklahoma, 6’2″ 233 (Senior)

Lewis could be the best WILL linebacker prospect in the entire draft. He has been a projected first round pick since 2010, and likely will be a first round pick in 2012. He combines phenomenal speed to go along with his ideal size for the position. His tackles for loss have gone down every year, but he has still been very productive with 362 tackles, 26.5 for loss, 8 interceptions, and 10 passes broken up. He is a complete prospect who will likely only benefit from another year of seasoning. Started all 41 games he has played in over three year span. Has been named All-Big 12 three years in a row, and in 2008 was the Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year as a freshman. Broke Brian Bosworth’s freshman tackles record with 144. All Big 12 Academic performer who will break the all-time record at Oklahoma of interceptions by a linebacker if he picks off just one pass in 2011. Six career sacks and likely will be a plug-and-play in the NFL. Immediate starter at WILL in a 4-3 defensive scheme.

2. Courtney Upshaw, Alabama, 6’2″ 265 (Junior)

Absolute beast of a linebacker prospect who might be best fit as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Teams might ask him to lose a little bit of weight to improve his ability in coverage, but he is the top inside linebacker in the 2012 class of players. Imposing physical talent who really emerged as a star in 2010 when he was a first time starter. Hard-nosed mentality, and could draw comparisons to Ray Lewis. Effective in pass rush and especially effective against the run. Has excelled in every role he has played for Alabama

3. Zach Brown, North Carolina, 6’2″ 230 (Senior)

Not the biggest linebacker prospect, but his size is good enough, and his speed is more than enough. According to the official team site, Brown ran a 4.28 second 40 yard dash in the team’s offseason workouts back in 2009. He probably won’t hit that number at next year’s scouting combine, but he should be one of the fastest linebackers in next year’s draft, and is one of the top overall linebackers in next year’s crop of players. Brown will likely play the WILL linebacker position in the NFL. Last year, he had 72 tackles and three interceptions following up a sophomore campaign where he had 47 tackles, four for loss, and an interception. He is very much capable against both the run and the pass, and will be one of the top 25 players going into next year’s draft at the start of the season. If he has a big senior season, his speed and overall upside could put him in the top 15 overall. As much controversy as has surrounded the UNC program over the last couple of years, he has been a real bright spot and should continue to shine in 2011.

4. Lavonte David, Nebraska, 6’1″ 220 (Senior)

Lavonte David surprised the country in 2010 as he was one of college football’s breakthrough players for the Cornhuskers. Not only did David win an All-American honor but he helped Nebraska own one of the nation’s top defenses. David set a single season record for tackles(152) at Nebraska and won the Newcomer-of-the-year award and unanimous all conference selection. David added 10 pounds of muscle to his frame as he is getting prepared for the physical play in the Big Ten.  Standing at 6’1″ 220 pounds with a 4.57 40 time, David has the skill set, mind-set and toughness to compete at a high level in the future. (Austin Bramley, Big Ten Nation)

5. Tank Carder, TCU, 6’2″ 237 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**

6. Sean Spence, Miami, 5’11” 225 (Senior)

Spence is arguably Miami’s top pro prospect. He is a fast, physical linebacker who led the team with 111 tackles last year. He was voted the team’s most valuable player and was a 2nd team All-ACC selection as a junior, when he also had 16 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. Ever since he came to Miami, he’s been a playmaker. Spence was named the 2008 ACC Defensive Rookie of the year when he had 65 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception that he returned for a touchdown. Struggled through his sophomore season with injuries, but still had 6.5 tackles for a loss. Just a very intense player who doesn’t let his lack of ideal size affect the way he hits. He hits like a freight train and makes a ton of plays behind the line of scrimmage. He is relentless and is a great form tackler, and has been from a very young age, so he is obviously well-coached. He fits the new system being implemented in Miami perfectly, and he should have another big season as he prepares himself for the NFL, where he should have a nice career. He will probably be one of those guys who you see on highlight reels for big hits.

7. Nigel Bradham, Florida State, 6’2″ 240 (Senior)

Instinctive linebacker who should have a very productive NFL career, most likely as an inside linebacker. At times will over-pursue plays, but has been extremely effective for Florida State. Had 92 tackles and five sacks last year to complement a junior campaign where he had 88 tackles, a sack, and an interception. Good closing speed and solid instincts, but like I said before, tends to over-pursue and make incorrect reads. If he can show more consistency this season, he should be a 2nd or 3rd round pick based on his upside and overall production at a major institution. Good athlete as well.

8. Keenan Robinson, Texas, 6’3″ 240 (Senior)

Obviously Robinson has excellent size for a linebacker prospect, and he has been extremely productive in his first three seasons as a Longhorn linebacker. 2nd team All Big 12 selection last year after he led the Longhorns with 113 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, two passes broken up, a fumble forced, and a defensive touchdown. He has also proven to be one of the team’s top special teams players. Honorable mention All Big 12 performer as a sophomore in 2009 when he had 74 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five tackles for loss, and four passes broken up. Excellent length and good quickness off the snap. Definitely makes a lot of tackles, but sometimes allows the play to come to him five, six, seven yards down the field rather than attack it at the line of scrimmage. Very good student who is active in the community and at the local church. Needs to take better angles rather than relying on his natural athleticism to make plays. Definitely capable of the big hit.

9. Danny Trevathan, Kentucky, 6’1″ 225 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**

10. Brandon Lindsey, Pittsburgh, 6’2″ 250 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**

11. Ronnel Lewis, Oklahoma, 6’2″ 240 (Junior)

**No scouting report yet available**

12. Terrell Manning, North Carolina State, 6’3″ 225 (Junior)

**No scouting report yet available**

13. Adrian Robinson, Temple, 6’2″ 250 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**