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2011 NFL Draft - Inside Linebacker Rankings
North Carolina LB Quan Sturdivant
North Carolina LB Quan Sturdivant
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 22, 2011


The inside linebackers might not have the excitement of the outside defenders, but there are a few good leaders and run stoppers, like North Carolina's Quan Sturdivant, who'll quarterback someone's defense. Are there enough good ones to go around? With the draft less than a week away, check out the CFN ranking of the top inside linebacker prospects.

2011 NFL Draft Position Rankings

Top Inside Linebackers


By Pete Fiutak

- All-Time Greatest Draft - Linebackers

2011 NFL Prospect Rankings & Breakdowns
- QBs | RBs | FBs | WRs
- TEs | OTs | OGs | Cs 
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2011 NFL Post-Combine Draft Rankings
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- 7th Rounders & Top Free Agents  

2011 NFL Combine Position Analysis
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- 2012's Top Returning NFL Prospects - Offense

THE 2010 NFL DRAFT


2010 CFN Talent Rankings
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2010 CFN Position Rankings & Analysis

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- Cs | OTs | OGs | DEs
- DTs | ILBs | OLBs
- Ss | CBs

2010 NFL Combine Quick Looks & Post-Combine Rankings

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- Cs | OTs | OGs | DEs
- DTs | ILBs | OLBs
- Ss | CBs

2010 NFL Combine Results
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- DTs | ILBs | OLBs
- Ss | CBs 

2010 NFL Combine
- Offensive Winners  
- Offensive Losers 
- Defensive Winners 
- Defensive Losers

This Class Is … mediocre. Martez Wilson and Quan Sturdivant could be great, and Greg Jones will be a starter, but there are too many try-hard, sure-tackling types who lack the sideline-to-sideline tools to be special.

The Best Value Pick Will Be … Colin McCarthy, Miami
Most Underrated … Greg Lloyd, Connecticut
Most Overrated … Casey Matthews, Oregon
The Deep, Deep Sleeper Is … Nick Bellore, Central Michigan
 
1. Martez Wilson, Illinois 6-4, 250 (OLB)
Able to play inside or out, Wilson was a superstar recruit for the Illini who overcame getting stabbed in a bar fight, and suffering a neck injury, to have a fantastic 2010. The injury happened early enough in 2009 to give him a full year to heal, and then he showed what he could do as the leader of the Illini back seven. The prototype, he might not be a top prospect for the middle, but he’d dominate in an inside spot in a 4-3 and can shine as a pass rusher on the outside. He looks the part, was fantastic at the Combine, and has all the tools needed to be a producer at a high level for a long, long time. He’s still scratching the surface on what he can become, and he doesn’t have the best instincts, but players with his skills and body type are rare. He got by, though, simply by being far more talented than everyone else, and now he has to learn the finer points of the position to reach his Pro Bowl potential.
CFN Projection: Second Round

2. Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina 6-1, 241 (OLB)
A short, squatty hitter who doesn’t necessarily have the right body or the right look, but he has great instincts, is smart, tough, and is always around the ball. Not quite ideal to be used as a playmaker in the backfield from the outside, he’s not going to be a pass rusher, but he knows what he’s doing and always finds ways to get around the ball. He’s not going to be the best linebacker in a corps, but he could be the leader everyone works around. No, he wasn’t part of the Tar Heels who got in trouble with the NCAA, but he did miss the opener against LSU before getting cleared to get back on the field,
CFN Projection: Third Round

3. Greg Jones, Michigan State 6-0, 242
Phenomenally productive, Jones was a four-year star for the Spartans making 465 tackles as the peerless leader of the defense. While he was a slight disappointment last year considering all the high expectations, he was the best linebacker in college football in 2009 doing a little bit of everything as a pass rusher and a run stopper. He’s not all that tall, but he’s a compact rock who comes up with every tackle he gets to. With the makeup and the smarts, he has the ability to sit in the middle of someone’s linebacking corps, but he’s quick enough to work on the weakside on in a 3-4 inside spot if needed. He’s not going to blow anyone up and he could stand to add another ten pounds of good weight, but he can’t really add it without losing something. He’s a better football player than his tools.
CFN Projection: Third Round

4. Kelvin Sheppard, LSU 6-2, 250
Built for the inside, he’s not all that athletic and doesn’t move like an elite player, but he’s strong, thick, and rock-solid as a run stopper. A pure tackler who succeeded at a high level in the SEC, he did a little of everything well and was moved around where needed. There’s no worries about the bumps and bruises; he’s a smart, high-energy warrior who has to be dragged off the field. While he’s not going to be the best player in a linebacking corps, and he might not be on the field on third downs, he could be a leading tackler. He’s the type of player you’d like to work a run defense around.
CFN Projection: Third Round

5. Casey Matthews, Oregon 6-1, 231
While he’s not his brother, Clay, talent-wise, he’s a typical Matthews with a good motor and tremendous instincts. Always around the ball and always making plays, he makes up for his lack of raw athleticism by being in the right position at the right time. A good football player without the tools, the family name will buy him several draft slots, but he has to work to get bigger and stronger to hold down a steady job on the inside. He’ll be a starter who’ll make plenty of plays, but there’s a hard ceiling on what he can end up doing. No one’s going to worry about his hitting skills and he’s not going to get into the backfield, but his stats will look good.
CFN Projection: Third Round

