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2009 NFL Draft - The Outside Linebackers

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 22, 2009


The 2009 NFL Draft is almost here. From a college football perspective, here's the CFN ranking of the top 20 outside linebacker prospects led by Aaron Curry, Larry English and Brian Cushing, along with the most overrated and underrated prospects and the deepest sleeper.

2009 NFL Draft Position Rankings

The Outside Linebackers


2009 NFL Draft Post-Workout Rankings

Quarterbacks
| 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 ... excellent … thanks to USC. The Trojans upped the ante when it came to athletes, while Aaron Curry, Larry English, and Clint Sintim have superstar potential (but for far different reasons). There are plenty of good athletes and lots of strong developmental prospects.

The Best Value Pick Will Be ... Marcus Freeman, Ohio State

Most Underrated ... Russell Allen, San Diego State

Most Overrated ... Clay Matthews, USC

The Deep, Deep Sleeper Is ...
 Clayton Mullins, Miami Univ.

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 

THE FRANCHISE

1. Aaron Curry, Wake Forest  6-2, 250
A nearly perfect prospect, he’s strong, insanely fast and athletic for his size, smart, and willing to run through a wall to make a play. He’ll have to learn how to become a blitzer and he needs to learn more how to play in the backfield. That’s easily correctable. He spent the early part of his career adding weight after coming to Wake Forest looking like a safety, and he helped make form a strong defense as the captain and eventual Butkus Award winner. There’s almost no real knock on him with a near-perfect combination of size, toughness, leadership, work ethic and character. He’s the type of all-around versatile linebacker who’ll do a little of everything and has almost no bust potential outside of a fluke injury.
CFN Projection: Top Five Overall


2. Brian Cushing, USC  6-3, 245
Rey Maualuga got all the glory, but Cushing might be the better pro. While he ran a disappointing 4.64 at the Combine, he was one of the quickest players in the agility drills and came up with a lineman-like 30 reps on the bench. He plays even faster than he times with great range and an easy ability to blow past blockers. The big concern is a ticky-tack injury history that kept him from being a big-name college superstar. He’s also not all that strong in pass coverage and, despite his strength, needs to be on the outside. There’s no questioning his heart or his desire, but he could be unreliable. He’ll be a killer for around ten games a year, but will be dinged up/out for a few games a year.
CFN Projection: First Round


3. Larry English, Northern Illinois (DE)  6-2, 255
He’s the type of player that no one’s quite sure exactly what to do with, but everyone wants him. He’s not big enough to be a regular defensive end and he’s not fast enough to be a star outside linebacker, but he could flourish in a 3-4 linebacker role or as a 4-3 end if he’s asked to become a pass rusher. With a full-tilt motor, he needed to be double and triple teamed on every play after he grew into a star at NIU, and while his numbers might not have been great, he needed so much attention that he earned MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors two years in a row. More than fine whenever he went against the better talents, he was fine in Senior Bowl practices, he shouldn’t have a problem going from the MAC to the NFL.
CFN Projection: Second Round


4. Clint Sintim, Virginia  6-3, 250
He made himself into a top pro prospect. A good player early in his career, he took things to another level once it was salary-drive time and showed he could become a good pass rusher. Able to be used like a smallish defensive end, and able to move inside if absolutely needed, he’s a versatile all-around playmaker who should grow into a nice pass rusher and a good starter. Without a blazing burst and with a lack of speed he’s not going to be an elite sack artist, but he should be a great piece of the puzzle and ultra-valuable because of his versatility.
CFN Projection: Second Round

POSSIBLE NFL STARTERS

5. Marcus Freeman, Ohio State  6-1, 235
A workout warrior, he did it all at the Combine from running a 4.65 40 to benching 30 reps to leaping 37”  to destroying the shuttle drill, he showed tremendous athleticism. However, he has had major problems staying healthy, dinged up with a variety of injuries, and he doesn’t always play up to his strength. He can be erased by a decent blocker and he needs to be in space to make plays; he’s simply not big enough. But if and when he’s healthy, like he was in his off-season workouts, he can be a different player and a star.
CFN Projection: Third Round


