2009 NFL Draft - The Inside Linebackers

Posted Apr 22, 2009

The 2009 NFL Draft is almost here. From a college football perspective, here's the CFN ranking of the top 15 inside linebacker prospects led by Rey Maualuga, James Laurinaitis, and Jasper Brinkley, along with the most overrated and underrated prospects and the deepest sleeper.

2009 NFL Draft Position Rankings

The Inside Linebackers

2009 NFL Draft Post-Workout Rankings

| Running Backs | Fullbacks | Receivers | Tight Ends
Centers | Guards | Off. Tackles | Def. Ends | Def. Tackles
Inside LBs | Outside LBs | Cornerbacks | Safeties

By Pete Fiutak  

- 2009 NFL Prospect Rankings
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers
Tight Ends | Off. Tackles
| Off. Guards | Centers
Defensive Ends
| Defensive Tackles | Inside LBs
Outside LBs | Safeties
| Cornerbacks

The Class Is ... hit-or-miss. Rey Maualuga and James Laurinaitis can certainly play, but they’re hardly perfect prospects. They’re more football players than sure-thing NFL talents. There’s a good midrange of talents with players like Dannell Ellerbe and Jason Phillips good enough to start right away, but the talent level drops off quickly.

The Best Value Pick Will Be ... Scott McKillop, Pitt

Most Underrated ... Frantz Joseph, Florida Atlantic

Most Overrated ... Rey Maualuga, USC

The Deep, Deep Sleeper Is ... Michael Tauiliili, Duke

Rankings of the 2010 Top Prospects
- Possible 1st Rounders
- Possible 2nd Rounders
- Possible 3rd Rounders
- Possible 4th Rounders
- Possible 5th Rounders
- Possible 6th Rounders
- Possible 7th Rounders & Free Agents
- Quarterbacks

- Running Backs
- Wide Receivers
- Tight Ends
- Offensive Tackles 
- Offensive Guards
- Centers
- Defensive Ends
- Defensive Tackles 
- Outside LBs
- Inside LBs
- Safeties
- Cornerbacks
- Punters & Kickers 


1. Rey Maualuga, USC  6-2, 249
A Yeah, But player. Yeah, he’s not fast, but he always seems to be around the ball. Yeah, he’s a bit smaller than originally thought, but his peerless hitting ability and toughness more than makes up for it. Yeah, he doesn’t have the best range, instincts, or quickness in pass coverage, but the guy is a flat-out football player. Yeah, he had a rocky career at times at USC when it came to off-the-field issues (many stemming from the loss of his father), but he was the unquestioned leader of a phenomenal defense. A big-time playmaker for the inside, and the inside only, he’ll run through a wall to succeed and become an NFL star. While he was a bit overrated because his highlight reel hits overshadowed times when he was merely average, and he had a phenomenal supporting cast around him, he should be able to step in and start right away as long as he’s next to some athletic, playmaking running mates.
CFN Projection: First Round

2. James Laurinaitis, Ohio State  6-2, 245
Stunningly mediocre at the Combine, when he was expected to blow the quickness, speed, and agility drills off the charts, his stock has dropped to a low point considering he likely would’ve been taken in the top ten had he left a year early. After a breakthrough sophomore season when he seemingly made every play possible against the run and the pass, he got by more on reputation, at least when it came to the award-types, than big-time production. While he filled the stat sheet, he wasn’t quite the difference maker the numbers indicated. Strong when he was in space and able to roam to the ball, he had problems when attacked and blocked. Even so, he was the leader of a fantastic defense, especially against the run, and has absolutely no bust potential, unless he gets hurt. He’ll make a ton of tackles and will be a fan favorite, but he’s not going to be a special all-around star.
CFN Projection: First Round


3. Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina  6-2, 252
Any and all concerns about his athleticism following a knee injury were answered at the Combine when he ran a 4.67, vertical jumped 35.5”, and was more than fine in the shuttle and cone drills. While he doesn’t always play as big as he is and he’ll have to be more physical at the next level, he’s more than a year removed from the knee problem and could let it rip once he gets into an NFL camp. On his raw skills alone he’s more than worth the risk as a top middle prospect, and he could be fantastic in a 3-4 system when he’d be able to move around in space.
CFN Projection: Third Round

4. Scott McKillop, Pitt  6-2, 245
There’s no questioning his collegiate production, his toughness, and his instincts that made him an All-American, he doesn’t have the raw skills to be anything more than decent starter who’ll need to be flanked by excellent outside producers. While he didn’t do much to excite anyone in some of the off-season workouts, he was a bit of a stunner at the Combine running better than most of the star prospects, lifting 225 pounds 27 times, four more than Rey Maualuga and five more from James Laurinaitis, and jumped out of the stadium with a 35.5” vertical leap. Does it all translate to the field at an NFL level? That remains to be seen, but he’s a good enough football player to make himself a starter with a little bit of work.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

5. Darry Beckwith, LSU   6-0, 235
A leader and a star on a national champion, Beckwith has the attitude and the experience to grow into a good starter. However, he went from being a hot prospect who was an underground favorite to challenge Rey Maualuga and James Laurinaitis for the top inside linebacker slot, but his mediocre workouts ended all of that. He played at LSU far faster than he timed in quickness and agility drills at the Combine and doesn’t have the basic physical talents to be anything more than a decent starter. This isn’t an Ali Highsmith situation, Beckwith won’t fall completely off the map, there appears to be a hard ceiling on what he’ll become.
CFN Projection: Third Round

