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2012 NFL Draft Analysis - OLBs No. 11-25
Iowa LB Tyler Nielsen
Iowa LB Tyler Nielsen
Posted Apr 12, 2012

From a college football perspective, here's the analysis of all the top OLB prospects.

2012 NFL Draft Position Rankings

OLBs - No. 11-25

By Pete Fiutak

- 2012 NFL Outside Linebacker Rankings - Top Ten
11. Tyler Nielsen, Iowa 6-3, 237
With the versatility to play in the middle or on the outside, at the very least he’ll have value as a good backup in a variety of spots. The Combine was a disappointment as he lumbered a bit and didn’t show the expected strength with 21 reps, but he’s more of a football player than a workout warrior. A full-tilt, 100-mile-per-hour defender, he doesn’t take plays off and he’ll do whatever is needed to make a pay. One of the surest tackling linebackers in the draft, he’ll be solid against the run. The big problem is his durability with a variety of issues throughout his career. He’ll be good in the short term, but with his playing style he’ll take a lot of big shots.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

12. Brandon Lindsey, Pitt 6-2, 254
Considering he’s supposed to be an athletic pass rusher, hanging around the 4.9 mark in the 40 is a big problem. Combine the lack of speed with no bulk and Lindsey might have a hard time finding a role. To be fair, he had a leg injury in Indy and still gutted it out and competed, but he’s still not all that speedy. He doesn’t explode out of the box and seems like he needs to gear up a bit, and he’s not a top-shelf run defender and can be easily erased. If he’s not making things happen as a pass rushing specialist early on in a tweener role, he might be a quick and easy cut.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

13. Josh Kaddu, Oregon 6-3, 239
A luxury defender, he’s the type of linebacker every coach would love to have, but he’ll be one of the last guys to either make a roster or be cut. While does everything with a physical playing style, and he has a great motor to make plays based on hustle, he’s also a good athlete who can close on the ball in a hurry. A bit thin, he needs to add about ten good pounds without losing a step. He gets pounded on a big too easily, but he’ll stick early on as a key special teamer before finding a role in an outside linebacker rotation. There’s plenty of upside for anyone who wants to be patient, but he might not be ready to roll out of the box.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

14. Demario Davis, Arkansas State 6-2, 235
A terrific tackler who hits everyone he gets to, he’s an intimidating leader who’s self-motivated and can make a defense his. Fast, he has mid-4.5 speed to go along with terrific quickness and athleticism. Throw in the eye-popping 32 reps on the bench at the Combine, and he has all the raw tools – except for bulk. Just an okay tackler and without top cover skills, he needs a lot of fine-tuning, but he’ll work for it. While he’s more of a workout warrior than a sure-thing NFL prospect, there’s a ton of upside and the potential is there to become a nice part of a puzzle with a little bit of time and effort. The athleticism and raw tools are too great to ignore.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

15. Tank Carder, TCU 6-2, 236 6-2, 236
A tremendous leader and a high-level producer on some of college football’s most productive defenses, Carder is a two-time Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year with the skills and make-up to work inside or out. While he’s not a tremendous athlete, he’s quick and was able to show off a little bit of straight-line speed at the Combine. More than anything else, his instincts are peerless with great football smarts. He can’t be the star of a defensive front seven, he’s not physical, and he’ll get erased by any NFL lineman, but he has the type of attitude and drive that could make him a valuable backup at a variety of positions.
CFN Projection: Sixth Round

16. Terrell Manning, NC State (Jr.) 6-3, 237
A bit thin and with room to bulk up a bit, there’s an upside to Manning’s physical ability. While he’s not all that strong and he’ll get shoved around, he makes up for his deficiencies with want-to and a good motor. Always working and always making things happen, he’ll fill a few different roles as a backup early on before he finally matures into his body and frame. Can he stay healthy? Knee problems will be an issue, but he’s a proven athlete who can get all around the field and make plays. There’s plenty of boom and little bust, but patience might be the key in terms of being a consistent starter. With his athleticism and attitude, he could be a special teams star out of the box.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

17. Darius Fleming, Notre Dame 6-2, 245
There’s a basic scouting belief that if a player is just okay in college, he probably won’t become anything special in the pros. Fleming was just okay in college, but he’s an interesting all-around prospect with good size for an outside linebacker. Physical enough to work on the line from time to time and handle himself well, he can do a little of everything. The speed is average, but the 27 reps on the bench in Indy were great, and showed off surprising quickness around the short drills. With excellent character and leadership ability, he’s the type of player every coach wants to have, but he needs to prove he can stay healthy. A balky shoulder could keep him from being a 16-game warrior, and he’s not much in pass coverage, but he could grow into a nice spot-starter and well-prepared key reserve.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

18. Danny Trevathan, Kentucky 6-0, 237>
Too small, too slow, too short, and not strong enough, he doesn’t have the elite tools to be an NFL star. However, he’s a tackling machine who was one of the best and most underappreciated linebackers over the last few seasons, making big things happen at a high SEC level. Intensity and want-to aren’t a problem, and he never misses a tackle. While size matters, he was durable enough to get through game after game and still keep on producing. Unfortunately, he’s not a pass defender, doesn’t have top pass rushing skills, and he’ll need to be in a linebacking corps with bigger more talented players.
CFN Projection: Seventh Round

19. Adrian Hamilton, Prairie View A&M 6-2, 246
The small school superstar could be one of the most intriguing mid-to-late round sleeper picks. Originally he was set to go to Oklahoma State, went to Texas Tech, couldn’t get his grades right, and ended up going the JUCO route to Prairie View A&M where he grew into an unstoppable pass rusher. The quickness is there, the playmaking ability is there, and the potential is there to become a dominant specialist with a little bit of work. However, he’s already 24 and he’ll be a one-trick defender who can get to the quarterback and get to the quarterback only. If he can’t do that in a camp, he’ll be a quick cut.

20. Tahir Whitehead, Temple 6-1, 233
Smooth as silk and extremely athletic, he’s a beefed up safety who was an ultra-productive cog in the Owl defense. Yes, he didn’t improve dramatically over his career, and he got by on reputation at times, he was a standout. While he’s not all that big and doesn’t have any room to get bigger, he doesn’t miss a stop and he’s tremendously physical for his size. Either he’ll need to be surrounded by bulker players in a 3-4 scheme, or he’ll have to find a niche role against the passing teams like New England. He’s not going to blow anyone up and he might not be for everyone, at the very least he’ll be a tough player to cut.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round

21. Manny Abreu, Rutgers 6-2, 256 Proj. FA
22. Sammy Brown, Houston 6-2, 235 Proj. FA
23. Ryan Baker, LSU 5-11, 232 Proj. FA
24. Adrian Robinson, Temple 6-1, 235 Proj. FA
25. Jordan Pendleton, BYU 6-2, 237 Proj. FA

- 2012 NFL Outside Linebacker Rankings - Top Ten