2011 NFL Combine Outside Linebacker Analysis
Justin Houston, Von Miller, & Akeem Ayers
Justin Houston, Von Miller, & Akeem Ayers
Posted Mar 1, 2011

The defensive ends and tackles are strong, and the quarterbacks are getting the hype, but the outside linebackers were the stars of the Combine at the deepest position in the draft. But will Justin Houston, Von Miller, and Akeem Ayers be able to handle being a hybrid at the next level? Check out the quick looks on all the top prospects at the 2011 NFL Combine.

2011 NFL Combine

Outside Linebacker Rankings

2011 NFL Combine Results
- QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | Cs | OTs | OGs 
- DEs | DTs | ILBs | OLBs | Ss | CBs

2011 NFL Combine Position Analysis
- QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | Cs | OTs | OGs 
- DEs | DTs | ILBs | OLBs | Ss | CBs

1. Von Miller, Texas A&M 6-3, 246
Positives: An elite athlete who flies all over the place. A peerless pass rusher who gets around the edge with terrific angles and tremendous quickness. Versatile enough to work as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 end. … Moves effortlessly. Fluid, he moves like a much smaller player and has too much speed and too much athleticism for most offensive tackles. … Fights through injuries and still produces.
Negatives: While he was called a linebacker in college and won the Butkus, he was a defensive end any was only used to rush the passer. He didn't do much of anything against the pass on a regular basis. … Even though he's a superior athlete and cuts on a dime, he's a bit shaky in workouts that ask him to do outside linebacker things. … Not big or bulky enough to be used as a defensive end, and he might be a one-trick pony. He could be a devastating pass rusher, but if he's not getting to the quarterback, that might be it. He'll get engulfed by strong blockers.

2. Akeem Ayers, UCLA 6-3, 254
Positives: It's all there. He's the model outside linebacker with size, speed, and bulk. He could be used as a defensive end from time to time and will fit any scheme. … Moves extremely well. Cuts like a much smaller player and is fluid around the edge. … There were times when he turned it on and destroyed offenses. He'll put up big plays in chunks and can change games by himself.
Negatives: Missed way too many plays. There were times when he wasn't heard from for long stretches and sometime didn't turn it on until crunch time. … Not an elite run defender. He's not nearly physical enough and is a finesse player. He'll get beaten up by any NFL blocker who's able to lock on.

3. Aldon Smith, Missouri (DE) 6-4, 263
Positives: A superior pass rusher who's lightning quick off the ball. He can move and he's extremely athletic. … Fluid. He can water-ski around the edge and can get around the end with ease. … Strong for his size and can provide a pop. He isn't afraid of contact and can be physical enough to play at the end or at outside linebacker.
Negatives: A bit immature and needs a bit more work on his technique. He got by simply by being a fantastic athlete. … A true tweener. He's a bit tall for an outside linebacker and he has to prove he can produce with more weight on his frame. … He needs to be on a defense with other strong linemen around him. He needs to be one-on-one and will have problems against the more athletic NFL offensive linemen.

4. Bruce Carter, North Carolina 6-2, 241
Positives: Superior athleticism, at least on the field. He water-skis off the edge and is fluid on his cuts. He can be used in a variety of ways and can become a playmaker inside or out. … Solid in pass coverage. He's fluid enough to cut and chase to hang with any running back. … If he gets the right coaching and has he right fire lit under him, he could be a much stronger pro than a collegian.
Negatives: Isn't nearly physical enough. He moves well and he's a willing tackler, but he's far better at chasing down plays than holding up against the power running teams. … The effort is fine, but he's not in on as many plays as he needs to be. With his athleticism, he should make far more assisted tackles. … Not used as much as a pass rusher later on in his college career. Didn't get better and had a somewhat disappointing senior season.

5. Justin Houston, Georgia 6-3, 270
Positives: An elite pass rushing prospect who might just be scratching the surface. In the right scheme and with the right coaching staff, he could be the best pass rusher of all the outside linebackers. … Big. Could easily be a defensive end and not lose a thing. He's a secure tackler. … As versatile as they come, he'll be used in a variety of ways and won't have to work at playing anywhere on the outside. Finishes well as a tackler and when he gets a bead on a quarterback.
Negatives: Disappeared way too often. The numbers might be great, but he wasn't consistent. … Does he want to be an elite player? He doesn't have a high revving motor and might need a kick in the pants. … Not great against the pass. He isn't going to be asked to do too much on third downs other than get into the backfield.