6. Clay Matthews, USC 6-3, 245
One of the hot rising prospects coming through the off-season draft cycle, Matthews was smooth as silk at the Combine with decent numbers and great agility for his size. Very fast off the snap and smart enough to not have much wasted motion, he’s an instinctive playmaker who’s always working, always moving, and always doing whatever is needed. Very versatile, he can be used at any linebacker spot and could even see time as a pass rushing end in a 4-3. But is he a workout warrior type? He only really produced for one year and has been more of a try-hard type who went from a walk-on to a very strong, very athletic NFL prospect in a big hurry.
CFN Projection: Second Round

7. Cody Brown, Connecticut  6-2, 245
While he’ll be considered for defensive end duty, he needs to be a regular linebacker. Ultra-tough, very aggressive and a big hitter, he’s a tone-setting player who’ll make several highlight reel plays when he gets a head of steam. However, he’s not an NFL pass rusher despite his quickness. Linebacker-sized, he plays much bigger with good strength and a long frame. Now he has to find a role and he has to settle in and become a consistent factor off the line. He might need a little work, but he’s a safe pick as long as he has a fire lit under him.
CFN Projection: Third Round


8. Connor Barwin, Cincinnati  6-4, 255
Part lineman, part linebacker, Barwin has tremendous speed, running a 4.59 at the Combine, and showing stunning athleticism for a player of his size. He was far, far quicker than Aaron Curry and was just as quick than all the other linebackers outside of Marcus Freeman in the shuttle drill. He’s not all that strong, at least not strong enough to be a regular on the line, and he needs a lot of technique work, but he has the fire and the aggressiveness to make himself better. There’s a high upside as a potentially lethal pass rusher with a little bit of time.
CFN Projection: Third Round


9. Tyrone McKenzie, South Florida  6-2, 245
A big-time producer who fought through a series of issues off the field to become a leader and the type of player you want in a locker room. Strong, he plays bigger than his size and isn’t afraid to mix it up and stick his nose in to make a big play. He’ll fight through the nicks and bumps and will have to be really, really hurt to not get in the lineup, but he’s limited by average athletic ability and a lack of size. Even so, he’ll work to make a roster and could be a star on special teams before he gets his chance to shine as an outside linebacker.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round


10. Kaluka Maiava, USC 5-11, 229
If only he was a little bit bigger. Way undersized, he tries to make up for it with tremendous strength and blinding quickness, but his weight room numbers don’t necessarily translate to the field. He runs better than he times and looks effortless when he cuts and changes direction. He’ll get steamrolled over and will have a hard time holding up if he’s asked to be a three-down starter, but he could be a great value pick. He didn’t get the pub of the other USC linebackers, but he was every bit as valuable last year. As long as he’s not used to do more than become a part of the rotation on the weak side, he should be a nice contributor for a long time.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round


11. Nic Harris, Oklahoma (S)  6-2, 235
Too slow to be a defensive back and not quite big enough to be a linebacker, Harris is a true tweener who’ll have to create a niche for himself right away. Even so, with his toughness, build, ad pass rushing ability, he should be able to hold up well on the outside. Now he has to become a linebacker. He has to get a lot stronger, evidenced by the mere 15 reps on the bench at the Combine, and he’ll have to play a lot faster in an NFL camp than he timed after running a glacier-slow 4.86. He’s a good football player who’ll be nice in space and will struggle when run at, he should be a good producer with nice upside. Hardly a sure thing, he’s still a good flier to take a chance on.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round


12. DeAndre Levy, Wisconsin  6-2, 235
He’s not all that big and he has to get a lot stronger, but he’s a speedy defender who gets to the ball from anywhere on the field and keeps good gains from being big backbreakers. He’s never going to hold up and stuff the run at the line and he’ll get erased when a blocker is able to lock on, but he moves well and could be a major producer if he’s surrounded by tough linebackers in a 3-4. If nothing else, he could be a great special teamer and he should be able to grow into a pass rushing specialist.
CFN Projection: Sixth Round

