2012 NFL Draft Analysis - Outside LBs
Nebraska LB Lavonte David
Nebraska LB Lavonte David
Posted Apr 12, 2012

The college football perspective on the top outside linebackers.

2012 NFL Draft Position Rankings

Outside Linebackers

By Pete Fiutak
- 2012 NFL Outside Linebacker Rankings - No. 11 - 25

- Inside LBs
- Cornerbacks
- Safeties


2011 NFL Prospect Rankings & Breakdowns
- QBs | RBs | FBs | WRs
- TEs | OTs | OGs | Cs 
- OLBs | ILBs | DTs | DEs
- CBs | Ss

2011 NFL Post-Combine Draft Rankings
- Top 32 Talents
- 2nd Rounders
- 3rd Rounders
- 4th Rounders
- 5th Rounders
- 6th Rounders
- 7th Rounders & Top Free Agents  


2010 CFN Talent Rankings
- 1st Rounders
- 2nd Rounders
- 3rd Rounders
- 4th Rounders
- 5th Rounders
- 6th Rounders
- 7th Rounders 
- Top Free Agent Talents 

2010 CFN Position Rankings & Analysis

- QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs
- Cs | OTs | OGs | DEs
- DTs | ILBs | OLBs
- Ss | CBs
This Class Is … Confusing. The tweeners like Ronnell Lewis and Brandon Lindsey, aren't exactly top-shelf pass rushers; Courtney Upshaw is like a smallish defensive tackle; Lavonte David and Zach Brown are like safeties; and there are a variety of issues with most of the other top prospects. Keenan Robinson is too slow, Sean Spence is too small, Terrell Manning is too thin – there aren't any perfect outside linebacker prospects. However, it's a solid overall group until about the mid-to-late teens, and then the potential drops off the map in a hurry.
The Best Value Pick Will Be … Lavonte David, Nebraska
Most Underrated … Miles Burris, San Diego State
Most Overrated … Kyle Wilber, Wake Forest
The Deep, Deep Sleeper Is … Nigel Carr, Alabama State

1. Courtney Upshaw, Alabama 6-2, 272
Part defensive end, part outside linebacker, Upshaw fits a variety of roles and schemes. While his 22 reps on the bench at the Combine were slightly underwhelming, he plays strong, hits big, and he's a true intimidator with the right attitude and mentality. While he's a warrior who's always going 100 miles per hour on the field, he didn't exactly go full bore in Indy, and it was noted. He looks the part, but he doesn't always play like an end and can be blocked with a tough time disengaging. He's a tweener of sorts, but he's not quite athletic enough to be a speed rusher who can fly into the backfield on a regular basis. Even so, with his intensity and style he'll be a tough defender on the outside for the next decade.
CFN Projection: First Round

2. Lavonte David, Nebraska 6-1, 233
A pure football player and a peerless tackler, he's better on the field than he is in workouts. At least that's the hope after shaky Combine with 4.6 speed and just 19 reps on the bench. At just 233 pounds he's not big enough to be a dominant all-around force, and he doesn't have any room to get any bigger. Throw in the average ability in pass coverage, and there are problems. However, he's a great leader, he always gets around the ball, and he sniffs out plays two seconds before they seem to happen. He's everything a defensive coordinator would want in a worker and in attitude, but there's a hard ceiling on what he can do. Even so, whether it's as a linebacker or a strong safety, he'll work his way into a starting role and should be a triple-digit tackler in the right system.
CFN Projection: Third Round

3. Zach Brown, North Carolina 6-1, 244
Fast, fast, fast. While he might not be an elite all-around football player, linebackers with 4.4 wheels aren't common, and at the very least Brown can be used as a speed rusher who does nothing but fly into the backfield on third downs. He beefed up a bit for the Combine and wasn't quite as fast as expected, but he can move. The speed translates to the field, reeling in runners like he's pulling them in. He'll need seasoning and he'll need to have the right coach to maximize his phenomenal athletic skills. Just okay against the run and not quite as productive as he probably should've been, there are warning flags and concerns, but on pure speed he's worth the risk. There's a good chance he's just scratching the surface.
CFN Projection: Third Round

4. Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma (Jr.) 6-2, 253
Part end, part linebacker, he bulked up in a big way to get up to 253 pounds to show he could possibly fit a variety of systems, but he's maxed out on his frame. Ridiculously strong, he put up 36 reps on the bench and showed he has the raw tools to potentially be a rock against the run. He's a big hitter who's excellent at coming up with a big stop, and he doesn't miss a tackle. While he's still an unfinished product and isn't the greatest of athletes, there's little bust potential as long as he can jack up the intensity level a few notches. He might not be a pure pass rusher and he'll be far better against the run than the pass, but he's quick enough to get by and he'll be a rock when his job is to see ball, hit ball.
CFN Projection: Second Round

5. Bruce Irvin, West Virginia 6-3, 245 6-3, 245
Irvin is really more of a defensive end than a true outside linebacker, but he'll be at his best as 4-3 rusher. Phenomenal at the Combine, he cranked out a blazing 4.44 even after adding ten pounds of good weight. Throw in his tremendous athleticism and he's an elite pass rushing prospect with a great burst off the ball. Out of all the outside linebacker/end, tweener types, he's among the most dangerous playmakers who's always working to make things happen. Anyone thinking he can be a true end will be disappointed – he can't get any bigger – and he might only be a specialist and not an all-around playmaker, but he could light up the stat sheet if turned loose. There's little bust potential as long as he's expected to get to the quarterback, and that's it.
CFN Projection: Third Round

6. Keenan Robinson, Texas 6-3, 240
A superstar prospect for a Texas program that gets nothing but superstar prospects, Robinson put together a nice career. While he's not fast by the stopwatch, he moves well on the field with smooth moves and nice athleticism. With his size, and strength – cranking out 27 reps on the bench – he looks the part and can do it all. He's good against the run and terrific against the pass, however, he's not going to beat anyone up and he's far better when he gets to run around than when he has to deal with a smashmouth attack. A good-character guy and a natural leader, he's the type of person every coach wants, but he doesn't quite have the game to fit every system.
CFN Projection: Third Round

7. Nigel Bradham, Florida State 6-2, 241
Bradham looks the part, like most Florida State linebackers do. Rocked up, there's no room to add any more good weight to add to an almost-perfect physique, so this is it. He might get to 245 pounds, but he's never going to be a huge option for the end. While he jumped well at the Combine and he flies off the ball, he's not particularly fast. Coming up with the intimidating kill shot from time to time isn't a problem, but he doesn't do it on a regular basis and he'll miss some shots. He is what he is as far as potential, and that's not a bad thing. Intensity and want-to aren't a problem, and he has the right attitude to the point of being overaggressive; he'll do what's needed to be in the league for a long time.
CFN Projection: Third Round

8. Kyle Wilber, Wake Forest 6-4, 249
Supposedly a speed rusher, he came up with a painfully slow Combine hovering close to a 4.9 at one point. However, he moved well in the shorter drills and came up with 25 reps on the bench. Smart, tough, and athletic on the field, he's a leader who's excellent against the run and he doesn't screw up. Instinctive, he seems to be able to sniff out plays and outguess blockers on his way to the ball, and he provides a big stick when he gets there. The problem is that he's decent at everything and not necessarily great at any one thing. He'll be a good all-around defender, but he doesn't have star potential and might have a hard ceiling that'll be hit right away.
CFN Projection: Third Round

9. Sean Spence, Miami 5-11, 228
Spence simply isn't big enough or strong enough. He's not going to get any bigger with around 230 pounds his max, and the 12 reps at the Combine were inexcusable. However, he's a phenomenal football player who owns a locker room and will do whatever it takes to make a tackle. As tough and as intense as they come, he hits everything that moves and could be a top statistical producer in the right system. Unfortunately, he just doesn't have the tools. Along with the lack of bulk he's simply too slow, but he makes up for it by being smarter than everyone else on the field. He's too good not to find a home or a niche, but he's going to take a pounding for his style of play.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

10. Miles Burris, San Diego State 6-2, 246
He's really strong and he looks the part of an NFL linebacker with the versatility to move around and play in a variety of spots. Extremely strong – lineman strong – he blasted out 31 reps at the Combine and was one of the stars of the leaping drills. A true football meathead, in a good way, he's the type who appears to love mixing it up and making the tough, physical play on a regular basis, and he doesn't take a play off. While he'll miss tackles going for the kill shot, he plays under control. A likely mid-round steal of a prospect, he'll move around where needed and will do whatever a coaching staff asks of him. Don't be shocked if he's a 100-tackle playmaker on a regular basis.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

- 2012 NFL Outside Linebacker Rankings - No. 11 - 25