6. Dontay Moch, Nevada 6-1, 248
Positives: Elite athlete. Seriously scary speed and can be used as a blur into the backfield. Made a whopping 30 career tackles and 63 tackles for loss. … A willing run stopper. Not just a pass rushing specialist, he'll hold up against the power offenses. … Will be turned loose at the next level. He'll end up being a one-trick pony and a third down specialist, and he'll be phenomenal.
Negatives: Not all that big and can't be a defensive end. He moves faster than most defensive backs, but he'll get knocked off his route to the quarterback with a good shove. … Still needs work. Got by in the WAC be being light-years more athletic than anyone else. … Not all that strong when locked on. He doesn't shed blocks well enough.

7. Nate Irving, NC State (ILB) 6-1, 240
Positives: Came back from bad injuries suffered in a car accident to be an ultra-productive leader and a better pass rusher. He worked to get better, and he came through and showed a commitment to his game. … Great size. Can be used inside or out and is a rock against the run. He beats up ball carriers. … Not afraid to stick his nose in on every play. He's instinctive and is great at getting into the backfield, and he's happy to get into the trash and fight to make a stop.
Negatives: He's not the surest of tacklers. He'll bounce off plays going for the intimidating hit. … Not a pass defender. He doesn't move well enough to turn and run like he'll need to as a regular on the outside. … Works harder now, but he doesn't have quite the same zip he had before getting hurt.

8. Mason Foster, Washington 6-1, 245
Positives: A pure football player. Arguably the most underappreciated playmaker in America last year after making 163 tops with 14 tackles for loss. … Doesn't miss a tackle. When he gets to the ball, the play is over. … Can do a little of everything. Big enough to start in the middle and with enough range to work at either outside spot.
Negatives: Not quite strong enough on a regular basis against the run. He gets shoved easily by the stronger linemen. … When he gets blocked, he stays blocked. He doesn't always use his size well enough. … Despite his production, he's not known for being a killer. Might need to get pushed a little bit.

9. K.J. Wright, Mississippi State 6-3, 246
Positives: A good, consistent tackler who produced at a high level over the last three years. A strong, wrap-up tackler. … Very smart and works to maximize his talent. There's almost no bust potential and he could be a phenomenal mid-round value pick just onhis want-to. … Good size. He's tall and has a good frame. Physical enough to get by.
Negatives: Isn't all that smooth. He's more like an inside linebacker who'll work on the outside. He's a strongside defender only. … Doesn't change direction all that well. He doesn't stick and go as well as most would like. … Doesn't provide enough of a pop as a run defender. He makes the play, but he's hardly an intimidator.

10. Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma (DE) 6-3, 268
Positives: Extremely productive pass rusher. He was consistently fantastic over the last three years and was always disruptive. … Always working. Doesn't take a play off and he managed to make plenty of big plays just by trying harder than everyone else. … A good guy. He's very coachable, very personable, and is the type of player every team wants to have.
Negatives: Not the greatest of athletes. He'll have to make things happen on want-to and he isn't going to fly all over the field. … He could be a one-trick pony. He could be an effort pass rusher and not necessarily a top-shelf run defender. … Needs to be on a defense with plenty of athletes on the front seven and needs to be kept free. He needs plays to come his way if he's not being used as a rush linebacker.

11. Lawrence Wilson, Connecticut 6-1, 229
Positives: Very quick and makes the play when he has a lane to the play. He doesn't miss and he stops plays before they get down the field. … Hits with anger. A guided missile who has ball carriers' heads on a swivel. … Ultra productive. Made over 100 stops in three of his four seasons and started 52 games.
Negatives: Way, WAY too small. He's build like a short safety. … Gets beaten up a bit and washed up in the trash. He needs to be clean to make a play. … Is only a weakside defender and he has to be in space. He's can't get blocked.

12. Ross Homan, Ohio State 6-1, 240
Positives: Very strong, very tough. A typical Ohio State linebacker who might not be the right height and weight, but he has all the other measurables and he makes all the plays. … Locks up his tackles. He doesn't miss when he gets a shot at a play and he's physical when he as to be. … Doesn't take a wasted step. He gets to the ball efficiently and in a hurry.
Negatives: Small. He bulked up to get to his Combine weight of 240, but that's it. He's not getting any bigger and will play at under 230. … He's not going to get into the backfield. He's not going to be a blitzing pass rusher from the outside. … Doesn't cut on a dime. He gets from Point A to Point B in a hurry, but he doesn't change direction to be a factor as a pass defender.

13. Scott Lutrus, Connecticut 6-2, 241
Positives: Excellent size. Can play inside or out and could end up working in the middle if needed. He handles himself well in any spot. … A solid pass defender. Not elite, but he stays with receivers well enough to stay on the field for all three downs. … Gets to the ball efficiently. A pure, smart football player who doesn't screw up.
Negatives: Stingers. He has a history of shoulder problems and has been a bit limited over the last few seasons. … While he's a good football player, it's not like he does anything special. There's nothing that stands out at a high level. … Doesn't cut well. He's not going to be used as a pass rusher.