BEST OF THE REST

13. Ashlee Palmer, Ole Miss  6-2, 225
A tremendous athlete who hits well and is strong in pass coverage, he has the ability to be like another safety in passing situations and he has the burst to become a pass rusher. What he doesn’t have it size, checking in at around 225 pounds and not likely to get much bigger. As long as he’s not asked to take on blockers on a regular basis and can roam free to get to the ball, he should be a very productive steal in the mid to late rounds. However, he has to want it. He has to become the type of player who’ll eat and sleep football, and he has to overcome his size with a spark-plug type of attitude.
CFN Projection: Sixth Round


14. Zack Follett, California  6-2, 235
A football meathead, but in a good way (sort of), he’s an ultra-aggressive hitter who fights to make every play. Strictly a strongside linebacker, he plays bigger than his size by taking on any blockers and tossing them aside. He showed decent athleticism in off-season workouts and he jumped 37” up, tying Aaron Curry for the best among the linebackers at the Combine. The downside to his physical play was his injury issues. He’ll always be dinged up, but that’s how he plays.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round


15. Jonathan Casillas, Wisconsin  6-1, 225
A terrific athlete who’s all over the field all the time, he’s one of the fastest linebackers in the draft ripping off a 4.5 in the 40. Great in pass coverage, he’s able to stay with backs in pass patterns without a problem and he’s able to avoid blocks by getting around them before anyone can lock on. He can only be on the weakside and he can only survive in space. His money will be made in passing situations and will struggle when plays are run right at him. However, he has the tackling ability to be a big producer in the right system.
CFN Projection: Fifth Round


16. Russell Allen, San Diego State  6-3, 235
A major-league hitter, he’s an intimidating force who brings a huge pop when he gets a little room to roam. He has good all-around athleticism and quickness, but he’s not an elite enough athlete to overcome his lack of bulk. There isn’t much room to get a lot bigger, but he’s still tough enough and strong enough to hold up against the run. He made a ton of plays for a woeful Aztec defense and often had to do a little of everything by himself.
CFN Projection: Seventh Round


17. Moise Fokou, Maryland 6-1 233
While he won’t be a star defender, he should be a terrific special teamer and a good enough backup to sit on a roster for a long time. He plays faster than he is, but his lack of a top-end gear to go along with a lack of bulk will limit on what he can become. He’s not strong, benching 225 pounds a mere 12 times at the Combine, but he ran a 4.65 and was fluid in the agility drills. If he hits the weights hard and gets bigger and stronger, he could be a steal.
CFN Projection: Seventh Round


18. Lee Robinson, Alcorn State 6-2 250
He needed to stand out at the Combine and didn’t. He was too slow (4.71), not quite quick enough, and didn’t show enough to warrant more than a late flier. He has good size and was ultra-productive at the lower level, but he needs a ton of work and will require a lot of patience. With his size and his work ethic, he could be a good producer in time. Will he get the chance to be a regular linebacker? Not really. He’ll have to shine on special teams right away.
CFN Projection: Sixth Round


19. Corey Smith, Cincinnati 6-0, 220
Not all that big, he doesn’t have the size to be a regular starting linebacker and he doesn’t have the speed to move to safety. He plays faster than his timed speed and is always around the ball, and he can play either outside position. Mostly, he’ll make a name for himself on special teams after starring for the Bearcats. With a history of being hurt, he won’t be able to last a full 16-game season and will have to live through on-going problems with his shoulder.
CFN Projection: Seventh Round


20. Robert Francois, Boston College  6-2, 245
With a good blend of decent speed and a high motor, he’s a playmaker who could be a nice fit on someone’s weak side. He needs plenty of work on his technique and needs more on-field time to develop his instincts and his ability to react quicker. However, he’s a good playmaker who tackles well and is worth a long look.
CFN Projection: Seventh Round


ON THE RADAR

21. Solomon Elimimian, Hawaii  5-11, 225
22. Johnny Williams, Kentucky  6-3, 250  
23. Orion Martin, Virginia Tech  6-3, 250  
24. Quentin Cotton, East Carolina  6-3, 250  
25. Anthony Heygood, Purdue  6-1, 225 
26. Stephen Hodge, TCU 6-0, 234
27. Dave Philistin, Maryland  6-0, 230
28. Kevin Akins, Boston College 6-2, 220
29. James Holt, Kansas 6-2, 225
30. Clayton Mullins, Miami Univ. 6-1, 240