Top Inside Linebackers for the 2012 NFL Draft

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Updated 12/2/2011

Sayre and I have come up with our Inside linebacker position rankings for the 2012 NFL draft and there aren’t going to be too many surprises. Burfict remains the most enticing linebacker in the draft with the highest potential, but penalties, lack of great production, and questions about his locker room fit have dropped his stock. If he absolutely blows up the combine that could be overlooked.

There weren’t any real points of contention here. I prefer Te’o to Kuechly, but all in all we’re pretty much the same page. We have Tank Carder as an OLB

1. Luke Kuechly

2. Manti Te’o

3. Vontaze Burfict

4. Kevin Reddick

5. Dont’a Hightower

6. Audie Cole

7. James Michael Johnson

8. Emmanuel Acho

9. Mychal Kendricks

10. Jerry Franklin

11. Chris Galippo

12. Garrick Williams

13. Bobby Wagner

14. D.J. Holt

15. Chris Marve

1. Vontaze burfict

2. Dont’a Hightower, Alabama, 6’4″ 260 (Junior)

The combination of Hightower and Upshaw is going to make it nearly impossible to run on the Alabama defense all season long. HIghtower would have been a high choice in the 2011 draft had he chosen to come out. Somewhat raw right now, but was dominant as a freshman before missing out on the entire 2009 season due to injury (granted medical redshirt). This is a guy who is the perfect fit for the 3-4 defense, and could play inside or outside. Won the Mal Moore leadership award following Spring practice in 2010. He has a similar body type to Brian Urlacher coming out of New Mexico State, but is not quite as athletic (Urlacher returned punts). Could have a similar impact as a MIKE linebacker in a 3-4 or 4-3 alignment, and may have upside as a SAM or rush linebacker in a 3-4.

3. Manti Te’o, Notre Dame, 6’2″ 255 (Junior)

Te’o is built like a freight train, and he hits like one. Not only is he one of the top linebackers eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft, he could be one of the best linebackers to come along in quite some time. Strong, tough, athletic linebacker prospect who had 63 tackles, 5.5 for loss, a sack, and a broken up pass as a starting true freshman. Followed up a stellar freshman campaign with 133 tackles as the clear starting inside linebacker in 2010, and added 9.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, and three passes broken up. He will have at least three years starting in a 3-4 defensive alignment, making him all the more attractive to those teams. Will be a force against the run in the NFL, and is athletic enough to make plays sideline to sideline. Bottom line is, this guy is a high effort player who vacuums up ball carriers like they are going out of style. He will be a tackling machine in the NFL, and should be a high draft choice should he choose to leave after his junior season.

4. Luke Kuechly, Boston College, 6’3″ 235 (Junior)

**No scouting report yet available**

5. Jerry Franklin, Arkansas, 6’1″ 245 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**

6. Etienne Sabino, Ohio State, 6’3″ 245 (Junior)

**No scouting report yet available**

7. Chris Galippo, USC, 6’2″ 250 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**

8. Kevin Reddick, North Carolina, 6’3″ 240 (Junior)

Speedy linebacker who has been a key contributor from the moment he stepped on campus for the Heels. Had 74 tackles, a sack, two interceptions, and a touchdown last year following up a stellar freshman campaign where he had 45 tackles, 5.5 for loss, and a pass break up on his way to being named to the All-ACC Freshman team, and received a vote as the ACC Freshman of the Year. Has a chance to be one of the top linebackers in the country if he continues to improve over the next year like he did from his freshman to sophomore year. Fast, physical linebacker who has a ton of upside. North Carolina always seems to recruit guys with a ton of speed, and this guy has shown that he can also bring it on the field. Led the team in tackles as a sophomore despite a star-studded cast for the Tar Heels at the linebacker position.

9. Korey Williams, Southern Mississippi, 6’2″ 243 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**

10. James-Michael Johnson, Nevada, 6’2″ 240 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**

11. Shayne Skov, Stanford, 6’3″ 243 (Junior)

**No scouting report yet available**

12. Chris Marve, Vanderbilt, 6’0″ 235 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**