6. Colin McCarthy, Miami 6-3, 238 (OLB)
It’s a shame he doesn’t have better tools. He has everything you’d want in a linebacker makeup-wise, with a willingness to do anything, including play on special teams, and he’ll work inside, outside, or wherever he’s needed. A pure football play who’s very smart, very active, and always plays like his hair is on fire, he’ll be tough to keep off the field. The problem is his lack of size, and while he’s not built for the inside he’ll battle hard to try to hold up against the bigger blockers. He’ll always be banged up with the way he’ll play and he missed a full season with a shoulder injury; he’ll never shy away from contact. Coaches will love him, but they’re always going to have to assume he’ll miss at least a few games a year hurt.
CFN Projection: Third Round

7. Chris White, Mississippi State 6-3, 240
The tools aren’t there to be special, he only came up with 17 reps on the bench at the Combine, and he doesn’t move all that well, but he’s a big framed inside defender who cleans up messes extremely well. A great leader and perfect for the middle, he’ll make every tackle he’ll get to. He’s not a factor in pass coverage and he doesn’t move smoothly, but despite his rigid style he pursues well and he plays fast on the field. His straight-line speed, checking with a 4.67 40, is solid. Just a guy, he’ll be a part of a rotation, but he’s not going to be a special starter by any stretch.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

8. Akeem Dent, Georgia 6-3, 242
There are few linebackers with his look and his size. He comes right out of central casting with a muscular frame and the functional strength to back it up. Built for the middle, he’s tough enough to take on any inside job and is just quick enough to play outside if needed. A good leader and a good worker, he also showed a nice burst in Indy and looked more impressive at times than the other prospects. While he was impressive in the quickness drills, he’s not a factor for the pass defense and he missed a bit too many tackles. If he’s surrounded by players who’ll funnel plays his way, he’ll be fine.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

9. Nick Bellore, Central Michigan 6-1, 245
A natural-looking man for the middle, he was phenomenally productive for four years making 472 tackles. He doesn’t miss a stop and he’s a tough, hard-working, lunch pail type who gets his nose dirty on every play and leads well by both example and vocally. The problem comes against the good blockers. He gets erased too easily and can’t seem to fight through the trash well enough to be a run stuffer; he’s more of a tackler who runs to the ball. He is what he is; there’s nothing to develop and what you see is what you’re going to get.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

10. Mike Mohamed, California 6-3, 239
A pure baller, Mohamed made a ton of good tackles for the Bears with smarts, toughness, and the instincts to always be around the ball. However, he’s never going to come up with the big pop, and he’s not really an impact performer. While he’s not an elite athlete, he moves well enough to get by, and he makes up for any lack of quickness by being in the right spot at the right time. He doesn’t have the high-end skills to be great and isn’t going to be much of a factor against the pass.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

11. Greg Lloyd, Connecticut 6-1, 246
An undersized tackler who was a great leader for a strong UConn run defense, Lloyd is a good ball player who seems to like getting physical against the stronger running teams and is a great hitter. However, he hasn’t been the same since suffering a major knee injury and he’s not consistent. The tools are close, but they’re not quite there at an NFL level. Even so, he manages to get in on every play and he’ll be good on pure rushing downs.
CFN Projection: Sixth Round

12 Alex Wujciak, Maryland 6-3, 247
Forget about the measurables. He’s not bulky enough, he’s too slow, and he’s not nearly athletic enough. Even so, he eats up everything against the run with the toughness to sit in the middle of someone’s linebacking corps and produce. Forget about him against the pass and he’s always hurt, but he plays 100 miles per hour and he’ll do whatever is needed to make a team and be a factor as long as he’s in the right system.
CFN Projection: Free Agent

13. Josh Bynes, Auburn 6-1, 239
A smart, veteran leader who saw it all and did it all at a high SEC level. While he’s not thick, he has enough size to hold up against the run on a regular basis. He makes up for his lack of speed and athleticism by always going full tilt, but it’s not enough. WAY slow, he didn’t look good in offseason workouts, doesn’t move well enough to play on the outside, and he’s not a factor in pass coverage.
CFN Projection: Free Agent

14. Elijah Joseph, Temple 6-1, 243
A rock against the run, albeit at a MAC level, he moves well and he doesn’t whiff when a play is there to be made. Bringing the battle to the offense, he’s always fighting and always working to make the aggressive big play. The problem is a knee that limited him in offseason workouts and might take a little bit away from his speed. While he was a disappointment last year, he’s a good football player who’ll be a tough cut.
CFN Projection: Free Agent

15 Derrell Smith, Syracuse 6-0. 243
There are no concerns about his hitting ability and the physical way he plays. An impact popper who’s a good tackler, he managed to always give a little something effort to a stop. The lack of tools is a problem. He’s a short, squatty defender who doesn’t do anything against the pass and isn’t going to fly to the ball. A true inside defender, he’ll find a home as a pure two-down defender and will have to be a part of a regular substitution factor.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

16. Brad Jefferson, Georgia Tech
17. Orie Lemon, Oklahoma State
18. Ben Jacobs, Fresno State
19. Jonathan Cornell, Ole Miss
20. Jeff Tarpinian, Iowa

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