Mar. 24, 2002
Weak is the best word to describe this year's group of linebackers. We project two players to be drafted in the first round, but that's strictly based on team needs. There's a real possibility that no linebackers will be drafted in round one this year. There are some players that have a lot of potential, just none that are really proven performers. Here's a look at where we rank the prospects, and where we see them be selected on draft day.
Undersized and injury prone, yeah, we've heard it. We still just can't help but put Fisher at the top of the linebacker class. This kid is an amazing athlete and a playmaker. We see Fisher as being very underrated.
Ranking: No. 31, 1st Round.
Harris is regarded by many to be the top linebacker in this year's class. We see him as a bit of a project. He's a tremendous athlete with great speed for his size. The problem is he's really an undersized defensive end moving to linebacker. He has played the position before, but didn't stand out when he was there. He has a ton of upside, but his downside may be just as high.
Ranking: No. 32, 1st Round.
Faulk played inside linebacker in college, but likely will move to the outside at the next level. He also is a former safety and has good coverage skills. He still has a lot to learn, but within a couple years he may develop into the best linebacker to come out of this class.
Ranking: No. 39, 2nd Round.
Thomas was a very productive player this past season. He's a little undersized to play inside, but that's what they said about Ray Lewis when he came out. Thomas is a very active leader on the field and should make an impact wherever he plays in the NFL.
Ranking: No. 46, 2nd Round.
Leber is one of the biggest prospects in this class. He's versatile enough to play inside or outside and also has very good speed. He doesn't appear to have many really special qualities, but should develop into a solid player.
Ranking: No. 53, 2nd Round.
Rasheed is one of the best coverage linebackers in this class. He's fairly inexperienced and needs to add bulk, but has a ton of potential. He reminds us a lot of former FSU linebacker Tommey Polley, who we had ranked as a first round pick last year.
Ranking: No. 55, 2nd Round.
Davis is the wildcard of this class. At times he looks like the best linebacker in the nation. Other times he seems lost, especially while in coverage. He also has had some serious injuries in the past (torn ACL) that will also cause his draft stock to drop.
Ranking: No. 58, 2nd Round.
Calmus was one of the most productive college linebackers around for the past couple of years. He's not ranked as high as many might think due to his unusual size. He looks very skinny out on the field, and really needs to add bulk, or he'll likely get pushed around a lot. His upside is pretty limited, but he should find a way to contribute even if he's not a full time starter.
Ranking: No. 74, 3rd Round.
Witherspoon is a playmaking linebacker who lacks the size to be an elite prospect. He's a great athlete and doesn't make many mistakes on the field. It appears he will be limited to playing weakside linebacker in the NFL.
Ranking: No. 76, 3rd Round.
Smith is a prospect with unlimited potential, but very limited experience. He has great size and amazing speed to match. He's a former running back, and still needs to develop linebacker instincts. He's very raw, but has a ton of upside.
Ranking: No. 87, 3rd Round.
Silva has great linebacker instincts and a real nose for the ball. What he doesn't have is a lot of range. He's somewhat limited in the amount of area he can cover, and that will greatly effect how much playing time he gets at the next level. Injuries are also a big concern, but his production should keep him from falling too far.
Ranking: No. 89, 3rd Round.
Jennings was the big run stuffing linebacker at Florida State. He's too big and lacks the true speed to play full time in the NFL. He may even end up getting bigger and moving over to defensive tackle. As for now, he looks like a backup linebacker who could play on first and second downs.
Ranking: No. 90, 3rd Round.
Foote was a terrific college player, who projects as a marginal pro prospect. He played inside for the Wolverines, and will have to adjust to weakside in the NFL. He has a lot of speed and may be primarily a special teams player. With some work and added bulk he could be a starter in a few years.
Ranking: No. 97, 4th Round.
Petty is a huge player with very good speed. He seems to be getting bigger every year, and this past season it affected him negatively. He's a good prospect, but he hasn't figured out how to use his size and speed to dominate yet. If he can figure that out, he may turn out to be a mid-round steal.
Ranking: No. 101, 4th Round.
We consider Harrison to be the sleeper of this class. He was an average player most of his career, then came on as a senior. He has a lot of potential and may develop into one of the best inside linebackers to come out of this class.
Ranking: No. 117, 4th Round.
Hollingshead has the size and speed to fit right in as an outside linebacker in the NFL. The problem is he's been very up and down his entire college career, and has yet to prove he can be consistent. He looks like a potential special teams star, who could be a valuable backup.
Ranking: No. 119, 4th Round.
Thornhill has good size and is very versatile. He's not outstanding in any one area, but is above average in most facets of the game. He looks like a solid backup who could push for some playing time.
Ranking: No. 127, 4th Round.
Taylor was a very good college linebacker. His lack of size and durability are a big concern when projecting him to the next level. He probably will be limited to weakside linebacker and special teams in the NFL.
Ranking: No. 136, 5th Round.
Atkinson is a big talented player who may have trouble fitting in at the next level. He really is best suited to play in the 3-4, which isn't run by many teams. If he lands with a team that uses this system, he may really turn some heads. If not, he may be fighting for a roster spot.
Ranking: No. 150, 5th Round.
Lewis is a great leader, playmaker, and overall middle linebacker. His size is the thing that pushes him to the bottom of the class. He probably could be moved to weakside, but the middle is where he belongs. He definitely has enough heart to give a starter a run for their money.
Ranking: No. 189, 6th Round.
Greisen is one of our personal favorites. He wasn't a real standout in college, but was solid. He projects to be primarily a backup on the inside, who'll also contribute on special teams.
Ranking: No. 196, 7th Round.
Harney was a very up and down player in college, battling through various injuries along the way. He has good size and speed, and an overall feel for the game. He has shows flashes of potential, which should be enough for somebody to take a shot at him late in the draft.
Ranking: No. 215, 7th Round