14. Chris Carter, Fresno State (DE) 6-1, 248
Positives: A pure pass rusher who turned into a whale of a playmaker in his senior year. The team desperately needed someone to become a force in the backfield, and he answered the call. … A great closer. When he gets a step and a shot at a quarterback, it's over. … Coachable. He's a natural, high-energy player with a revving motor. He'll work to make himself better and impressed the staffs at the East-West Shrine practices.
Negatives: Not all that big. He was a college defensive end who'll have to get used to working as a true outside linebacker. He'll have to show he's more than a pass rusher. … Just okay against the run. He bounces off the more physical runners. … Got by on being a better athlete than just about everyone in the WAC. That's not going to work at the next level.

15. Doug Hogue, Syracuse 6-2, 235
Positives: A former running back who moves like it. He quickly learned how to be a tackler at a high level and showed that he might be just scratching the surface. … Zips into the backfield. When asked to be a pass rusher, he makes things happen and is a disruptive force. … A leader and very coachable. A high-character player who everyone will want to have on the roster. He'll work to get better.
Negatives: Still learning. He's hardly a finished product and might need a few years before he gets all the sublte nuances. … Not a big body and doesn't have too much room to get bigger. He'll purely be an outside linebacker and won't ever have the bulk to hold up inside. … Gets shoved around. He needs to play in space and he can't get locked on.

16. Mark Herzlich, Boston College (ILB) 6-4, 244
Positives: Before his battle with cancer, he was considered a top ten pick and was listed as the No. 1 overall prospect going into the 2009 season. … Extremely strong character and will work to do whatever it takes. He's a smart, instinctive player who does everything right. … The possibility is there that once he's a few years removed from his fight that he gets his old skills back.
Negatives: To be way too harsh and way too cold, he's just not nearly the same player. If he was being evaluated just on his current skills and the cancer fight wasn't a part of the equation, he'd be undraftable. … Plays with a rod in his leg and doesn't have the same burst. It's not even close. … He could be a solid producer and won't miss a stop when things come his way, but he's way too slow to be a special player again.

17. Bruce Miller, UCF (DE) 6-1, 254
Positives: An extremely productive pass rusher who made himself into a terror. One of the better sack artists in the nation over the last few years. … High-character leader. He's not going to need any motivation and he's not going to need any pushing. … Could be a defensive end in the right system. He can be used as a pass rushing specialist.
Negatives: Not an athlete. He's a straight-line finisher who makes too many plays on want-to. … Too small to be an NFL defensive end and not fast or quick enough to be a difference-making outside linebacker. … No measurables. Too short, too slow, too soft, but he'll still be a hard cut because of effort.

18. Brooks Reed, Arizona (DE) 6-2, 263
Positives: Has good size and toughness for an outside linebacker. He'll be a strong run stopper once he learns the nuances of the position. He'll work to do what's needed. … A player. He's going to to always fight and always do whatever he has to. … Made himself into a solid pass rusher. He has good straight-line functional speed.
Negatives: Not an athlete. He's not going to cut well enough to be used as a pass defender. … He's not going to be big enough to ever be a defensive end. His frame can't support more weight. … Doesn't do any one thing at a high level. He'll mainly be a special teamer until he gets a chance, but he'll have a fight on his hands to make a team.

19. Brian Rolle, Ohio State 5-10, 229
Positives: A playmaker. He can get into the backfield without a problem and he's good in run support. … Flies around and gets in on every play he can. He gets to the ball efficiently and quickly. … A fighter. He's a baller who plays bigger than his size.
Negatives: Small. Just over 5'9" and under 230, he can't be on an NFL field for long stretches of time. … Not the surest of tacklers. He's better in help rather than making big hits against physical backs. … Too slow to be a strong safety and doesn't have the raw bulk to work on the inside. He might end up making a team as a special teamer.

20. Adrian Moten, Maryland 6-2, 228
Positives: A pure leader. He's going to yell, scream, and bark to get the defense to work. Even in a linebacking corps with Alex Wujciak, Moten was the leader. … Quick when he gets a bead on a play. He hits the gap hard. … Could be a whale of a special teamer. He'll be too versatile to get cut.
Negatives: Not all that big. He's tall, thin, and looks more like a safety. … He doesn't do any one thing at a high level. A good prospect, but he's not going to stand out in camp outside of his work ethic. … A versatile jack-of-all-trades, master of none.