6. Gerald McRath, Southern Miss 6-3, 230 (Jr.)
Very fast and very productive, he tore off a 4.49 at the Combine, best among the linebackers, and was lightning quick. However, his 19 reps on the bench showed his big problem: strength. He has a big problem taking on blockers and will have a real problem holding up in the middle. With his size and quickness he’ll likely end up as an outside defender, but he’ll show great range if he stays on the inside. Is he durable enough to last a full season? He doesn’t have the size or the toughness to take much of a pounding, but he’ll come up with some big stats when he gets on the field.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

7. Dannell Ellerbe, Georgia  6-1, 235
Sort of pigeonholed as an inside linebacker, Ellerbe could become fantastic if he moves to the outside. One of the most athletic inside prospects in the draft, he has tremendous range, flies to the ball, and has no problem in pass coverage. He’s not all that physical and he’s not the most instinctive playmaker, so if he’s able to run and chase down the play, he’s fine. If the play comes right at him, he’s in trouble. He can be powered over. His stock dropped a bit after a mediocre senior year, but that was partly due to a knee problem. Once he gets into an NFL camp, and assuming he’s healthy, he could turn out to be a major find if he’s put in the right spot.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round

8. Jason Phillips, TCU  6-1, 235
Tremendously productive, Phillips was an all-star over the last few years for a fantastic Horned Frog defense. Extremely tough, he plays though injuries and he’s able to get in on every play on sheer want-to. A mediocre athlete, he’s not going to fly all over the field and he’s not going to be used much as a blitzer, but he’ll be a major stat producer in a 3-4 alignment and he won’t miss any tackles. While bumps and bruises haven’t bothered him, he’ll have a hard time staying healthy with is smallish size and history of never being afraid to shy away from contact in any form.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round


9. Worrell Williams, California 5-11, 250
Not all that fast and not tremendously athletic, he needs plays to be funneled into him and he’ll clean everything up. While he has a brother in the league, Denver Bronco star D.J. Williams, he’s not nearly the same caliber of talent. He jumped well at the Combine, but his 40 time was slow. A blow-‘em-up hitter, he can be an intimidating force when he gets a chance at a big shot. To make it at the next level he’ll have to be far more consistent and will have to do a better job of shedding blocks.
CFN Projection: Seventh Round

10. Antonio Appleby, Virginia  6-4, 245
The big knock on him is a lack of character and passion for the game, but everything else is in place. He looks right out of central casting with the size, the frame, and the quickness, but he needs work to go along with his athleticism. If someone can light a consistent fire under him, he could be one of the biggest steals of the draft. His upside is too great to ignore, but it’s going to take a little while to unleash his potential. He might not have that kind of time and will have to impress early on in camp.
CFN Projection: Sixth Round

11. Joshua Mauga, Nevada  6-2, 245
The guy looks like an inside linebacker with his size, bulk, and toughness, but he had a problem staying healthy and he doesn’t always play up to his skills. He has the quickness and the speed to chase things down, but he’s too slow to react to anything that isn’t coming his way. While he’ll play through injuries, he suffered a pectoral muscle last year and fought through it, he’ll get shoved around way too much against power running teams and isn’t quite physical enough. Even with his athleticism, he’s an inside linebacker and needs to be in a 3-4 system with good talents around him.
CFN Projection: Seventh Round

12. Frantz Joseph, Florida Atlantic 6-1, 242
The one-time Boston College Eagle turned into a tackling machine for FAU. He’s not all that big and he’ll have problems getting caught up in the wash against strong running teams, but he’ll do anything necessary to be an NFL player. He has the drive, the desire, and the toughness, but he’s just not strong enough to be a big-time star. Even so, on want-to he’ll make himself into a good player, whether it’s on special teams or somewhere in a linebacking corps. He’ll come up with a few monster hits in camp that’ll make him a fan favorite.
CFN Projection: Sixth Round

13. Stanley Arnoux, Wake Forest 6-0, 230
Very fast and very athletic, but undersized, Arnoux was a great running mate next to Aaron Curry and came up with a very productive career. He doesn’t always use his speed and will have to learn how to become a blitzer, but he could grow into a killer on special teams if he’s willing to put in the work. He’s a good character, high intensity player who’s always moving and always trying to make things happen, but his lack of bulk will be a limiting factor.
CFN Projection: Seventh Round

14. Michael Tauiliili, Duke  5-10, 235
Way undersized but ultra-productive, he tackles everything that moves and is great at chasing down everything and he never misses a stop. There’s a big character question mark after a few off-the-field issues, but his aggressiveness and attitude tends to translate well to the field. He has a big attitude, in a good way, and he tries to overcome his lack of size be being the toughest guy on the field. Too small to be a regular in a 3-4, he needs to be part of a 4-3 and he’ll end up getting run over too often. However, he could be a tough player to cut.
CFN Projection: Free Agent

15. Daniel Holtzclaw, Eastern Michigan 6-1, 250
There might not be anyone in the draft who’ll work harder or do more to become an NFL player than Holtzclaw. He doesn’t have any athletic ability, and he’s purely an inside linebacker, but his instincts are flawless and he doesn’t miss a tackle. Functionally strong, he’s able to fight through blockers to make plays and he’ll do anything a coaching staff asks of him. While he was a four-year start for EMU, he’ll likely have to make a team on special teams. He’ll do it.
CFN Projection: Free Agent


16. Anthony Felder, California  6-3, 250
17. Mortty Ivy, West Virginia  6-2, 240
18. Rashad Bobino, Texas  6-3, 250
19. Pat Maynor, Stanford  6-3, 250 
20. Derek Nicholson, Florida State  6-3, 250
21. Reed Williams, West Virginia  6-3, 250
22. Brett Warren, Virginia Tech  6-3, 250
23. Jamar Chaney, Mississippi State  6-3, 250
24. Brit Miller, Illinois  6-3, 250
25. Joe Mortensen, Kansas  6-3, 250